As an amatuer political historian I own and have read lots of books about JFK over the course of the last two decades. With the recent upsurge in interest about the Kennedy Presidency and his life I’ve decided to list a five of my favorites below. I should also note Robert Caro’s most recent book on LBJ (the fourth in his series) has lots of content about the Kennedy Presidency and the immediate aftermath of the Assassination (Caro’s series is in my mind without question the most thorough and engrossing political biography ever written in the English language.)
– The Making of the President 1960 by Theodore White
I own every Theodore White “Making of the President” book (1960, 1964, 1968 & 1972). They were the types of definitive campaign chronicles that you do not get today in this era of instant news (the only book that came close was Richard Ben Cramer’s What it Takes about the 1988 Campaign). White’s account of JFK’s masterful campaign against Richard Nixon is a must read for any political junkie.
Book written in JFK’s name by Ted Sorensen. A must have in any political library.
– An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek
I’ve been somewhat critical of Dallek’s biographies of Lyndon Johnson simply because they weren’t as thorough and interesting as Roberto Caro’s acclaimed works. But Dallek fits a great deal into a one volume account about JFK which is well worth a read.
– A Thousand Days by Arthur Schlesinger
No historian knew JFK and RFK as well as the great Arthur Schlesinger. America’s preeminent liberal historian of the 20th century, Schelsinger’s book may be excessively romantic towards JFK but it gets into his mind in a way no other work does.
Sorensen goes into great detail about the toughest decisions in the Kennedy Presidency. This is a complete three years version of Robert Kennedy’s Thirteen Days about the Cuban Missile Crisis (with some content on the Sino-Indian war included) which I also highly recommend.
The Dark Side of Camelot by Seymour Hersh another very good about JFK. As the name implies, it gets into the behind the scene exploits and an in depth look at his college buddies – who later become members of his staff and administration – friends and family. Very good read.
At this stage in my life, I am ready to read some of these books. It is time for reality to step in and take its proper place in my memories of the JFK/RFK/LBJ era. Thank you for all of the recommendations.