Personal History
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Personal History

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  10,011 ratings  ·  590 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...more
Paperback, 642 pages
Published February 24th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1980)
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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...more
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 ever...more
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
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 r...more
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.
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...more
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...more
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...more
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 prin...more
Kim
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
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
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...more
Feral
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
Tracy
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...more
Cynthia
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
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 Pa...more
NC Weil
Katharine Graham had a front-row seat for some of the most riveting events of the mid-20th century, and she describes those experiences in clear honest prose. Her father Eugene Meyer bought The Washington Post in 1933, her husband Philip Graham ran it, during which time he was a confidante of President Kennedy, and after his suicide, she reluctantly took the reins as publisher.

She is candid about her position as the unglamorous and in many ways least worldly member of a wealthy socially-connect...more
Washington Post
The Post’s legendary publisher describes her family, her life and her experiences during the Watergate years.

“The lives of those of us who stay on in Washington change somewhat with a change of administrations, but our core friendships remain pretty much the same. There is a saying about relationships in Washington: ‘If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.’ Maybe because I’ve always lived here, because this is in a very real sense my hometown, I’ve found that not at all to be true.”
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.
Scott
The fascinating life of a fly on a wall who one day had to fly. Until she was middle aged, her own life was remarkable only through the remarkable people she touched: Presidents and power brokers. But then her own legacy was borne when she was "stuck" running the Washington Post. Great storytelling with an astonishing level of humility and honesty. A bonus for the DC readers who will learn lots of little nuggets of history about their community. Deserving of a Pulitzer.
Dana
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.
Amanda
A great big book about an interesting woman who cam from a privileged family and lived a remarkable life.
This was given to me by a dear friend who recommended it highly, but it languished on my reading pile for quite a while before I was ready to tackle it's 600+ pages of small print. I'm glad I eventually did.

As well as giving us an up-close look at the life of The Washington Post, this book gives a broad look at political life in Washington for most of the last century. It illustrates very wel...more
Buffy
This is my all-time favorite autobiography. What a woman! And what an evolution she had into one of the most powerful and important people of her time. I was inspired reading about her struggles to assert herself in the newsroom and in the DC political arena during the times of Watergate and Nixon's downfall.
Myles
Katherine effing Graham. This lady is like the wallpaper in the oval office-- ugly, a bit too conservative, but exposed to every imaginable part of D.C. politics and 20th Century media. More stars might have been awarded if she'd learned to reign in a tendency towards terrible metaphors.
Carolyn
Another one of my heroes. Katherine Graham stepped into the top position at the Washington Post during a time when extremely few women were in positions of power. Additionally, she survived her husband's mental illness and subsequent suicide with compassion, grace, and strength.
Abby Drucker
Dec 18, 2007 Abby Drucker added it
Recommends it for: everyone who is interested in washington politics
fascinating life - truly amazing what she took on at the washington post and her role with ben bradley to breakt the watergate scandal.. best autobiography i have read ... her relationship and friendship with warren buffett is interesting as well
Margie
The level of honesty and introspection is what makes this such a fascinating read. Given her background and life history, it would otherwise come across as a lot of name-dropping. It's long, but unlike Ben Bradlee's book, interesting to the end.
Pamwendy
I enjoyed the political history during the 40s 50s 60s and Ms Graham's unique position to experience close up and personal what was going on behind the scenes
I never felt she revealed herself on any type of intimate level.
Carol
Another riveting book which was hard to put down. Katherine Graham is an astonishing person who in spite of her gender training, broke through the glass ceiling everytime she had to. Lovely read.
Steve Bradshaw
Many interesting themes:
- Dealing with the insecurities that come from inheriting wealth
- Coming of age after living under the shadow of her parents and then husband
- Being an insecure but powerful women in a world of domineering men (publishing in the 50s and 60s) and
- Just generally living through the intrigues of life and politics in DC.
- Plus, a great cameo by Warren Buffet towards the middle of her reign at the Post that contributed to their phenomenal financial successes

Unfortunately the...more
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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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