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JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President Hardcover – July 16, 2013

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Frequently Bought Together

JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President + Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House + The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy
Price for all three: $67.03

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (July 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159420425X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204258
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Do President Kennedy’s final 100 days offer hints about what sort of leader (and man) he might have become? Author-historian Clarke thinks they do. The period began in tragedy: the death of the Kennedys’ two-day-old son, Patrick. Both parents were devastated; Jack’s concern for Jackie, who had suffered postpartum depression after John’s birth, seems to have led him to a serious effort to be a better husband and father. Certainly, Jackie seems to have discerned a genuine improvement that autumn. Clarke vividly portrays the welter of issues a U.S. president juggles. In foreign policy, the test-ban treaty, Vietnam, and Cuba were central, but Kennedy also aimed to reframe long-term relationships with the USSR, China, Europe, and Latin America. On the home front, civil rights was clearly dominant, but, during these days, Kennedy was pressing Congress to pass the “stimulus tax cut” and immigration reform as well as the civil rights bill and working with advisors and cabinet members on what would become Medicare and the War on Poverty. A fascinating analysis of what was . . . and what might have been. --Mary Carroll


Christian Science Monitor's 10 Best Books of July
An Amazon Best History Pick July 2013
Daily Beast "Brainy Beach Read"
An Apple iBooks Best Book of August

Michicko Kakutani, New York Times:
" . . . [a] vivid portrait of Kennedy as an immensely complex human being: by turns detached and charismatic, a hard-nosed pol and a closet romantic, cautious in his decision making but reckless in his womanizing."

The Wall Street Journal:
JFK's Last Hundred Days is a superb piece of writing—richly detailed and, considering that the end is all too well known, surprisingly enthralling.”
Associated Press:
“Thurston Clarke's JFK's Last Hundred Days manages to surprise and…to delight.”

Daily Beast:
"A real page-turner… makes for a great and stimulating vacation read… deftly weav[es] together the private, personal, and intimate with the public, the political, and the-then-secret public and political, makes one want to keep reading to find out even more of the scoop."

Washington Post:
“Clarke does an interesting and in many ways persuasive job of what he proposes at the beginning: ‘to view John F. Kennedy through every prism and search through all his compartments during the crucial last hundred days of his life—days that saw him finally beginning to realize his potential as a man and a president—in order to solve the most tantalizing mystery of all: not who killed him, but who he was when he was killed, and where he would have led us.’”

"Mr. Clarke is a good storyteller…[He] offers an enjoyable snapshot of the day-to-day workings of the presidency."
—The Economist 

Christian Science Monitor:
"[A] compelling portrait of one of the towering figures of 20th-cnetury America."

Financial Times:
"There will be few, if any, contributions more entertaining and informative than Thurston Clarke's comprehensive chronological telling of his last 100 days in office."

Dallas Morning News:
"A gracefully written, fresh look at the oft-told story."

Daily Mail:
“Thurston Clarke has written a superb book.”

"A fascinating analysis of what was… and what might have been."

Kirkus Reviews (starred):
"Certainly demonstrates that three often painful years in office had taught Kennedy valuable lessons… Clarke delivers a thoroughly delightful portrait."

Library Journal:
"A graceful, bittersweet chronicle… Clarke clearly admires Kennedy but does not ignore his flaws… an absorbing narrative."

Publishers Weekly
"Camelot devotees will relish insider details, from descriptions of an obviously depressed Vice President Johnson 'growling at anyone who disturbed him' to dismissive jabs at Sen. Barry Goldwater taken from the president’s official diary."

Jon Meacham, New York Times bestselling author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power:
"Thurston Clarke has done the seemingly impossible: he has found a revealing new angle of vision on John F. Kennedy that brings the president and his times back to vivid life. This is excellent narrative history."
Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution:
“Clarke makes the drama, the excitement, and the dark side of Camelot seem like only yesterday—indeed, you feel as though you’re right there, in the Kennedy White House, at Hyannis Port, and aboard Air Force One with JFK, today.”
Bob Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos and former Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times:
"A fascinating, close-up look at the final dramatic months of a young president's life. Thurston Clarke's portrait of Kennedy is masterful in this compelling convergence of history and biography."
Douglas Brinkley, New York Times bestselling author of Cronkite:
"The three-months before President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas were frenetic times: civil rights, Vietnam, Berlin and reelection were on his mind. Thurston Clarke's JFK's Last Hundred Days does a marvelous job of reliving Camelot's fragile promise. Clarke is a masterful storyteller and able researcher. This book sings. Highly recommended."

"The noted historian makes the case that JFK, who had just lost his infant son, was on the verge of vast achievement before his assassination."

