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A Good Life

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  658 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
In this witty, candid memoir, Ben Bradlee, the most important, glamorous, and famous newspaperman of modern times, traces his path from Harvard to the battles of the Pacific war to the pinnacle of success as the editor of The Washington Post--during the Watergate scandal and every other important event of the last three decades. of photos.
Paperback, 512 pages
Published September 11th 1996 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,378)
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May 30, 2011 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, memoir
The first 8 chapters of this, up to about p. 200, are super boring. This includes Bradlee's Waspy upbringing amongst the Boston (Brahmin) Crowninshields, his years at Harvard, the months in the Navy during World War II, the first marriage to Jean Saltonstall of the Boston Brahmin Saltonstalls, the years in Paris working for Newsweek. The boredom abates a little as Bradlee, married and with a young son, and resembling Jon Hamm, falls for the married mother of four Antoinette Pinchot Pittman, of t ...more
May 20, 2013 Vicki rated it it was ok
I tried to read this one because I so loved Katherine Graham's Personal History and wanted to read about some of the events she went through from the perspective of another who was there. But whereas I came away from Graham's book wishing I could add her to my list of lunch buddies, I bailed out on this one because my palms just itched to slap Bradlee every four or five pages, I found him to be so insufferable. And life is too short to read a whole memoir of someone you want to drop-kick.
Nicholas Lefevre
Dec 11, 2014 Nicholas Lefevre rated it it was amazing
I recently went to Ben Bradlee's funeral at the National Cathedral here in Washington. The stories told by his friends, family, and colleagues made this a must read for me. It was out of print and I wanted hard copy so I had to buy a used copy online. It is now in reprint so it should become more available soon.

I absolutely loved my week with Ben Bradlee! It's rare that I read an autobiography where I really like being with that person. So many are self-congratulatory or the author is just not a
Dec 11, 2007 Arnold rated it it was amazing
Shelves: communications
Ben Bradlee is considered one of the great American journalists. A Harvard graduate who rose to become Managing Editor of the Washington Post, one of the most influentual newspapers in the USA. He was in charge of the paper during its heyday of Watergate, Deep Throat, Pentagon Papers and the fall of Nixon. This is his very candid and wonderfully written biography
Mar 04, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
reminded me of Forrest Gump. Here's a guy who's led a fantastic and amazing life. Next door neighbors and good friends with JFK, editor in charge of breaking the Watergate scandal, trips to Vietnam, Isreal, and Libya at all the right (journalistic) times. Written like an editor from the Washington Post. Somewhat devoid of information, but well written.
Grindy Stone
Feb 03, 2013 Grindy Stone rated it it was ok
Worth reading only because Bradlee had a privileged vantage point for much of the latter half of the 20th century. That said, Bradlee comes off as insufferable and smug. There's also lots more crude, potty humor than one would expect from the elite.
Bradlee, unfortunately, comes across as a bit of an ass. It's interesting background for looking at the Pentagon Papers/Watergate era, but isn't as content-rich as one might want.
Mar 20, 2014 Kate rated it it was amazing
Why the heck did I read this book anyway? It's loaded with roughandtumble masculine activities-- war, politics, infidelity-- that usually have scant interest for me. Nevertheless, I read it, liked it, and have read it rough a second time. How come?

Now I recall that I picked it up because Katharine Graham mentioned it favorably in her own bio, and I really respect that woman. I've come to be quite intrigued with the Watergate story, so there was that...

And then, omce I'd started reading i imply d
Nancy Kennedy
Feb 03, 2012 Nancy Kennedy rated it it was amazing
How did I miss this book? It's almost 15 years old, but my library was featuring it, so it must have just gotten some book donations.

