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Robert Kennedy and His Times

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  1,749 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Schlesinger, historian and friend of Bobby Kennedy, has had access for the first time to private papers, letters, and journals which make possible a fresh look at both personal relationships and public events. Winner of the 1979 National Book Award for Biography.

From the Paperback edition.
Paperback, 1066 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Ballantine Books Inc. (first published 1978)
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Jan 19, 2010 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything I've read about the Kennedy's spoke to their compassion. Ambition and politics always came after caring.

I started reading this book after Arthur Schlesinger died a couple of years ago (I read A Thousand Days in high school and loved it). I really didn't know much about RFK before starting this book. Well he worked for Joe McCarthy, ran his brothers Presidential campaign, Attorney general overseeing an enormous amount of wiretaps on american citizens, deeply and truly cared about pover
Oct 31, 2007 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in politics
Great portrait of a very complex and I think very important figure in the political and social history of the United States. Not just a simple biography, which would have been interesting enough, but really an insightful foray into the political process in general. Perception vs. Reality, bureaucratic frustrations, and the complexity of 'the system' are just a few of the over-arching issues that are dealt with here that not only illuminate the RFK legacy but can be thoughtfully applied to almost ...more
Jul 17, 2013 Amber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Schlesinger described his relationship to Robert Kennedy as that of a great admirer and devoted friend, going on to say "if it is necessary for a biographer of Robert Kennedy to regard him as evil, then I am not qualified to be his biographer." This biography was definately written with love and respect, while still making a valient effort to tell the complete story. I deeply enjoyed Schlesinger's writing style, and left this brick of a book with a deeper understanding of the man that was Bobby ...more
Jeffrey Blake
Jun 07, 2016 Jeffrey Blake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although Schlesinger is hardly an unbiased biographer, this roughly 1100 page view into Robert Kennedy's life is not at all shy about quoting all of Bobby's critics fairly and frequently. I've read far more protective books, and Schlesinger clearly understands that his subject doesn't require it. While most of the well-known subjects regarding Bobby's role in the Kennedy administration are all touched upon, including his clash with Hoover and the FBI as AG, I found his role as chief counsel for ...more
John Hardin
Jan 16, 2013 John Hardin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A complete telling of RFK's life. I would have given it 5 stars, but the assassination isn't mentioned at all. The book opens with the funeral and closes with him entering the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel on 6/5/1968. If someone had no idea how RFK died, they would finish the book wondering what happened.
Robert Morrow
Dec 19, 2010 Robert Morrow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite biographies, and if it's a bit sentimental on what-could-have been, it's understandable. This is a story of the growth of a very complex human being who had the courage and will to change.
Jul 16, 2012 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Only read a number of chapters for an essay I did on his life, but Schlesinger knew the man, and he writes well. I love the description of the emotion Kennedy shows when he visits the homeless and destitute. Inspiring.
Sep 16, 2016 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. Powerful. Haunting. Schlesinger has done with Robert Kennedy what he did with John Kennedy in his previous book "A Thousand Days." He gives us a glimpse into the all-too-brief life of the third Kennedy brother and shows us the true man behind the myth. This is a man that was sorely needed in the 1960s, who grew and changed and became a leader for those who did not have one. And it still makes me cry to read the end despite knowing the conclusion. The book's last paragraph is perfect. ...more
Aaron Shields
May 30, 2016 Aaron Shields rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
JFK. What might have been if he became President...

"What would have happened had he not been killed? He would certainly have had a rocky road to the nomination. The power of the Johnson administration and much of the party establishment was behind Humphrey. Still, the dynamism was behind Kennedy, and he might well have swept the convention. If nominated, he would most probably have beaten the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon.

