JFK: Reckless Youth
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JFK: Reckless Youth

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  439 ratings  ·  19 reviews
The 1st volume of a monumental new biography of John F. Kennedy--a blazingly readable but balanced portrait that details scores of astonishing new facts about the young JFK. Based on unprecedented access to previously unpublished papers and documents & over 2000 interviews, JFK is scholarly, candid & sympathetic. 16 pages of photos.
Prologue: The birth of Camelot
Hardcover, 1st, 922 pages
Published November 10th 1992 by Random House (NY) (first published 1992)
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Jul 23, 2011 Jon added it
Oh no, another Kennedy book? Yes, and this is a good one. Nigel Hamilton makes me sympathize with the young Jack Kennedy for the first time, while debunking a number of myths, such as the idea that Joe Kennedy Jr., rather than Jack, would have achieved political success if he hadn't been killed in WWII. (Hamilton convincingly makes the case that Joe Jr.'s views were too close to those of Joe Sr. to appeal to most American voters.) Hamilton is also good on Jack's war experiences, with a fair-mind...more
Henry Sturcke
Sadly, this is only the first volume of a projected trilogy that never came to be, concluding as the protagonist wins election to the U.S. Congress in 1946, but before he takes his seat. After its appearance, the family and other keepers of the flame closed off any further access, so the author moved on to other projects. It’s interesting to read the book asking why this would be so, for reading it increased my admiration of Kennedy. I found it remarkable that such a charming, intelligent, coura...more
Erik Graff
Dec 22, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
Indeed, this was "a vastly entertaining" biography of JFK, containing much material never seen in print before--much of it quite upsetting.

There is a vast body of literature about Kennedy, much of it hagiographical. The young man portrayed here is hardly anyone to admire. Granted, his father was a monster, his mother a psychological cripple. One might admire how he managed to function at all coming from such a background. Still, the family was rich and connected. When his eldest brother perished...more
Apr 23, 2013 Lara rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans, historians, smart people :)
This is easily the most exhaustively, thoroughly researched book I have read in my life! If Jack took a math test in the fourth grade, Hamilton not only found the test, but interviewed Jack's teacher and classmates, found transcripts of interviews with Jack's family members, and analyzed the test itself all to understand how that test contributes to JFK's psyche. I am not exaggerating. Hamilton found all JFK's grades from first grade through college, and spends an awful lot of time analyzing the...more
Jeff Kelleher
The most intimate portrait.

John F. Kennedy's most constant friend, from age 15 until his death, was K. Lemoyne Billings, his Choate School roommate who traveled through Europe with him in 1937, and stayed in unceasing contact. During the Presidency, Jacqueline complained, Billings "spent almost every weekend at the White House."

During this 30-year period, Kennedy wrote hundreds of letters to Billings. Billings, loyal friend, kept them private for 30 more years. Finally, in the early 1990s, he al...more
This is somewhat of an aberration amongst JFK biographies in that it doesn't cover his politicial career at all. In fact, it stops just after he won his first election, as Massachusetts congressman in 1946. It's more of a biography of his evolution as a man, before he became the politician and subsequently the legend.

It's quite refreshing to read a biography of JFK that goes into this much detail about his early life; most just skim over his childhood, youth and military career in order to get t...more
Mark Chadwick
Nigel Hamilton's book was well-written, though it took some time to get from the less interesting high school years to the more interesting, college and war time years. The emphasis is in the early years is on Joe and Rose Kennedy whom the author considers to be (with some evidence) monsters. Joe Kennedy comes across as one of the most fascinating figures of the century. I may have to pick up the bio about Ol' Joe.

At times it seems like Hamilton disliked all members of the Kennedy family but JF...more
Part of the unrelenting effort by the right-wing to demonize JFK.
Karen Ettinger
Excellent Author! Speaks truth on every page with insight into the young life of our Nations President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Get ready for a long read over 800 pages!
Shea Flynn
Im very intrigued by his lifestyle having all his ups and downs. Dealing w fatal sickness, a bad upbringing, WWII, traumatic death in the family, working w playboy, selling insurance and having a rocky marriage all which were done behind the scenes. He always had his successful side along with his rebelious side. I admired the way he kept it together thru all the pressure and how lived a myserious life. Its a long read like 1000 pages but it was definetly not boring and slow. Each chapter had it...more
Jun 20, 2010 Rosie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: biography
This book reads like gossip and that's what I love about it. Obviously, the Kennedys had their issues. Hamilton acknowledges all of these flaws and stills renders JFK as an extremely sympathetic character, something a lot of Kennedy biographers have a hard time doing. My favorite parts were JFK's actual childhood and teenage letters. Rather than delving into the conspiracies and down-low dealings of the clan, the book uses anecdotes and primary source stuff to really humanize the Kennedys.
I found this book to be interesting, seeing the things that influenced JKF as he grows up. Some of the things strike me that they can't be true, but you know they are. I did think that there could have been less of Joe Kennedy's political career. I also found it interesting how once he won people over they were won over for life.
I was surprised to learn the dysfunction of the Kennedy family during the young, formative years of JFK and his siblings. According to this writing, neither Rose nor Joe were the type of parents that we have been lead to believe. I would be interested in reading more about the young years of the Kennedy's.

Jan 22, 2014 Sara-Ellen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I had skimmed this and thought it was rot but will have to go get it out of my discard pile since Chris Matthews said in Elusive Hero that he really relied on it for the early life info on JFK. I hope I still have it in the garage since I have a first edition!
Really good book, tho it is difficult after a while to continue to read, page after page, just how reckless and self-important and absorbed this American icon was. The truth is always best to know, but no one ever said it would be easier.
Interesting, and a few new factoids I hadn't known. Also, information about Joe Jr. and Jack's relationship, as well as numerous letters from JFK to his friends present an in-depth picture.
JFK's story is fascinating. I was captivated!

I did, however, listen to it on CD in my car. I could see it being a bit too long and detailed if you were actually reading it.
Curt Blair
An insight about JFK that differs from the "family authorized" biographies. Not much new in regards to the scandals, perhaps more depth.
Anyone interested in JFK should read this!
Cindy Wyatt
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Aug 21, 2014
Kate Annear
Kate Annear marked it as to-read
Aug 18, 2014
Kaycee Skidmore
Kaycee Skidmore marked it as to-read
Aug 12, 2014
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Jenni Katzenbach is currently reading it
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