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Personal History

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In lieu of an unrevealing Famous-People-I-Have-Known autobiography, the owner of the Washington Post has chosen to be remarkably candid about the insecurities prompted by remote parents and a difficult marriage to the charismatic, manic-depressive Phil Graham, who ran the newspaper her father acquired. Katharine's account of her years as subservient daughter and wife is so In lieu of an unrevealing Famous-People-I-Have-Known autobiography, the owner of the Washington Post has chosen to be remarkably candid about the insecurities prompted by remote parents and a difficult marriage to the charismatic, manic-depressive Phil Graham, who ran the newspaper her father acquired. Katharine's account of her years as subservient daughter and wife is so painful that by the time she finally asserts herself at the Post following Phil's suicide in 1963 (more than halfway through the book), readers will want to cheer. After that, Watergate is practically an anticlimax.


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In lieu of an unrevealing Famous-People-I-Have-Known autobiography, the owner of the Washington Post has chosen to be remarkably candid about the insecurities prompted by remote parents and a difficult marriage to the charismatic, manic-depressive Phil Graham, who ran the newspaper her father acquired. Katharine's account of her years as subservient daughter and wife is so In lieu of an unrevealing Famous-People-I-Have-Known autobiography, the owner of the Washington Post has chosen to be remarkably candid about the insecurities prompted by remote parents and a difficult marriage to the charismatic, manic-depressive Phil Graham, who ran the newspaper her father acquired. Katharine's account of her years as subservient daughter and wife is so painful that by the time she finally asserts herself at the Post following Phil's suicide in 1963 (more than halfway through the book), readers will want to cheer. After that, Watergate is practically an anticlimax.

30 review for Personal History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Eng

    This book is fascinatingly uninteresting. Katharine Graham lived bigger than most of us ever will, meeting Albert Einstein, kicking it with President Kennedy, living in homes decorated with Renoirs and Manets, spending summers at a second home with horses and daily refreshed flower bouquets, traveling the world, attending both Vassar and The University of Chicago, battling unions, investing with Warren Buffet, and broadcasting the Watergate scandal. Her life should have made for an interesting This book is fascinatingly uninteresting. Katharine Graham lived bigger than most of us ever will, meeting Albert Einstein, kicking it with President Kennedy, living in homes decorated with Renoirs and Manets, spending summers at a second home with horses and daily refreshed flower bouquets, traveling the world, attending both Vassar and The University of Chicago, battling unions, investing with Warren Buffet, and broadcasting the Watergate scandal. Her life should have made for an interesting read, yet it simply wasn't. Too many characters, too much pride, too much passivism. I was disappointed to find that the leader of the Washington Post simply deferred to her publisher and her editor in most situations. She seemed to know nothing about running the paper, and at the same time, this 630-page monster-of-a-book is ONLY about the paper. She spends inadequate time discussing her own feelings. Was it really as easy as she made it seem to accept her husband back after his public affair and attempted divorce? Did the 4 or 5 miscarriages really not affect her enough to dedicate a full paragraph to them? The cover of this book shows an aged Katharine Graham, which seems fitting since it reads as dryly as an old lady reciting the encyclopedia. If you want a more interesting story, ask me about my day.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mollie

    I don't always like biographies - they can be very self serving and trite. But I was blown away by this woman. Frankly, I didn't know much about her or her story of taking over the Washington Post upon the death of her husband - a job she really had been preparing for her whole life, if she knew it or not. Katherine Graham is a amazing, strong and wise woman, and she tells her tale in a very honest way, sharing her flaws, her mistakes and her regrets as lessons for the rest of us. She had a seat I don't always like biographies - they can be very self serving and trite. But I was blown away by this woman. Frankly, I didn't know much about her or her story of taking over the Washington Post upon the death of her husband - a job she really had been preparing for her whole life, if she knew it or not. Katherine Graham is a amazing, strong and wise woman, and she tells her tale in a very honest way, sharing her flaws, her mistakes and her regrets as lessons for the rest of us. She had a seat at the table for some of the biggest stories of our time, yet she makes each of these stories deeply personal in the telling. She's an inspiration for women in business, and who struggle to manage family, social, political and work obligations. A remarkable woman, a remarkable life, and a remarkable book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Coco

