Start reading The Patriarch on the free Kindle Reading App or on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here.

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Enter a promotion code
or gift card

Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

To view this video download Flash Player


The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy [Kindle Edition]

David Nasaw
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (287 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $20.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $10.01 (50%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Whispersync for Voice

Switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible narration. Add narration for a reduced price of $12.99 after you buy the Kindle book. Learn More


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition $9.99  
Hardcover $25.71  
Paperback $15.02  
Audio, CD, Audiobook, CD $38.68  
Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged $31.95 or Free with Audible 30-day free trial
Hero Quick Promo
Browse in Books with Buzz and explore more details on selected titles, including the current pick, "The Good Girl" by Mary Kubica.

Book Description

A “brilliant, compelling” (The New York Times Book Review) biography of Joseph P. Kennedy, selected by the New York Times as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year and a 2013 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Biography

In this pioneering new work, celebrated historian David Nasaw examines the life of Joseph P. Kennedy, the founder of the twentieth century’s most famous political dynasty. Drawing on never-before-published materials from archives on three continents and interviews with Kennedy family members and friends, Nasaw tells the story of a man who participated in the major events of his times: the booms and busts, the Depression and the New Deal, two world wars and the Cold War, and the birth of the New Frontier. In studying Kennedy’s life, we relive the history of the American century.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The father of Jack, Bobby, and Teddy (plus six others) was not a bootlegger, nor does any evidence link him to the Mafia, writes Nasaw, refuting two longstanding rumors. But Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969) was possibly the worst U.S. ambassador to Great Britain ever, so committed to appeasing Hitler that FDR cut him out of the diplomatic loop. Kennedy won the post because he was one of the few businessmen to support the New Deal, creator of pioneering financial regulations as the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He knew all about manipulating stocks, having parlayed the modest affluence of his father, an East Boston ward heeler, into a fortune in the market. Kennedy was a wonderful father himself, although he and his wife, Rose, led almost completely separate lives. Nasaw (Andrew Carnegie), a history professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, does a fine job of capturing Kennedy's fiery personality and his eventful, ultimately tragic life, watching Jack rise to the presidency, suffering a stroke but living long enough to see two of his sons assassinated. But the book is much too long and oddly focused; Kennedy's three-year ambassadorship occupies more than 25% of the text. The reams of fascinating material would have been better served by more careful shaping. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Nov.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* What’s considered common knowledge about historical figures often gets a biographical rewrite, and to some degree that’s what happens in this heavy (literally, sometimes figuratively) look at Joseph Kennedy. When one reads in the introduction that Nasaw was asked by the Kennedy family to write this biography, the obvious question is, How did the request affect the finished product? Nasaw was granted access to papers denied to other researchers and worked for six years on the project. Some of his conclusions clash markedly with what has been written about Kennedy (Nasaw dismisses rather lightly the long-held conclusion that Joe made part of his fortune as a bootlegger). But he gives readers a much fuller look at various accusations made against Kennedy, especially the charge that he was an anti-Semite. Through quoted letters, it is clear that Kennedy did have a grudge against the Jews, mostly because they interfered with what he wanted, be it getting a foothold in the movie industry or keeping the U.S out of WWII. His isolationism never really wavered. He believed that “victory over Hitler had cost much and accomplished little.” Perhaps the key element to Kennedy, Nasaw suggests, is that rather than being larger than life, he was much smaller. He was all about protecting his family and his fortune. Though fortune remained, the family shattered, cutting Kennedy, in many ways, adrift. The book becomes more fascinating the farther one gets into it, and while there may be areas for dispute here, there’s no doubt it makes a major contribution to Kennedy history. --Ilene Cooper

Product Details

  • File Size: 7955 KB
  • Print Length: 924 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594203768
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (November 13, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007V65PBA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,685 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
99 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling; reads like fiction December 1, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a history junkie and I've read several biographies of Joseph P. Kennedy. This is by far the best. It is a warts and all depiction that portrays his naked ambition, infidelity and epically bad service as U.S.Smbassador to the Court of St. James. At the same time, he was a devoted father, took care of his children when they were sick and their mother was shopping, and tried to prepare them to fulfill his ambitions. It's hard to reconcile the two sides of this complex personality:cruel and unfaithful to his wife, disloyal, controlling and self-promoting in his professional life, and a loving father who was wildly supportive of his near-delinquent offspring. This book is long but very well written and provides new information and insight on the life of this man, even as well--documented as it has been. I recommend it highly.
Was this review helpful to you?
64 of 73 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is This JPK Lite -- or Bold? December 10, 2012
I was reluctant to read "Patriarch" because it is 800 pages, and I wanted to know only 200 pages about J. P. Kennedy. But I got hooked, and there you have it.

Nasaw spends a lot of time presenting Kennedy in his early and mid years up to when he had to resign as ambassador to the UK on October 22, 1940. His last 29 years were covered in only 120 pages, and most of that centered on the political careers of his three sons. But those years were at least as important to modern Americans as his career up to 1940.

-- The Mob

There were some major issues during that period that Nasaw chose not to cover. One is the ongoing love/hate relationship between the Kennedy clan and J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover's name comes up only a half dozen times, and each of those is about a minor event. There's no doubt that Hoover's obsession with surveilling the Kennedys and his accumulation of secret files on the Kennedys were major considerations to the Kennedy family, and the facts that have come to light have important implications about the Kennedy boys and the father. But Nasaw discusses none of this.

A major example of this is Nasaw's neglect of Sam Giancana, a Mafia godfather in Chicago. The FBI and others maintain that Joseph Kennedy met with Giancana in Chicago and New York during the 1960 campaign to arrange a deal to deliver Chicago to the Kennedy ticket. Chicago did in fact vote for Kennedy, which seems like a miracle in light of how the Kennedy brothers had relentlessly attacked mob leaders in the McClellan Committee hearings.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
75 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Protecting the Clan December 1, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. KennedyCaring for the clan was Joseph P. Kennedy's instinctive impulse. Family, or more precisely, the welfare of his nine children came first. Their needs were followed by those of his Catholic brethren and his countrymen. This left everyone else beyond the pale for a man who was often on the front pages during the middle of the American century. Tribalism defined Kennedy and was the root of all his troubles.

It's easy to understand why Kennedy had problems with others. The grandson of an immigrant to Boston who had fled the Irish potato famine, Kennedy grew up in a City where Protestants - all those Cabots, Lodges and Saltonstalls - occupied the upper reaches during a time when it was considered an oddity for a Catholic to attend Harvard or work at one of the major, downtown banks. Kennedy was reared as an outsider and no matter how successful he became, it was a sensibility he never shook off.

David Nasaw's stupendous 868 page life of Kennedy - `The Patriarch, The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy' - is a large portrait mixed from a palette of original research which dispatches some of the myths about its subject while retaining a calm and dispassionate air. Nasaw convincingly dispels the ugliest of the rumors, accusations and innuendo that have sullied Kennedy's reputation. He finds no evidence that the father of a President, an Attorney General and a Senator - not to mention the progenitor of any number of familial tragedies, scandals and calamities - was a bootlegger or swindler.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
67 of 84 people found the following review helpful
I am a fan of the biography genre and love nothing more than a lengthy, copiously researched, well-written tome such as this. I am also an aficionado of books about the Kennedy family as well - since I am of Irish descent, follow politics closely and am from Boston there is a natural curiosity. I started the book this morning and have only put it down to start a review - it is a great book. I read the author's previous work on Andrew Carnegie and it is well-deserving of its high-praise - I foresee that same level of praise for this piece as well. I read about twenty (20) biographies a year and the Andrew Carnegie biography is one of the best of the lot; so far The Patriarch is shaping up to be on par with the Carnegie book ... or possibly surpassing it in its quality.

The author was pursued by the Kennedy family over a decade ago to write the biography of the family's patriarch and he refused - he does not write authorized biographies. Only after much negotiation would he acquiesce - and only with the conditions that nothing could be redacted or blocked and that he would have access to ALL of family's archives. He was also able to interview several family members that have since died: Senator Kennedy, Eunice and Sargent Shriver, Patricia Lawford, etc. This makes for an exciting book - one in which the author has unlimited access to resources and can use all of them.

The Patriarch begins in Ireland with Kennedy's grandfather deciding to depart for the United States - he is not escaping the famine but rather the economic downturn that accompanied it. He was a realist that knew - since he was not the first-born son - he would not inherit land: this meant a great life could only be found someplace far away.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read For Kennedy Buffs
Author, David Nasaw, seems to offer us an objective recounting of the life and times of J. P. Kennedy, the Kennedy's clan's Patriarch. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Edward J. Bordeau
4.0 out of 5 stars The dichotomy of a legend
This is an 'extraordinary' review of a man who lived an 'extraordinary' life. It is not necessary to love or respect the protagonist to love and enjoy the book immensely. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Jerry Pickholz
3.0 out of 5 stars the research its the best of its kind in any Joe Kennedy bios
This is a remarkable biography, the research its the best of its kind in any Joe Kennedy bios. One gets to know the begginings of this wonderful enterpreneur in detail. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Nicolas Pereyra
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
well written, very thorough research and thought has gone into this book
Published 1 month ago by David Boddy
5.0 out of 5 stars American History
A part of American history, about a man who wielded power but produced little, just like FDR.
Published 1 month ago by Mickey Rhode
4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointed with the item but only because the item (on ...
Somewhat disappointed with the item but only because the item (on the description) read NEW.
When the item aarrived I saw an item that was not new. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Oscar
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great place to buy good books
Published 1 month ago by Hal E. Shepherd
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but way too long and based on other ...
Interesting, but way too long and based on other books I have read, much too kind to the "Patriarch". Worth reading, but you have to persevere to get through it.
Published 1 month ago by Joseph Abelson
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book about an amazing family and loving family in ...
wonderful book about an amazing family and loving family in spite of their lifestyles. it completely changed my perspective on Joe Kennedy. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rhetta Mendelsohn
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Not a flaw in sentence structure or grammatical usage.
Published 1 month ago by jayne strahm
Search Customer Reviews
Search these reviews only

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?


There are no discussions about this product yet.
Be the first to discuss this product with the community.
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Look for Similar Items by Category