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Charles Fishman

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Charles Fishman (born April 5, 1961) is an award-winning American journalist and bestselling non-fiction author. Fishman, an explanatory and investigative journalist and historian, has specialized in writing about business; how work is managed; the complicated future of providing water; and about space travel. He is a former Washington Post national reporter and a long-time staff writer for Fast Company magazine.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Fishman was born in Boston, one of four children, the son of a physician and a teacher, and raised in Miami, FL. He is a graduate of Miami Palmetto High School and Harvard College, where he was an editor for the alternative weekly, The Harvard Independent.

Newspaper and magazine writing[edit]

Fishman spent two summers in college as a wire-room intern at the Miami Herald, then two summers as a reporting intern at the Washington Post.

After college, Fishman was hired as a full time staff writer at the Washington Post, where he covered crime, then real-estate development, in Fairfax County, Virginia, for the Metro staff. He then joined the National staff of the Post, where for most of 1986 he was on the dedicated reporting team investigating the aftermath of the space shuttle Challenger disaster.[2]

In late 1986, Fishman was hired to be a staff writer for Florida magazine, the Sunday magazine of the Orlando Sentinel. He was editor-in-chief of Florida magazine from 1988 to 1991.

Fishman joined the Raleigh News & Observer in 1993 as assistant managing editor in charge of all coverage of features, business and sports, a staff of 125.

In 1996, Fishman joined the new economy business magazine Fast Company as a founding staff member, and remained on staff through 2012. He has been a contributing editor since then.

Fishman has also written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Smithsonian, and National Geographic online, among other publications.


Fishman’s first book is The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works, and How It’s Transforming the American Economy (2006).

The Wal-Mart Effect grew out of a Fast Company story Fishman had done, "The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know", and was the first book to crack the wall of silence around Wal-Mart and how it operated.[3] Although Fishman lived for three months in Bentonville, AR, while reporting the book, Wal-Mart refused to cooperate with the reporting in any way. The Wal-Mart Effect made the bestseller lists of The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek.

It was a finalist for the Financial Times / Goldman Sachs business book of the year in 2006, and was chosen as a best book of 2006 by The Economist.[4]

Fishman’s second book is The Big Thirst: The Secret Life & Turbulent Future of Water (2011), which became the bestselling nonfiction book about water in the U.S. since Cadillac Desert (1986). As part of the reporting for the book, Fishman lived for a month in Las Vegas; in Australia; and in India, and while in India, he did the "water walk" with a group of women and girls from the village of Jargali.[5]

The Big Thirst grew out of a story Fishman did for Fast Company magazine, "Message in a Bottle", about the impact of the bottled water business in the U.S.[6]

Fishman’s third book is A Curious Mind: The Secret To a Bigger Life (2015), which he co-wrote with the Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. A Curious Mind uses the story of Grazer’s life to illustrate the nature of curiosity and its power in your daily life. A Curious Mind was a New York Times bestseller.[7]

Fishman ghostwrote the business book The Real Heroes of Business, And Not a CEO Among Them, with Bill Fromm and Leonard Schlesinger, in 1994.

Apollo Book: Impact & Reception[edit]

In June 2019, Fishman published One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon, his fourth book, an account of the race to the Moon in the 1960s that, unlike most Apollo books, focused not on the astronauts' experience going to the Moon, but on the work of the scientists, engineers and factory workers that was necessary to get to the Moon. Fishman’s research concluded, among other things, that for every 1 hour of spaceflight during the Apollo missions, 1 million hours of work had to be done on Earth — a level of intensity and preparation he claimed made the Moon mission the hardest project ever undertaken by human beings.[8]

One Giant Leap was published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first Moon landing. The fresh perspective that One Giant Leap brought to the Apollo story was well received. Smithsonian magazine used a long excerpt from One Giant Leap as the cover story for the magazine’s commemoration of the Moon landing, and the story was one of Smithsonian’s 10 most read stories for all of 2019.[9] The senior space historian John M. Logsdon said the book was "the best Apollo anniversary treatment I’ve seen so far".

Fishman was interviewed about the significance of the Moon mission by NPR’s "Fresh Air".[10] He testified before Congress, at the House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on "The Legacy of Apollo", held on July 16, 2019, the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11.[11] And Fishman was asked to help write, and then help narrate, the National Symphony’s Apollo 11 anniversary celebration and concert, at the Kennedy Center, held to coincide precisely with the moment of the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon. Fishman narrated on stage, alongside Adam Savage, LeVar Burton, Herbie Hancock, Michael Collins, and Michael Giacchino. [12]

One Giant Leap made The New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list in the first week it was published.[13] Julie Andrews later told the Times she was reading One Giant Leap.[14]

In the 50 days leading up to the July 20, 2019 anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, Fishman wrote a piece each day about the race to the Moon, and the culture of the 1960s, for Fast Company magazine.[15]

As part of the reporting for One Giant Leap, Fishman flew in zero gravity and wrote about the experience. The author photo for One Giant Leap pictures Fishman floating weightless.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Fishman took a leave-of-absence from the Washington Post in 1985, moved to New Orleans, and worked briefly as a deckhand on a Mississippi River tugboat. His maritime career ended when he was injured on the tugboat.

Fishman is married to journalist Trish Wilson, the climate and environment editor for the Washington Post, and they live in Washington, DC. They have two children.

Awards and honors[edit]

Fishman has been a finalist for UCLA’s Gerald Loeb Award six times, and has won three times. The Loeb Award is considered the Pulitzer Prize of business reporting.[17]

  • Winner, 2008, Feature Writing, “Message in a Bottle,” Fast Company
  • Winner, 2007, Magazines, “How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change the World? One,” Fast Company
  • Winner, 2005, Magazines, “The Toll of a New Machine,” Fast Company

In 2008, Fishman won the Deadline Club Award for Feature Reporting from the New York City chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. [18]


  1. "Charles Fishman Fast Company Page". Fast Company. Fast Company Magazine. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  2. Fishman, Charles. "The Epic Search for Challenger Debris". The Washington Post. The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  3. Fishman, Charles. "The Wal-Mart You Don't Know". Fast Company. Fast Company. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  4. "Economist best book of the year". The Economist. The Economist.
  5. Fishman, Charles (2012-02-14). The Big Thirst. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1439102084. Search this book on
  6. Fishman, Charles. "Message in a Bottle". Fast Company. Fast Company.
  7. "A Curious Mind on the NYT bestseller list". NYT Non-fiction Best Sellers List. The New York Times.
  8. Fishman, Charles. "One million hours". Fast Company. Fast Company.
  9. Fishman, Charles. "What You Didn't Know About the Apollo 11 Mission". Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian Magazine.
  10. "NPR "Fresh Air" interview about Apollo". NPR. NPR.
  11. "House Science Committee hearing on "The Legacy of Apollo"". House Science Committee Website. U.S. House of Representatives. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  12. Midgette, Anne. "National Symphony concert celebrating Apollo 11". Washington Post. Washington Post.
  13. "New York Times bestseller list". New York Times bestseller list. New York Times.
  14. Andrews, Julie. "Edelweiss, Edelweiss? Julie Andrews Loves Reading About 18th-Century Plant Hunters". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  15. Fishman, Charles. "50 Days to the Moon". Fast Company. Fast Company. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  16. Fishman, Charles. "What it's like to be in zero gravity". Fast Company. Fast Company.
  17. "Loeb Awards Historical Winners". Loeb Awards. UCLA Anderson School.
  18. "Deadline Club award 2008". Deadline Club. Deadline Club.

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