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Customer Reviews

Quite simply, this is one of the very best books I have read about President Kennedy.
David J. Stuczynski
While it is not an exhaustive book, it gives an excellent overview with just enough new insight to make this a nice new addition to your collection.
Robert E. Dennis
And once again JFK impresses us with his great wit, great charm and great mind, and even in some cases his mercurial temperament.
Robert B. Lamm

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. Boles on September 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
JFK biographies are dime a dozen, ranging from hagiography to attack pieces, appearing with such utter frequency as to render even the most passionate follower prone to fits of exasperation and malaise. Much was the case for me with this release, as I kept thinking, "Is there anything new I can really learn?"

I was most surprised to find that yes, there are new revelations and insight. While the vast majority of the text is not anything groundbreaking, occasional nuggets pop up that I had never encountered before (i.e. Kennedy's plans to write Bond-esque novels where LBJ would attempt to take power, or the paintings of JFK by Elaine de Kooning), but even the moments I was familiar with were rendered equally gripping by Clarke's flair.

By focusing on the last few months of Kennedy's life as president, Clarke examines the period where Kennedy was coming to find comfort in his decision making, and at last learning to find the passion and force to back causes he supported, much as Abraham Lincoln would do regarding slavery. Here Kennedy takes on the cause of peace, finding the will to work towards detente with the Soviet Union and Cuba, potentially scaling back from Vietnam, and finally putting the cause of civil rights in its proper context as a moral issue. Even with the conflicting evidence that some of the maneuvers may merely have only been part of the approach, with more aggressive intentions considered should drawbacks fail, it does not detract terribly from the book.

It becomes gripping reading, finding JFK filling his shoes comfortably as a chief executive, finding better health, and finding more joy with his family, with suggestions of Kennedy suspending his notorious infidelity in the wake of the death of a newborn son.
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Jane B. Wypiszynski on July 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been an amateur scholar of JFK's presidency for a long, long time. His murder, when I was twelve, shaped the way I have viewed history. The loss of someone so shining and almost magical was such a terrible event that I craved every word I could locate about him. My appetite was easily satiated because the books were written, then more were written, then more...it seemed that there would be no end to the stories...he was amazingly gifted, he was a lousy husband, he was intellectually splendid, he was a sickly fake.
This book has finally put his presidency into a concentrated context. The author writes masterfully about all the components of this man who loved to compartmentalize his life, churning into a propelled sense of what his history would be.
Put into the lens of Kennedy being driven by history's judgment of great men, we are allowed to see how his beliefs about the Vietnam war, Civil Rights legislation, and the Test Ban treaty were crystalizing the legacy he wanted to have. Mr. Clarke has located the focus points in those last 100 days and brings them alive. All the events of that final time, starting with how baby Patrick's death caused a moral shift in JFK, stream together to summarize a man who may have floundered in the early days of his presidency but had now found his footing and was ready to move forward in a stellar fashion.
Which makes the ending even more tragic. What might have been. What would have been. What might have been a different world has he lived.
The book is excellent. I highly recommend it and know that historians will turn to it for clarity on the Kennedy presidency.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By G. Patton on November 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was moved to tears several times, reading this book - in particular, by the telling at the end of the book of how ordinary citizens across the world reacted to Kennedy's assassination. Mr. Clarke's straightforward narrative contrasts sharply with the poignancy of his story, making this book all the more memorable. Many books have been written about John F. Kennedy; this one is different. Clarke's book gave me a sense of peace and closure that the dozens of Kennedy books never did.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rule 62 Ken on November 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In this 2013 history, author Thuston Clarke embarks on a wonderful look at President John F. Kennedy's last 100 days on earth, beginning with August 7, 1963 (the day that the Kennedys' second son Patrick was born) and ending on that fateful day in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Clarke does a very good job of shadowing the president in his final days, drawing from a large number of sources, including recordings and materials from the JFK Library, and from a number of people who were around Kennedy at the time. The result is fascinating. It is more than simply a regurgitation of what one might find in news reports of the time or from other Kennedy biographies. It includes personal and private conversations on the most hush-hush topics, such as dumping Lyndon Johnson from the ticket in 1964, back channel discussions with Cuba, regime change in South Vietnam, getting J. Edgar Hoover to lay off investigating congressmen cavorting with prostitutes (for fear that JFK's association with one of the women would be exposed) and JFK's other extra-marital dalliances.

Clarke's book is part-historical narrative, part-gossip piece, and is very conversational in its tone. Among the many, two of the interesting themes that come out from the book are (1) how JFK seemed to be repairing his relationship with his wife, following the early death of their son Patrick, and (2) all of the warning signs that there was trouble brewing in Texas. The former is a fascinating development to watch, and the latter is also very interesting, showing us an interesting picture of Kennedy's fatalistic attitude on the subject of his possible assassination.
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