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JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and The Emergence of a Great President

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  453 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
A revelatory, minute-by-minute account of JFK’s last hundred days that asks what might have been

Fifty years after his death, President John F. Kennedy’s legend endures. Noted author and historian Thurston Clarke argues that the heart of that legend is what might have been. As we approach the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, JFK’s Last Hundred Days reexamines the las
Audio CD, 12 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Penguin Audio
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Last month, I went to see the author speak about this book at one of the few remaining reputable bookstores in my adopted city. He gave a very compelling presentation, bringing out some things about President Kennedy and his administration that I had not known about. In fact, I was so impressed by the author that I bought the book shortly thereafter.

The book starts off by looking back at December 31, 1962. President Kennedy was vacationing in Florida, where Elaine de Kooning (estranged wife of t
Oct 10, 2013 Franz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a sad book. Not sad in any conventional way that comes from the tragedy of Kennedy's assassination. Thankfully Clarke does not dwell on the killing of the president; dozens of other books have already exhausted that ground. The sadness evoked by this book is the realization of how much different and possibly better the world might have been had Kennedy's motorcade made a left turn instead of a right at that crucial intersection in Dallas.

Obviously it's impossible to know what would have tr
Apr 15, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it
Shelves: listened-to
Book eleven in my Presidential Reading Challenge. This is the Chowda edition (JFK).

I've always been in awe of JFK without ever really knowing why. He always seemed so youthful and handsome. When a person like this dies young, their image is frozen in time; they never have to go through the disgrace of the natural aging process.

What I wanted to know from this book is what did he accomplish and what would have been different if he hadn't been assassinated.

He was not President for a very long time,
Garry Wilmore
Aug 10, 2013 Garry Wilmore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second of Thurston Clarke's books that I have read, the other being Ask Not, the story of JFK's Inaugural Address, which I read about 2-1/2 years ago. The author is unabashed in his admiration for the nation's 35th President, and in some places Hundred Days comes close to being hagiography. Nevertheless, I found it to be a quick and absorbing read, and perhaps the best JFK book I have read in recent years. I only give five-star ratings to books I know I will want to read again someda ...more
Oct 01, 2013 Fiona rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio, non-fiction
I learned so much about the Kennedy administration even though I lived through it, albeit as a young child.

What did I learn:

JFK favored the ban on nuclear testy over the civil rights bill. As he said, "domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us".

Lessons learned from:
-- Bay of Pigs -> not to accept unanimous recommendation of civilian and military advisers without rigorous interrogation.
-- Cuban missile crisis -> value of gathering a select group of advisers in a room an
Juliana Rose
Because Americans felt they knew him almost as well as someone sitting across the breakfast table, they wanted more than a distant grave. Once their tears had dried, or before, they began naming roads and bridges, tunnels, highways, and buildings for him, creating a grief stricken empire of asphalt, mortar, brick, and bronze so extensive that if you extinguished every light on earth except those illuminating something named for him, astronauts launched from the Kennedy Space Center would have s ...more
David Bales
Oct 18, 2013 David Bales rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
A very detailed, day by day chronicle of President Kennedy's last 100 days in office, in which he suffered through the death of his infant son Patrick, (born prematurely) the passing of the Test Ban Treaty, the crisis in Vietnam over the deteriorating Diem regime and the March on Washington for civil rights. What comes through very strongly here is Kennedy's deep skepticism over the war in Vietnam and his desire for peace with the Soviets; he even set into motion back-channel discussions with ...more
Bryce Zabel
Oct 09, 2013 Bryce Zabel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kennedy
For a book that tells JFK's story in a refreshing new way, it's hard to beat Thurston Clarke's "JFK's Last Hundred Days." The device -- a countdown to the President's assassination -- is used by Clarke to bring in the history of Kennedy's life, career and administration. John F. Kennedy, the man, really feels fully realized here. I've read many Kennedy books and knew most of what's in here, but the organizational structure to the book makes it fresh. I also thought the audiobook was top-notch ...more
Lisa Neal
Oct 21, 2013 Lisa Neal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book that minutely details JFK's final 100 days. I really do believe the world would have been a better place if not for the assassination and this book shows what he was working on towards ending the Cold War, pulling out of Vietnam and improving civil rights. What a blessing we had him as president, but what a loss his untimely death caused. Read this book.
TJ Godiaco
Nov 30, 2016 TJ Godiaco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I'm sad; I'm gay; I'm melancholy; I'm gloomy - I'm all mixed up, and don't know how I am!"