Individuals do make a difference to history. A Robert Kennedy pr
Heidi Murphy
Aug 03, 2011 Heidi Murphy rated it it was amazing
Quite simply one of the best biographies I have ever read. A gripping account of the turbulent life and times of one of America's great politicians. As a close friend and Kennedy insider, Schlesinger's book gives a keen insight into RFK's complex personality. The Good Bobby/Bad Bobby phenomenon is explored. For some RFK will always remain 'ruthless', the red-baiting Senate investigator who worked for Joe McCarthy, during the early ’50s and who followed that up by becoming JFK's tough-guy campaig ...more
Jan 03, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a very lengthy, and at times a difficult read. This is by no means saying that it's a bad book-I gave it 5 stars for a reason. I just want to say that it's challenge even for a devout Kennedy fan.

Now onto the actual book-Schelsinger is genius at being able to express the pure energy that run off RFK-whether its during the civil rights struggle, his opposition to Vietnam or his 1968 this book perfectly captures the magic of the times and the magic of the man. Schelsigners closeness t
Ronald Wise
Jul 30, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has been in my personal library since I bought and first read it in late 1979. While I found it captivating then, the recent election of Barack Obama as President lent it a whole new meaning. This reading left me wondering if things were worse then or now. In the sixties they were dealing with the Vietnam War and battles against overt, hateful racism which threatened to split the nation again. Perhaps the flagrant racism is now gone, but Obama now comes to power at a time when strident ...more
Aaron Arnold
Being cynical about politicians is only natural, yet sometimes someone comes along who somehow taps into our natural craving for leadership, seemingly embodying the best of our national spirit and promising a better tomorrow via their charismatic presence alone. RFK is to many people the last politician they could trust emotionally, a man of infinite compassion yet ruthless integrity, a person of infinite compassion yet ruthless integrity, someone with a prosecutor's ferocity yet a poet's sensib ...more
Aaron Million
Jan 19, 2016 Aaron Million rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Great book! Despite being over 900 pages, I did not need a long time to read this. Schlesinger Jr. brings a vivid, personal, yet balanced perspective to RFK. I came away from reading this with the impression that Kennedy was continually evolving personally as well as professionally, yet he did not compromise his characteristic bluntness or what he believed in. Unfortunately, the shadow of JFK always seemed to loom over him - especially following his assassination in 1963. RFK seemed to live with ...more
May 31, 2013 Joey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dad
Recommended to Joey by: Joe Scarborough
This biography, published 10 years after RFK's death in 1978, is a deep and vivid portrait of someone who at the time was misunderstood in certain parts of the country. And though some might deem Schlesinger as biased given his close personal friendship with Kennedy, he does his best to convey that the ruthless opportunism that characterized Kennedy in the late 50s and early 60s was in fact Kennedy's way of expressing his frustration with rampant inequalities that still exist in American society ...more
Monette Bebow-Reinhard
I absolutely loved this book, beginning to end. It so clearly demonstrates who Bobby was, by a historian who lived those times with him. I learned to separate myth from fact, and in the most human and interesting way I could ever have imagined. For instance, I thought Bobby did not declare his candidacy until after Johnson announced he was not running again - not true! And Bobby did not agree with college deferment to get out of the draft. He thought that wasn't fair. Could that be a reason the ...more
Brian Willis
Aug 17, 2014 Brian Willis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As with many Americans, Schlesinger ached when JFK's promise was cut short in 1963. And like many, he soon gravitated towards Bobby as a possible successor to that legacy. This book firmly documents the life, history, and evolution of RFK, charting his role as advisor to his older brother, his grief and retreat after the assassination, and his rebirth as a passionate prophet against poverty and for the downtrodden. Schlesinger charts the progress toward the 1968 campaign, and all of the elements ...more
Liz Tailor
Sep 18, 2014 Liz Tailor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-kennedy-boys
This is by far the most comprehensive biography about Robert F. Kennedy that I have ever read. You must take into consideration that Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was one of the Kennedy family's friends and veritable good ole boys, but regardless, this book covers so much of RFK's life and times.
From his boyhood, watching older brothers Joe and John take center stage as the promising siblings to the Cuban Missile Crisis to the untimely death of President Kennedy to RFK's own run for Presidency and sub
Eric Millhoupt
Mar 24, 2013 Eric Millhoupt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very thorough overview of RFK's career. Congressional committee member, Attorney General, Senator and Democratic Presidential hopeful. Every phase of his public life is fairly critiqued. I say fairly because Schlesinger is a Kennedy family friend and JFK cabinet advisor. The Attorney General chapters are the most interesting and provide a more revealing look at the inner workings of the Kennedy Administration than most JFK bios. I wish there was more detail on his private life and rela ...more
Andrew Ryan
Good read overall though slightly biased, I would've liked a little more honest portrayal of the man - his mistakes, shortcomings, etc. The book is long, very detailed and not the easiest to get through; there's literally a footnote on every other page of this 1000 page biography. The fact that its so detailed does give you a good understanding of the history of the time as well as a sense of the overall political climate. Schlesinger seems to kind of lose momentum towards the end of the book; f ...more
Jul 14, 2013 Amber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This amazing, behemoth, brick of a book is one of the best I've ever read. I came into the book with very little information about RFK and have left with a feeling of admiration for this flawed, beautiful man. I just wander how different our lives would be if he'd lived. He was committed to the plight of the "Other America" and his stance on social justice is something the author, Schlesinger Jr. wrote of in a very personable, respectful way.

