Summary and book reviews of In Pursuit of the Common Good by Paul Newman

In Pursuit of the Common Good

Twenty-Five Years of Repairing the World, One Bottle of Salad Dressing at a Time

By A. E. Hotchner, Paul Newman

In Pursuit of the Common Good
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2003,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2008,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

"There are three rules for running a business; fortunately, we don't know any of them."

In 1978, Paul Newman and A. E. Hotchner decided that rather than just distribute Paul's own salad dressing at Christmas to neighbors, they would offer it to a few local stores. Freewheeling, irreverent entrepreneurs, they conceived of their venture as a great way to poke fun at the mundane method of traditional marketing.

Much to their surprise, the dressing was enthusiastically received. What had started as a lark quickly escalated into a full-fledged business, the first company to place all-natural foods in supermarkets. From salad dressing to spaghetti sauce, to popcorn and lemonade, Newman's Own became a major player in the food business.

The company's profits were originally donated to medical research, education, and the environment, and eventually went to the creation of the eight Hole in the Wall Gang camps for children with serious illnesses.

In these pages Newman and Hotchner recount the picaresque saga of their own nonmanagement adventure. In alternating voices, playing off one another in classic "Odd Couple" style, they describe how they systematically disregarded the advice of experts and relied instead on instinct, imagination, and mostly luck. They write about how they hurdled obstacle after obstacle, share their hilarious misadventures, and reveal their offbeat solutions to conventional problems.

Even their approach to charity is decidedly different: every year they give away all the company's profits, empty the coffers, and start over again. The results of this amazing generosity are brought to life in heartwarming stories about the children at their camps. With rare glimpses into their zany style and their compassion for those less fortunate, Newman and Hotchner have written the perfect non-management book, at once playful, informative, and inspirational.

Previously published in hardcover as Shameless Exploitation in the Pursuit of the Common Good

Chapter One

It is December, 1980, a week before Christmas, Westport, Connecticut, a blanket of snow on the ground, wood smoke from fireplaces redolent in the air, tree lights festooning the houses, a pervasive Yuletide lilt but we are laboring in the subterranean space beneath Paul's converted barn, an area that had once been a stable for farm horses. There is a bucket filled with ice-blanketed Budweisers, and an array of bottles of olive oil, vinegar, mustard, condiments, etcetera. There is also an empty tub and a collection of old bottles dating back to revolutionary times by their appearance, bottles of various shapes and sizes that had been somewhat sanitized for this occasion.

Paul Newman, known to his friends as ol' PL or Calezzo de Wesso (Bonehead), had asked his buddy, A.E. Hotchner (Hotch), sometimes called Sawtooth, to help him with a Christmas project that he was assembling in this basement, which wasn't a basement in the usual sense. There were crusty stones, a dirt ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
The New York Times - Carol Peace Robins

In Shameless Exploitation, the actor Paul Newman and the writer A. E. Hotchner provide a zany step-by-step account of how they did something unheard of. They put a salad dressing you'd make yourself -- no chemical agents, just natural ingredients -- on supermarket shelves. No focus groups, no advertising, no preservatives. Yet the upstart brand Newman's Own made nearly $1 million in profits that first year, propelling the self-described ''two bumbling amateurs'' to market all-natural pasta sauces, popcorn and lemonade.

The Washington Post - Carolyn See

Two guys in a basement invented a decent salad dressing and over the past 20 years they've given away $150 million to make the world conform just a little more to their sunny vision. They're extraordinarily cool dudes.

Publishers Weekly

[The first part of the story] doesn't really have a lot of meat to it, but it is an entertaining string of anecdotes, song parodies and wacky customer letters. The book's second half becomes more somber as it shifts focus to the Hole in the Wall Gang, the organization they created to build and run camps for children with serious illnesses.

Booklist - Mary Whaley

This is a witty and inspiring tale, not coincidentally also excellent public relations for the authors, their food products, and their fund-raising efforts for the children's camps.

Library Journal - Susan C. Awe

Newman and Hotchner have written an unbusiness book--it's inspirational, informative, and entertaining but definitely not in the how-to category.....Slightly odd, this is nevertheless an enjoyable read for any business student or entrepreneur.

Kirkus Reviews

Charming reminiscences by a couple of merry pranksters who hit upon a happy accident in the chemistry lab that allowed them to remain true to their values.

Reader Reviews
Selene M

As Good as His Salad Dressing
I have always like Paul Newman as an actor. I find I now like him better as a man. His unlikely catapult into the food market is told in this funny, heartwarming and captivating book. The real payoff is his donation of all profits to charity. I ...   Read More

Rozzychan

This book was a good read.

The story of the haphazard way that Newman and Hotchner got into the food business was interesting. It also shed some light on the pedestrian way that foods are manufactured in this country. (No wonder virtually every item ...   Read More

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