A unique and rich approach to Kennedy and his administration. Although he definitely could have, Thurston Clarke did not dwell on his death and the surrounding conspiracy. This book came about from the premise that the President was, above all things, a prismatic man. Although Clarke is, of all people, in the best situation to strongly communicate anything he wishes about JFK and his legacy, the author ca
F.C. Schaefer
Feb 24, 2015 F.C. Schaefer rated it really liked it
There must be a million books written about John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, the admiring ones paint him as a gifted leader whose triumphant life story ended in an unspeakable tragedy just as he was about to make his mark on history. That is how Thurston Clarke sees it in this book that gives the reader a day by day account of the last three months of Kennedy's time in the White House. So many books have covered this ground and advanced this same theme in the last five ...more
Aug 12, 2013 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“…an incalculable loss of the future…” Ted Sorensen

With the 50th anniversary coming up of John F Kennedy’s assassination, a plethora of books will no doubt be appearing over the next few months, tackling his history from a variety of angles. In this one, Thurston Clarke, journalist and historian, looks in detail at the last 100 days of JFK’s life, using this period as a jumping off point to examine both the politics and personality of the man.

I found the format of the book quite off-putting at
Sep 22, 2014 Steve rated it liked it
Author Thurston Clarke could’ve titled this presidential biography “Countdown to Dallas.” In this behind-the-scenes portrait of our 35th American president, Clarke focuses our attention primarily on John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s life and times that led up to JFK’s murder in Texas more than a half century ago. This is not Clarke’s first literary look at Kennedy. Previously, Clarke published “Ask Not,” a treatise on JFK’s inaugural address. Clark makes no secret of the fact he’s a huge fan of the ...more
Mark Steed
JFK's Last Hundred Days tracks Kennedy's diary commitments for the last three months in the the run up to the tragic events of 22nd November, and in so doing it provides a snap-shot into what it is to life the life a US President. On one level the picture given is one familiar to any executive or leader: a man moving from meeting to meeting, giving speeches and making decisions on half a dozen key projects. It just happened that the 'key projects' on which JFK was having to make decisions were ...more
Stephen Embry
Sep 20, 2013 Stephen Embry rated it really liked it
A lot happens in the last hundred days of a presidency and much of it is interesting. Mr. Clarke presents a comprehensive overview of the major and minor events of the Last Hundred days, and while it may not have had the same impact on following years at FDR's first hundred it continues to haunt us with its memory and effects. Clarke suggests that the President would have dramatically altered events by opening doors of communications to the USSR and Cuba, and would have wound down involvement in ...more
Pete daPixie
Has Thurston Clarke taken too narrow a time frame to produce an intimate portrait of JFK? For a presidency that only lasted just over a thousand days, I'm not convinced that this writers broad brush strokes captures the image or the history, nor do I fully understand the premise of focusing upon the last hundred days.
Having said that, I quite enjoyed reading this book as I have long been intrigued by the subject and the politics of the 1960's, but this does not compare with the work of Dallek, S
Oct 29, 2014 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I thought this was excellent.

The Kennedys are one of my favourite historical subjects, particularly Jack and Bobby and I could read books about them constantly, they were such fascinating characters.

I did not realise how much JFK transformed during the last 100 days of his life, he seemed to really find himself both in his political and private lives. For instance politically he moved from the man who ordered the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion to someone who was participating in secret ne
Even though you know how the story ends, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is still jarring and gut wrenching. You read Thurston's Clarke account of the JFK's last 100 days with a growing sense of foreboding and wonder about what might have been. I'll admit to crying through the last 20 pages, for me and so many in my generation the killing of the President in Dallas was the first of our "Where were you when..." moments. I was in the second grade at St. Wenceslas when the principal ...more
James Baird
Jan 31, 2016 James Baird rated it it was amazing
An absorbing account of the poignant denouement of JFK's presidency, this provides all the clinical detail of daily activities and political tensions at a time when America felt under attack on a number of foreign fronts and was ripping itself apart through shameful civil rights legacies and unjust wealth distribution through a "glory age" for the WASP core. However the book combines this with a stark, balanced and sentient picture of the man's struggles with his own weaknesses: his mourning ...more
Allen George
Jan 12, 2014 Allen George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is understandably going to get caught up in the onslaught of Kennedy literature that is preparing to pour forth with the upcoming anniversary. I am in the process of finishing up this book. A couple things. It is remarkably well researched and the bibliography is of great use to Kennedy scholars. Also, the footnotes are full of incredibly relevant, and often new information. Resist the temptation to skip over them. That being said, I agree with other reviews that this is a rehash of a ...more
Nov 12, 2013 Kathy rated it it was amazing
I read this in honor of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK in Dallas.

This book started in August with the death of his son, Patrick and the rekindling of the flame of passion between Jackie and JFK and ended in Dallas.

