An eye for the real: Bios and newspapers

Observer Publisher Ann Caulkins had two books going at once late last month, one she was hoping would improve.

“Small Sacrifices,” by true-crime author Ann Rule, fulfilled Caulkins' hunger for what she calls escapism – unwinding after busy days running the Carolinas' largest newspaper.

“I read a lot of true-life stuff – biographies, autobiographies,” she said. “If it's not real, I just can't get into it as well.”

Caulkins also was working on “Eat, Pray, Love,” a soul-searcher by Elizabeth Gilbert. Early pages, detailing a nasty divorce, were a downer. But she recently found delight in bestseller “Marley and Me,” John Grogan's memoir about a man and an unruly dog.

“We have three dogs, two of whom were strays,” Caulkins said. “They have each had issues, but we certainly love them.”

The Observer, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today are on the daily reading list. Trade magazines fill spare workday moments. And for fun, there's Vanity Fair, Southern Living and Traditional Home.

No iPod for Caulkins. She prefers listening to birds and other sounds during evening walks.

Achieving work-life balance is Caulkins' best advice for success and happiness.

She struggled with it for years, working long hours to advance her career. She wanted children but couldn't imagine being a good mom and a business success. As she approached 38, time was running out. Now the mother of two, ages 5 and 8, Caulkins says she makes each working moment count, prioritizes work that truly must be done and commits to enjoying family time.

“For me, it was the absolute fixer,” she says of motherhood. Stella M. Hopkins