The Best Books to Read on the Presidency of John F. Kennedy

With the exception of Lincoln and Washington, more pages have been written about John F. Kennedy than any other president. Kennedy was the 35th president, and perhaps the most charismatic political leaders in modern history. In addition to biographies, authors have zoomed in on almost everything about Kennedy, from his famed Anglophilia to his influence on the Vietnam war.

For those who are looking to quench their thirst for knowledge on this remarkable former president of the United States, here are the top 5 books on John F. Kenney.

1.     An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek

Robert Dallek’s book “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 – 1963” rewrites the story of John F. Kennedy. In this book, you learn more about Kennedy’s love affairs, ill health, and family dynamics than you’ve ever learned elsewhere. Most historians and critics consider this book, which was published in 2003, to be an essential Kennedy biography.

2.     Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy

Published in 1955, Profiles in Courage is a book by John F. Kennedy himself. It was written when he was recovering from surgery after one of his many illnesses. The book profiled 8 senators in U.S. history who had courageously taken the unpopular stand against issues that threatened democracy. Some of those named are John Quincy Adams (known for his political independence, patriotism, and brilliant mind), and Robert A. Taft. This book, which was co-authored with Ted Sorensen, won a Pulitzer Prize.

3.     A Thousand Days by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

“A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House” is a book that looks at Kennedy the president from the point of view of his friends. Released in 1965, this book speaks volumes about John Kennedy. It provides an insightful analysis of his political career, right from the campaigns all the way to his funeral. Although it’s been critiqued as a friendlier biography (the author had relations with the subject), it provides valuable knowledge on how Kennedy would have wanted to be seen.

4.     The Death of a President by William Manchester

William Manchester’s book “The Death of a President: November 20 – November 25, 1963” is an account of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Manchester reportedly started working on this book at the request of Jacqueline Kennedy. But when the book was done, Jackie Kennedy and her brother in law, Robert F. Kennedy were not happy with the work and requested further changes. Although a bestseller back then, the book later faded into obscurity, before it became popular again with its 50th-anniversary edition. It’s still an important text for anyone who’s looking to learn more about Kennedy.

5.     Case Closed by Gerald Posner

The assassination of J. F. Kennedy has attracted more conspiracy theories than any other political tragedy in our times. With his book “Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK”, Gerald Posner aims to dig deeper and unearth facts that are otherwise easy to miss. He examines all available evidence and arrives at only one reasonable conclusion – Lee Oswald (the gunman who shot Kennedy) acted alone.

If you still have some spare time after reading these books, others that you should look at are:

  • Nigel Hamilton’s JFK: Reckless Youth
  • Richard Reeves’ President Kennedy: Profile of Power
  • Herbert Parmet’s Jack: The Struggles of John F Kennedy
  • Michael O’Brien’s John F. Kennedy: A Biography

The Life and Times of John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th President of the United States in November 8, 1960. At the age of 43, he was the youngest ever elected U.S. president. Before he was assassinated in 1963, Kennedy negotiated the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, established the Alliance for Progress, initiated important reforms, and supported civil rights for African Americans.

Who was John Fitzgerald Kennedy?

John F. Kennedy was born on 29th of May 1917 in Massachusetts. In 1941, he joined the U.S Naval Reserve and served in combat as the commander of a Motor Torpedo Boat. This boat would eventually be damaged by a Japanese warship, but Kennedy managed to lead his surviving crew members to safety. For this accomplishment, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, which is the highest non-combat decoration for heroism by the U.S Navy. John F. Kennedy would then go to serve in the House of Representatives and the Senate before being elected as president. During his dramatically short stint at the Presidency, Mr. Kennedy had to address a number of serious foreign crisis (such as the Soviet Missile Crisis, and the Berlin Crisis). Kennedy was killed on November 22nd of 1963 in Dallas, Texas.