I'm a news hound for whom Watergate was a defining moment, just as JFK's assassination and the 9/11 terrorist attacks similarly colored the way we view the world. I jumped right to the Watergate section of Ben Bradlee's book. It's fascinating to relive that time in our nation's history from the inside, from the smallest to the most momentous editorial decisions the
David Ward
Dec 12, 2014 David Ward rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures by Ben Bradlee (Simon & Shuster 1995)(Biography). Ben Bradlee was the editor of the Washington Post when Woodward and Bernstein broke the Watergate story. The silver spoon that he was born sucking on dictated no less an exalted position. This is his autobiography. My rating: 7/10, finished 12/11/14.
Oct 30, 2014 Leigh rated it really liked it
A mentor insisted I read this book early in my career and I am grateful I did. I am reading it again because it is a good account on investigative journalism, management, politics, values...often pretty salty and also very humorous. Everyone who works to uphold the First Amendment/cares about it should read this book.
Holly Morrow
I knew I was going to like this book, and I did. I love memoirs, I love the Wash Post, I love WWII and I love gossipy accounts of world events. Its especially good in the first half, when its Bradlee's WASPy coming of age tale, his WWII jaunt in the Pacific, and the beginnings of his newspapering days and his incredible friendship with his neighbor JFK. After the Pentagon Papers it becomes less interesting, more engrossed with the office politics of the Wash Post and all the great reporters ther ...more
False Millennium
Aug 03, 2013 False Millennium rated it it was ok
I still think he's fudging on the truth about his sister-in-law's diary (who was having an affair with JFK while President,) and possible CIA involvement in her death. Why on earth would a family member turn over such a document TO the CIA? It's crazy. This was also written before the deaths of Katherine Graham and Art Buchwald, so that would change his later years story. He really whitewashes his wife (which you would expect,) but she is generally seen as a gold digging opportunist in the town ...more
Tom Spann
Aug 19, 2013 Tom Spann rated it it was amazing
Life at the top. A better title might have A Remarkable Life. Entering Bardlee's world is a heady experience. Bradlee paid his dues, for sure, on his rise to the top of the newspapering world. Once there, though, he never lost sight of his primary mission as a journalist....tell the truth. That was Woodward and Bernstien's mission with the Watergate story and Bardlee backed them all the way when other major papers would not touch the story. The breadth and depth of Bardlee's life is enough to ta ...more
Joanna Jacob
Oct 31, 2010 Joanna Jacob rated it liked it
As a history buff, this is an interesting read, particularly the chapters dealing with Watergate, the Pentagon Papers and Gary Hart, and how decisions were made within the inner sanctums of a great newspaper. A lot of name dropping, but I guess that is to be expected in a memoir. A good life, for sue, and a privileged life.. Bradlee is quite candid in acknowledging the privilege, and the twists fo fate which led him to the Post (as in deciding not to get off the train to interview with the Balti ...more
Feb 11, 2009 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
Bradlee is an excellent writer. This is an outstanding autobiography, best read with the biography of his publisher, the late great Katherine Graham. The author spans his heady years at The Washington Post, with the Kennedys and Nixon and Watergate and the threat to our Constitutional right to a free press.
Alas, the standards in journalism seem to have fallen since his day...and the reduced interest in reading a newspaper has impacted newpaper publishing enormously. Will they become obsolete?
A typical autobiography of an un-humble man who lived a privileged life. Highpoints are his personal relationship with JFK and Jackie, of which he probably made too much in his life as well as in his books, and his experiences editing the Watergate story during a time of incredible pushback from President Nixon and his cronies. Even though many of us have seen the movie, I can recommend the Watergate chapters because they describe what the role of journalism can be in a democracy when it's worki ...more
Feb 13, 2013 Adriandoran rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite books. Read this and wonder what you've done with your life: Bradlee graduated from Harvard, got married and signed-up for the Navy on the same day. What lay ahead? Youngest watch commander of the US Navy in WW2, an American in Paris for Newsweek in the 50's, next door neighbour with new senator JFK - and that's just his 30's. Then a brilliant career in newspapers, covering the Kennedy assassination, and breaking Watergate. Told with wit and enough humility, it's one of my de ...more
Jun 14, 2016 Will rated it really liked it
Ben Bradlee was a rare journalist, and he doesn't mind letting you know about it.
Aug 28, 2015 Rodney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
I read this book quite some time ago, and it remains one of my favorite autobiographies. Bradlee has led a "good life," and he takes us through much of it in the only way a newspaper man can: with style and grace. Among the many things Bradlee discusses are his relationship with JFK, the Watergate Scandal, and his many years as editor-in-chief of The Washington Post. Sombre, light-hearted, to the point, A Good Life offers us a unique look at a remarkable life!
Cathy Allen
Mar 23, 2012 Cathy Allen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-leaders
This is my second time through this book. I've read quite a few autobiographies and I honestly think this is one of the best ever. It's good old-fashioned storytelling. Bradlee puts the events of his life in context and elaborates on what his readers would want to know. (I care more about how he decided certain questions having to do with The Pentagon Papers or Watergate, for instance, than about why his marriage broke up.) Truly entertaining.
Jim Scheller
May 16, 2011 Jim Scheller rated it really liked it
I didn't know whether I'd like this biography, or biography at all for that matter (other than bios of people I already know I like, like Lincoln, for example), but I was working at Barnes & Noble 2502 when this came out and when I saw in in a thrift store I couldn't resist. (I'm a sucker for cheap books, I have to say...)

