Book Reviews

“Of Course You Can Have Ice Cream for Breakfast! A Journalist’s Uncommon Memoir”
Reader reviews from Amazon.com

5 out of 5 stars
Grab a dish, a spoon and your funny bone — this is a great read
By Eliot B. Brenner
Growing up in an Italian/Jewish family in West Orange, N.J., is fodder enough for a book of rollicking tales of growing up in the ’40s and ’50s a stone’s throw from Manhattan. Add in tales of a front row seat at history during a 40-year career in the news business — including working as managing editor of United Press International and Executive Editor of Gannett News Service — and you have a recipe for a marvelous literary ride. We’re taken to the overstuffed Sunday table at family dinners (with its own cast of characters) and trick-or-treating, twice in one night, at the apartment of a mob boss, to filing news of a presidential assassination attempt and the drink-fueled snores of a pro football player asleep on the floor by a banquet table where a Supreme Court Justice sits, “Ice Cream” will not disappoint. Written as a memoir/gift to his four grandchildren, Ron Cohen’s recollections are just plain fun to read. And, yes, you can have ice cream for breakfast, lunch or dinner when reading this book. It’ll almost be as good as the words on the page.

 

5 out of 5 stars
Breakfast with Ron: An All-America Feast
By Michael Myers
Ron Cohen was blessed to grow up in post-war New Jersey under the loving discipline of a Jewish father and passionate Italian-American mother and their endearing families. HIs delightful, sometimes touchingly painful, memoir includes the gustatory bliss of his heritage, a love of baseball, and a tortuous childhood recital with a loathed violin. You are at the side of a masterful story-telling Washington news editor who oversees stories of the corruption and resignation of a president, beats the world in declaring the upset winner of another presidency, and directs the
intense you-are-there account of the near assassination of a third president. Mark Twain would be envious.

 

5 out of 5 stars
Tales for all ages
By Martin McReynolds
Ron Cohen has written a book for all ages. It’s specifically aimed at his grandkids but it covers matters both personal and of national interest. In a rambling succession of recollections – showing an amazing memory for decades-old detail – he spells out the joys and sorrows of his childhood, youth, student days and long career with United Press International, where he wound up as managing editor when that wire service was a vital part of the world’s new media. Ron was highly respected among UPI staffers who worked with him in the Washington bureau or knew of his steady hand directing a talented staff covering such historic events as the Watergate Scandal, the assassination attempt against President Reagan and other major happenings of our lifetimes. He was also cherished for standing up to management when UPI fell into the hands of incompetent owners who tried to undermine the agency’s historic journalistic principles. There are poignant chapters about growing up in a colorful Italian-Jewish family in New Jersey and some hilarious tales like his childhood trick-or-treat encounter with a leading New Jersey mobster who proved to be magnanimous with small fry. There’s also the irreplaceable story of Redskins football star John Riggins confronting Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at a white-tie correspondents’ dinner. Ron and his wife Jill were there, Ron reported it all to the world and only he can do justice to the telling of it. The guy has stories to tell – and he sure knows how to write.

 

5 out of 5 stars
But you probably are not like Ron Cohen
By George Kroloff
The idea is that an author writes a bunch of short stories letting his grandkids know a slew of things they wouldn’t think of asking when he was around. Try getting thousands of strangers to read what YOU write about YOUR family and life.
But you probably are not like Ron Cohen,one of America’s most prominent news editors … day after day he produced a first draft of history (mostly as Washington editor for UPI) for other news organizations around the country and the world. It is no surprise that his memoir is well written and compelling. And he spells good.
This book is about HIS family and HIS life. Nonetheless, sports-nut Ron Cohen actually pulled off a bigger than life “hat trick.” If you don’t follow sports, a hat trick is really hard to accomplish. He made me laugh. He made me tear up. He made me feel like I was inside important history. Most important…he made me feel like family. It’s a hell of a good read.

