Top Ten Books on President John F Kennedy

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It's fifty years since President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on 22 November 1963. The death of the charismatic young man has cast a rosy glow over his presidency and we've selected our ten favourite books about JFK so that you can judge him for yourself. They're here in alphabetical order. (Actually there are eleven books here - we've since received a children's book which we felt should be included.)

Parkland by Vincent Bugliosi

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Parkland is not just a book about history but a book with a history. Vincent Bugliosi published Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 2007 with much of the book being based on his preparation for a mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald which was shown on British television. This book was an exhaustive look at what happened in Dallas and at subsequent events such as the trial of Jack Ruby and the conspiracy theories which have abounded in the intervening fifty years. Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy was published in June 2008 and is - as the title suggests - restricted to what happened on 22 November 1963 and the following three days. Parkland is the film tie-in version of that book. Full review...

The Fourteenth Day: JFK and the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis by David G Coleman

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The commonly-held view of history would have us believe that the Cuban Missile Crisis began in mid-October 1962 and concluded on 28 October, with the world heaving a collective sigh of relief and moving on to think of other things. The truth is, of course, rather different and the crisis rumbled on for weeks and months to come, occasionally almost bubbling to the boil again as Kennedy and Krushchev fenced with each other. Historian David G Coleman has used the secret White House recordings to take us into the Oval Office and listen to what really went on. Full review...

One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Krushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War by Michael Dobbs

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At the end of October 1962 the world held its breath as three Presidents – Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro – brought the world to the brink of thermonuclear war, but somehow managed to back away from almost certain disaster. The story begins on Tuesday October the 16th and takes us through to the point at the end of the month when we all realised that what to eat for our next meal need not be the extent of our forward planning. Full review...

The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After by Steven M Gillon

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The assassination of President Kennedy came at a pivotal moment in my life and for more than forty years I've read much of what has been written about the event. It's been of variable quality, but the books fed the curiosity of people entranced by the charismatic young President who died so publicly. I'd come to the point of wondering if there was anything new to be said, but Stephen Gillom has looked at what happened from an unusual and largely overlooked angle – the first twenty four hours of Lyndon Johnson's Presidency. Full review...

American Caesars: Lives of the US Presidents, from Franklin D Roosevelt to George W Bush by Nigel Hamilton

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The premise is simple: take twelve men (and unfortunately they are all men, but that's not the author's fault) who have achieved high office and look at each of them. Firstly, take a look at the road to the high office, then how they performed once they reached their goal and finally a look at their private life. Suetonius did it first when he wrote The Twelve Caesars and now Nigel Hamilton has taken the same journey with American Caesars, a remarkably in-depth look at twelve consecutive American presidents from the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, starting with Franklin D Roosevelt and finishing with George W Bush. Full review...

A Day That Changed History: The Assassination of John F Kennedy by Tracey Kelly

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I have a vivid memory of hearing about the assassination of John F Kennedy. He was young, charismatic and a hope for the future after the old guard who seemed to have been in power for ever - and then he was gone. Books on JFK are easy to find - you'll find our favourites here, but it's rather more difficult to find a book which puts Kennedy and what happened into context, so I was delighted to receive a copy of 'A Day That Changed History: The Assassination of John F Kennedy'. Full review...

The Assassination of JFK Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo

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President John F Kennedy had been warned about going to Dallas - he himself referred to it as 'nut country' - but, conscious of the upcoming presidential elections, he needed to bring some support from the city onside and that was why he and the First Lady found themselves in the motorcade which swept into Dealey Plaza on 22 November 1963. There can be few people who are not aware of what happened next, but Jonathan Mayo has presented a chronology of events over the next four days ('four days, three murders, hundreds of stories', as the cover says) demonstrating the pressure under which the officials involved were working. Full review...

American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio

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I've often wondered how history would have viewed Jack Kennedy if he'd died a natural death rather than by an assassin's bullet. As an extension of that I've also thought that he might not have lived that much longer had nature been allowed to take its course. He's one of the most-written-about Presidents of all time and finding a new angle – even a fictional one – is not easy, but Jed Mercurio has looked at Kennedy's adult life through the prism of his sexual peccadilloes and his health. Full review...

Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch by Barbara A Perry

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It's about fifty years since the assassination of President John F Kennedy and it was he (and particularly his death) who brought the Kennedy family to the attention of a new generation. An earlier generation had been split about the virtues (or otherwise) of his father, Joe Kennedy, multi millionaire and United States Ambassador to Great Britain. But behind both of these men was mother and wife, Rose Kennedy and Barbara A Perry has produced a superb biography using letters, diaries and other archived material recently made available. Full review...

Not In Your Lifetime: The Assassination of JFK by Anthony Summers

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Originally published as The Kennedy Conspiracy, Anthony Summers has massively revised the text, updated it with the latest evidence and it's been republished as Not in Your Lifetime: The Assassination of JFK which refers to the statement made by Chief Justice Earl Warren who was asked if the truth about what happened would come out. He said that it would, but added the rider that it might not be in your lifetime. Fifty years on most of the people directly involved are now dead, but the truth has not officially emerged. In fact, it's difficult to avoid the thought that the US government would prefer that it did not see the light of day. Further documents are due to be released in 2017, but, in the meantime Anthony Summer has examined what is available, investigated on his own behalf and given us this comprehensive book. Full review...

Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot

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Jack Kennedy was assassinated the day before my college interview and afterwards I could remember little of what had been said. Rather than feeling that a door was opening I felt that a light had been snuffed out. The man who offered promise of a better world had been brutally murdered by a loan gunman. Nearly five years later I had a young baby and Senator Robert Kennedy seemed about to offer a light at the end of the dark tunnel of the Johnson Presidency with all the horrors of Vietnam, when he too was shot in the head. The world looked to Senator Edward Kennedy and sighed. Full review...

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