Recommended summer reading: “A Good Life, Newspapering and Other Adventures,” by Benjamin C. Bradlee, the late executive editor who made The Washington Post what it is today. It’s an autobiographical journalistic memoir, first published by Simon and Shuster in 1995.
“A Good Life” is a delight: entertaining, brightly written and deeply perceptive about the ethical and professional conflicts that confront journalists today. For some reason, the 500-page hardback has perched unread on my bookshelf for more than two decades until I picked it up the other day and was immediately drawn into Ben’s candid account of his early years, his time in Paris, his three marriages and many dalliances, his friendship with John F. Kennedy, his stint as Washington bureau chief of Newsweek and his selection by Kay Graham in 1965 as the eventual executive editor of The Post, a position he told her frankly he would “give my left one for.” (At Ben’s 1991 retirement party at The Post, which I attended, Mrs. Graham recalled that offer and joked: “What no one knows is, I accepted.”)
“A Good Life” is quintessentially Bradlee: irreverent, earthy and a revealing account of American journalism in the 20thcentury from Watergate through the Janet Cooke affair to ethical and national security issues that he confronted in his later years at The Post. It was, as the title suggests, a very good life and remains a very good read. If it is sitting unread on your bookshelf, or available elsewhere, pick it up and see what I mean.