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Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History Paperback – May 5, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Sorensen begins this audio sounding like a tired old man, with a gravelly voice and narrow vocal range; but as he becomes livelier and more engaged in his own narrative, listeners do too. A legislative assistant to Senator John F. Kennedy, Sorensen became JFK's speechwriter and closest advisor throughout the Kennedy presidency. Sorensen is most animated describing what he sees as the three major legacies of the Kennedy years: avoiding nuclear war through his handling of the Cuban missile crisis, supporting the civil rights movement, and competing with the Soviets in space. He deplores the Bush administration and ends with the fervent hope for new Democratic leadership to restore America's moral authority in the world and aspirations for a better, more equal life at home. This is a piece of history told by a passionate participant who is a fine writer and most engaging reader. A HarperCollins hardcover. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“This is an important book, and it’s also a poignant one. As Jackie Kennedy once said of a speech that Ted Sorensen gave about her husband, it captures not only the soul of John Kennedy but also the soul of Sorensen. This clear-eyed but loving memoir is fascinating.” (Walter Isaacson)

“Ted Sorensen’s Counselor is that rare gift to history: an account of mighty events by a participant who stood at their heart, and a writer masterful enough to make us understand them as well.” (Robert Caro)

“Ted Sorensen’s words inspired a generation, and his counsel and judgment helped steer our nation through some of its most difficult hours. This gripping, candid memoir illuminates a revered era in American history. Sorensen has written a book that will be cherished for generations.” (Barack Obama)

“Ted Sorensen has given us a very welcome up close and personal view of life and politics at the side of John F. Kennedy. There are fresh insights and enduring lessons for this and future generations to study and embrace. And painful memories of what we lost.” (Tom Brokaw)

“With eloquence and honesty, Sorensen takes us on a tour of many of the most important moments of the second half of the American Century, from who wrote ‘Profiles in Courage’ to the Cuban Missile Crisis to Dallas and its terrible aftermath. This is an illuminating and engaging book.” (Jon Meacham)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060798726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060798727
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pranay Gupte on May 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I know Ted Sorensen well, so what I have to say about his extraordinary personal history is obviously being written as a friend and admirer. As a friend, I can say that Ted speaks truth to power; as an admirer, I can say that he speaks truth forcefully and candidly. He was arguably John Kennedy's alter ego. At the very least, Ted was the man who shaped JFK's lyrical, intellectually vigorous speeches. But Ted was also a canny adviser, the lawyer who marshaled his facts well, made the connections between random thoughts and workable ideas, and produced a consistent body of work for the president he loved and trusted. Ted once told me that not a day goes by without him thinking of JFK -- of the man JFK was, and about what might have been. Like his late friend Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Ted occupied an honored place at the table in Camelot. What his memoir makes plain -- in his own special, witty way -- is how much Ted shaped JFK's Camelot itself.
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Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed Counselor and especially appreciate the way Mr. Sorensen chose to organize his storytelling in a topical way (e.g., My Perspective of JFK's Personal Life, President Johnson's 1963 Transition, etc.). The author's prose is tight and well turned, as anyone familiar with his writing would expect, but at over 500 pages this is rather like the magnum opus of his life. I have a first edition of his excellent 1965 book on Kennedy but, for the most part, this latest and perhaps final work is much more candid. There are some exceptions such as his very touch and go treatment of Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick. He well describes the consequences of the incident but then takes the opportunity to sing the praises of the younger Kennedy's political skills, calling him "the most relaxed campaigner of the three..."

Mr. Sorensen has lived an interesting life apart from his work with the Kennedys and inclusion of that material is a plus. The space he devotes to it is about right; the book remains primarily focused on his long association with JFK and that is what the typical reader wants and expects. Of particular interest to me was how Kennedy reached out to Republicans -- described in a Chapter called "President Kennedy's Ministry of Talent." I knew it to be true (he appointed my uncle to the federal bench upon the recommendation of then Deputy Attorney General Byron "Whizzer" White) but didn't realize the full scope.

It would be easy to give this book the five stars it probably deserves but I went with four only because, from my perspective, the loyalty muzzle is still a little too evident. While I can come up with a few other petty critiques there is just much too much to like about this book to make that worthwhile. Some readers may disagree with Sorensen's politics but it would be the rare iconoclast who cannot appreciate his insights and wonderful storytelling.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The well-written memoirs of a man forever to be identified with John F. Kennedy's political career, especially the White House days. While not telling all, this book is the candid product of a bright, honest, but still politically driven man, a 1960s liberal, who writes in the twilight of his life.

Mr. Sorensen is one of the last living central participants of JFK's Administration and his story would have value for this fact alone. Readers wishing to learn about presidential political campaigning, the art of speech writing, and more on such important historical events as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the presidential transition from JFK to LBJ will profit from reading this book.

While material on his later private law practice is not as interesting as the rest of the text, this is only to be expected. In terms of his post White House career, I did find of value his description of his ill-fated nomination by President Carter as DCI and noted the fact there is little mention of President Clinton's years. (A prominent picture of Senator Obama and Ted Sorensen is in this book. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that the author sees the current junior senator from Illinois as his pick for this year's Democratic Party nominee for president--and the direct and true successor to JFK's legacy.)
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Format: Hardcover
I know Ted Sorensen through our common support of Barack Obama and was eager to read this magnificent biography. I bought it on Tuesday, May 6 the first day it was published and I didn't put it down ( with the exception of eating, showering and sleeping about four hours each of the last two nights) until a few hours ago when I finished reading it.

It is a magnificent opus. The writing is superb. Rarely do the heart and head come together so well without sacrificing or compromising either.

Modest without being falsely self effacing, this truly is an indispensable book for any American citizen or world citizen. And its an absolute must for any political junkie from Al Franken to Ann Coulter.

Stop what you're doing. Run out and get it. Its a great gift for anyone's birthday in May (June is too late -- its that good).

Ted Sorensen is a historical figure in his own right. He was indispensable to Kennedy and now to Obama.

There are many reasons to read this book. Not just for its great insights with an unobscured and unobstructed perspective, but because of new information into the life of JFK whose reputation will be enhanced by this near reverential but still candid volume.

A mutual friend of Ted Sorensen's just forwarded me the first reviews including the Wall Street Journal. To say they were raves is to understate them.
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