    This book was over six hundred pages and I enjoyed them all. While Katharine Graham's autobiography is ostensibly her own history, it's also the history of our country. Beginning with her father, Eugene Meyer, and his close dealings with the Hoover Administration and going all the way through her own birds-eye view of various presidents, including Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and, most fascinating of all, Nixon. Graham's life was supposed to be much different. Married to Phil Graham who This book was over six hundred pages and I enjoyed them all. While Katharine Graham's autobiography is ostensibly her own history, it's also the history of our country. Beginning with her father, Eugene Meyer, and his close dealings with the Hoover Administration and going all the way through her own birds-eye view of various presidents, including Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and, most fascinating of all, Nixon. Graham's life was supposed to be much different. Married to Phil Graham who ran her family's paper, the Washington Post, with four children, she thought she would be mother, wife and hostess. Sadly, Phil's little understood bipolar disease created havoc for the family before causing him to take his own life. She was thrust into the position of taking over the Washington Post. Vast in scope and yet filled with personal insights (President Kennedy sent a plane to bring Phil back to Washington when he had a public mental breakdown), it's a fascinating look at the way government really works, in the salons and dining rooms of Georgetown. Even though the press often had a tumultuous relationship with many of the administrations, it was interesting that they could all meet for dinner the next evening and behave in a civilized fashion. Until Nixon, that is. Even though most of us know that Watergate was bad, Mrs. Graham's book really made me realize how personal and how vicious Nixon and his White House Guard were. The Post was truly out there, hanging in the wind alone, for quite awhile before other papers joined them and the book takes the reader through a series of gutsy decisions that likely changed the course of our nation. My greatest disappointment was learning that Kay Graham died in 2001. I wish I could have written her and let her know how much this book taught me and how much her life meant. From a self-doubting woman, who was always the only female in the boardroom, to a confident person, she is a wonderful teacher and role model for all of us. I read that her daughter, author Lally Weymouth, didn't want her to write this book. Perhaps it's because Graham discusses Phil's mental illness, infidelity and suicide. I felt she did it with grace and love, however, but I'm sure it was hard for her daughter. I, for one, however, am grateful she had to courage to do so.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Connie G

    Katharine Meyer Graham's autobiography takes us from her childhood as the daughter of a successful businessman to being the powerful woman at the head of the Washington Post. Katharine Meyer and her siblings were mainly raised by their nursemaid and governess as young children. Their mother was an eccentric writer and artist, and their father owned the Washington Post. After Katharine's college years, she did some writing for the Post. She married Phil Graham, a brilliant, charismatic young Katharine Meyer Graham's autobiography takes us from her childhood as the daughter of a successful businessman to being the powerful woman at the head of the Washington Post. Katharine Meyer and her siblings were mainly raised by their nursemaid and governess as young children. Their mother was an eccentric writer and artist, and their father owned the Washington Post. After Katharine's college years, she did some writing for the Post. She married Phil Graham, a brilliant, charismatic young lawyer who clerked at the Supreme Court. Her father passed the Washington Post on to Phil who expanded the business by buying Newsweek and some television stations. Phil was very involved in politics, especially with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Phil's behavior began to become very erratic, he was diagnosed as manic-depressive, and he eventually took his own life. People expected Katharine to sell the newspaper, but she wanted to keep it in the family and pass it on to her children. She was thrust into the role of publisher, and did a lot of learning on the job. Some of the most interesting parts of the book include the Post's coverage of the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, working with the editor Ben Bradlee, and the pressmen's strike. Her friends and business associates would fill a volume of "Who's Who in America". In an age when there were few women executives, Katharine Graham was the only woman in the Fortune 500. She was involved with the successful Washington Post until her mid-80s. In addition to being a fascinating autobiography, "Personal History" is also an interesting look back at over sixty years of social and political history. Katharine used good taste in choosing stories, humorous anecdotes, and personal letters to include in the book. It was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography and Autobiography in 1998.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This book had incredible potential. It could have easily been one of the most fascinating American autobiographies ever written. Instead, though I plowed my way through the whole thing, it was tepid, vapid, and bordered on dull. Katherine Graham was born into the Washington elite. She met and socialized with every major political figure during her lifetime. She counted Lyndon Johnson, John and Jackie Kennedy, and Truman Capote among her close personal friends. Her husband, who grew up on a dairy This book had incredible potential. It could have easily been one of the most fascinating American autobiographies ever written. Instead, though I plowed my way through the whole thing, it was tepid, vapid, and bordered on dull. Katherine Graham was born into the Washington elite. She met and socialized with every major political figure during her lifetime. She counted Lyndon Johnson, John and Jackie Kennedy, and Truman Capote among her close personal friends. Her husband, who grew up on a dairy farm in Florida, made a startling rise to the forefront of politics and became a close political advisor to several presidents and ran both the Washington Post and Newsweek, before suffering a complete mental collapse and committing suicide. After his death Kay Graham became one of the first female CEO's of a prominent American company. She dated powerful men including Henry Kissinger, Adlai Stevenson, and Warren Buffet. As the president of the Washington Post company she was a key player in the publication of the Pentagon Papers and the revelation of the Watergate scandal. However, in her hands, her life is reduced to a series of cocktail parties, country house weekends and lunches where everyone is charming and witty and things are just lovely. There is no attempt to take the major figures of American History and turn them for the reader into the real people that they were for Graham. She provides no real insight into the incredible trauma that she suffered when her husband died and or into the triumphs she enjoyed as a major American businesswoman. I felt like the book was constant namedropping and a compilation of memos regarding hiring and firing decisions at the Post company. I don't understand why this book won the Pulitzer Prize, unless it was awarded to her for her reputation and accomplishments rather than the actual writing. A biography of Katharine Graham, by a more talented writer, might be a much more satisfying read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sherri

