Thursday, December 19, 2019

Working

Pulitzer-prize winning biographer Robert Caro shares some insights into how he works in the terrific book Working. I've never actually read any of Caro's books (I'm not huge into biographies), but I'm still interested in learning as much as I can from people at the top of their fields.

I found it fascinating. Caro quit his job as a reporter, thinking it would take him one year to write a book about a New York civil servant he wanted to know more about. Seven years later, he was broke, his wife had had to sell their house, and there was still no book! But there is a force within him that he can't control, that always wants to know more. He has interviewed some sources more than 20 times in order to squeeze out as much insight about his topic as he can. After thinking about an interview he has completed, Caro will often come up with even more urgent questions than the original interview answered.

I found a lot of analogies in how he views being an author with how I view being an investor. Mostly, he is by himself, alone with the research. Any payoff is far from certain. You put in a bunch of solitary effort without really knowing what you're going to get.

In some ways, this book serves as an advertisement for his biographies. He makes some topics within his books sound very interesting. But at the same time, I also feel like I've now been privy to the best parts of his books, and therefore they are likely to be disappointing. Kind of like when you watch the trailer of a movie comedy; there's no point watching the movie now, because you've already laughed at the best jokes!

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