Biographies, Goals, and Little Free Libraries
And now, on to three suggestions from me – two books and Little Free Libraries.
‘A Good Life’ by Ben Bradlee
One book I’ve had on my list, and on my coffee table since last summer when I bought it for $2 at a very small upstate New York farm community’s public library book sale, is Ben Bradlee’s autobiography, “A Good Life.” Bradlee, a teenage polio survivor who served on a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II, is most widely known as the long-time editor of the Washington Post, having come into prominence during the Watergate scandal.
While his early stories of life in a New England boarding school, surviving polio, serving in World War II, starting a newspaper in New Hampshire, working as the press attaché at the American Embassy in Paris, and being a neighbor and friend to John and Jacqueline Kennedy, are all very entertaining and intriguing, it’s his analysis of his involvement in the news industry that I found most instructional, especially in light of our current political and media situation.
He details the successes the Post had as a publication, outlining the editorial decision-making experience of the Post’s coverage of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. But he provides equal time to the Post’s failure under his leadership – most notable the Post’s having to return a Pulitzer Prize for the “Jimmy’s World” series after the reporter – Janet Cooke - admitted to duping her editors and making the whole story up about an 8 year-old heroin addict who got high with and was shot up by his mother’s boyfriend. It’s perhaps this story that left the strongest impression on me, because the paper took definitive steps to discover the truth once the story’s credibility came to light, to own up to its mistakes and shortcomings in vetting the story, and to prevent it from happening again.
Also very intriguing were chapters discussing how the Post took seriously the media’s obligations in the face of national security concerns and in the face of privacy concerns, even on occasion holding stories and providing information relating to national security directly to the CIA, but also fighting for publication of stories that were important to the public interest. The policies the Post put in effect in regards to anonymous sourcing are particularly poignant today.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the role of the media in society. And, as a general note, reading biographies and autobiographies of all kinds are an exceptional way to learn about leadership, perseverance, and what it takes to be successful in almost any field or area of life.
‘Goals’ by Brian Tracy
I’m always looking for good motivational books and “Goals” by Brian Tracy does not disappoint. I discovered this book on a shelf in a bed and breakfast I stayed at this past spring in Ohio. When I returned home, I ordered two copies – one for me and one for my 19 year-old son Jackson. I finished it several weeks ago and Jackson called me this past weekend to thank me for sending it to him – he said it is really helping him to focus on his goals. And that is the effect it had on me as well.
Little Free Libraries
Recently on a walk through Daniel Island with my husband Tom, and our dog, we discovered a Little Free Library at Bishop England, located on Etiwan Park Street across from BE’s lacrosse practice field and future home to St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church. I’ve seen these freestanding book boxes in downtown Charleston and they have always intrigued me and I’ve thought they’d make a great addition to the Daniel Island community.
The concept is that people set up little library boxes that hold several volumes. Neighbors are encouraged to take and to leave books in the box. Tom borrowed a David Sedaris book that day. I’ve since heard about a grassroots movement to add more Little Free Libraries on Daniel Island. Bravo! Count me in.