 

5 out of 5 stars
By Jeannie Storch
Well, Ronnie Cohen, you hit one out of the ballpark!
A fascinating account of one journalist’s life, loves and down to the wire report on lots of “stuff.” The early chapters are mostly geared for family consumption, with aunts, uncles and endless references to food. But this sets the stage for what comes next…NJ background, devotion to family, love of baseball, and a combination of personal experiences.
When we arrive at U of I, we’re on familiar ground, the commonality Ronnie and I share. We knew many of the same people, although our paths did not cross until we were both out of college and were introduced by mutual friends. Of course a book always has more meaning when one is acquainted with the author.
Ronnie’s climb up the UPI ladder, as he moves from post to post, town to town, is a history lesson in itself, covering national and world events, highlighted from a journalist point of view. He conveys the excitement of reporting the news and the rivalry with AP, before the electronic media took hold. One can tell, he loved every minute of it.
Throughout the book, there are lots of smiles with the author’s trademark wit, from “Kraus & Strauss” to “Bush & Cush.” (you were kind, Ronnie:)
Every life lived, is a story worth telling, and this is a most enjoyable memoir. Highly recommended.

 

5 out of 5 stars
Ice Cream for All
By Cragg Hines
For more than a decade, Ron Cohen had been talking about a memoir that would explain his extraordinary life to his far flung brood of grandkids. Well, he’s done that all right. But thankfully he has also written a great tale for the rest of us as well. From his upbringing in a Jewish-Italian family in (mainly) post-WW2 New Jersey (no wonder Cohen is a serious foodie), through his Illini days and on into an eventful (if typically penny-punching) ride to the top ranks of American journalism — it’s all there, jaw-dropping vignette after vignette. Damon Runyon woulda killed for some of Ron’s flesh-and-blood characters (and that’s just his family). It was too bad for international journalism (and for a lot of superb writers and editors on the ground), but great for Ron’s rouges gallery, that as UPI was slouching toward obscurity its executive suites were stocked so generously with villainous scoundrels who wouldn’t know a flash from a firecracker, and worse, didn’t care. If you give a fig (or a cauldron of Sunday gravy) for the retelling of a super American life, read along over the shoulders of some really lucky grandkids.

 

5 out of 5 stars
A wonderful, readable memoir
By Ken and Margie Broun, Chapel Hill, NC
Ron Cohen has written a poignant, memorable and elegant memoir. His book tells a rich and touching story of his family life in what passed for a mixed marriage in the mid-20th century (Italian-Jewish). His characters that filled his life, as well as his own unique and engaging personality come through with wit and charm on every page. But he also tells the story of a more golden age of journalism, one unfettered by the internet and the 24-hour news cycle. His journalists dug and dug until the truth emerged, expressed elegantly to readers and listeners alike. The journalists of his day brought their own personality to the news, yet remained faithful to informing the public in a clear and faithful manner. This is a wonderful and important read for us all.

 

5 out of 5 stars
Ron Cohen’s memoir is really a love story.
By Art and Roseanne Bushnell
It captures his love for his wife, his family, his friends, baseball, journalism and my old United Press International alma mater.
Cohen, the former managing editor of UPI, has written a series of vignettes to help his four grandchildren better understand who he is, where he comes from and what their family is like. He shares the stories with us, too, making the reader feel like part of the colorful Cohen clan. Such a gift he has given us.
The stories range from childhood adventures like his first professional baseball game and trick or treating at the apartment of a leader of Murder, Inc., to professional experiences like supervising the breaking news when President Reagan is shot.
Along the way we meet Chicago Flo, Uncle Cush and the Fabulous Figs. We are taken into the family just as if we had shown up for Sunday dinner with the Figliuolos. Cohen even shares some family recipes.
In the end, that’s what makes this book so good. I loved the UPI stories and the tales of covering news and working in New England. But the soul of this memoir is rooted in Cohen’s family. He tells us the same stories he tells his grandchildren.
And we are the better for it. Thanks, Ron.

 

5 out of 5 stars
I read it too fast! Wish it were longer!
If I could write as well as Art Bushnell, one of Ron’s colleagues who wrote a wonderful review (above), I’d say just what he said! Instead, I’ll tell you that I laughed out loud, I cried, and I stayed riveted through the whole book. Ron’s intellect and humor come through in every page, but even more importantly to me, the love in his huge heart fills this book. What a gift this is for his wonderful children and grandchildren, and also for all of us. Thanks, Ron. Sara Robb

 

5 out of 5 stars
Great beach read!
By Elizabeth P. Hottell
This book is funny and often hilarious . It is a fun read which chronicles personal memories of a reporter’s journey. This is a great beach read!

