The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958

Finalist, National Book Awards 1996 for Nonfiction

The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller- Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958 by Cary Reich book cover
ISBN 978-0385246965
Doubleday

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A triumph of the biographer’s art, The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller is the first full-length biography of one of the most powerful, magnetic, fascinating figures on the twentieth-century stage.

Of all the great American dynastic families, few could match the combined wealth, power, and influence of the Rockefellers. And of all the Rockefellers, none was more determined to use these advantages than Nelson A. Rockefeller.

Nelson was never content to live off the fame and fortune due him as a Rockefeller. His imperious grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, and intimidating father, John Jr., set standards and boundaries that Nelson blithely ignored. He pushed for position within the family, and then broke a family taboo by taking his ambition to the forbidden world of politics. A devoted family man, he took many lovers with an almost casual sense of droit du seigneur. He surrounded himself with brilliant, devoted subordinates; he flattered and cajoled more powerful people who would also end up serving his needs.

Handsome, ferociously energetic, charming, and ruthless, Rockefeller had a rapacious appetite for life–and for power–that showed itself in the stunning breadth of his activities and in the daring of his ideas. Nelson’s sunny, optimistic demeanor masked a Machiavellian mind. At a young age he wrested control of the Rockefeller Center project from his father’s minions, turned the Museum of Modern Art into a world-class institution, used a midlevel bureaucratic position during World War II to run the affairs of an entire continent; through pure ego and drive he bent the United Nations conference to his will and redirected the path of history. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s fierce drive to achieve would have a profound effect on a city, a state, a nation, and the world.

Cary Reich’s masterful biography, eight years in the making, brings this awesome figure to life. Reich enjoyed unprecedented access to the Rockefeller family archives, scrutinized FBI and FOIA files, and interviewed over three hundred individuals for the book, including many who had never spoken about Rockefeller for the record. This two-volume work (the second to appear in 1997) will surely stand alongside the works of Robert Caro, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and David McCullough.

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