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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A BUTTERFLY SPREADS HER WINGS
Today I finished Personal History by Katharine Graham, longtime publisher of the Washington Post.
It's interesting, because Kay Graham is such a legendary figure in Washington, lauded for having stuck it out as the only woman in a man's world (business executives in the 60s/70s/80s).
But yet, she is not the steadfast person that everyone believes her to be. She...
Published on July 18 2004

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Impersonal personal history
I thought I would be giving 5 stars for an award winning book but after reading, it just fell short. There was too much name-dropping, one has to be very familiar with the power scene of Washington at her time to really appreciate who was who and their significance. That itself made the book very unapproachable to readers who do not move in her circle, non-American, the...
Published on Sept. 21 2003 by Kelly


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A BUTTERFLY SPREADS HER WINGS, July 18 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Personal History (Paperback)
Today I finished Personal History by Katharine Graham, longtime publisher of the Washington Post.
It's interesting, because Kay Graham is such a legendary figure in Washington, lauded for having stuck it out as the only woman in a man's world (business executives in the 60s/70s/80s).
But yet, she is not the steadfast person that everyone believes her to be. She has to deal with a husband with manic depression, and his eventual suicide. Her one son volunteers for Vietnam, the other gets arrested for protesting it.
She basically suddenly finds herself CEO after Phil (Graham's) death, and almost drowns under the pressure, but somehow manages to stick it through. Even when she does the right thing, she often second guesses herself and is extremely sensitive to criticism.
The book seems to unfold as a butterfly emerges from a cocoon; at first she can hide behind her father and then her husband, but eventually must learn to make things fly on her own.
Towards the end it gets more business-y, with some CEO jargon and discussions about the Post company. I thought it was kind of boring how she seemed to name every single person she ever hired or fired.
But some parts are really interesting. Especially the bits about her childhood, the Pentagon Papers, and Watergate.
I would really recommend this book as a good read. Kay Graham is like Forrest Gump- she's done a little of everything.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, Jan. 9 2014
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This review is from: Personal History (Paperback)
Fascinating reading, and well deserved praise and awards for this thoughtful and thought-provoking memoir. A friend recommended this as her favourite book, and now I can see why!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Personal History Katharine Graham, June 1 2013
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This review is from: Personal History (Paperback)
I admire Katharine Graham immensely and was very touched by her own personal story - success in a man's world many years ago. Highly recommended !
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, June 6 2004
By 
Erika Mitchell (E. Calais, VT USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Personal History (Audio Cassette)
This is a very personal autobiography of Katharine Graham, one of the most influential women of the Twentieth Century. Graham begins her story with the tale of how her parents met at an art exhibition, and relates the events of her early childhood. She explains how her father came to purchase the Washington Post, and how she alone amongst her siblings was truly drawn to the paper from her teenage years. She goes on to describe dating and eventually marrying Phil Graham, and how her father came to pass the management of the newspaper on to him. Later, she details Graham's descent into mental illness leading to his suicide, and how it finally fell onto her shoulders to lead the paper. Her most fascinating stories, however, come from her tenure as publisher of the Post, covering the turbulent period from the release of the Pentagon Papers, to the uncovering of the Watergate scandal and to the lengthy pressmen's strike against the Post in the 1970s.
The story is indeed a personal one, in which Graham documents events from her own point of view. As I read this book, I was constantly aware that Graham may have chosen to leave out some details and emphasize others in order to show herself in the best light. But since this is an autobiography, such a subjective account is perfectly reasonable. This is history as Graham would have it told.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Helped me view historical incidents differently, April 13 2004
By 
Blaine Greenfield "eclectic reader" (Belle Meade, NJ) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Personal History (Paperback)
Enjoyed the taped version of PERSONAL HISTORY by Katharine
Graham . . . this is the story of how she struggled to make the
WASHINGTON PRESS a success . . . her recollections of the
Pentagon Papers and Watergate helped me see these incidents
from a different perspective . . . but I was most moved by her
account of Phil Graham, her husband and lifelong partner in the
newspaper business . . . his plunge into manic-depression
and eventual suicide were made even more touching by his wife's
excellent job of narration.
I also liked what Katharine Graham had to say at the book's conclusion
about there being "some positives about being old" . . . namely:
Worry, if not gone, no longer haunts you in the middle of the night; and
You are free or freer to turn down the things that bore you and [able to]
spend time on matters and with people that you enjoy.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Impersonal personal history, Sept. 21 2003
This review is from: Personal History (Paperback)
I thought I would be giving 5 stars for an award winning book but after reading, it just fell short. There was too much name-dropping, one has to be very familiar with the power scene of Washington at her time to really appreciate who was who and their significance. That itself made the book very unapproachable to readers who do not move in her circle, non-American, the younger generation etc. A lot of time she just mentioned the names and expected the readers to know who they were or connect to her earlier mentions (it would really be a pain to constantly check the index and refer back to the earlier pages!)
