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Personal History

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  14,210 Ratings  ·  747 Reviews
Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

An extraordinarily frank, honest, and generous book by one of America's most famous and admired women, Personal History is, as its title suggests, a book composed of both personal memoir and history.

It is the story of Graham's parents: the multimillionaire father who left private business and government service to buy and rest
Kindle Edition, 657 pages
Published February 9th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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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 r ...more
Dec 05, 2007 Mollie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Apr 04, 2009 Coco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, women
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 r
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
May 14, 2013 Sherri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 12, 2009 Lesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dale Leopold
May 19, 2013 Dale Leopold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 19, 2008 Kristen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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 ever
Jan 07, 2009 Peggy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recently-read
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.
Nov 18, 2009 Mom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kathryn Bashaar
Apr 20, 2009 Kathryn Bashaar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 prin ...more
Mar 22, 2017 Alexw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 do ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Dean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly one of my all time top five books ever read. LOVED the story, the life and the writing immensely.
Apr 09, 2017 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 26, 2014 Carolyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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 expe ...more
Jul 17, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Personal History is the life story of Katharine Graham, whose family owns the Washington Post. She was the Publisher and President of the Washington Post Companies from the 60's through the 80's. The book is really divided into three sections. The first deals with her life before she became involved in the Washington Post. This is principally the story of her life growing up, and then with her husband of 20+ years. He dealt with Manic Depressive Disorder during much of his life and it eventually ...more
Andrew Walczak
Mar 23, 2013 Andrew Walczak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 thou ...more
Liz Bowsher
Dec 13, 2015 Liz Bowsher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Forget the start and the end: the substance of this book is really great.

This should be a "real" leadership book for women. Forget strident feminism and shoulder pads. This is about a real woman who survived and succeeded on her own terms in a mans world. She had to deal with the fact that she was the sum of her upbringing and the way that she'd been treated by her husband and other men in a mans world. She learned by finding people she could trust and by listening. She learned how to be confide
Apr 26, 2009 Dana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fascinating story of the life of one of the first women to rise to the top in her field. Her family and their connections are intriguing and as a newspaper woman at the helm of the Washington Post, who lived through so many presidents' terms, and was deeply involved in the release of the Pentagon Papers, and Watergate facts, her perspective is so interesting. She writes so well; I totally enjoyed this book.
Aug 15, 2011 Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, biography
One of the best biographies (in this case, autobiographies) ever written. Seriously.
May 21, 2017 Grahamshircore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: play
Long. I'm surprised at how keen I was to stick with it given I knew very few of the central characters and wasn't alive when most of the events in the book took place. I think this is because it covers a broad range of subjects and types of events, plus it's very well written.
Santhosh Guru
Feb 23, 2017 Santhosh Guru rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up on a recco by Warren Buffett. What a fantastic life this woman, Katherine Graham, has had. A very moving and a honest biography.
Michael Armijo
Nov 02, 2010 Michael Armijo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting and historic story...

I've had this book since early 1998. I started it and was flabbergasted to learn that Katherine Grahams' parents lived in my hometown (Alameda, CA) for a short spell. Then, I put the book to the side and never finished it. I finally put my foot down and completed the book from 6/24/01-7/4/01. It's a great book to finish on the 4th of July with all of the Presidential gossip salt n' peppered throughout the book. I found the stories about her parents most intere
Jan 11, 2008 Tracy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at the wealthy and powerful in Washington DC, as well as Graham's own well-connected family in the Northeast. This is Washington of behind the scenes political bargaining (Kennedy and Johnson campaign), of powerful friends and their social events, and, of course, of Washington Post and Watergate. Graham fleshes out that famous chapter of Post history, as well as the difficulty she had in inheriting her position as publisher after her husband's suicide.

In some ways a pioneer, and
Oct 25, 2009 Feral rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read every word of this very long book and I think I'm glad I did. For one thing, Katharine Graham was in the inner circle of the inner circle of events that have defined my life, and I wanted to know the names of people, for instance, involved in Watergate just because I should. Now I don't remember them again, but for a brief shining moment I was an informed citizen. The book is brave and honest and in the constant name dropping, reveals an important take on the major players of the time. I ...more
Nov 21, 2007 Cynthia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Bad editing. Well, really no editing. I guess that happens when you have a powerful author. Also, I guess a Puliter Prize also happens when you have a powerful author?! It's 600 repetitive pages of anecdotes about luncheons and weekends with famous people and passive aggressive knocks to everyone who mistreated her (in her mind). She had so much spin on reality she seemed to have lived in another world at times (like being a "pro-union" strikebreaker). For all of that being said, it was also int ...more
Jun 06, 2008 Alexis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Pa
Aug 24, 2011 Christy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An inspiring read. A must-read, I think. Katharine's story of coming into her own in taking over the Washington Post from her late husband in the 1960s, is a fascinating journey. It's both a personal story about one woman's life, and an interesting perspective on important events in American history. The parts about Watergate and the Post's union issues are riveting. With the exception of the last few chapters where it loses focus and drive, the book is well written and a great read. I read it o ...more
Feb 01, 2017 Jena rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Esta es la aburrida historiade Katharin Graham, hija del que fuera propietario del Washington Post, entre los años 30 a a 60. Es un libro con demasiadas anécdotas intrascendentes y frívolas de la autora en sus primeros 50 años de vida, es decir, unas 400 páginas. Lo más interesante es cuando se hace cargo de la administración y dirección del periódico a principios de la década del 80 cuando cumple con todas las metas que el diario se propuso.
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Katharine Meyer Graham was an American publisher. She led her family's newspaper, The Washington Post, for more than two decades, overseeing its most famous period, the Watergate coverage that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Her memoir, Personal History, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998.
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“But though he lacked the gift of intimacy, in many ways his supportive love still came through to me. He somehow conveyed his belief in me without ever articulating it, and that was the single most sustaining thing in my life.” 1 likes
“The more subtle inheritance of my strange childhood was the feeling, which we all shared to some extent, of believing we were never quite going about things correctly. Had I said the right thing? Had I worn the right clothes? Was I attractive? These questions were unsettling and self-absorbing, even overwhelming at times, and remained so throughout much of my adult life, until, at last, I grew impatient with dwelling on the past.” 1 likes
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