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Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life's Challenges Hardcover – Large Print, September 29, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Anyone who's watched 60 Minutes correspondent Pitts on television will be hard-pressed to reconcile that collected, intelligent reporter with the "functionally illiterate" elementary school boy he once was. Pitts's authorial debut tells his inspiring against-the-odds tale, one that begins in inner city Baltimore and ends at CBS's venerable news institution. Enduring bullies and humiliation through grade-school, Pitts also struggled with reading, and stuttered until he was 20 years old. Even after scratching his way to Ohio Wesleyan Univ., his freshman literature professor told Pitts he was wasting everyone's time. Pitts credits his enviable determination to the strong women in his life, including his wise, spiritual mother (whose first question in any situation is always, 'Did you pray yet?'"), and OWU professor Ulle Lewes (who, Pitts says, not only "changed my life, she saved it"). Further, as an African-American, Pitts had to overcome startling racism in nearly every newsroom he encountered. Pitts shares spare but illuminating stories, such as his encounter with Dan Rather just before departing for Afghanistan; Rather advised him to write letters "to all the people you love most in the world," just in case. Pitts's story is refreshing and worth a read for fans of journalism and rags-to-riches memoirs.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Byron Pitts’ book, “Step Out on Nothing – How Faith and Family Helped me Overcome Life’s Obstacles” should be required reading for anyone who has been told “You can’t do it.” Faced with obstacles and challenges that many would find insurmountable, Byron through his remarkable faith and the support of his family refused to accept what all too many resign themselves to today, a life left unfilled, with promise, dreams and aspirations sadly left on the doorsteps of our future. Faith without works is dead; Byron’s faith is far from dead! - TD Jakes, author and chief pastor of The Potter's House

“It seems unimaginable that someone of Byron’s intelligence and elegance could have faced so many struggles as a young man. No wonder he is such an inspired story teller – his own story is inspiring.” 
- Katie Couric, anchor and managing editor, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, and 60 Minutes correspondent

"Byron Pitts had a secret . . . one he thought was shameful and embarrassing. So he kept it—for years and years. That he was able to is only one astonishing detail in his wonderfully candid, you-are-there memoir. Vividly written, Byron can tell a yarn with passion and intimacy. Step Out on Nothing is truly moving." - Lesley Stahl, 60 Minutes correspondent

“I have always had the utmost respect for Byron as a fellow journalist. He is outstanding. I felt this way even before I discovered all he had to overcome to reach such heights of our profession.  Reading Byron’s moving story left me speechless. You can’t help but be inspired.” - Robin Roberts, Good Morning America co-anchor

“If you have ever been told, "You can't achieve your dreams," you need to read Step Out on Nothing.  Byron Pitts has used his remarkable skills as a reporter to reveal his most fascinating story to date - the story of his own life.   It is a triumphant tale of faith and family, and one man's determination to overcome seemingly impossible odds.  This book will move you, inspire you, and make you look at your own difficulties in a whole new light.” - Anderson Cooper, CNN anchor

"Pitts, chief national correspondent for CBS News and contributing correspondent on 60 Minutes, is as suave and assured as any in a long line of famous correspondents. But Pitts’ achievements are particularly noteworthy because he grew up in inner-city Baltimore, painfully shy, stuttering badly, and functionally illiterate. Because he was quiet and polite, he was passed along until fifth grade, when he was tested and consigned to remedial classes. But his determined and religious mother worked with him, coaches and others encouraged him, and he managed to gain admission to Ohio Wesleyan University. When one professor threatened to fail him, another worked with him individually, and yet another provided impromptu speech therapy. Despite his stuttering, he was determined to go into broadcast journalism and recalls the mentors who encouraged him and the tormentors who made him angry enough that he didn’t give up. He traces his path through local news stations until he reached a national network. An inspiring memoir of faith and determination, by an Emmy-winning journalist."
— Booklist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312577664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312577667
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,258,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cyrus Webb TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As someone who has always had a love affair with words, the story told by the talent of CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts in his autobiography STEP OUT ON NOTHING is one that I can truly appreciate. With all of the advancements we have made in 2009, the epidemic that is illiteracy is something we have tolerated and ignored for way too long.
Pitts' story is important because it shows what can happen when you unleash your inner greatness and allow it to develop. It also highlights the old adage that no man is an island and whether it is your blood family or those who adopt you into their fold, that we have to work together---and oh the things we can accomplish when we do.