 

5 out of 5 stars
By Dave Rosso
What fun this book has been – and not because I worked at United Press International with Ron. It was fun because it was real and a beautiful memoir of a real person and the real people in his family and the real people who he grew up with and worked with. The words flow and capture you and take you to each scene. The lox and bagels and lasagna, gnocchi and manicotti. And there are entries where you go, “Oh, my god, he did that!” And I am going to read it again.

 

5 out of 5 stars
Heartwarming and funny book
This book is a delightful read. The author is a gifted story teller. The stories of his family are sweet and very real. You can feel the love that this family shared, and it makes you wish you could sit down for a meal with them. You’ll want to read it yourself and gift it to your family!

 

5 out of 5 stars
An Editor’s Legacy for his Grandchildren & Everyone Else
By Gloria Johnson
“Ice Cream for Breakfast” is a memoir written by Ron Cohen, the grandson of Italian and Ukrainian immigrants, as a love letter to his grandchildren. He was also once a top news editor at a major wire service so along the way, readers get glimpses of history in the making, including the assassination of JFK from the perspective of a young newsman in a faraway UPI news bureau, to the shooting of President Ronald Reagan. By then Cohen had become responsible for UPI’s overall coverage in Washington DC. Readers also get to know some unforgettable people, from his mother-in-law, Chicago Flo, to his favorite Uncle Cush. Cohen’s stories run the gamut –joyous, funny and sad. And a reviewer’s confession: I knew him way-back-when, but the book is worth reading even if you never heard of Ron Cohen.

 

5 out of 5 stars
Legendary Journalist and Raconteur Tells His Own Story
By Paula Schwed
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s really like in the trenches of Washington journalism, read this book. Many of the city’s best journalists looked up to Ron Cohen. Go behind the scenes to learn what he was thinking and feeling during historic moments of the Watergate scandal, President Reagan’s shooting, and more.

 

5.out of 5 stars
Great Reading
By Donald Fulsom
An eccentric, fun and funny tale by a clever wordsmith–turning his attention from award-winning journalism to entertaining the public with incredibly memorable prose. Highly recommended!

 

By Sallyhelen Constain

Ron wrote this for his grandkids, but it seems like he is talking to each reader, related or not. The author’s voice in this compelling memoir is as authentic as it gets. The book flowed along, the narrative kept me interested from the beginning to the end. It was informative and touching. The journalist and the Jersey boy came through with flying colors. I will recommend this book to my writers’ group as the perfect example of what a memoir should be! Thanks to Ron for a great read.

 

By Art McGinn

As a longtime Unipresser who went down with the ship with many others long ago, I quickly skipped to the second half of Ron Cohen’s memoir in search of war stories about once wondrous and wonderful United Press International, one of the most interesting journalistic enterprises ever devised for almost making a living. He did not disappoint. You can almost hear the teletypes banging away in this account by one of the great fighting generals of journalism during an exciting but dying era for the nation’s greatest, we insist, wire service. Almost as a second thought, I turned to the first half of the book, Cohen’s account of growing up in ‘Jersey in a half-Italian, half-Jewish family that was equally fascinating, and raucous, and fun. This is a Cohen love story, written for his grandchildren, but, really, for all of us.

 

By Chuck Raasch

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Who wouldn’t, with tales of the salad days in journalism combined with family meatball recipes? Ron Cohen has crafted a fine account of a life well lived in journalism, and of the family that he loves, and that has supported him throughout. From the chaotic hours around the shooting of Ronald Reagan, as he directed UPI coverage of that tragedy, to the precious time with a granddaughter at baseball games, this book is full of life at its most touching, and most challenging, moments.

 

By Barbara Rose Houser

I enjoyed every minute of this memoir. Ron is a very witty writer who captures family values and the journalistic world.

 

By Dick Ryan

I offer two words of advice concerning Ron Cohen’s new book “Of Course You Can Have Ice Cream for Breakfast: A Journalist’s Uncommon Memoir.”

Read it!

And when you do, you will thank me and all the others who have read and recommended the book. But more importantly you will thank Cohen for a remarkable job of great storytelling that will keep you turning–or scrolling–page after page.

