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Biography of John F. Kennedy: The 5 Books All Presidential Historians Should Read

By    |   Friday, 22 May 2015 02:24 PM

Presidential historians for the most part wrote glowingly of John F. Kennedy in the years after the president’s death in Dallas. But mining the historical record – sometimes with stiff resistance from the Kennedy clan – has eroded the foundations of Camelot.

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Here are five books that take a hard look at JFK:

1. “JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy” by L. Fletcher Prouty – Chief of Special Operations in the Pentagon from 1955-64, Colonel Prouty helped Oliver Stone with parts of the script for the conspiracy movie “JFK.” Forbes called Prouity’s book “essential to understanding the relationship between the military and intelligence communities.” Talking about a plan to start a war with Cuba under false pretenses, including killing astronaut John Glenn during his Mercury launch and blaming it on Cuba, Prouty’s book raised the question if the people who plotted that sort of thing couldn’t plot to kill a president.

2. “John Kennedy: A Political Profile” by James MacGregor Burns – The only authorized JFK biography, according to the Wall Street Journal, it was written by a Massachusetts man who ran for Congress, then turned down an offer of a Capitol Hill job from then-Sen. John F. Kennedy and said he’d rather write JFK’s “political biography.” Kennedy participated and was furious at the result. Burns said later he’d underestimated JFK but the Journal called the book an “astute, clear-eyed biography of the future president.”

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3. “Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived” by James G. Blight, Janet M. Lang, David A. Welch – The “What if Kennedy hadn’t been killed?” genre generally falls within the realm of speculative fiction for entertainment, but Blight, Lang, and Welch brought in the perspectives of “a wide spectrum of Vietnam War experts,” examining Kennedy’s attitudes toward the Cold War, the military, and the Third World. The Wall Street Journal said the book’s authors “bring us closer to solving the greatest Kennedy mystery of all: not who killed him but who he truly was on that tragic day.”

4. “JFK: The Man and the Myth” by Victor Lasky – The book that first picked away at the foundations of the Camelot myth, “The Man and the Myth” looked uncompromisingly at Kennedy’s political and personal dealings, and his ties with Hollywood and mob figures. Pulled from shelves after Kennedy’s murder, it was reprinted with new material three years later.

5. “A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy” by Thomas C. Reeves – Though Robert Dallek, himself a Kennedy author, said Reeves’ book broke little new factual ground and relied on news articles and other secondary accounts, he noted in his New York Times review that “Character” looked into the effect of Kennedy’s womanizing (some would say abusing), association with the mob and Hollywood figures, and the winning-is-the-only-thing mentality that influenced his policies and decisions during his White House years.

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Presidential historians for the most part wrote glowingly of John F. Kennedy in the years after the president’s death in Dallas.
biography of john f kennedy
Friday, 22 May 2015 02:24 PM
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