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Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  834 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
In this gripping memoir, John F. Kennedy's closest advisor recounts in full for the first time his experience counseling Kennedy through the most dramatic moments in American history.

Sorensen returns to January 1953, when he and the freshman senator from Massachusetts began their extraordinary professional and personal relationship. Rising from legislative assistant to spe
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Hardcover, 576 pages
Published May 6th 2008 by Harper (first published January 1st 2008)
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Joy H.
Aug 07, 2013 Joy H. rated it it was amazing
Added 7/19/13.

I listened to the audio version of Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (2008) by Theodore C. Sorensen. I love peeking behind the scenes in history. In this book, Sorensen looks back and tells about his personal experiences in politics and foreign affairs. Wiki says: "...Sorensen was an American presidential advisor, lawyer and writer, best known as President John F. Kennedy’s special counsel, adviser and legendary speechwriter."

The book was published 4 years before he died. He
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Ian
Jul 11, 2008 Ian rated it really liked it
This work, by trusted JFK aide Ted Sorenson, provides an interesting perspective of mid-century progressive thought. With fascinating recounts of the Cuban Missile Crisis, work in West Berlin, and the JFK White House, this memoir rarely flags. Yet, I thought that the best parts of this autobiography concerned the crafting of policy through language. The thought, care, humor, subtlety, and deftness that the president and his staff applied to JFK's speeches gives us a window into a better time for ...more
Bill
Jun 22, 2008 Bill rated it it was ok
This book seemed a little disjointed, especially the section covering the post-JFK years. It seemed more like a mix of recollections with little connection between them. I wasn't sure why the author wrote it.

However, near the end I realized the impetus for this book: Sorensen's stroke six years ago put an end to his legal career and most of his normal actitivites. This book provided a useful focus for him as part of his rehabilitation.

There are some tidbits in this book that shed new light on va
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Patty
Jan 23, 2012 Patty rated it liked it
It's funny, but I am learning that if I don't absolutely LOVE a book, I can eventually stop reading it! There are simply too manybooks to read and too little time. It used to be inconceivable to me to quit a book, but now I'm loving the decision! I ended this book after reading 75% of it.

I started reading the book because I wanted to learn more about history, such as JFK's presidency, Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis. I was also intrigued by how decisions are made behind closed doors. I did
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Richel
Nov 27, 2012 Richel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A memoir is usually written to serve its author's interest; but this one by Ted Sorensen is different because a great bulk of it is about another man, his hero, his President, JFK.

Ted Sorensen considered his eleven years with JFK his most fulfilling and most memorable. Their collaboration, effective and brought results.

JFK's untimely death devastated him, but the former's memory inspired him to go on with life and pursue the ideals that they shared.

In writing his book, despite a handicap caused
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Gary
Jan 20, 2015 Gary rated it really liked it
Primarily an autobiography detailing the events that would lead to Sorensen’s working for John F. Kennedy helping craft his speeches and manage the state level campaign that would lead to his presidency, how that position morphed as they entered the White House, and the life he went on to live after the assassination; the book offers a window into a contentious, yet revered period in American history.

An extremely personable yet candid account, Sorensen reveals how his personal beliefs and family
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Jake Messer
Nov 10, 2014 Jake Messer rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend Ted Sorensen’s memoir, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History. Ted Sorensen, Special Counsel to the President for John F. Kennedy, was also JFK’s chief-speechwriter, adviser, and strategist from his early days in the US Senate, through the presidency and assassination. This book was published in 2008, and he died this past October.

Sorensen wrote some of history’s most famous speeches, including Kennedy’s 1960 inaugural. He wrote this book to tell his story, as the passage of
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Raymond
May 29, 2009 Raymond rated it really liked it
This is a warm book, a very human book. At turns it is amusing. It is frank. It seems important to say this because - decades gone by - JFK's "deputy president," TS,wrote,"Kennedy," which is factual and historically valuable but filled with two-dimensional characters (as with a host of histories and memoirs). I never have heard much talk of, "Counselor," but I can attest it is an enjoyable read and re-read. I know it will be a treasure for historians in times to come.
Susan
Dec 01, 2008 Susan rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: JFK fans who want to move out to the advisors' memoirs about their own lives
At over 500 pages this memoir was far too long by far and gave even a 60s democrat like me an opportunity to see Ted Sorensen, even tempered by age, as far too critical of anyone any everyone who was not John Kennedy. There's a mean-spirited undercurrent to much of what he writes here, though if you're looking for minuscule details that are probably not important to many others besides Sorensen, you'll find them here.
Gasuski Suski
Jun 28, 2009 Gasuski Suski rated it really liked it
I walked in to The Bookworm for my Book Club and there was quite a commotion going on. The author is Ted Soresen who is from Lincoln, NE. Oh I said a local author and then realized how famous this person is for writing speeches for John Kennendy. Ted lives in NY now (I did previously) and now I live in his state where he was born. A brilliant man and I got to meet him personally, how lucky can one get.
Dave Jackson
Dec 27, 2015 Dave Jackson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting story of a man who has seen so much history first-hand. It's a long book, but it maintained my interest all the way through. I thought the final section of the book, about Sorensen's time in New York practicing law, would not hold me after the stories of his time in the Kennedy administration. But he took on interesting projects all over the world in his practice, including assisting with the first free elections in South Africa. I gained an appreciation for the challenge ...more
John DeDakis
Jun 22, 2010 John DeDakis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I FINALLY finished this. I'm such a slow reader, plus life keeps getting in the way.

