Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

TITAN: THE LIFE OF JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER, Sr. Ron Chernow (Random House, $30) In the era of Microsoft and megamergers, it’s useful to remember the founding father of all monopolists, John D. Rockefeller Sr. This remarkably detailed biography of the billionaire who believed ”God gave me my money” is the first since the Rockefeller family archives were opened to scholars. Chernow concludes that Rockefeller’s barbaric business practices (such as acquiescing to the use of armed force against striking workers and conspiring with railroads to bankrupt his competitors) and high-minded philanthropy (he gave away more than $500 million before dying in 1937) were opposite sides of the same moral coin — a Protestant/capitalist gestalt that sanctioned almost any conduct in the pursuit of wealth so long as it was ultimately directed toward public service. The prototypical robber baron died believing that doing good by doing well would keep him out of hell. Chernow doesn’t seem to disagree. A — Matthew McCann Fenton

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
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