When The Sealy News added book reviews to its repertoire this year, I was concerned that they wouldn’t resonate with the public. I have very specific genres that I read:
“Beach read” fiction; also sometimes referred to as “chick lit.” These are paperbacks like “Bridget Jones’ Diary” that are entertaining and can be knocked out on a weekend trip. True story; I read “Bridget Jones” on a vacation on a beach in Jamaica, scanned the last sentence and threw the book in the garbage can. Not because it was bad but let’s face it, I’ll never read it again and it’s probably going to net me a whole quarter at Half Price Books. It’s not worth my suitcase space.
True crime. This is my favorite genre and I’ve never in my life met another person who is into it. It’s super-specific and not particularly popular, and people tend to look at you funny when you’re reading “Women Who Kill” in public, so I try to avoid these types of reviews.
Books on writing and journalism. Again, this is a pretty specific craft. I wouldn’t read an in-depth book on how to paint a flower and therefore I don’t expect others to want to read about how to build a compound sentence.
That was a really long way of saying that I try to pull something from the books I like and figure out how someone else might find it relatable – even if it’s not necessarily the kind of book that would grab their eye at the bookstore.
So that brings us to ‘A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures’ by the great Ben Bradlee. Originally published in 1995, it is the autobiography of the editor of The Washington Post. He carried the paper through a dangerous, risky time of the Watergate scandal, making bold choices that shaped the kind of investigative journalism that makes me proud to be part of this profession. Imagine running a story saying that the president of the United States was involved in the break-in of the Democratic National Headquarters. Imagine doing that in 1972. Imagine doing that when your most credible source is referred to as “Deep Throat,” and you don’t even know who he is. You have to trust your reporters to get the facts straight on a subject matter that no one’s real excited to talk about.
Bradlee made some mistakes but he had courage and his work inspired little girls like me to want to tell stories and share the truth and break new ground. I hope that the movie “The Post” will do for the younger generation what “All the President’s Men” did for me.
So the takeaway from this book is not how to be a good newspaperman. It’s how to live a life of integrity and how to make bold, smart, vetted choices and how to be true to your craft. It’s a book for anyone who needs to be reminded that what we do each day is important. Do the best you can, take suggestions, listen and be humble.
What’s on your bookshelf? Share your recommendations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.