This is a book to savor.

Sorensen, of course, is best known for penning JFK's immortal phrase, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." The memoir is written just as simply and elegantly as the words Sorensen crafted for Kennedy.

True, the book is unabashed hero worship, but I appreciated Sorensen's style and insights. I was 13 when Kennedy was assassinated and have vivid
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Jaime
Mar 25, 2010 Jaime rated it it was ok
Some observations, with no particular method or organization. (Which, to be candid, is actually a good summary of the text itself. It tries but it jumps around--a lot.)

1) This was the first book I have read about Kennedy's Presidency where I suddenly felt the loss of JFK. It is easy and obvious enough to romanticize the period, but there was something in the part of the book where Sorensen really begins discussing JFK, his candidacy, some of his initiatives, that simply forced the wind out of me
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Brian
Aug 16, 2010 Brian rated it really liked it
Overall a pretty enjoyable read for history buffs. It's a close personal account from someone who was at the core of American political life with the Kennedy administration. As one of JFKs closest friends and advisors you really get a sense for who JFK was as a person. Mr. Sorensen is unabashed in his hero worship of the man to whom he devoted more than a decade of his life serving, and his remaining life remembering and honoring. His humble beginnings are, well, humbling. That said his overly c ...more
Kris
The current generation of American Decision makers is the first to break the tradition of leaving to its heirs a better society than it had inherited. It will be delivering to the next a country, once almost universally respected, that is now deeply resented and feared; a country weakened by a widening gap between rich and poor; a world of growing terrorist violence, proliferating weapons of mass destruction, and increasing environmental degradation. Our current executive branch is dominated by ...more
Frank Lilly
Jul 08, 2009 Frank Lilly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps the best book I've listened to all year. Read by the author. I guess you would have to say that he was one of the guys they were talking about when they talked about "the best and the brightest". The most surprising thing? He was from the University of Nebraska ! No wonder I found this in the Omaha Public Library.

He tells what is was like inside the Kennedy White House - Cuban missile crisis, his assassination and the day to day. some very candid opinions on all the famous political lead
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Bill
Jul 15, 2008 Bill rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in politics or public speaking.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Judy
Oct 21, 2009 Judy rated it really liked it
I thought that it was time for a serious book and at over 550 pages, this was one serious book. Also a fascinating one. Ted Sorensen devotes over a hundred pages to his childhood and young adult years in Nebraska to allow the reader to understand the family and culture in which he grew up. Sorensen moved to Washington, D.C. shortly after graduating from law school and accepted a position in newly elected John F. Kennedy's Senate office. The rest is, as they say, history. Sorensen details his rel ...more
Dodie
Sep 13, 2008 Dodie rated it really liked it
I was disappointed that Ted Sorensen had no comment about the controversies over The Warren Report concerning the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It certainly was his perogative not to talk about it since recalling the death of JFK still seemed very painful to him. Ted Sorensen was one of Kennedy's closest advisors from the very beginning. Sorensen was part of John Kennedy's team during the late 1950's when Kennedy planned to run as the Democratic Nominee in the 1960 presidential race.
I also
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Ian Griffin
Jun 24, 2013 Ian Griffin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: speechwriting
JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen's book Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History is required reading for anyone calling themselves a speechwriter.

Sorensen witnessed many historical moments in his 11 years as JFK's chief speechwriter and Special Counsel to the President. This book reveals the challenges and rewards of such unparalleled access to one of the greatest American presidents.

