“Serious and in every way commendable — in its painstaking research, its superb prose and storytelling, and most importantly, its energy and spirit. Surely some element of our collective childhood lies at the heart of this tale, and gives it its special edge and fascination — and streak of rogue humor. Chapter by chapter, in one finely crafted paragraph after another, Markel holds your interest — in the history of the stethoscope, and of electrotherapeutics; in the incidence of syphilis (1 out of every 20 Americans in 1895, 1 out out of every 10 in 1937); in the accommodations, speed and routing of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central Line Limited, “the fastest train on the American continent,” which John rode from New York City to Battle Creek in 1876; and most especially, in the delicate and exacting process of transforming grains and kernels into thin, crisp flakes. Highly satisfying . . .a cultural history in the best tradition. . .how one seemingly incidental element of a period can illuminate a whole society and its shifting tastes and values.”
— David Walton, The Dallas News
“The story of an epic lifelong feud between the Kellogg brothers is a compelling yarn and a fascinating window into the genesis of both modern medicine and management . . . a vivid portrait of the brothers and their era.”
— Jonathan A. Knee, The New York Times “DealBook” column
“Markel does an extraordinary job covering the many complex dimensions of
this story . . . a rich and satisfying account of the lives, work and enmity of two warring brothers and of a pivotal epoch in American history.”
— Katherine A. Powers, Newsday
Markel’s new book vividly recounts the contentious story of two men behind the early 20th century’s revolution in ready-to-eat foods.… a mix of a Horatio Alger success story and a cautionary fable about blind egos sabotaging their own best efforts. . . [the book is] lively throughout as it delivers a tale both personal in its intensity and grand in its scope.
— Michael Upchurch, Chicago Tribune
Reaching for a box of corn flakes is hardly the most exciting way to start the day. But behind those simple, crispy flakes is a complex story. When it was introduced more than a century ago, breakfast cereal was a full-blown phenomenon that changed America’s notions of health and wellness, and helped usher in a new era of processed foods. It was also the product of a long-standing family rivalry.
Howard Markel, best-selling author, physician, and medical historian who teaches at the University of Michigan, tells the intriguing story behind breakfast cereal and the men who created it in a sweeping new book “The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek.” Markel chronicles the contentious relationship between Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his younger brother Will Keith Kellogg. The brothers shared enormous success, but were often at odds and engaged in legal battles. After founding the Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1876, John Harvey Kellogg became the country’s most high-profile physician. Will Kellogg ran the business . . . then commercialized the brothers’ cereal recipes and became one of the era’s great industrialists.
— The Boston Globe
The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek by Howard Markel (Pantheon)
An insightful and entertaining dual biography of the battling Battle Creek boys. A revealing window into America as it evolved from the Civil War to World War II.
— The National Book Review
This incredible story by itself would be sufficient for a book. Markel, however, goes much further . . .an engrossing adventure about the rise of midwest America from the pioneering days of the Kellogg family to World War II with all of its failures and successes. Medicine, breakfast foods, and the Seventh Day Adventist Church are part of the story.
— Robert S. Davis, NY Journal of Books
…compelling…“Markel makes it clear that, despite his backing of eugenics, some of John’s positions were indeed visionary, especially his warnings against smoking.”
— Wall Street Journal
“…when I was growing up, Battle Creek was this kind of mythic place for me… I’d have breakfast cereals for breakfast and, whether it was Post or Kelloggs, the address would be Battle Creek and I would stare at the cereal boxes and there wasn’t much to read on them, so you were always seeing the name Battle Creek and there was always a come-on the boxes, if you wrote to the address in Battle Creek you’d get free something or other, a souvenir of the cereal. It would all lead back to Battle Creek. I had no idea what that was or what that meant but it sounded like a really interesting name. Who knew what kind of battles went on there that helped to produce these cereals?”
— Terry Gross, NPR’s Fresh Air
The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek by Howard Markel, Pantheon, 544 pages, Hardcover, August 2017, ISBN 9780307907271
“A brilliant (and big!) new biography of the two brothers, The Kelloggs. . . There’s no better midsummer’s read, in my mind, than a biography or narrative big enough to act as a doorstop. The Kelloggs offers even more. I haven’t even been able to scratch the surface of it all here. One could devote an entire review to the large swaths of the book on Kellogg’s, the company, alone—which I may have done had I not written so many words before that tale begins, on page 236! The Kelloggs is a brilliant biography, a medical and industrial (even natural and environmental) history, a great lesson in entrepreneurship, leadership, and management, and a great family drama all rolled into one.”
— Editor’s Choice, Dylan Schleicher, 800ceoread
“Howard Markel’s riveting, deeply researched new book covers vast territory: the saga of the squabbling Kellogg brothers (“magnificent showmen, resolute empire builders, and unwavering visionaries”), their mass-branding of breakfast cereals, their concept of “wellness”, and their enormous influence on the diet of millions of Americans. This book arrives at a pivotal moment in our own history when mass-marketing, showmanship, and the media deserve particularly deep study. Markel’s incandescent scholarship and his incisive analysis shine through this book. The Kelloggs can certainly be read as a biography of two visionaries (and their extended families), but it also deserves to be read as a case study by generations of future readers.
— Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize winning author of
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
“In this illuminating account, medical historian Markel chronicles the long-running animosity between Michigan brothers John and Will Kellogg, “the Cain and Abel of America’s heartland” . . . Readers will never look at corn flakes or Post Toasties (created by C.W. Post, who stole the Kelloggs’ recipes) in quite the same way again.”
“A turbulent tale . . . Markel’s amazing amalgamation of biography and history, covering the pursuit of health in late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, industrialism, and the invention of cold cereals is adorned with fetching photographs and illustrations. Sibling rivalry has rarely been so dastardly and delectable.”
— Tony Miksanek, Booklist (starred review)
“The story of the Kellogg Brothers is the story of innovation, of determination, and the creation of a giant industry as American business came of age just prior to the Second World War. It is a tale of grit, controversy, faith and the emergence of the ‘wellness’ movement. In the hands of Markel, a trained historian, physician, seasoned writer and chronicler of America, this tale comes alive. A fabulous read.”
— Abraham Verghese , author of Cutting for Stone
“Delightful . . . Markel refreshingly resists the temptation—not resisted by films and novels—to deliver caricatures . . . A superb warts-and-all account of two men whose lives help illuminate the rise of health promotion and the modern food industry.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A rollicking tale of family intrigue and inventiveness. This full exegesis of the Kelloggs’ unseemly personalities makes for a riveting read.”
— Andrew Solomon, author of Far and Away
“Howard Markel’s The Kelloggs recounts the incredible exploits of the Kellogg Brothers—John and Will—who turned nineteenth-century medicine upside down for the better. Markel does a marvelous job recounting the birth of the Kellogg cereal empire and the Battle Creek sanitarium. An amazing American story!”
— Douglas Brinkley, author of Rightful Heritage
I first read Howard Markel when I was in charge of the health and medicine book reviews at Library Journal and scouring my shelves for titles to nominate for the magazine’s annual Best Books list. Health and medicine was a section half diet and exercise manuals and half highly specific university press titles, so when I discovered An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine, I was doubled rewarded—not only to have found a marvelous book, but also a kind book—rich in narrative, deeply informative, broadly appealing—underrepresented on those shelves. Markel has given me another gift, six years later, in the breakfast category. The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek tells the origin story of the modern American breakfast.