Jacki: John F. Kennedy

An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, by Robert Dallek

This has been one that I’ve been looking forward to since I started the presidential challenge over 3 years ago. I mean, he’s young and hot and powerful and died this horrible, untimely death during a crazy time in America’s history, what could possibly be more fascinating? The answer: Nothing.

This is kind of the definitive biography of JFK’s life. There are a lot of books about him, of course, but most cover just one part of his life: military career, family life, presidential life, his death, but I had a hard time finding many that were just a straight biography. This one came highly recommended and I’m so, so glad that I read it. It was fantastic.

If you have been following along as I have been reading these biographies, you will notice a trend in my reviews: I went into this challenge wanting to get to know these presidents as men, know what makes the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world tick. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in profiles of these guys that made it to the top of their game and what that looked like for them. This biography did a fantastic job of painting a pretty full picture of who JFK and combining that with a vivid backdrop of his family and time period. It was pretty masterfully done.

And JFK was every bit as interesting as I thought he would be. I only had the vaguest idea of his health issues, and this book came out right after a lot of his medical records were released for the first time. Dude was super sick. He spent a lot of his childhood and a good fraction of his adulthood in and out of hospitals with really bad digestive issues. The drugs that they put him on led to horrible back pain and joint issues and he was just…. not in great health. In fact, he thought from the time he was young that he would not live to see old age, which some people suspect is why he lived his life the way he did: lots of girls, lots of life in a fairly short span of time. He just went full throttle because he thought he wouldn’t be around long.

I thought that his family was just… insane. I knew that he came from money and he was rich, but I honestly never realized the scope of it. And I knew that his family had a “curse” but again, I never had any idea just what that meant. Learning about JFK’s parents and siblings was probably my favorite part o the whole book and I’d love to read a book that focused specifically on JFK’s family of origin because…. wow.

I could go on and on. I loved reading about his college days, about his election, about the Cuban Missile Crisis (which I had heard of, but was totally uninformed about) and all these other pieces that just made up one of the most talked about, most studied, most interesting lives that I’ve ever read about.

I immediately handed my copy of this book over to my mom because it was that good. Even if you aren’t doing the challenge and don’t usually read this kind of thing, do it. Really good stuff.