There's over 500 pages of compelling narrative in his striking honest autobiography. It covers his Unitarian origins
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Jennifer
I once had a brief conversation with Ted Sorensen in a swimming pool where we were both doing laps and realized I had almost no idea who he was. This recent memoir explained it all, focusing on his years as JFK's top aide but also his work in international law for several decades after. He's an extremely clear, thoughtful and sharp-witted writer, and I learned a lot about the Kennedy administration as well as general behind-the-scenes of federal politics. This was especially interesting to read ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Another book about JFK? While much has been written about our 35th president, Sorensen offers fresh perspective on his experiences in that administration and his lifetime of public service ever since. Counselor provides a rich context for the JFK years, including new details that escaped attention (or were too sensitive to publish with some of the principals still living). With poignant good humor, Sorensen wears his erudition and access to the Kennedy administration lightly. Yet there is nothin

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Caroline
The one thing that comes across mostly clearly in this autobiography is Sorensen's deep and abiding love for John F. Kennedy. He describes him at numerous times as his mentor and best friend, and you really feel Sorensen's sense of loss on every page, even after nigh on fifty years. For a book about Sorensen himself, this is really about JFK and his impact and influence on Sorensen - and about Sorensen's influence on JFK.

As JFK's main policy adviser and the man who wrote many of JFK's most famou
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Kathy McC
Aug 16, 2012 Kathy McC rated it really liked it
I don't read a lot of autobiographies or history, but I really enjoyed this historical account of Mr. Sorenson, especially the chapters about his friendship with John Kennedy. It is well written and captures the events as well as the emotions of the writer.

All things Kennedy--
"Few could realize,then or now,that beneath the glitter of his life and office, beneath the cool exterior of the ambitious politician, was a good a decent man with a conscience that told him what was right and a heart that
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Vivian Valvano
Nov 14, 2009 Vivian Valvano rated it liked it
I appreciated Sorensen's astute appraisal of JFK, especially of his leadership during the Cuban missile crisis and his of giftedness as President. And Sorensen deserves credit for writing this at all, having suffered a stroke that left him with very poor eyesight. However, I got the sense of him "patting himself on the back" too much, and there was too much repetition. I was disappointed that he backed away from commenting on the assassination and its "investigation" so much. In addition to my g ...more
Brenda
Mar 23, 2012 Brenda rated it really liked it
I have a completely new respect for the President of the United States after reading this. A look inside the White House by Kennedy's closest adviser. What he stood for, how he thought, the counsel he sought, the decision-making process, it was just amazing.

Ted wrote this with the blessings of the Kennedy family, no gossip or hypothesizing included. It's a heart-felt depiction of not only Kennedy's life, but also his own as it wrapped around the President. Descriptions of growing up in the upper
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Donna
Oct 01, 2013 Donna rated it really liked it
I chose the audio version since it was read by the author. I’m drawn to the Kennedy’s and all those who were with them. As Sorensen said, he is the last of that group that served. He was obviously devoted to JFK and I enjoyed the personal inside bits that I hadn’t known before. A good one for me was learning that JFK tried to fire his long time secretary Mrs. Lincoln. But she kept showing up for work!

I did forget (or just wasn’t paying attention in those years) that President Carter had offered
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Vincent
This book offers a really interesting look into the inner workings of John F Kennedy. Ted Sorensen was the self-appointed nerd and wonky advisor for Kennedy all during his brief time as a member of the Senate and his too brief term as President.
Sorensen writes about his very difficult childhood and the terrible stigma he felt because of his mother's debilitating mental illness. It was a big part of the reason that he left Nebraska as early as he could and never looked back.
His story is a nice g
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David Mcphee
Aug 23, 2010 David Mcphee rated it liked it
Much to like in this book, a quote I picked up on was one by the author, a friend and advisor to JFK when he says that a lesson he learned and held to in his business career was, ‘To listen and learn from leaders of other countries, be cautious in matters of war and peace until I knew the case for each side and all the facts and alternatives to recognize that cultural difference can lie at the heart of political, policy and even legal disagreements to be flexible, curious and friendly with all a ...more
Tory Wagner
Jan 11, 2013 Tory Wagner rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, historical
This account by one of JFK's right-hand men, was both eye opening and at times exasperating. I never knew much about Sorensen and the role he played in JFK's presidency, so each page revealed another historical fact I was unaware of. I've often heard the term Camelot in reference to the Kennedy family, but now I know much more about the events and people that changed US history in the 60's. I found Sorensen a stimulating writer and can now understand why Kennedy's speeches are still quoted today ...more
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Sorensen is best known as President John F. Kennedy's special counsel, advisor, and speechwriter.
More about Theodore C. Sorensen...

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