Rated Reads

John F. Kennedy (The American Presidents Series)

by Alan Brinkley

Rated: Moderate

The youngest U.S. president ever elected, and serving one of the shortest terms in office, John Fitzgerald Kennedy has probably inspired more writers than any other White House resident save Abraham Lincoln. Of course, that has more to do with his assassination than his actual presidential service, but the man has certainly attained near-legend status in our modern era.

Born into an Irish Catholic family that was fast becoming the wealthiest in the country, John grew up surrounded by the finer things in life. He was the second-oldest of nine children, and he was fiercely competitive with his one older brother, Joseph Junior. Even though he was exceptionally bright, he was not crazy about being a student; thus his enrollment in prestigious institutions was due more to his family background than his academic abilities.

He was plagued with serious health problems throughout his entire life, and, once again, only his father’s influence was able to keep those hidden to the point that he was able to serve as a naval officer during World War II, and subsequently as a politician.

This well-written biography does an excellent job distilling President Kennedy’s time in the Oval Office into four concise chapters, each covering the ground of the major issues (Cuba, the Cold War, Vietnam and Civil Rights) with which he dealt during his just-less-than three-year term in office. The details are explained clearly, and Kennedy’s thought processes are presented as much as possible via the writings of his closest associates. The author then expertly analyzes the future that never was by presenting opinions on how each matter could have been affected had the president lived longer.

No punches are pulled during the presentation of Kennedy’s personal life, but the details are not flaunted either. Although tawdry, his behavior toward women (including his wife) is an important component of his personality and must be discussed as part of his life story. Honestly, the most intriguing aspect of these accounts is the huge difference that 50 years has made in the attitudes of the Fourth Estate toward such topics.

Overall, this is an excellent introductory text for persons who only know of John F. Kennedy through history classes or popular films. It has an objective tone and a comfortable style that makes it clear and understandable for readers of all ages and abilities.

Rated: Moderate. The five instances of the f-word make this a borderline High. There are also 10 other instances of mild to moderate profane terms. All are direct quotations, mainly of the president himself.

— Reviewed by Craig Smith

Craig Smith is chief medical officer of Tacoma Cat Hospital. In addition to providing book reviews on Rated Reads, he podcasts about feline health issues through iTunes and www.tacomacat.com.

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  • John F. Kennedy (The American Presidents Series)
  • by Alan Brinkley
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: