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John F. Kennedy: A Biography

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John F. Kennedy creates an absorbing, insightful and distinguished biography of one of America's most legendary Presidents. While current fashion in Kennedy scholarship is to deride the man's achievements, this book describes Kennedy's strengths, explains his shortcomings, and offers many new revelations. There are many specialized books on Kennedy's career, but no first-cl John F. Kennedy creates an absorbing, insightful and distinguished biography of one of America's most legendary Presidents. While current fashion in Kennedy scholarship is to deride the man's achievements, this book describes Kennedy's strengths, explains his shortcomings, and offers many new revelations. There are many specialized books on Kennedy's career, but no first-class modern biography--one that takes advantage of the huge volume of recent books and articles and new material released by the JFK library. Ten years in the making, this is a balanced and judicious profile that goes beyond the clash of interpretations and offers a fresh, nuanced perspective.


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John F. Kennedy creates an absorbing, insightful and distinguished biography of one of America's most legendary Presidents. While current fashion in Kennedy scholarship is to deride the man's achievements, this book describes Kennedy's strengths, explains his shortcomings, and offers many new revelations. There are many specialized books on Kennedy's career, but no first-cl John F. Kennedy creates an absorbing, insightful and distinguished biography of one of America's most legendary Presidents. While current fashion in Kennedy scholarship is to deride the man's achievements, this book describes Kennedy's strengths, explains his shortcomings, and offers many new revelations. There are many specialized books on Kennedy's career, but no first-class modern biography--one that takes advantage of the huge volume of recent books and articles and new material released by the JFK library. Ten years in the making, this is a balanced and judicious profile that goes beyond the clash of interpretations and offers a fresh, nuanced perspective.

30 review for John F. Kennedy: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2017... “John F. Kennedy: A Biography” by Michael O’Brien was published in 2005 after a decade of research which included access to recently-released material from the Kennedy Library. O’Brien is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin (Fox Valley) and the author of several books including “McCarthy and McCarthyism in Wisconsin” and “Vince: A Personal Biography of Vince Lombardi.” The book’s publisher claims this to be the first modern biogra https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2017... “John F. Kennedy: A Biography” by Michael O’Brien was published in 2005 after a decade of research which included access to recently-released material from the Kennedy Library. O’Brien is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin (Fox Valley) and the author of several books including “McCarthy and McCarthyism in Wisconsin” and “Vince: A Personal Biography of Vince Lombardi.” The book’s publisher claims this to be the first modern biography of Kennedy to take advantage of a vast array of newly-released materials. But they seem to have overlooked Robert Dallek’s “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy” published two years earlier with arguably superior access to fresh materials – and which the author himself cites in this book’s extensive bibliography. Both a key strength and a notable weakness, O’Brien’s biography is nothing short of encyclopedic. This 905 page behemoth seems to cover every aspect of JFK’s life – often in daunting detail – and to thoroughly examine every controversy, large and small, with admirable balance and objectivity. Several of the book’s chapters are particularly engaging. O’Brien’s discussion of Kennedy’s efforts to gain the Democratic presidential nomination is excellent (and not unexpectedly thorough). A later chapter on Kennedy’s personality, strengths, interests and style of engaging with colleagues was also fascinating. But the chapter covering Kennedy’s White House, his decision-making style and his limited reliance on his Cabinet is perhaps the most compelling. But while the book contains a significant amount of wisdom, its most valuable insights are buried beneath a great mass of less compelling material. A basic rule-of-thumb is that if something can be covered in a paragraph, O’Brien takes a page; if it requires a page, O’Brien gives it a chapter. This verbosity apparently left the publisher unable to find room for the book’s end notes; they were once available online but now seem to have vanished. The author’s approach to most “controversial” topics is to offer multiple perspectives on an issue, referencing previous biographers and their conclusions. After weighing the evidence O’Brien generally renders his own verdict before moving onto the next topic. The author’s conclusions are consistently thoughtful (and generally convincing) but this approach interrupts the flow of the narrative and leaves the book feeling far more like a literature review than a biography. The book ends swiftly with Kennedy’s assassination and funeral…and without consideration of his legacy or impact on the country. Throughout the book’s forty-four chapters the author takes care to avoid siding with ardent fans of Kennedy but also to avoid castigating him for his most conspicuous faults. And in the end, rather than evaluate the Kennedy legacy, he leaves final consideration of this inspirational but flawed president to the reader. Overall, Michael O’Brien’s “John F. Kennedy: A Biography” is impressive in both size and scope but it offers little of Kennedy which is truly unique…other than its style of arbitrating controversies related to Kennedy’s life. Some readers will find this book a valuable reference on JFK – it is hard to imagine a more thorough and extensive collection of the circumstances surrounding his life. But most readers will find the book’s size intimidating, its detail burdensome and its most valuable wisdom and insights spread far too thin. Overall rating: 3½ stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    One of my favorite books. Even though he was a president way before I was born, I spite of his flaws, he still tried to become a better president

