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JFK: Reckless Youth
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JFK: Reckless Youth

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  757 Ratings  ·  27 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 Based on unprecedented access to previously unpublished papers and documents & over 2000 interviews, JFK is scholarly, candid & sympathetic. 16 pages of photos.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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Henry Sturcke
Dec 16, 2013 Henry Sturcke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 really liked it
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
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
Jeff Kelleher
Aug 28, 2013 Jeff Kelleher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mark Chadwick
Dec 20, 2013 Mark Chadwick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 23, 2016 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This was a long book, but the going was rarely rough or inducive of weariness. It covers the years from John Fitzgerald Kennedy's birth to his election to the U.S. Congress in 1946. I have read JFK bios before, mostly in my teens and early 20s when I idolized him. Most of them were weak on the early years of the subject's life, as most biographies are. This book fills in the gaps and does not disappoint - it is a full portrayal of the youth of a man who lived a very exciting and unusual life, a ...more
Jan 27, 2015 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Has there been another American family as legendary and surrounded by myth as the Kennedys? I don't believe so. Almost every book about this family seems to have some kind of agenda, whether pro or con. This book manages to deal with the most famous of this large, powerful family without seeming to have an agenda. It covers his life up until 1946 when he won a Congressional seat. It is almost worth the price for the numerous letters JFK wrote as an adolescent and young adult. Quite a few are hil ...more
Apr 23, 2013 Lara rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Mar 23, 2011 Caroline rated it really liked it
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
Donie Nelson
Jun 26, 2016 Donie Nelson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to understand who JFK was & who he became, then this is the book. Without a lot of psychoanalyzing, but with a lot of solid research and compelling writing the author presents an engrossing story of the Kennedy family (and its dynamics) and how it shaped its second son. Bio ends before JFK's marriage to Jackie, wish he could written a sequel. Have a hunch that the Kennedys were no longer cooperating.
B. R. Reed
Jul 22, 2015 B. R. Reed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my all-time favorite book on JFK. Yes, it gets into all of his affairs with beautiful young women but facts are facts. So what? Here are some facts that I will never forget about JFK: He was extremely good to his retarded sister, very tender towards her. He battled some serious illnesses (like colitis) and was given last rites more than once. His father, Joe Kennedy Sr., pulled strings to get his son (JFK) into the Navy, not the other way around. A nice change. JFK had no business being ...more
G.T. Almasi
Jul 17, 2015 G.T. Almasi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book about the Kennedys. Lots of info about the two generations prior to the famous bunch, but everyone has a colorful story.
Apr 14, 2014 Vheissu rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jfk-assassinata
Part of the unrelenting effort by the right-wing to demonize JFK.
Linda Matych
Great book about Kennedy's life before he met Jacqueline.
Karen Ettinger
Feb 06, 2014 Karen Ettinger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Mar 12, 2016 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
The shenanigans of a spoiled rich boy.
Shea Flynn
Sep 19, 2011 Shea Flynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 it was amazing  ·  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.
Cindy Wyatt
This book was interesting and a little disturbing. JFK has always been such a revered figure but this book makes him seem very unlikeable and the whole Kennedy family comes across as a big mess. This book only covers Kennedy's life up to the point where he was elected to Congress but he seems like an irresponsible rich boy and very much his father's puppet. I imagine some of that changes (at least a little) as he grows up.
Jul 26, 2011 Darcy rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
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.
Dec 28, 2009 Fran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Mar 20, 2010 Aimeslee rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 14, 2012 Stacey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 17, 2008 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 08, 2013 Curt Blair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An insight about JFK that differs from the "family authorized" biographies. Not much new in regards to the scandals, perhaps more depth.
Jun 08, 2013 Robyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, bios
Anyone interested in JFK should read this!
marcy pellenberg
marcy pellenberg rated it it was amazing
Sep 25, 2016
Margaret Duke-Wyer
Margaret Duke-Wyer rated it really liked it
Sep 20, 2016
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Nigel Hamilton is an award-winning British-born biographer, academic and broadcaster, whose works have been translated into sixteen languages.
More about Nigel Hamilton...

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