The Early Life of John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline (a town in Massachusetts) to wealthy Irish Catholic families. His paternal grandad, P.J. Kennedy, was a very wealthy liquor businessman and banker. His maternal grandad, John E. Fitzgerald (also known as Honey Fitz) was a seasoned politician who had served in Congress, and as the Boston city mayor. Rose Fitzgerald, John F. Kennedy’s mother, was an upper-class young woman in Boston. His father, Joe Kennedy Sr., was a very prosperous banker who had made his fortune in the stock markets after the first world war. He was later appointed a chairman of the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), then ambassador to Great Britain.

The 2nd oldest of 9 remarkable siblings, John F. Kennedy was nicknamed “Jack”. His siblings included Robert Kennedy, a former Attorney General, Eunice Kennedy, who founded the Special Olympics, and Ted Kennedy, a powerful senator.

Their parents, Joe and Rose Kennedy, to a large extent, rejected the Boston socialites world in which they’ve been born so that they could focus on their children’s education. Joseph Kennedy specifically took charge over almost every detail in his children’s lives. This was extraordinary and not common with fathers of the time. Joseph Kennedy Sr. developed a unique interest in his kids and worked to instill a competitive fire in them. He enrolled his kids in sailing and swimming competitions and taught them to accept nothing but the first place.

John F. Kennedy Education

John Kennedy attended a Connecticut Catholic boys’ school  –  the Canterbury – where he was a poor student. When he decided to focus on something, he was however very brilliant. Notwithstanding his poor performance, Kennedy managed to continue to Choate – an established preparatory school in Connecticut. He was a typically mischievous boy who preferred girls, sports, and jokes over coursework. Kennedy was very bookish during his school days, only that he didn’t read the texts assigned by his teachers. He also often suffering from the flu, severe colds, scarlet fever, and even undiagnosed illnesses that made him miss school for months.

After Choate, Kennedy spent a semester at Princeton, before transferring to Harvard in 1936. He continued with his mediocre academic pattern here and only excelled in those classes he liked. His diversion of women and sports usually contributed to his bein*8g an average student. During his Harvard days, Kennedy was extraordinarily popular with his classmates. He was charming, handsome, and had this radiant smile. According to one of his old friends, Lem Billings, “Jack was more fun than anyone I have ever known…” Kennedy was also a womanizer.

Eventually, Kennedy became serious with his schoolwork and started to acknowledge his potential. By this time, his father was now the Ambassador to Great Britain. It is during a prolonged visit there (in 1939) that he decided to write a thesis on why the UK was unprepared to face Germany in a second world war. The paper was so popular that it was published as a book called Why England Slept after his graduation in 1940. It sold over 80,000 copies, which was incredible by all means.

Joining the U.S. Navy

John F. Kennedy enlisted in the Navy after graduating from Harvard. He was assigned commander in PT-109, a torpedo boat in the Southern Pacific. On 2nd August of 1943, his boat was hit by a Japanese destroyer chopped into two. Two sailors lost their lives, and Kennedy was seriously injured in the back. Nonetheless, he managed to lead the 10 surviving sailors to a nearby island, hauling one by his life vest strap. They were later rescued after 6 days. For his heroic conduct to save his crew members, he was granted the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. For injuries suffered, Kennedy was awarded the Purple Heart.

Kennedy’s older brother had also enlisted in the Navy as a pilot. Unfortunately, he died after his plane exploded on the August of 1944. This was a major setback for the family. Joseph Kennedy Sr. had always thought that his first-born son – Joseph Kenney Jr. – would one day be the president of the U.S. He was intelligent, athletic, handsome, and ambitious. John F. Kennedy took upon himself his family’s hopes for his older brother.

John F. Kennedy’s Political Journey

Upon exit from Naval service, John Kennedy did a brief stint as a reporter for the Hearst Newspapers. In 1946, he ran for office in the House of Representatives. He was 29 years old. Boosted by his war-hero status, his father’s money and his family connections, Kennedy won quite easily. He served 2 three-year terms between 1946 and 1952. Given that he had just served in the Navy, Kennedy found his Congress work incredibly dull.