    My general rule of thumb when someone writes a book about herself-- approach it with a healthy amount of skepticism. How many of us can turn inward and take a critical look without skewing/slanting the results? Not many, but after reading this book, I am convinced that is exactly what Katharine Graham did in Personal History. Above all things, this book feels honest. It is also moving, heartbreaking, perceptive, historical and inspiring. The book is multi-faceted. I appreciated the light it shed My general rule of thumb when someone writes a book about herself-- approach it with a healthy amount of skepticism. How many of us can turn inward and take a critical look without skewing/slanting the results? Not many, but after reading this book, I am convinced that is exactly what Katharine Graham did in Personal History. Above all things, this book feels honest. It is also moving, heartbreaking, perceptive, historical and inspiring. The book is multi-faceted. I appreciated the light it shed on the evolution of the women's movement and the devastating effects mental illness can have on family and loved ones. As a professional, the telling of her business experiences in a male-dominated industry felt real and perceptive. Her decision to go back to work running The Washington Post after being at home to raise her children for several years was inspiring (though not without significant personal cost). To top all this off her writing was excellent and memorable, a rare find in a memoir.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dale Leopold

    Katharine Graham was thrust into the middle of history, much against her own introverted instincts. She was happy to play supportive housewife and mother while her father ran the Washington Post, succeeded by her brilliant, dynamic and bipolar husband, Phil Graham. Phil was a hugely influential figure in Washington; in one manic stretch he almost single-handedly engineered the Kennedy-Johnson presidential ticket. But as his illness grew increasingly worse (and remained unmedicated), he spiraled Katharine Graham was thrust into the middle of history, much against her own introverted instincts. She was happy to play supportive housewife and mother while her father ran the Washington Post, succeeded by her brilliant, dynamic and bipolar husband, Phil Graham. Phil was a hugely influential figure in Washington; in one manic stretch he almost single-handedly engineered the Kennedy-Johnson presidential ticket. But as his illness grew increasingly worse (and remained unmedicated), he spiraled out of control, carrying on a very public (and for Katharine, humiliating) affair with an Australian journalist, and eventually shooting himself. Left alone to run the newspaper, she could have handed the job off to other, more experienced hands, but she was able to draw on inner strength she didn't know she possessed. Through many trials and errors, about which she is unsparing candid, she guided the Post through the Pentagon Papers, labor unrest and Watergate. All this at a time when women were almost automatically assumed to be incapable of leading a business. Her story, written without resorting to a ghost-writer, is fascinating, harrowing and ultimately quite moving. It is also, incidentally, a good education on some of the major events of the Twentieth Century from an insider's perspective. Highly recommended!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    I'm so happy I read this book, and it tied in nicely after reading No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Mrs. Graham was frightfully honest and this is one of the only times that I can say it was truly necessary to the book. I was turned off at first by her description of her grandmother being "the most beautiful woman anyone had ever seen" (or something like that...) because oh, please, hasn't everyone said that about their grandmother in her heyday? And if this is how is starts, where will I'm so happy I read this book, and it tied in nicely after reading No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Mrs. Graham was frightfully honest and this is one of the only times that I can say it was truly necessary to the book. I was turned off at first by her description of her grandmother being "the most beautiful woman anyone had ever seen" (or something like that...) because oh, please, hasn't everyone said that about their grandmother in her heyday? And if this is how is starts, where will it go? Are there any limits to the self-flattery? But when you read the rest of the book, you notice how honest she is about the worst moments in her life and you realize, if this is the absolute bottom of the barrell and she is describing it in rich detail to relive it and recreate it for the world to see...I think I might just believe her about her grandmother, she deserves at least that. She grew up in very fortunate circumstances, as her father was the definition of success and he eventually purchased the heart of the book: the Washington Post. When it was her turn to run the Post, she did not get any easy breaks and faced her adversity with admirable strength and self-possession. There is so much that happens in this book, that I would love to go on and on about it, but I wouldn't possibly ruin it for you. nope. But do put this one on your list, it is a wonderful family story of success, surviving and thriving, and the Washington DC atmosphere and intimacy with the white house is fascinating.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joni Daniels

