The Guardian has a series called the 100 best non-fiction books and it lists the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant at number 55.
Grant would have been surprised. He was not a literary man. Nor was he known for his eloquence. To the contrary, he was a man who got things done. Indeed, he was the only man that Lincoln found he could rely upon to get the civil war over with.
Grant was intelligent enough to know what had to be done. And what had to be done was not pleasant. It meant killing a whole lot of men in battle. But Grant did not flinch from the task. He executed it with dogged determination. And he got it done.
But there is something in Grant’s memoirs that is more valuable than his account of how he did it. What comes through is Grant’s deep honesty about himself and what happened. He was not a man who minced words. And he was not one to hide his own flaws.
We seem to have less regard for this particular character trait. We value more the swagger of success. We admire those who find the trick to making a billion, even if that adds little value to mankind. We might do well to read Grant’s words to remind ourselves that greatness can be found in other ways.