John D. Rockefeller Sr. came from simple means and rose to the highest echelons of power and riches in his long life. Studying the life of such a man well worth one’s time, even when it involves reading a biography of over 800 pages….
Titan, by Ron Chernow, is certainly not a light read but it is engaging enough to keep the reader enthralled throughout the entirety of the book. Most of this is due to the incredible depth of his fascinating subject. Chernow obviously did his research and touches on every significant aspect of the titan’s life, including his family and business associates. The lives of his children is also chronicled to an extent, with specific focus given to John Jr., who inherited the vast majority of his father’s wealth and became the face of much of what we now know of as Rockefeller philanthropy and projects.
I approached this book with a desire to understand the mind of a man who accomplished so much. I had heard Rockefeller’s quote “I believe it is a religious duty to get all the money you can, fairly and honestly; to keep all you can, and to give away all you can.”, which inspired me to know more of his thoughts on financial stewardship. While Chernow devoted much of the book to Rockefeller’s strong Christian (Baptist) faith, he did so with a tone of skepticism, as if it was just a coping mechanism for all the other evil deeds he committed while growing his company. Despite numerous quotes showing Rockefeller’s disbelief and frustration that so many vilified him, Chernow still approaches the subject as if Rockefeller surely must have known better.
This is my one criticism of the book. Coming from the Christian faith and a mind toward Biblical stewardship myself, I honestly believe Rockefeller felt he did God’s work here on earth. His belief on monopolies (or trusts) was also attributable to what I would consider a Godly free market mindset than a heart of greed. The author seems to miss these subtle perspectives in the same way that the modern media has difficulty understanding why Trump won the presidency; they are just so out of touch with the other perspective that they can’t believe it to be true.
All that aside, the facts remain and stand alone in this well researched and documented biography. I was not disappointed and finished the book inspired and grateful for Rockefeller. I greatly admire John D., Sr. and would even go so far as to say he is a man I would model my own life after. I highly recommend you study his life as well.