The book covered the main obsessions of his presidency at this point in time, namely, Viet Nam (his eagerness to get out), the Diem problem, Cuba and Castro, Russia, Lyndon and the Bobby Baker affair, the test ban treaty (Russia), Civil Rights/the South and the space
Oct 16, 2014 Adrian added it
Clarke's motivation in writing this book was to show what kind of president JFK would have been if he had lived. The book is persuasive and ultimately moving. Clarke is determined to show that JFK would have pulled back from Vietnam. On the bulk of evidence he's likely right. And yet one of Kennedy's strengths was his ability to change his mind. He pushed the space program, cooled on it and then suggested a joint moon mission with the Soviets. He clearly changed his mind on Castro and Cuba too ...more
Oct 24, 2015 Simon rated it liked it
The problem, of course, is that John Kennedy didn't live his last one hundred days knowing that his time was that limited, although Clarke documents a formidable number of occasions upon which the President ruminated about assassination. Still, why wouldn't he? It goes with the job.

So for the book to handle his purported transformation, Clarke really has to examine the major issues confronting Kennedy's administration, and the book simply isn't long enough to do it. What Clarke does do is pinpoi
Oct 17, 2013 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I chose Thurston Clarke's JFK book on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. I previously had read his ASk NOT about the inaugural address and enjoyed his clear writing style along with his great research ability. This book does not disappoint. It is probably one of the best of the 50th anniversary books because of Clarke's subtitle, which he proves throughout the entire book. I was most moved by what JFK would have done for the country and the world if he had been re-elected in 1964, which ...more
Jeni Enjaian
May 12, 2014 Jeni Enjaian rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more than I ended up liking it. I also wanted to learn more from it than I was able. Unfortunately, the arbitrary nature of the author's time frame (the last 100 days before Kennedy's death) creates an abrupt entrance into the world and politics of the young Kennedy administration.
That being said, the author attempts to compensate for the rough entrance by providing copious amounts of back story for every event thus thoroughly muddying the timeline. It's a decent atte
Apr 06, 2014 Rick rated it liked it
I read this book for a unique perspective on the end of JFK's administration and have to say it did provide that. What was not there was anything approaching insight into what his administration had accomplished. While this is a good book and quite interesting especially when it comes to pushing back on the tawdry aspects of JFK's personal life. This book does a much better job than anything I have read on portraying Kennedy as a husband and father. It does not deny the less savory aspects of ...more
Daryl Crompton
Aug 28, 2013 Daryl Crompton rated it it was amazing
I did not know that so much happened during these last three months of his life. For me the book was wonderful - full of history, facts, and no agenda other than a detailed description of those 100 days, and much ancillary information that provided a great background for the time being covered in detail.
It is no wonder that there was so much hope for 'what might have been' had he an opportunity to continue his work in civil rights, cold war, Cuba,Vietnam, and his own personal life.
I am amazed a
Mike Gabor
Nov 29, 2013 Mike Gabor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jfk
An excellent accounting of the last 100 days of the Kennedy administration. The author does well in relating Kennedy's thoughts on Vietnam, Cuba, the test ban treaty, possible detente with the Soviets, and of course civil rights. He gives us a good idea of how Kennedy would have proceded on these issues if he had lived. He also has given us some surprising details on Kennedy's thoughts about LBJ being on the 1964 ticket and on Bobby Kennedy following him into the White House. Kennedy's personal ...more
Jun 27, 2014 Kathy rated it really liked it
This was an audio read for me, keeping me company on a trip to upper MI and back. Even we who lived at this time and know the story by heart, benefit by the details of this charasmatic influential life that ended far too soon. It begs the question, "What if?" dozens of times. Every author brings their own perspective to a biography. It was clear this author admires this president and did his best to present JFK in an accurate way. What I most enjoyed was observing the transition from the man to ...more
Daniyal Chowdhury
Dec 13, 2013 Daniyal Chowdhury rated it it was amazing
This book is incredible for a biography. This author really did his research on JFK. There are plenty of books out there that touch on the aftermath of his assassination, but focusing on the last 100 days in such an introspective way and writing it like a fiction novel really bring forth the human aspects and qualities. The way my grandpa described the feelings he felt when he heard the news that day matched up with the emotions my 20-year-old self felt when I finished the book.

It's moving. It'
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Thurston Clarke has written eleven widely acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, including three New York Times Notable Books. His 'Pearl Harbor Ghosts' was the basis for a CBS documentary, and his bestselling 'Lost Hero', a biography of Raoul Wallenberg, was made into an award-winning NBC miniseries.

Clarke's articles have appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and
More about Thurston Clarke...

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