    I read this book when it first came out and it is still one of my favorites. Her honest telling of going from a life of privilege and wealth (when she went to college she had no idea how to do laundry - her sweaters always had magically appeared in her drawer!) to falling in love with the brilliant Phil (who she learned too late was mentally unstable) to hosting the powerful elite in DC to running her father’s company to facing down the White House (twice — the Pentagon Papers and Watergate). I read this book when it first came out and it is still one of my favorites. Her honest telling of going from a life of privilege and wealth (when she went to college she had no idea how to do laundry - her sweaters always had magically appeared in her drawer!) to falling in love with the brilliant Phil (who she learned too late was mentally unstable) to hosting the powerful elite in DC to running her father’s company to facing down the White House (twice — the Pentagon Papers and Watergate). And she does it with grace and class as she struggles adn learns to find her own powerful voice. I was so in awe of her story that I wrote her a personal note. A month later, I received a hand written personal thank you note. I remain impressed to this day.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    Boy this book could have used an editor. Although it was an interesting insider look at the newspaper business, Graham was repetitive in the way she described the trajectory of her life and that of her career, using too many specific instances and detail that did not always illuminate her point. More showing and less telling would have helped. As would have shaping the narrative into themes, rather than just giving us everything as it happened like some sort of chronological laundry list.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mom

    I loved this autobiography. I learned so much about the course of women's history in America by her tale of struggling to rise to her father's expectations, her relationship with her husband (who committed suicide), and her delicate handling of publisher of the Washington Post. Beautifully written.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alexw

    A tremendously strong willed woman who stared down and won her battles with the men of her era as she ran one of the best papers in the world.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Bashaar

    This book really held my interest from start to finish. Graham has great self-understanding and perspective on her life, and was very honest about her late husband's mental illness, the things that she both admired and resented about her parents, and her own insecurities as an untrained businesswoman in a world that was still completely dominated by men. As a woman in the business world, I completely identified with her. I especially loved the scene where she had to decide whether or not to This book really held my interest from start to finish. Graham has great self-understanding and perspective on her life, and was very honest about her late husband's mental illness, the things that she both admired and resented about her parents, and her own insecurities as an untrained businesswoman in a world that was still completely dominated by men. As a woman in the business world, I completely identified with her. I especially loved the scene where she had to decide whether or not to print the Pentagon Papers. Half a dozen men were yammering their opinions in her ear, all at the same time, but SHE was the person who had to decide, and she did, going with her gut, in a decision that ultimately put the Washington Post in the same league with the NY Times for the first time. She admits that she was terrified and very unsure whether she had made the right decision at the time, which I find very comforting in my own insecure moments. Second best part: where she basically boinks Adlai Stevenson to DEATH. Seriously. The guy spent the night with her and a few hours later died of a heart attack.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    One of the best biographies (in this case, autobiographies) ever written. Seriously.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dean

    Truly one of my all time top five books ever read. LOVED the story, the life and the writing immensely.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marguerite