  3. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Riddle

    Very informational and inspiring. Nice read to get a book done quickly and still learn something new.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This might get downgraded to 3; it's hovering between 3 and 4. It took me forever to read, but that was all me/life -- it's actually a generally fast-moving bio and pretty engaging. Things I did not dig: endnotes with no endnotes. That's right -- for some reason the notes weren't published in the book (blah blah length and production constraints apologetic note from the publisher blah blah) but you can read them online or write off to the publisher for them. I'm really tempted to do the latter, This might get downgraded to 3; it's hovering between 3 and 4. It took me forever to read, but that was all me/life -- it's actually a generally fast-moving bio and pretty engaging. Things I did not dig: endnotes with no endnotes. That's right -- for some reason the notes weren't published in the book (blah blah length and production constraints apologetic note from the publisher blah blah) but you can read them online or write off to the publisher for them. I'm really tempted to do the latter, except I checked this out from the library, and do I really want to own the endnotes to a book and not the book? But who exactly the f!** is going to read a hardcover book but go online to read an endnote several times a page? So you go through this with these regularly appearing numbers that lead you nowhere... AS for the writing and organizing -- well, it was chronological for his early life and thematic for his presidency. I get why authors do the whole thematic-presidency chapter organization, but when it's not deftly handled it's really distracting. I want to feel that I am in capable hands and not read something about Vietnam or the Dominican Republic and have to try to remember what was happening in Berlin the exact same week, told 400 pages earlier. In general, I liked O'Brien's take on the questions and scandals of Kennedy (womanizing, involvement in Vietnam, nukes, intellectual convictions or lack thereof, Father Joe, PT boat, etc.) as he would present and analyze both sides of the stories. (Not that we could check the sources...) The ending though -- you know, Texas Book Depository and whatnot? -- was like page. Not that this book purported to or should have been about the assassination (there are other entire books about the event, and this was about JFK's life) but it was almost weird how it ended. Was it supposed to reflect JFK's sudden, unexpected demise, kind of Sopranos-finale-style? 'Cause that's grisly. So, in case you didn't know, JFK was pretty much an ass to women (with the possible exception of his sisters, sometimes) and he and Bobby were fairly paranoid about Communism, but then, who wasn't overexcited about it then? But he also had some admirable abilities and he is interesting to read about, even though you also already know so many of the players as you read this bio, unlike with some prez bios. Worth a read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Landry

    It is surprisingly difficult to find a one-volume biography of John F Kennedy, as O'Brien himself notes as part of the reasoning behind writing this book. While there are gaggles of titles to choose from on specific points of his life, his presidency, or his death, rare is the author who follows Kennedy from beginning to end. O'Brien's narrative style is quite interesting -- up until the presidency, the narrative is essentially chronological, but when the reader gets to the presidency, the chapt It is surprisingly difficult to find a one-volume biography of John F Kennedy, as O'Brien himself notes as part of the reasoning behind writing this book. While there are gaggles of titles to choose from on specific points of his life, his presidency, or his death, rare is the author who follows Kennedy from beginning to end. O'Brien's narrative style is quite interesting -- up until the presidency, the narrative is essentially chronological, but when the reader gets to the presidency, the chapters become framed around specific subjects/topics with a loose chronology (the first half of the presidential chapters focus primarily on the early presidency while the latter half bring the reader up to late 1962-1963). It does not provide a great deal of information about the assassination, a decision of O'Brien's that I highly agree with as I think there are other sources that do a good job of covering that series of events. However, it places it in the greater context of Kennedy's life and does a good job of wrapping up the story of a complex individual. My one complaint was the lack of end notes - due to the length, the decision was made to post them on the publisher's website. However, the publishing company has since been taken over by another publishing company, so the endnotes are no longer available on the website. For the casual reader, there will be little lost by this lacking, but for anyone with a scholarly interest in the world, it does complicate things a bit. Overall, though, a very insightful, well-written biography.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Not a bad biography, though much of it consists of patching together passages from previous biographies. Seems that new ground is broken with some new medical records and some recently declassified information. JFK was an interesting guy and president, and eludes pigeonholing either as a politiican or as a man.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Note to self: finished reading and quoting from this one, no need to order again. Yes, I'm writing a paper on a Cold War speech by JFK...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bil

    An excellent, clear summary of the life of a significant person.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    My favorite biography on JFK

  10. 4 out of 5

    Beth Olson shultz

    Took forever to read, but it is a huge book. Very balanced in showing what was good and bad about JFK.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gary Gurnsey

  12. 4 out of 5

    Streator Johnson

  13. 4 out of 5

    jennet wheatstonelllsl Proc

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  15. 4 out of 5

    Siv Irene

  16. 4 out of 5

    Diogo

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nick Temple

  18. 5 out of 5

    Huda Yahya

  19. 5 out of 5

    Derda

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kendall Morgan Hall

  21. 4 out of 5

    WalkerConchas

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chad

  23. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Robertshaw

  24. 4 out of 5

    Terri Phelps

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joseph L. Steffner

  27. 5 out of 5

    Piotr Rolski

  28. 5 out of 5

    Temz Curt

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Wise

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chick

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