Cohen was a reporter and editor for more than 40 years. As Washington Bureau Chief and later Managing Editor of United Press International (UPI), he held a couple of the most influential jobs in journalism. He was named Outstanding News Editor in Washington by “Washingtonian” Magazine in 1976 and in 1983 was cited by the same publication as one of Washington’s top 50 journalists.

And while his memoir recounts some of his adventures as a journalist, it is so much more.

“Of Course You Can Have Ice Cream for Breakfast” was written for Cohen’s four grandchildren over a seven-year period. (The title alone is enough to make you want to read the book.) He wanted the children, three of whom live in Israel and one in California, to know a little about their grandfather or “BaBa” as the Israeli children know him.

So he tells them (and the readers) what it’s like growing up in a Jewish-Italian family in New Jersey, attending the University of Illinois, his courtship and marriage to their grandmother, Jill, and a few of the highlights–and lowlights–of his journalistic career.

Cohen knows how to tell a story. His style and technique are flawless. The opening paragraph entices you into the story, the middle keeps you informed and interested, and the ending, depending on the story, can bring a laugh, a smile, and maybe even a tear.

Cohen is a baseball fanatic. He attended his first major league game with his father in 1948 as an 11-year-old and saw Brooklyn Dodger right hander Rex Barney hurl a no hitter to defeat the New York Giants. Forty-eight years later, Cohen met Barney, then the frail and ailing public address announcer for the Baltimore Orioles. Cohen recalled to Barney how he had witnessed the no-hitter, clearly the highlight of Barney’s 35 win, 31 loss career. It was an emotional moment for both.

For laughs, you can read how Cohen was frightened by an Easter chick or how as a high school basketball player he “lost” a 6-5 opponent he was attempting to cover.

Cohen has written a remarkable and entertaining memoir: Read it. You will be glad you did.

 

Alexandria, VA
Aug. 14, 2017

By Bill Clayton

I have finished my substantial dish of “Ice Cream For Breakfast!”
This guy was once my boss, and he supported and backed up his staff, through some heavy times.
This guy was my tennis partner (in our brief inglorious stint), and he went all-out on the tennis court as with everything he did.
This guy is my Barbecue Buddy, and oh, god, can he cook and can he eat.
And, my oh my, can this guy write.

Written with candid self-examination, microscopic detail, occasional hyperbole, and much love, the “Ice Cream” sparkles with humor, family history and some sadness. Who wouldn’t want to be at a black tie dinner, hearing a drunken football player call a Supreme Court justice “Sandy Baby”? Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the porch when a romance was crushed by a last-minute jilt? And who wouldn’t want to have known Cush and ALL the Figliuolos?

A good read, compadre Ronaldo.

 

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut memoir, a journalist retraces his steps in the hope that his beloved grandchildren will understand the forces that shaped him.
With palpable fondness, Cohen addresses the story of his colorful life directly to his grandchildren, several of whom live too far away for regular contact. In seeking to make his experiences real for them, he offers all of his readers a vivid portrait of a particular segment of 20th-century life. Beginning with his childhood in New Jersey as the son of an Italian mother and a Jewish father, Cohen captures the contradictions of American multiculturalism in his descriptions of his warm, rowdy Italian relatives (complete with a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs) and Jewish grandfather, whose cold silence masks the pain of the Russian pogroms and the loss of his wife to influenza. Ancestors, family members, and neighborhood characters come alive in Cohen’s lively episodic prose, as in one scene where a local gangster responds to his “trick or treat” with a box of 48 Hershey bars (“plain, no almonds”). Through it all, Cohen is appealingly self-deprecating as he owns up to his mistakes, including his first job as a Good Humor man, when he cannot resist giving away ice cream to “curly-haired little girls”; a college alcohol binge that results in the death of a friend; and his tendency to nearly get fired on the first day of each of his journalism jobs. Some of Cohen’s most intriguing passages describe his career working for newspapers in Illinois and Connecticut and his years at the news service United Press International, where he had an up-close view of pivotal historical and political events while seeking the ever elusive Pulitzer Prize. The book is long and episodic (Cohen suggests early on that audiences may wish to “color outside the lines and select chapters randomly”), and some readers may find his presentation choppy. But the narrative is so warm and exuberant that few should be able to resist it.
An affectionate and compelling account of the life of a reporter that is deeply personal and irreverently comic.