    This is interesting, especially the chapters concerning Katharine Graham having to take over running the Washington Post and the newspaper's role in publishing the Pentagon Papers and uncovering Watergate. I found the extended treatment of the unions' strike against the Post much less enthralling. Graham got to rub elbows with business titans, politicians, writers, entertainers and pop-culture phenoms, and her reflections provide a fascinating window on the times. But, she needs an editor. We This is interesting, especially the chapters concerning Katharine Graham having to take over running the Washington Post and the newspaper's role in publishing the Pentagon Papers and uncovering Watergate. I found the extended treatment of the unions' strike against the Post much less enthralling. Graham got to rub elbows with business titans, politicians, writers, entertainers and pop-culture phenoms, and her reflections provide a fascinating window on the times. But, she needs an editor. We don't need to see every year-end note she writes to Ben Bradlee or everyday letters to readers. Similarly, every foreign trip or interview with foreign leaders isn't newsworthy. She's an interesting woman who lived in interesting times, but her story isn't worth 625 pages.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Another book club book -- I wouldn't have picked it up to read it on my own, but I'm glad I read (most of) it. It was interesting as a social commentary, though there wasn't much personal emotion in it -- strange for an autobiography. There was too much name-dropping and detail to make this an enjoyable read. It was also hard to sympathize with her at all when she talked about how hard it was to live with just a maid but not a cook, or how she had only one dress as a child (which she wore to Another book club book -- I wouldn't have picked it up to read it on my own, but I'm glad I read (most of) it. It was interesting as a social commentary, though there wasn't much personal emotion in it -- strange for an autobiography. There was too much name-dropping and detail to make this an enjoyable read. It was also hard to sympathize with her at all when she talked about how hard it was to live with just a maid but not a cook, or how she had only one dress as a child (which she wore to every dinner at which her servants pulled out her chair for her).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    What an impressive, yet beleaguered, lady! That is the impression that I came away with after reading Katharine Graham's autobiography. This is someone who had to pick up the broken pieces after her husband committed suicide. This is someone who, despite being wealthy, had to prove herself in a male-dominated industry at a time when females were seldom if ever heads of corporations. She not only proved herself; she did a superb job of running a major national newspaper and became one of the What an impressive, yet beleaguered, lady! That is the impression that I came away with after reading Katharine Graham's autobiography. This is someone who had to pick up the broken pieces after her husband committed suicide. This is someone who, despite being wealthy, had to prove herself in a male-dominated industry at a time when females were seldom if ever heads of corporations. She not only proved herself; she did a superb job of running a major national newspaper and became one of the country's most successful publishers. No small task for anyone, especially someone who was never groomed to be in charge of anything beyond her children. Despite growing up wealthy, Graham did not seem to enjoy her childhood. Her parents were remote and, in the case of her mother, self-absorbed. Indeed, writing in the late 1990s, it is evident that Graham still harbored much resentment towards her mother even at that remote distance from her early life. Clearly, they did not get along. And just as clearly, this is something that Graham carried with her all of her life. She paints a portrait of a selfish alcoholic who viewed her children as burdens she had to deal with – whenever she was moved to think about them. At times, one wonders whether airing her grievances about her mother was one of the reasons that Graham chose to write this book; a kind of catharsis of sorts perhaps. Her relationship with her father, Eugene Meyer, was much better, but it lacked warmth. Her father treated her as an adult and respected her intelligence, yet could not really bring himself to show her any emotions. You almost have to cringe when she writes about her father offering to turn over the Washington Post Company to Graham's husband, Phil, partially because Phil was extremely intelligent and her Meyer liked him, but also because – and Meyer told Graham this – running a company was not a job for a woman to do. Tragically, Graham ultimately proved all of the men wrong about that, but she suffered a great deal in the process. This book is interesting to read for a variety of reasons, one of which is Graham's almost total vulnerability in opening herself up to be second-guessed and criticized for things that she did or did not do throughout her life. Few people are nearly as candid as she is in describing their lives. For example, she shares blame in not acting to try to understand her husband's mental illness. Also, she admits that she was not really a strong person – allowing her parents, older siblings, and then Phil to dominate her life and tell her what to do and when. That had to have been painful to relive in her mind, let alone put down on paper for the world to read. Another reason this is such a good read is that Graham knew so many different (famous) people throughout her life: Presidents, Ambassadors, Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet Secretaries, newspaper columnists, financiers, and more. She was around for some pivotal moments in 20th century American history and does a good job in conveying what she was thinking and feeling decades ago. Unfortunately, there is always a dark cloud hovering over her life thanks to first her parents, then her husband, then Lyndon Johnson, and later Richard Nixon, not to mention all of the doubters who did not believe that she could run a major newspaper. Just past the halfway mark of the book (1963 in Graham's life), Phil commits suicide. Graham is the one who hears the gunshot and finds him. How she managed to carry on after that, especially when one considers that she had to then assume the burden of running The Washington Post Company, which – as mentioned above – she was never groomed for nor expected to do, is truly hard to comprehend. Graham admits that she did not cope with it well, at least initially, as she took off halfway across the world to join her mother on vacation, leaving her children behind. As she does so often throughout the book, she harshly criticizes herself for doing things that she later looks back on with deep regret. That is also how she treats Phil's mental disintegration and suicide – saying that she should have put the clues together and recognized much sooner that he had a serious problem, and that she should have taken more control of things and not allowed herself and others to be manipulated by Phil. While Graham is quite candid about her life, part of me wonders what – if anything – she chose to leave out. The thought occurred to me that because Phil was verbally abusive to Kay, was he also physically abusive? Could that have been one thing even too horrible for Graham to admit had happened? I am not saying that it did – I simply mention it as something that I wondered about. A person can be remarkably candid about things without revealing everything. Even though the Pentagon Papers drama and Watergate were still in the future, the last half of the book seems somewhat anticlimactic. This is not a criticism: Graham is writing about her life. Few of us have enough interesting things occur to us to be able to write a 600+ page memoir about them, so one cannot realistically expect her entire life to be consistently fascinating. It is more that the second half becomes much more oriented around the Washington Post and Graham's baby steps in learning how to be an effective publisher. The segment on Watergate was interesting, but not revelatory. Following that, Graham turns to labor issues at the paper and her friendship with Warren Buffet. While not uninteresting, after all of the things that came before this period, it is certainly slower-paced and less enthralling to read about. She details the strikes that plagued the Post during the mid-1970s. Around this point the book, while still personal, takes on much more of a business inclination than it previously had. This lasts for most of the remainder of the book, with the exception of the last chapter, where Graham writes about growing older and find new ways to enjoy her life as she steps away from work. Anyone interested in media history, 20th century American history, or just wanting to read a very good book about someone who continually faced and overcame challenges while leading an eventful life, will find this to be worthwhile reading. Grade: A-

