July 12, 2024

Big Russ and Me, Father and Son: Lessons of Life Hardcover

“The older I get, the smarter my father seems to get. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t remember something that Big Russ taught me.”
Over the last two decades, Tim Russert has become one of the most trusted and admired figures in American television journalism. Throughout his career he has spent time with presidents and popes, world leaders and newsmakers, celebrities and sports heroes, but one person stands out from the rest in terms of his strength of character, modest grace, and simple decency—Russert’s dad, Big Russ.

In this warm, engaging memoir, Russert casts a fond look back to the 1950s Buffalo neighborhood of his youth. In the close-knit Irish-Catholic community where he grew up, doors were left unlocked at night; backyard ponds became makeshift ice hockey rinks in winter; and streets were commandeered as touch football fields in the fall. And he recalls the extraordinary example of his father, a WWII veteran who worked two jobs without complaint for thirty years and taught his children to appreciate the values of self-discipline, of respect, of loyalty to friends.

Big Russ and Me, written in Russert’s easygoing, straight-talking style, offers an irresistible collection of personal memories. Russert recalls the dedicated teachers who stimulated his imagination and intellect, sparking a lifelong passion for politics and journalism, and inspired a career that took him from editor of his elementary school newspaper to moderator of Meet the Press.

It has been an eventful and deeply satisfying journey, but no matter where his career has taken him, Russert’s fundamental values still spring from that small house on Woodside Avenue and the special bond he shares with his father—a bond he enjoys now with his own son. As Tim Russert celebrates the indelible connection between fathers and sons, readers everywhere will laugh, cry, and identify with the lessons of life taught by the indomitable Big Russ.

Editorial Reviews
Amazon.com Review
Veteran newsman and Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert is known for his direct and unpretentious style and in this charming memoir he explains why. Russert’s father is profiled as a plainspoken World War II veteran who worked two blue-collar jobs while raising four kids in South Buffalo but the elder Russert’s lessons on how to live an honest, disciplined, and ethical life are shown to be universal. Big Russ and Me, a sort of Greatest Generation meets Tuesdays with Morrie, could easily have become a sentimental pile of mush with a son wistfully recalling the wisdom of his beloved dad. But both Russerts are far too down-to-earth to let that happen and the emotional content of the book is made more direct, accessible, and palatable because of it. The relationship between father and son, contrary to what one would think of as essential to a riveting memoir, seems completely healthy and positive as Tim, the academically gifted kid and later the esteemed TV star and political operative relies on his old man, a career sanitation worker and newspaper truck driver, for advice. Big Russ and Me also traces Russert’s life from working-class kid to one of broadcast journalism’s top interviewers by introducing various influential figures who guided him along the way, including Jesuit teachers, nuns, his dad’s drinking buddies, and, most notably, the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whom Russert helped get elected in 1976. Plenty of entertaining anecdotes are served up along the way from schoolyard pranks to an attempt to book Pope John Paul II on the Today Show. Though not likely to revolutionize modern thought, Big Russ and Me will provide fathers and sons a chance to reflect on lessons learned between generations. –Charlie Williams
From Publishers Weekly
Meet the newsman’s father in this stupendously entertaining book. The senior Tim Russert served in WWII, married and settled in South Buffalo, N.Y., worked days for the Sanitation Department, drove a night truck for the local evening paper and raised four kids. The younger Russert’s memoir begins as a tribute to his dad and the lessons he taught through the years, but also takes ample time to tell how Russert junior grew up and became the moderator of Meet the Press. His neighborhood in the 1950s was tightly knit, Irish Catholic and anchored by the institutions of marriage, family, church and school. Nuns and Legionnaires shaped young Russert’s character; in high school, his Jesuit instructors strengthened and solidified it. John Kennedy’s short life and career still resonated when Russert began law school in 1970. He worked on Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1976 campaign, then on the senator’s staff. A friend of Moynihan provided the link that brought Russert to NBC and the Today show. He first appeared as a panelist on Meet the Press in 1990, becoming moderator in 1991. Throughout his private and public life, Russert continually turned to his father for advice, and the older man’s common sense served the younger pretty much without fail. The memoir is candid and generous, so warm-hearted that readers should forgive the occasional didactic touch (and it’s a soft touch). There are hard ways to learn life lessons; fortunately, readers have Russert to thank for sharing his with them. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Russert tackles many issues and ideas in this memoir, including blue-collar ethics and the belief that success comes from hard work and discipline. Not only does Russert explore his relationship with his father, but he also discusses the workings of a tight Irish-American community back in the days when the Kennedys ruled Camelot. It’s hardly a surprise that The Weekly Standard called Big Russ & Me “part autobiography, part sociological study, [and] part political history.” An added note: reviewers didn’t seem to mind Russert’s frank sentimentality. Perhaps that’s because the genuine thread underlying Russert’s memoir made at least one grown male reviewer cry.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

From Booklist
Russert offers a nostalgic look at the childhood and formative years of himself and his nation. He merges characteristics of the NBC Going Home series, which features news anchors revisiting their roots, and Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation. Russert celebrates his father’s generation, young men who went off to Europe for World War II and returned to create the largest middle class the U.S. had ever known, a generation known for their stoicism and sense of duty. Taciturn about his war experience, Russert’s father only slowly recalled his experiences: a friend who saved his life, facing life and death so far from home, smuggling a mascot red chow overseas. Russert recalls his tight-knit neighborhood in working-class Buffalo, dominated by the Catholic Church and the American Legion. His father worked for the sanitation department, with a second job driving a newspaper delivery truck, to provide for the family. Neighbors looked out for each other as children played hide-and-seek and capture the flag, listened to radio shows, and watched television favorites, including Davy Crockett. Russert recalls his early interest in television news shows, watching Meet the Press interviews with Nixon, Kennedy, and Castro. At the center of it all was Russert’s father, a man the news anchor has unabashedly declared as his hero. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
“(An) evocative memoir of a happy childhood.” — People

“A profoundly satisfying story of a father and his son.” — Wall Street Journal

“A testament to solid values, hard work and filial devotion.” — The New York Times

“Russert writes of his roots with an engaging warmth and humor.” — USA Today

“Russert’s loving portrait of his dad will inspire you to call home. Grade: B+” — Entertainment Weekly

“[Russert speaks] from the heart in a particularly American way…a fulsome, sincere Father’s Day greeting.” –Kirkus
About the Author
Tim Russert is the NBC News Washington bureau chief, moderator and managing editor of Meet the Press, political analyst for Today and Nightly News, and host of the Tim Russert Show on CNBC. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, writer Maureen Orth, and their son, Luke.

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