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John F. Kennedy: The American Presidents Series: The 35th President, 1961-1963 Hardcover – May 8, 2012

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John F. Kennedy: The American Presidents Series: The 35th President, 1961-1963 + Lyndon B. Johnson: The American Presidents Series: The 36th President, 1963-1969 + Harry S. Truman: The American Presidents Series: The 33rd President, 1945-1953
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Product Details

  • Series: American Presidents
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805083499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805083491
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Outstanding for clarity even by the standards of the excellent American Presidents series, Brinkley’s overview of the thirty-fifth chief executive vaults to the head of the pack of basic biographies of its subject because of its thoroughness and evenhandedness. It notes all the most meaningful events and persons in Kennedy’s life and all his most salient characteristics, including his lifelong ill health and obsessive womanizing, both of which Robert Dallek soft-pedals in his John F. Kennedy (2011). Moreover, it states conflicting opinions of Kennedy and his actions throughout, though especially in the piquantly titled last chapter, “The Afterlife of John F. Kennedy.” Brinkley’s own evaluation, implicit rather than open, is admirably middle of the road. JFK was not the liberal hero ardent admirers made of him after his death, nor was he the incompetent detractors make him out to have been. Painfully slow to embrace black civil rights and guilty of embroiling the U.S. in Vietnam, he successfully resolved the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and initiated real action on nuclear-arms limitation—no mean feats. --Ray Olson

About the Author

Alan Brinkley is the author most recently of The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is also the author of Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression, which won the National Book Award, and The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War. He is the Allan Nevins Professor of History at Columbia University and has also taught at Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Such analysis explains Kennedy's enduring hold on our historical imagination and points to the value of the book as a study of his life.
Mark Klobas
I read all the Biographies of the Presidents by way of the Presidential series.
Frank Anderson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Five EXCELLENT Stars. The latest edition in "The American Presidents Series" is an outstanding, detailed, and sobering historical account by historian Alan Brinkley of the family background, political career, the tumultuous "1000 days", and the historical significance of the 35th President of the USA, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The eloquent unchanging 'boilerplate' "Editor's Note" by Kennedy's 'special assistant', the late Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr is very fitting for this volume. Despite one historian who thought the assassinated Kennedy's short tour of presidential duty would be viewed as a "flicker" in the lineage of presidents, his legacy, as shown in this book, endures in a positive light because of his successes and despite his failures and much unfinished legislative business. This historical analysis gives many interesting facts about his life and times. A sickly child in a large family with a father driven for business success and a mother at times overwhelmed by the nine children, JFK was initially a mediocre student at the Choate prep school, during which time he began the sexual prowess which was evident during his White House years. The author tracks JFK's progress through Choate and Harvard, his WWII naval service, and his political career (with his father, Joe, successfully intervening at key times). Mr.Read more ›
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Kennedy (1917 -- 1963) served as the 35th president from 1961 until his assassination on November 22, 1963. Many baby boomers, including myself, have strong memories of Kennedy; and many people of all ages tend to see his presidency as a watershed moment for the United States. Alan Brinkley offers a sober, thoughtful, and measured account of Kennedy's life and presidency in his new short biography, "John F. Kennedy", the most recent volume in the American Presidents series edited by the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Sean Wilentz. Brinkley has written extensively on 20th Century American history; his works include books about the New Deal and American liberalism.

It is difficult to think clearly about Kennedy because of the memories his name evokes, coupled with the assassination and the United States' subsequent political history. During and after his presidency, Kennedy was a highly charismatic, graceful figure who, in the view of many, was taking the United States in a new direction with a sense of mission and purpose. He was dynamic and young. Others, on both the left and right, were less enchanted and more critical. Brinkley is fully aware of the divergent views of our 35th president and he works hard to present a realistic assessment. His book suggests that Kennedy was a gifted but flawed individual who overcame severe health problems on the one hand but who behaved recklessly and carelessly thoughout his life on the other hand, particularly in his sexual relationships with women. Kennedy's presidency, Brinkley argues, would not meet the standards of greatness. Its legislative accomplishments were limited. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion and subsequent clandestine activities in Cuba haunted Kennedy's administration.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Zachary Koenig on February 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
After reading the Truman & Eisenhower books in the American Presidents series and being very disappointed by those entries, I was really hoping that the J.F.K. installment would revive my interest. It did the trick, as I flew through this one faster than many previous!

I think the reason that this bio works so well is because it seems that author Alan Brinkley doesn't really like Kennedy all that much (or, at least doesn't buy into the "Myth of Camelot" like some do). However, that being said, Brinkley still manages to produce a very competent and engaging biography of Kennedy without injecting too much of his own biases into the matter. Essentially, I really felt that Brinkley was able to "see both sides" of the Kennedy Administration, whereas other authors in this series either deify or take to task their subject a bit too much.

Also, Brinkley doesn't let this bio get dragged down in personnel rosters or legislative affairs. He focuses on what I believe this "short bio" series should focus on: the President as a person, as well as the major workings of and events within their administration(s).

Overall, this is one of the best entries in the series. It really revived my interest after a few laggards.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By dcreader VINE VOICE on November 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination has engendered numerous new studies of all aspects of John Kennedy’s life and presidency, ranging from the critical to the fawning. For those who wish to take stock of the Kennedy Presidency without axe grinding, Alan Brinkley’s 2012 entry in the American Presidents Series provides a succinct, up to date and highly judicious survey. In just over 200 pages (including notes, bibliography and index), Brinkley touches on all phases of Kennedy’s personal life and presidency and provides a nice tour of the enormous literature on JFK. For Brinkley, the challenge for historians of Kennedy is to understand why a President with so modest a tangible presidential record meant, and continues to mean, so much to so many.

Brinkley covers Kennedy’s family, upbringing and education, noting the importance that publication of his Harvard thesis (with considerable rewriting and support from a team of researchers) played in making a name for him, enabling him (along with his family’s money) to win a seat in Congress in 1946, followed by a successful 1952 Senate run. For Kennedy, though, Congress was just a route to the Presidency, and Brinkley details how he matured politically as he ascended the ladder, becoming a formidable national presence during his failed effort to obtain the Democratic party’s vice presidential nomination in 1956.

The next four years would see Kennedy enjoy flowery press coverage of him and his young family, helping him overcome questions about his youth, health and commitment to liberalism raised by his rivals for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination.
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