This book read like an account of achievement of her father, her husband and herself. Honestly, Katharine came across as someone fairly stupid (though kind), I couldn't help to wonder if she was who she was simply because of her birth, marriage and being there at the right time. For a personal history, it came across as fairly impersonal.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What an Incredible Story!!!, Sept. 1 2003
By 
ufrh4 (Florida, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Personal History (Paperback)
This book just absolutely blew me away!
It's a long book, some 600 pages, but it truly is one that the reader can hardly bear to put down.
Katharine Graham is widely recognized for her association with Watergate, but this book goes oh so much further in truly revealing what an incredible woman she truly was. In truth, it reveals a person of such incredible humility and impeccable character.
Perhaps what amazed me the most about the book (I, like most, expected the frequent references to "who's who" in American history--she just happenned to rub shoulders with all of them) was her glaring honesty in talking about herself in retrospect--her self esteem, her marriage, her abilities as a manger, and her track record as a mother.
Katharine Graham was courageous enough, and indeed showed her brilliance, in truly opening up about what she faced growing up in a sheltered, priveleged upbringing. She was honest about her mother, her relationship with her father, and her insecurity in dealing with men in her early years.
The Watergate sequence of the book can't be glossed over--she saved American journalism--but the reader is so drawn into the development of her as a confident, commanding individual and her growth as a manager, that Watergate does not consume the book. In fact, she devotes perhaps equal time to the labor issues that bogged the business down in the 1970's.
Her humility is evident throughout the book. The references to power and greatness are inevitable; after all, how many Americans can have claimed to have lunched at Albert Einstein's house, been close friends with Teddy Roosevelt's daughter, and have summered with Nancy Reagan? Despite the references, she is impeccably honest in her assesment of people--a refreshing trait.
This is truly a remarkable read for anyone who truly wants to discover what makes a true leader.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting life... but not for 600+ pages!, Aug. 26 2003
By 
Renaaah "Renaaah" (Bronxville, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Personal History (Paperback)
The interesting life of an interesting woman that could hold the readers' interest better if it were half the length!
Kay Graham manages to overcome many of her life's obstacles -- and privileges -- to become a powerful and effective leader. She doesn't always make sound choices; she clings to her corrosive and philandering husband through thick and thin, and she overturns her Republican father's desire to create an unbiased-newspaper by making The Post a mouthpiece for the Democrats. But it is her mistakes that make Graham most interesting and accessible to readers.
Her journey is rich and varied, but not so much that it warrants more than 600 pages. Definitely, many chapters deserve only the lightest of skimming.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not as hot as I had thought, Aug. 12 2003
This review is from: Personal History (Paperback)
I have wanted to read this book ever since its first printing. Since it won the Pulitzer Prize my desire to read it has only intensified. When I finally found the time to read this book, I was somewhat disappointed. This is a good memoir of a fascinating woman. It documents very well her personal and professional struggles. But, it is slightly boring and full of self-depricating comments that seem aimed at making the common man identify with the author, whose lifestyle is unknown to most readers of her book. It is a good book, but not as hot as I had thought it would be.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoying it thoroughly, June 19 2003
By 
Betsy De Gress (Ashland,OR United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Personal History (Paperback)
Given that this book won the P. Prize I wonder at all the negative reviews on this website. Personally, I am enjoying this book all the way. I wish it were longer. Viewing history through this woman's eyes has been fascinating and exciting for me. Kay Graham had a lot to cover and I admire that she did it with as much honesty and humility as she did. I enjoyed reading all the names she "dropped." I loved learning the inside scoop on LBJ, JFK, Truman Capote, Adlai Stevenson, Nixon, etc. etc. Reading this book also restored my faith in the process of progress in this country. After the Bush 2 "election" and the WTC catastrophe I became paranoid that my government had more power than it really does. I started wondering if there really was a "vast right wing conspiracy" well beyond anyone's control and if we were all doomed. This book restored my faith that it wasn't quite so tightly controlled as all that. Our government is and has been a snarled, chaotic soup but at least progress HAS been made and the press and people do have a voice. The government eventually listens. I also appreciated her candid assessment of herself and her family. She did a heroic job of seeing many emotional situations from both sides. Her progression from a shy, submissive daughter and wife to a woman of power was inspiring and exciting for me. No, this book is not perfect but I sure hate for it to end.
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