Not only did this provide a thorough picture of his p
I remember the day he was shot. Coming only two months after Martin Luther King's assasination it seemed like we were on the verge of revolution.
What is clear from this biography is Robert Kennedy's growth as a man and as a human being. He found his own voice and it was tragically silenced.
Like the author, I often wondered what might have been....he was an inspiring figure, flawed, but passionate about what he believed in.
I think this work is very well written, researched and a little biase
Lori B
Jan 26, 2011 Lori B rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bobby Kennedy, had he not been taken from us, would have been (if elected, and I have no doubt he would have been elected), the first president in my lifetime. What an impact his administration(s) would have made and how different, and further along w ith civil rights, healthcare reform, education and so many other programs, would we as Americans, have been. We lost so much.
An amazing biography of probably the least understood of the brothers. A true hero and role model.
Long and sometimes dry, this book devotes too much time discussing certain policies of the Kennedy administration that have had little impact on history (e.g., Kennedy's foreign policy in South America). On the other hand, Schlesinger devotes only two or three pages to RFK's assassination. In short, I believe there are probably better bios of RFK.
May 07, 2014 Danny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terrible Production Quality on Kindle

The transfer of the text to the Kindle format is very poor. The text is full of typos and production errors. It is so bad in some cases that the meaning of sentences is changed. One of my favorite books, but get the printed version if at all possible.
Daphne Ryan
Mar 15, 2012 Daphne Ryan is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Great quote in this biog about RFK: "he never told a lie; he never misquoted anybody; he never concealed . . . he spoke with great directness softened by humor," said Michael Forrestal. And 685 pages in, I find that to be a great summary of what most others have been quoted as saying--except for Jimmy Hoffa and J. Edgar Hoover of course.
Tim Petersik
Dec 28, 2012 Tim Petersik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably the best biography--certainly one of the most thorough--around. You witness Bobby's transformation from a relatively right-wing politician to a people-centered liberal. All the Kennedys were raised to use their money and talent to benefit society. I wish more people today had that upbringing.
Jun 05, 2008 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Significant read, provides a detailed lens to review the turbulant 60s political landscape. The sheer breadth of the book might seem overwhelming but the author paints Bobby Kennedy in a very personal light which makes you stay engaged during the more mundane political moments.

Jul 21, 2010 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely one of the most extensive biographies I've ever read, but also one of the best. From Hoffa, Cuba, Khrushchev, civil rights, poverty, and the last campaign, the circumstances and challenges of the times are thoroughly covered as are RFK's drive to improve them. Great book!
Jul 29, 2011 MashailGhammas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite biographies, and if it's a bit sentimental on what-could-have been, it's understandable. This is a story of the growth of a very complex human being who had the courage and will to change
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Arthur Meier Schlesinger Jr., born Arthur Bancroft Schlesinger, was a Pulitzer Prize recipient and American historian and social critic whose work explored the liberalism of American political leaders including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. He served as special assistant and "court historian" to President Kennedy from 1961 to 1963. He wrote a detailed account of th ...more
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