JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956

Random. Sept. 2020. 816p. ISBN 9780812997132. $40. BIOG
The first of an anticipated two-volume biography from Pulitzer Prize–winning author and Harvard professor Logevall (Embers of War), this comprehensive history pulls from the latest archival material to provide an honest, full-person view of the iconic 35th president of the United States. This volume introduces readers to the first 39 years of the life of John F. Kennedy (1917–63), beginning with his family’s lineage and the dynamics of an Irish family. A great deal of time is also given to his service in the navy during World War II, followed by his years in Congress, to the point when he decided to run for president in 1956. While there is new information to complement the familiar, such as the inner workings of his presidency, Logevall doesn’t shy away from the charismatic view of Kennedy, but he does dive deep into the details of ideas from the president’s early adulthood that helped shape his worldview for a life destined for public service, and the growth of his political thought, to form the man he would become.
VERDICT While a lengthy first volume, this study is accessible and entertaining. A wide array of history buffs, and readers previously reluctant to consume a Kennedy biography, will enjoy this highly recommended account.
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