Books to Get You Thinking


It is fifty years since John F. Kennedy’s Presidency. He became President at a critical time in history. It was the tumultuous era of the sixties, the time of the Civil Rights Movement in America, the time of the Cold War, and of Vietnam.  During his brief but eventful tenure as President he made an indelible mark on the social fabric and political landscape of those times. He brought new dynamism to America’s space exploration program, witnessing Alan Shepard Jr. become the first American to travel into space.  Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 shocked the nation, has touched generations and changed the course of history. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Presidency several interesting books have been published. The Mercer County Library System offers readers a collection of titles that will take them through a journey into America’s past and is certain to fascinate history buffs of all shades.

Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy by Ted Widmer and Caroline Kennedy
Newly released from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation is a book and CD set that includes 260 hours of transcribed conversations and 2.5 hours of audio recordings from inside the White House, arranged and set in context by Ted Widmer with an introduction by Caroline Kennedy. In 1962 JFK had arranged for a hidden recording system to be placed at the Oval Office and Cabinet Room to keep a historically accurate record of the strategic policy decision discussions that were taking place at the White House during his Presidency. Voices from the past come alive through these fascinating tapes -voices such as those of Presidents Eisenhower and Truman whom JFK consulted on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and conversations with his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy  provide readers with insights into the pressing issues of the sixties including the Civil Rights Movement, conflicts with Cuba, Vietnam and the Soviet Union as well as the inside workings of the White House.

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, Interviews with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., 1964 Foreword by Caroline Kennedy, Introduction and Annotations by Michael Beschloss
A few months after President Kennedy’s assassination, noted Pulitzer Prize winning historian, Arthur Schlesinger recorded a seven part interview with the recently widowed First Lady on the subject of her life with JFK. The initiative was part of an oral history project on President Kennedy, his life and his vision for America. The tapes were released by Caroline Kennedy on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Presidency and made accessible through this beautifully illustrated volume accompanied by a set of eight CDs. The interviews capture Jacqueline Kennedy’s candid insights and perspective on topics ranging from her personal life with JFK and life in the White House to important state visits and interactions with foreign dignitaries and political events. The readers get an inside glimpse into the everyday life of an extraordinary president as seen through the eyes of Jacqueline Kennedy.  Half a century later, the book presents a unique opportunity to get to know the real First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, her love for art, literature and culture, her political astuteness and mindset and the enduring legacy she has left behind by sharing her personal experiences and reflections of her years spent with the President.

Jack Kennedy : Elusive Hero by Christopher Matthews                                                                                                       Chris Mathews, the well known host of Hardball and The Chris Matthews Show, and an expert on American political history provides readers with a definitive biography of Kennedy based on in-depth research and interviews with political aides and people who had personally known the President. Matthews delves past the life of privilege and wealth that came from being part of the Kennedy family to Jack Kennedy’s childhood, his school days at Choate, and to the forces and events in his personal life that helped him become the resolute leader who guided America at the height of the Cold War. Being sick for long periods during his childhood, the young Kennedy developed a lifelong passion for books and reading and was inspired by the legendary heroes from history as Sir Walter Scott and King Arthur. Piecing together well researched stories, Matthews captures the essence of JFK’s life and legacy, and what draws people to this enigmatic personality fifty years later:

               In searching for Jack Kennedy, I found a fighting prince never free from pain, never far

               from  trouble, never accepting the world he found, never wanting to be his father’s

               son. (Matthews 11)


Portrait of Camelot : a Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House by  Reeves, Richard with Harvey Sawler, Photographs by Cecil W Stoughton                                                                                                                                                          In this fascinating book, Richard Reeves, a well known political author and journalist presents an intimate portrait of John F. Kennedy.  The work builds on the extensive collection of photographs taken by Cecil W. Stoughton, the first White House photographer. Stoughton had a close relationship with the President and the First Lady which provided him with an extraordinary access to important moments during the Presidency. The book covers the many facets of Kennedy's life –his role as a father, a husband and a political leader. It also covers many national and international events which defined the 35th Presidency. The images mirror the tension and drama of the Cuban Missile Crises , the Berlin Crises,  the Civil Rights Movement and the riots at home, the  first nuclear control treaties but also include photographs covering everyday life at the White House -endearing shots of young Caroline playing in the Oval Office,  the President watching John Glenn's space journey and the First Lady supervising an elegant dinner honoring gifted musicians.  The canvas of brilliant visual images makes history comes alive within the pages of this beautiful book.

                                                                                                                                             - Nita Mathur

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