George F. Kennan: An American Life

( 3 )


Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Biography

Widely and enthusiastically acclaimed, this is the authorized, definitive biography of one of the most fascinating but troubled figures of the twentieth century by the nation's leading Cold War historian. In the late 1940s, George F. Kennan—then a bright but, relatively obscure American diplomat—wrote the "long telegram" and the "X" article. These two documents laid out United States' strategy for "containing" the Soviet Union—a ...

See more details below
$16.43 price
(Save 25%)$22.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (36) from $1.99   
  • New (15) from $0.00   
  • Used (21) from $0.00   
George F. Kennan: An American Life

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$17.99 price


Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Biography

Widely and enthusiastically acclaimed, this is the authorized, definitive biography of one of the most fascinating but troubled figures of the twentieth century by the nation's leading Cold War historian. In the late 1940s, George F. Kennan—then a bright but, relatively obscure American diplomat—wrote the "long telegram" and the "X" article. These two documents laid out United States' strategy for "containing" the Soviet Union—a strategy which Kennan himself questioned in later years. Based on exclusive access to Kennan and his archives, this landmark history illuminates a life that both mirrored and shaped the century it spanned.

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

Winner of the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Henry A. Kissinger
…John Lewis Gaddis…has brought again to life the dilemmas and aspirations of those pivotal decades of the mid-20th century. His magisterial work, George F. Kennan: An American Life, bids fair to be as close to the final word as possible on one of the most important, complex, moving, challenging and exasperating American public servants…Masterfully researched, exhaustively documented, Gaddis's moving work gives us a figure with whom, however one might differ on details, it was a privilege to be a contemporary.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
No one is better suited than Gaddis to write this authorized biography of George F. Kennan: the noted Yale cold war historian had total access to Kennan’s papers as well as to his family members and associates—Kennan so trusted his biographer that he remarked, “write , if you will, on the confident assumption that no account need be taken of my own reaction... either in this world or the next.” Through his privileged relationship with Kennan, Gaddis reveals the man behind the public persona as an agonized and fragile individual who often felt alienated from the U.S. and his fellow citizens, despite his tireless service to his country. In addition to the intimacies of the work, Gaddis offers critical analyses of Kennan’s key roles as diplomat, policy maker, and scholar of Russian history. Unsurpassed in his strategic vision during the cold war, Kennan is credited with being responsible for much of America’s eventual victory, and therein lies the impetus behind this remarkable biography. Adroitly managed (if occasionally barnacled with extraneous facts), Gaddis’s work is a major contribution to Kennan’s legacy and the history of American foreign policy. (Nov.)
The Wall Street Journal
Mr. Gaddis's admiration for Kennan is obvious, but it does not stop him from portraying his subject's flaws— an immense ego, a deep insecurity, a volatile temperament. "George F. Kennan: An American Life" is a major achievement. One senses that Kennan himself, at his best a bold truth-teller, would have been pleased.
The Financial Times
Gaddis clearly has much more sympathy with Reagan's policy than with Kennan's critique. Indeed it is one of the strengths of his book that while the author is a huge admirer of Kennan, he does not attempt to disguise or excuse his failings. Kennan was a reserved and scholarly man who found himself increasingly disgusted with what he saw as the decadence of modern America - and the west in general. At times he even seemed to despair of democracy itself. In 1976, he predicted gloomily: "I think this country is destined to succumb to failures which cannot be other than tragic and enormous in their scope." Part of him seemed to believe that modern America deserved to fail. In the same interview, he remarked: "I can see very little merit in organising ourselves to defend from the Russians the porno shops in central Washington." Gaddis comments tartly: "This and much else in the interview was self-indulgent nonsense."
The Chronicle Review
Kennan's combination of brutal self-examination and thin-skinned responses to critics (be they policy makers or historians) gives the impression that he hoped to have a monopoly on Kennan criticism. Surely aware that even a sympathetic scholar like Gaddis would have points of disagreement, Kennan protected himself by insuring the biography wouldn't appear in his lifetime. While some books put an end to the study of a subject, it seems more likely that Gaddis's monumental work marks only the beginning. We can now read Kennan not just for his powerful but fleeting influence on foreign policy, but also for social and psychological insights from one of the most introspective figures of modern American life. And who can predict what the future generations will make of the 20th century's most influential 18th-century man?
New York Times
George F. Kennan: An American Life" turns out to be not only an epic work —probing, engrossing, occasionally revelatory — but also a well-timed one. It appears just as its subject has been nearly forgotten and long enough after the 20th century has passed to appreciate his towering significance.
Library Journal
George F. Kennan (1904–2005) exerted a profound influence on the conduct of American foreign policy, especially during the years of the Cold War. His famous 1947 Foreign Affairs article, "Sources of Soviet Conduct," published under the pseudonym X, laid the theoretical groundwork for "containing" the Soviet Union in those hectic and dangerous postwar years. As Kennan's authorized biographer, Gaddis (The Cold War: A New History)—himself one of our most distinguished diplomatic historians—had unfettered access to Kennan's diaries and personal papers. The result is a nearly 800-page book with by far the most sophisticated and nuanced examination of Kennan's remarkable contributions to our nation during his lengthy life. Gaddis's portrayal of Kennan's personal life is more workmanlike, with less nuance. VERDICT Gaddis has crafted an in-depth study of Kennan as a thinker and practicing diplomat. The focus on Kennan as foreign policy maker will not trouble most scholars of the diplomatic arts, but for the average reader the level of detail may prove more burdensome. Highly recommended for Cold War scholars and for all library collections, alongside Nicholas Thompson's more personal The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War. [See Prepub Alert, 5/2/11.]—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143122159
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Pages: 800
  • Sales rank: 295,544
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

John Lewis Gaddis is the Robert A. Lovett Professor of History at Yale University. His previous books include The United States and the Origins of the Cold War; Strategies of Containment; The Long Peace; We Now Know; The Landscape of History; Surprise, Security, and the American Experience; and The Cold War: A New History. Professor Gaddis teaches courses on Cold War history, grand strategy, international studies, and biography; has won two Yale undergraduate teaching awards; was a 2005 recipient of the National Humanities Medal; and is the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for George F. Kennan.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Part I

1 Childhood: 1904-1921 3

2 Princeton: 1921-1925 23

3 The Foreign Service: 1925-1931 39

4 Marriage-and Moscow: 1931-1933 60

Part II

5 The Origins of Soviet-American Relations: 1933-1936 79

6 Rediscovering America: 1936-1938 99

7 Czechoslovakia and Germany: 1938-1941 120

8 The United States at War: 1941-1944 147

9 Back in the U.S.S.R.: 1944-1945 172

10 A Very Long Telegram: 1945-1946 201

Part III

11 A Grand Strategic Education: 1946 225

12 Mr. X: 1947 249

13 Policy Planner: 1947-1948 276

14 Policy Dissenter: 1948 309

15 Reprieve: 1949 337

16 Disengagement: 1950 371

Part IV

17 Public Figure, Private Doubts: 1950-1951 407

18 Mr. Ambassador: 1952 439

19 Finding a Niche: 1953-1955 477

20 A Rare Possibility of Usefulness: 1955-1958 506

21 Kennedy and Yugoslavia: 1958-1963 538

Part V

22 Counter-Cultural Critic: 1963-1968 577

23 Prophet of the Apocalypse: 1968-1980 613

24 A Precarious Vindication: 1980-1990 647

25 Last Things: 1991-2005 676

Epilogue: Greatness 693

Acknowledgments 699

Abbreviations to Notes and Bibliography 701

Notes 703

Bibliography 751

Index 763

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)