Introduction: My so-called writing life -- 1. FRANKLIN AND OTHER FOUNDERS. Franklin and the art of leadership -- God of our fathers -- The opinions of mankind -- Best supporting actor -- A delicate balance -- 2. STATECRAFTERS. McGeorge Bundy, the brightest -- Kissinger and the roots of realism -- He's back! -- Kissinger reappraised -- James Baker, wise man? -- Madeleine's war -- Colin Powell, the good soldier -- George Tenet and the instinct to please -- 3. REAGAN AND GORBACHEV. We meet again -- The Gorbachev challenge -- Yes, he's for real -- Figuring out Ronnie -- 4. THE CLINTONS. Fighting words -- I'm okay, you're okay -- 5. ALBERT EINSTEIN. Einstein's God -- Creative thinker -- A new way to view science -- Einstein and the bomb -- Einstein's final quest -- 6. THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY. In search of the real Bill Gates -- The passion of Andrew Grove -- Our century and the next one -- The Biotech Age -- Person of the century -- 7. JOURNALISM. Luce's values, then and now -- Henry Grunwald -- Maynard Parker -- George Plimpton -- A bold, old idea for saving Journalism -- 8. INTERLUDE: Woody Allen's heart wants what it wants -- 9. NEW ORLEANS, MON AMOUR. Green trees -- How to bring the magic back -- EPILOGUE: The future restored.
What are the roots of creativity? What makes for great leadership? How do influential people end up rippling the surface of history? In this collection of essays, the author reflects on the lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, and various other interesting characters he has chronicled as a biographer and journalist. The people he writes about have an awesome intelligence, in most cases, but that is not the secret of their success. They had qualities that were even more rare, such as imagination and true curiosity. He reflects on how he became a writer, the lessons he learned from various people he met, and the challenges he sees for journalism in the digital age. He also offers loving tributes to his hometown of New Orleans, which both before and after Hurricane Katrina offered many of the ingredients for a creative culture, and to the Louisiana novelist Walker Percy, who was an early mentor. He describes the joys of the "so-called writing life" and the way that tales about the lives of fascinating people can enlighten our own lives.