I commend Pitts for taking us into his life and letting us know how he became the man that he is today. By doing so, he can encourage others that may come from a similar place in life to not feel as though today is a part of the end but instead is only the beginning.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book after hearing Byron Pitts speak about his struggles as the child of a single mom growing up in a poor section of Baltimore. It is no spoiler to say that this respected journalist struggled to overcome stuttering and had to face the fact that as a teen he was functionally illiterate.

This is Mr. Pitts's story about starting over again as a reviled "basement boy" in remedial classes and his ensuing struggle to overcome severe learning difficulties. At a time when little was understood about how children learn to read, he was given a "reading machine" whose microfiche slides he spent hours memorizing. Combining determination with faith -- not to mention the force of nature that was his mother -- Mr. Pitts achieved his greatest dreams, graduating from college and eventually working at the pinnacle of broadcast journalism, CBS's 60 Minutes.

Despite Mr. Pitts's immense likeability, it is truly his mother Clarice who steals the show. Endlessly energetic, tireless in her advocacy of her children, deeply loving and utterly convinced of the power of prayer, Mrs. Pitts pushes her son to achieve more than he ever thought possible. He writes humorously about her infamous temper. Overwhelmed by the demands of college, he considers dropping out. She writes him a letter that starts: "Dear Mr. Brain Dead, Have you lost your **** mind?"

This book is Mr. Pitts's paean to his mother, as well as to all the adults who "stepped out on nothing" but their faith in him. He writes lovingly of high school teachers and coaches, college professors and roommates, priests and pastors -- everyone who had a hand in getting him where he is today. I've never read the words of someone so deeply grateful and so devout in his faith.
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Format: Hardcover
When you watch people on TV (actors, reporters, etc.) do you ever think of the struggles they might have had to overcome to get to where they are? Me either. I've always assumed with most actors/singers that it's more who you knew vs what you do. There are rare exceptions of course, you hear about their inspirational stories and it's always wonderful to hear that someone who has achieved fame truly deserves and appreciates where they are in their life.

I never have thought about the person behind the screen when I get my news. The reporters. Those people who speak so wonderfully, who go into these dangerous places to bring us a shot of something we'd never see otherwise, who go out and find stories that need to be heard, need to be told. You would never think that someone who was illiterate, who stuttered, would grow up to be this face that we see bringing us our news on possibly the biggest news program in our televised history.

This story is so inspirational. One that I actually think I'll save for Jordan to read in a couple of years. If you have ever doubted yourself in any way this book is for you. Byron has the best attitude. I don't know how he did it. I've let smaller problems in my life drag me down. He just kept plugging through. The final straw for me would have been the college professor who told him to give up. I probably would have. I know I would have. Or at least dropped that class. He does get angry, but he turns that anger into something else. Buoyed by his faith and the people around him, he keeps going, keeps working towards his goal. It was so neat to read how he learned how to read, how he overcame stuttering (would you have ever guessed that he did?), even stories of blatant racism and how he reacted to them. What an amazing man.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Frankly, I don't watch 60 minutes (little TV time), and I didn't know who Bryon Pitts was - okay, that's out there. I'll watch today. I heard rave reviews about the book on the Tom Joyner Show on the way to work one morning and I purchased this bio the next day because I am especially interested in literacy and how persons overcome seemingly unbeatable academic, familial, and developmental odds.

I usually read several books at a time; but this one is captivating; making it difficult to put down. Without attempting to be a professional book reviewer, I can say that the writing was rich, visual, auditory, - engaging and gripping. It is not a sappy bio - tales of his mother Clara see to that. What a woman! This is a very realistic bio graphically recounting the good and the not so good; so it might not be suitable for grade school children. Accounts of the war in Iraq are vivid. Very insightful is his revelation of how adult children of divorce think about and deal with estranged parents.

This book is so inspiring that I think I'll likely be rereading it. An unexpected outcome; I have a newly found respect for journalist embedded with the military after reading Pitt's bio.; as a parent, I understand more of the dynamics of bullying, and the life impact of divorce and parental influences. I cannot say enough good things about the book; except to say you've got to read it.
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