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Personal History Paperback – February 24, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 642 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375701044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375701047
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Not just the story of Graham's stewardship of the Washington Post, this "personal history" ranges from her favorite tennis partner (George Schultz) to her husband's fall into madness and suicide. A 200,000-copy first printing.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Katharine Graham's memoir, PERSONAL HISTORY, is a great story.
Kent Braithwaite
Although a long book (over 600 pages), it is such a good read with terrific descriptions of events, emotional highs and lows, and includes many humorous moments.
jovi1004
As an ardent reader of autobiographies, I found Katherine Graham, A Personal History, one of the best and most enjoyable I have ever read.
Anthony Edgar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Joan C. Frank on September 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since I grew up in a house where the "Washington Post" was devoured daily, I was always aware of Katherine Graham. I read this book shortly after she passed away, and I was knocked off my feet.

She was blessed by the accident of her birth into a family of extreme wealth and ultimate social position. Her family's advantages - sadly compounded by her husband's untimely death - gave her inumerable opportunities. At the same time, she was brilliant, capable, focused, and a gifted communicator. This combination of traits and circumstances allowed her to live a most enthralling, significant life.

Throughout, I marveled at her "realness." Her family had more money and servants and things than anyone I am ever likely to meet, but she describes her challenges, insecurities, and fears in a way that allow me to appreciate how she faced and succeeded in life.

This is a compelling read despite its length and detailed content. It is well documented and beautifully written - without the aid of a ghostwriter. It does not suffer from spurious melodrama, myopia, or vanity to which so many autobiographers fall victim.

I highly recommend both the form and substance of this book.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book's first chapter on the internet, and knew I had to buy it. I was captivated by the analysis and detail in the early chapters, specifically targeted at her parents, their relationship, and the impact they had on her and her siblings. Details are gradually drawn away from family and, after Phil Graham's death, is focused almost entirely on her career at the Post. But the new focus her life takes is nothing short of inspirational, and her recollection (and application)of detail provides us with an absorbing panorama of faces and places. Having known little about the newspaper industry prior to this book, I am eager to know more, and put Ms. Graham's tremendous accomplishments in a more informed perspective. Despite her insecurities, fears and worries (which were difficult to read--even to believe--at times) they are obviously a part of her personality, and by revealing them she made her story more compelling. I felt that, if her point was to write a manual for success, she could have done so. But how much she would have deprived us of! The only serious deficiency I found was that I thought, with the great deal of commentary at the beginning of the book concerning how she and her siblings were raised--with particular emphasis on her mother's influence--that she would have included more on what the effects of her own role as a mother were. But, this omission seems to have been a conscious one on her part. This was my nightly reading for quite some time, and I feel a little sad that I no longer have it to look forward to! Though I was certainly glad when the interminably long segment on the pressmen's strike was over, as important as the incident was...
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By At Leaterbarrow on August 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Anyone wanting any more insights into Watergate or the Pentagon Papers will probably be disappointed by this book (if you want that read Ben Bradlee's autobiography). This book is very aptly titled - it is indeed a personal history and what comes out in the end is the story of a woman who via her upbringing and marriage was afflicted by a crushing lack of confidence, deeply insecure, troubled by some of her closest relationships (in particular her own mother) and in her own words little more than a housewife. This same person upon the death of her husband was thrust into a world which she was totally unsuited for and against all odds flourished as the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
What comes out in the end is that people in general and women in particular are capable of taking grievous blows and overcoming far greater challenges than they ever realise.
A friend of mine lost her partner in similar circumstances to Katharine Graham many years ago and I wish I could have bought her this book then. Without wanting to sound patronising, this is a good book for men but a great book women. I don't know whether she is a feminist icon but she certainly should be !!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on June 30, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A treasure for people who make a hobby out of media stories, as I do, _Personal History_ is as much about the Post as it is about Graham herself. But as I think Graham is saying in the book, everything personal in her life was somehow linked to the paper-- either through her own efforts at its helm or as the wife and daughter of the men who were leading it.
I've read a lot of the criticism of this book-- and I know enough about media history to know that at least some of it is fair. At least in the sense that it's accurate. Graham doesn't come out wearing a hair shirt about the real media relationship to people in power. She also has a slightly nervous tone-- the sound of someone who isn't very sure her accomplishments are going to be achieved. But in the end I found that even valid criticisms didn't really interfere with my reading of the book. In the end I was moved by it, and felt honored that Graham was so willing to put herself out there to be observed and judged.
In some respects it's difficult to argue that Graham had a difficult life-- she was born to such enormous privilege that she had resources to deal with tragedy that most people can never command. (You hear her refer to her family's 'summer home', but what the means remains opaque until you see the picture!). Even still, Graham is human. To be constantly in the shadow of the people in your life, to see yourself as helpmeet and not a full person, to emerge from that shadow and assert that you have a place in your own right-- that's certainly something that speaks to everyone, regardless of who they are.
What I find extraordinary is how revealing the book is about her insecurities. This is a very personal autobiography, and Graham lets you see her weaknesses in a way that I think most public figures would not allow.
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