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ary Chest

    I feel bad giving this a low rating, especially since it's an important part of history. At least, it should be. Why I don't think this book is the go-to piece of literature on the Watergate scandal lies in my main complaint, so I'll jump to it. The part about Watergate wasn't nearly as descriptive as her childhood, personal issues, or how much money her family had. The title of this book is very fitting...too fitting. Instead of many pages devoted to her managerial style of the paper, and other I feel bad giving this a low rating, especially since it's an important part of history. At least, it should be. Why I don't think this book is the go-to piece of literature on the Watergate scandal lies in my main complaint, so I'll jump to it. The part about Watergate wasn't nearly as descriptive as her childhood, personal issues, or how much money her family had. The title of this book is very fitting...too fitting. Instead of many pages devoted to her managerial style of the paper, and other challenges she faced in the business, the majority is focused on her parents' childhoods, her childhood, how much her family owned, including descriptions of all their properties, and the social life in Washington. I get it, background is important, but it overtakes anything related to Nixon's craziness. A lot of her "personal history" is also devoted to her social awakening, which is great. But I wish that awakening was a little broader. When she was in her rich bitch school, there was a fundraiser for the poor called the "poverty party." Really? When she first married Phill, and was supposedly living off their own income, not her family's (At least, she sets us up to believe they were being self-reliant.) they somehow managed to have a decorator for their home, and a nanny. Dear lord. As for all the luxe porn, anyone who wants to write a historical romance novel set in high society should read this. Katharine Graham's family money actually reminded me of families in Danielle Steel's novels.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Fish

    OK, this book had been on my shelves for > 20 years and i'm glad i finally got around to it. When she says "Personal History," Kay Graham apparently meant all of it, tho she's from a generation that apparently only hints at the most personal (apparent liaisons with Adlai Stephenson, Warren Buffett and others. Sometimes this book drags a bit. But it's important to get the perspective of a woman who grew up in great privilege, well-educated yet believing that her role is one of helpmate to her OK, this book had been on my shelves for > 20 years and i'm glad i finally got around to it. When she says "Personal History," Kay Graham apparently meant all of it, tho she's from a generation that apparently only hints at the most personal (apparent liaisons with Adlai Stephenson, Warren Buffett and others. Sometimes this book drags a bit. But it's important to get the perspective of a woman who grew up in great privilege, well-educated yet believing that her role is one of helpmate to her husband and mother to her children, rather than as the rightful successor at her father's business. When her husband, who's been running the company, kills himself in 1963, she does take the helm of the Washington Post Co. She's clearly from a generation of women who don't exactly get how to react to, say, the uprising and lawsuit by the women at Newsweek who were banned from becoming reporters. But she also blazes a trail as the "first" in so many ways with her leadership, experiencing much that still exists – criticism that highlights her gender, imposter syndrome, belittling by even those men working for her. This book also offers a great history lesson of our country. Graham and her family hobnobbed with presidents, and she befriended a range of powerful people.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    This is a re-read for me and I enjoyed it much more this time around. I think just because I have more life under my belt than when I read it when it was released. I enjoyed Graham's discussions of being a woman in a mans world at a time when there were no women in any powerful business positions. I also found her discussions of how the press had to learn to cover McCarthy and Nixon fascinating in light of trying to cope with and cover Trump. For a thick and meaty bio this was very readable.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Hackett