I liked it very much, and enjoyed the inside story of the Washington Post's role in Nixon's downfall.
Lech Lesiak
I enjoyed it very much. He name drops a bit too much.
Feb 03, 2011 Jude rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-hardcover
A book with a strong middle, saddled with a far less interesting beginning and end. Bradlee's life was most interesting when he was at The Washington Post, overseeing reporting on The Pentagon Papers, Watergate and "Jimmy's World." Unfortunately for us, there's a lot written about his Navy career, his stint in Paris and his tenure at Newsweek before we get to the good stuff.
Oct 06, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it
Entertaining read! I really like his writing style. Long before WikiLeaks and Troopergate there were the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. I was a little girl when many of the events mentioned in the book occurred so it was nice to re-visit them as an adult. I would think this is a must read for a journalism major or a political junkie. ...more
Feb 25, 2010 Kspeare rated it really liked it
This is a pretty good read for anyone who remembers Watergate, or wants to know what the heck they were thinking then, or who grew up in or around Washington. It also covers Bradlee's life leading up to Watergate, including his WWII service and courtside seat in JFK's Camelot, as well as what came after. Funny in spots and sobering in others.
Washington Post
Jul 09, 2013 Washington Post rated it it was amazing
The Post’s former executive editor looks back at Watergate and other events that shaped modern Washington.

“But for politicians who rode the wave into Washington after Watergate, the lessons they seem to have learned have boiled down to this: Don’t get caught. And they haven’t learned that lesson all that well.”
Mar 25, 2008 S. rated it liked it
Shelves: bio-diary-memoir
This was interesting from a journalistic point of view. I loved "All the President's Men," so it was an enriching addition. Still, Bradlee manages to make his own life none-too-engaging, maybe because he writes so distantly of it. A man's man, for sure.
Stephen Costello
Sep 30, 2013 Stephen Costello rated it really liked it
Great book.
As a twelve year old fascinated with Watergate, these events
led to me to aspire to want a career in journalism.
I could not put the book down as it was chapter and verse recap
of what really happened.
Great job.
Andy Perdue
Mar 24, 2011 Andy Perdue rated it really liked it
One of the great journalists of the modern era, Ben Bradlee offers the inside scoop of what it was like to run The Washington Post. I've always admired the newspaper and the people who ran it, so this was thoroughly enjoyable.
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Father of Ben Bradlee Jr.
Benjamin Crowninshield "Ben" Bradlee is vice-president at large of the Washington Post. Born in Boston, Bradlee attended Harvard College. In 1942, he became a communications officer for the Office of Naval Intelligence and fought in thirteen battles during World War II. Bradlee became executive editor of the Washington Post in 1968, a position he held until 1991. During th
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“But journalists thrive on not knowing exactly what the future holds. That's part of the excitement. Something interesting, something important, will happen somewhere, as sure as God made sour apples, and a good aggressive newspaper will become part of that something.” 0 likes
“I think the conscientious pursuit of happiness by itself can validate decisions to change, to try again, especially when failure to change will lead to lives of duplicity, dishonesty, and deceit.” 0 likes
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