In 1952, he decided to seek greater influence by challenging incumbent Republican senator Henry Cabot for his Senate seat. Kennedy was again propelled by his father’s immense financial resources. He hired his younger sibling Robert to be his campaign manager, who pieced together a scientific, methodical, and thoroughly detailed state-wide campaign. John F. Kennedy won by a narrow majority. His personality was a major contributing factor. John F. Kennedy was seen as a dignified, well-educated, gentlemanly and intelligent figure – just what voters were looking for.

Shortly after being elected in the Senate, Kennedy met Jacqueline at a dinner party. On September 12 of 1953, they got married. They had three kids together – Caroline, John Kennedy Jr., and Patrick.

During his political career in the U.S. Senate, John Kennedy continued suffering from frequent illnesses. When he was recovering from a surgery, he co-authored a book titled ‘Profiles in Courage’. It highlighted 8 senators who took courageous yet unpopular stances. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. To this date, Kennedy has been the only U.S. president to ever win a Pulitzer.

Road to the Presidency

Kennedy’s 8-year career in the Senate was quite undistinguished. In 1956, he was ALMOST chosen as the running mate to the Democratic candidate– Adlai Stevenson. Four years later, on January 2nd, 1960, he announced his own candidature for the office of president of the United States. He managed to defeat his main challenger in the democratic primaries – Hubert Humphrey – and selected Lyndon Johnson – the Senate majority and senator from Texas – to be his running mate. The presidential race was an uphill battle against his republic rival – Richard Nixon. Mr. Nixon had been the vice-president for two terms under the well-approved leadership of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

John F. Kennedy offered voters with a young and energetic replacement to Richard Nixon. He benefited greatly from the first ever TV-aired presidential debate in history. In the November election, he won by a small margin, becoming the first-ever Roman Catholic and the youngest man to be duly elected president of the U.S.

Accompanied by his beautiful wife Jacqueline and their two children (Caroline and John Jr.), Kennedy brought a distinctive glamour and youthfulness to the White House. He challenged Americans to team up in their pursuit of progress. The closing words in his inaugural speech have been famous ever since – “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

John F. Kennedy Presidency and Leadership

Kennedy oversaw the launching of the Peace Corps within his first year in office. This essentially allowed young volunteers from the U.S. to travel to underdeveloped countries worldwide.

During his political career, Kennedy was not able to achieve much with two of his biggest priorities – income tax cuts and the civil rights bill. He was quite slow to commit himself to the civil rights cause, but eventually took action when he sent federal troops to support desegregation at the University of Mississippi. In the following summer, he also announced his plan to create a comprehensive civil rights bill. Kennedy also endorsed the huge March on Washington that was led by Martin Luther King Jr.

John F. Kennedy Major Foreign Policy Challenges and Victories

In April of 1961, John Kennedy approved a plan to move over 1400 Cuban refugees (who were apparently trained by the CIA) to the Bay of Pigs. The plan was to have them trigger a rebellion in the communist country, and overthrow Fidel Castro’s communist leadership. The entire mission failed terribly, with almost all the exiles killed or captured.

In the June of 1961, Kennedy sat down with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, to discuss the situation in Berlin. The city had was literary divided into two following World War II. Two months after the Vienna meeting, troops from East Germany started building a wall dividing the city. President Kennedy sent a military convoy to inspirit West Berliners that they had his nation’s support, and later delivered a famous speech in West Berlin.

Kennedy would crash with Khrushchev again in October of 1962. The U.S. learned the Soviets were building nuclear missile installations in Cuba that posed a direct threat to the U.S. Kennedy immediately announced a blockade of Cuba by the navy. This tense standoff lasted almost two weeks. Eventually, Khrushchev dismantled the missile installations in Cuba, in exchange for the U.S. agreeing not attacking Cuba, and removing its missiles in Turkey.