    Perhaps because I live in Washington or perhaps because there are a lot of parallels between this administration's relationship with the press and previous administration's relationship with the press, but this book truly stood the test of time for me. While I winced at Graham's attitude towards feminism and the role of women in the workplace, I found her concise delivery and her ability to capture the events and the emotions of the times that her autobiography covers remarkable. Do I think Perhaps because I live in Washington or perhaps because there are a lot of parallels between this administration's relationship with the press and previous administration's relationship with the press, but this book truly stood the test of time for me. While I winced at Graham's attitude towards feminism and the role of women in the workplace, I found her concise delivery and her ability to capture the events and the emotions of the times that her autobiography covers remarkable. Do I think Katharine Graham and I would be best friends IRL if she were alive today? Not likely. But the book was fascinating and I would recommend it to anyone. 4.5 stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    It seems obvious now, that the memoirs of the publisher of a newspaper based in Washington would be centred around politics, but it hadn't occurred to me that it would be quite so focussed on that. And not just politics, but presidential politics and the author's personal relationships with them. I was hoping the book would be more about the running of a newspaper, interesting stories, people and events the paper would have covered but in retrospect this book and Katharine Graham's personal It seems obvious now, that the memoirs of the publisher of a newspaper based in Washington would be centred around politics, but it hadn't occurred to me that it would be quite so focussed on that. And not just politics, but presidential politics and the author's personal relationships with them. I was hoping the book would be more about the running of a newspaper, interesting stories, people and events the paper would have covered but in retrospect this book and Katharine Graham's personal experience was never going to be about that. It was more about who she knew, who came to dinner and who were her friends. She lived in a rarified atmosphere that most of us could never aspire to and I just couldn't relate. As a result, this book wasn't that interesting to me. As an aside, at one time she was the publisher, CEO and chairman of the Washington Post, but at no time were the responsibilities of and distinctions between these roles ever really expanded on, so what she actually did was a bit of a mystery. It makes me wonder if she hadn't been heir to the paper whether someone with her education, experience and business nous (or lack thereof) would have been given a second glance in relation to running it. By her own admission, she knew nothing about personnel management, corporate finances and, even when she gave a speech on Watergate, she was worried about subsequent questions on it as she didn't know the detail. I think I know the answer to that. During the strike, she showed, at times, a lack of empathy with workers. Firstly by intimating they had the temerity to ask for four weeks holiday, when she shared, without a hint of irony, she spent all of August at her house at Martha's Vineyard. Then she made reference to how tedious the jobs were that she and other management took on during the strike. Well, these were the jobs of the strikers, the workers that helped her add to her inherited millions. I thought her comments demeaning to her workforce. Two last observations - I don't know whether we were supposed to feel sorry for her with her relationship with her parents. So her father was stand-of fish and did not convey feelings easily. I think that would sum up 99% of men of that era. And her mother was not exactly hands-on. This contributed to her lack of self-confidence and feelings on inferiority. So, why, in that case, did she seemingly go on to do exactly the same to her children. When she took over at The Post she had two children still at home and yet there was absolutely no mention of them while she was travelling around the country and the world and hosting and attending dinner parties. Last observation - did she not realise that Warren Buffett was married?! I think I would rather read a book on a self-made person, not an heiress.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    This book pretty much slayed me...so many angles. I got turned on to the book as a result of seeing the movie The Post, which somehow led me to the website for Graham Holding Company which has a history tab that included many things I never new, which led me to quote from Warren Buffett where he said Personal History is the best autobiography he ever read. BTW - pretty much the entire movie The Post came out of Chapter 22 of this book, a book with 28 chapters. This is a long book, and took me This book pretty much slayed me...so many angles. I got turned on to the book as a result of seeing the movie The Post, which somehow led me to the website for Graham Holding Company which has a history tab that included many things I never new, which led me to quote from Warren Buffett where he said Personal History is the best autobiography he ever read. BTW - pretty much the entire movie The Post came out of Chapter 22 of this book, a book with 28 chapters. This is a long book, and took me quite a while to read, but I couldn't put it down. Several things captivated me: First is what came across, throughout the book, as grounded, candid and fully transparent, especially sharing her own inadequacies and insecurities, and how she managed to grow in spite of what seemed debilitating for much of her life. Second is the very interesting lineage of her grandparents and parents, particularly relevant for someone that lives in the Bay Area. Third, understanding more deeply her marriage to Phil Graham and the tragedy of his not benefiting from a real understanding of how to treat his manic depression. Fourth, her amazing relationships with many politicians, presidents, socialites, Truman Capote, Joseph and Stewart Alsop, her relationships with Ben Bradlee, Meg Greenfield, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, but most interestingly to me the quite remarkable history with Warren Buffett who invested in the Washington Post Company early on as he saw s well run company that, at the time, was severely undervalued. He became a personal and financial mentor to Katherine and became a critically important member of the board. Fifth, there is something amazing in the way she describes live during the Nixon years, as pulling at the fabric of our country with no certainty that the country could survive. In the midst of our current situation, there is something enobling to know that we've been here before, and one wonders if the kind of intense reporting that was Watergate can be repeated. I forgot this but there was a period when all the Watergate leads went dry and it wasn't at all clear what would happen. She describes some combination of continued dedicated hard work, doing the right thing, and plain luck, that allowed the country to get back on track. There's more. Just read it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Walczak

    Fascinating book, and although it is no longer the "year of the biography/memoir", one of the best of the genre I have ever read. I first came across Katharine Graham when I read All the President's Men back in college. My wife maintains an extensive collection of biographies of accomplished women, and so remembering her part in Watergate, I gave this book a shot. The book describes her fairly eccentric and wealthy parents, and how they bought the Washington Post in 1937 (as almost an after Fascinating book, and although it is no longer the "year of the biography/memoir", one of the best of the genre I have ever read. I first came across Katharine Graham when I read All the President's Men back in college. My wife maintains an extensive collection of biographies of accomplished women, and so remembering her part in Watergate, I gave this book a shot. The book describes her fairly eccentric and wealthy parents, and how they bought the Washington Post in 1937 (as almost an after thought, they were filthy rich at the time). Her parents rubbed shoulders with the Washington elite, as did Katharine Graham. The story moves onto her husband Phil who ran the paper and Newsweek, until his tragic death. The description of his exploits with the post war politicians and his struggle with manic depression were memorable parts of the book. The last half follows Graham and her take over of the paper. She faces countless obstacles as a woman in power during a time when women were just emerging into the work force. She is quite honest about her insecurities, and old fashioned way of thinking. The Pentagon Papers and Watergate are the key historical events of her tenure as Post publisher, and those events are recalled in impressive detail. Lastly, I genuinely admired her reflections on the difficulties of managing people - struggles sometime that hit close to home as someone who would one day like to run his own school.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    An excellent account of an important life - though it was painful to read how such a competent, wise and energetic woman doubted her ability and her right to her own opinions, decisions about her family, and her money for so long. She always managed to reconcile herself to the decisions made by her father, her husband, and the rest of the male power structure until fairly late in her life. I found it sad and somewhat shocking that Phil Graham lived in a time when he could not get adequate An excellent account of an important life - though it was painful to read how such a competent, wise and energetic woman doubted her ability and her right to her own opinions, decisions about her family, and her money for so long. She always managed to reconcile herself to the decisions made by her father, her husband, and the rest of the male power structure until fairly late in her life. I found it sad and somewhat shocking that Phil Graham lived in a time when he could not get adequate treatment for his mental illness, despite his prominence, education and money. I especially appreciated the account of WaPo’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, and it was good to be reminded of how slowly the Watergate investigation unfolded. “We all began to worry about the Nixon administration’s imperious attitude that the authority to determine what the American people should know rests exclusively with the government.” The history of the Washington Post, including their investments and labor disputes, was engaging. I’m not sure if it was Katharine Graham or someone else who said “If the press is the target, the victim is the public.” Wise words, no matter the source.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    Many people have mentioned this book to me, and I'm so glad that I picked it up. I didn't actually read the book, but I listened to the audio book, which was read by the author! I think it might have been abridged, but it was still an absolutely fascinating listen. Katharine Graham is an intelligent and hard working woman who managed a national newspaper in a time when this was practically unheard of for a woman. She helmed the Post during an incredible time- through Watergate and the Pentagon Many people have mentioned this book to me, and I'm so glad that I picked it up. I didn't actually read the book, but I listened to the audio book, which was read by the author! I think it might have been abridged, but it was still an absolutely fascinating listen. Katharine Graham is an intelligent and hard working woman who managed a national newspaper in a time when this was practically unheard of for a woman. She helmed the Post during an incredible time- through Watergate and the Pentagon Papers and a serious labour strike. She also had to deal with a lot of personal issues, as her extremely charismatic husband committed suicide due to his struggle with manic depression. One advantage of listening to this as an audio book is that you can really hear the emotion in her voice. When she talks about finding her dead husband, her voice is incredibly shaky and full of emotion. An incredible story about an incredible woman.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Geo Forman

    While I wanted to hear her story, I fully expected to be bored by this book. I'm not generally a fan of memoirs. I was pleasantly surprised to have my interest level maintained from start to finish. Kay candidly acknowledges her very privileged life but I still found mysel rolling my eyes when she mentions how busy her life became as children arrived on the scene. She had a nanny and a cook to help. Her comments sounded too much like complaining to me. Nonetheless, she did not try to coverup any While I wanted to hear her story, I fully expected to be bored by this book. I'm not generally a fan of memoirs. I was pleasantly surprised to have my interest level maintained from start to finish. Kay candidly acknowledges her very privileged life but I still found mysel rolling my eyes when she mentions how busy her life became as children arrived on the scene. She had a nanny and a cook to help. Her comments sounded too much like complaining to me. Nonetheless, she did not try to coverup any of her privileges which is admirable. Her life running the Post after her husbands suicide was of the most interest to me. She readily admits her shortcomings and gives ample credit to others for her success. She also readily admits to caving in to the subservient female role in her early business career and speaks honestly about how she gradually overcame that in spite of her fears and insecurities. Way to go, Kay

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    I am so glad that she told her own story....certainly more personal.....and so interesting. I look forward to seeing the movie this upcoming weekend with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, two of my favorites. I lived through the Vietnam War and Watergate,and it was brought even more alive for me in this book!! I learned even more.......and yes...much of the crap that went on with Nixon is going on now with Trump........I think Katharine would be horrified if she were alive in 2018.....however, I also I am so glad that she told her own story....certainly more personal.....and so interesting. I look forward to seeing the movie this upcoming weekend with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, two of my favorites. I lived through the Vietnam War and Watergate,and it was brought even more alive for me in this book!! I learned even more.......and yes...much of the crap that went on with Nixon is going on now with Trump........I think Katharine would be horrified if she were alive in 2018.....however, I also think she would be proud to know that she is telling people that how we vote and whom we support while in office does affect us in many ways in negative or positive ways...depending on if you vote at all,and for whom you vote for. Katharine worked hard to keep people informed of the facts,and was upset if alternate/incorrect factual information would hit her newsroom. Read her book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sean Henry

    Such a great read! Katherine was such a huge force of change in multiple areas; civil rights, political issues, and business. She did so much in her life and is truly an amazing inspiration to anyone looking to live a full life. No matter the obstacles placed in front of Katherine, she faced each of them with perseverance and creativity and never stopped trying to do what was right for everyone around her. Absolutely a must read.

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