In July of 1963, John F. Kennedy secured his biggest foreign policy victory yet when he convinced Khrushchev and the Prime Minister of Britain to sign a nuclear tests ban treaty.

The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

On 22nd November 1963, John Kennedy and the first lady landed in Dallas, Texas. A day earlier, he had addressed crowds in Austin, San Antonio, and Fort Worth. Kennedy’s motorcade left the airfield and traveled to Dallas Trade Mart, where he was scheduled to speak next.

A few minutes after 12:30 in the afternoon, Kennedy’s motorcade was moving by downtown Dallas when shots rang out. Kennedy was hit in the neck and the head and pronounced dead at a close-by hospital. Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24-year old who was a communist sympathizer, was apprehended for the assassination. He was shot days later by a nightclub operator while he was being taken to jail. Conspiracy theories of the Kennedy assassination sprung up almost immediately. These were fueled by the Mafia, the KGB, and the military-industrial complex, and other entities. A commission of inquiry led by Earl Warren (the Chief Justice) however concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

New Information on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy

On 26th October 2017, the Donald Trump administration authorized the release of over 2800 records on the John Kennedy assassination. This came after a 25-year wait duration signed into law back in 1992. It allowed declassification of documents just provided doing so wouldn’t hurt military operations, intelligence, or foreign relations.

6 Things You Might Not Know about John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy is a household name when you’re talking about previous American presidents. There are many reasons why his legacy has persisted in modern-day America. The specifics depend on who you ask. All the same, though, his life as president was characterized by dramatic occasions, before he was finally assassinated while riding in an open presidential limousine. Below are 6 interesting facts about John Kennedy that you might not have known.

I.                    He Had Four Children with Jackie

John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie had four children. Most Americans tend to think that President Kennedy had two children ever, Caroline and John, Jr. In 1956, Jackie gave birth to a stillborn girl that the couple decided to name Arabella. In 1963, another child, named Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, was born five and a half weeks earlier. The newborn baby weighed less than five pounds. He died after two days following a pulmonary disease. The bodies of these two children were taken to Arlington National Cemetery to be next to their father in 1963 after he was assassinated.

II.                  He Was Medically Disqualified from the Army

Just before the United States plunged into World War II, Kennedy tried to enlist in the military. His intestinal and back problems wouldn’t let him, though. He failed physical examinations for both the Navy and Army officer candidate schools. However, through his father’s connections, Kennedy was finally admitted to the Navy in 1941 (October). He was a commanding officer of PT-109, where he became a war hero after helping his team members survive the gunboat’s sinking in 1943.

III.                John F. Kennedy Won a Pulitzer Prize

Kennedy wrote his first book, titled ‘Why England Slept’, at the age of 22. In 1945, he served as a newspaper correspondent covering the UN conference in San Francisco, and the aftermath of the War in Europe. The 1957 Pulitzer Prize for biography went to Kennedy due to his work ‘Profiles in Courage’.

IV.                He Suffered from Constant Poor Health

Kennedy suffered from poor health throughout his life. In fact, this situation was so bad that he received last rites three times before his presidency started. When traveling to England in 1947, Kennedy fell ill after a diagnosis of Addison’s disease. This is a rare condition that affects the adrenal glands. Doctors gave him just a year to live. On his way back to America, Kennedy’s situation got so bad that a pastor administered last rites. This happened again in 1951 after he caught an extremely high fever on his way to Asia. In 1954, he went into a comma following a surgical procedure to relieve his back problems.

V.                  He Went to Princeton

John F. Kennedy attended Princeton – briefly. He left Princeton after just two months, due to a gastrointestinal illness. Later, he transferred to Harvard.

VI.                He Donated his Salaries

Kennedy’s congressional and presidential salary went to Charity. Of course, his father had built a family fortune, and the young Kennedy earned already earned a lot from trusts by the time he joined congress in 1947. When he was sworn into the White House, he became the richest man ever to take the oath of office.

Interesting? These are just a few of the key facts that outline the life of one of the most historical presidents in America!