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True Compass: A Memoir
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True Compass: A Memoir

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  10,044 Ratings  ·  756 Reviews
In this landmark autobiography, five years in the making, Senator Edward M. Kennedy tells his extraordinary personal story--of his legendary family, politics, and fifty years at the center of national events.


The youngest of nine children born to Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, he came of age among siblings from whom much was expected. As a young
Paperback, 560 pages
Published April 13th 2011 by Twelve (first published January 1st 2009)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I really enjoyed the first 300-or-so pages of this book and sailed through that portion very quickly. After that it gets bogged down in the way of every politician autobio I've ever read. Too much detail about campaigns and the nuts and bolts of bureaucracy. I scanned much of this stuff, but I didn't want to pass over it too quickly because there's some juicy info in among the boring bits. His chapters on the various presidential administrations were eye-opening for sure.

The story of his life b
Sep 06, 2012 Kiessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
It is hard for me to put my finger on why I feel the way I do about this book....

I must say that I am fascinated with the Kennedy family - their privilege yet tragedy, their ideals yet human failings, their wealth yet tireless work for their country, their large yet mortal family...

After recently reading Bobby Kennedy's biography, a book that left me feeling like I knew the man himself, I started this book with the same expectations. And, for the first quarter of the book I detested Ted Kennedy
Jan 26, 2010 Jake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was, I believe, the summer of 1992. I was standing outside the stage door of the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington D.C. waiting for actors from the National Tour of The Phantom of the Opera to come out after the show. The stage door opened and a gray-haired man with a preoccupied expression emerged. He wasn't a cast member. He was Senator Edward Kennedy, only 15 or so feet from me. I just gazed as American royalty strolled out the back door of an immense building named after his brothe ...more
Vivian Valvano
The strongest parts of Ted Kennedy's memoir are his expressions of love and gratitude toward his wife, Vicki, his expressions of deep love and concern for his children, and his awareness of his development over the years into a good, hard-working, justice seeking legislator. That said, he was not an extraordinary writer, but perhaps he should be commended for not having ghost writers make it appear as if he was. My main problem with his memoir is this: while he includes information about the obv ...more
Dec 31, 2009 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ted Kennedy wrote this memoir during the final months of his life, knowing he was dying of cancer. At times the book seems sincere and personal, but at times it seemed to be a heavily-edited compilation from other historic sources by a not-so-subtle co-author - hence less a convincing memoir than a political biography.

I did enjoy the personal glimpses particularly of the early years: what it meant to grow up a Kennedy in Hyannis Port, the legacy of powerful parents and the charismatic older brot
Jim Leffert
Mar 04, 2010 Jim Leffert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ted Kennedy grew up the baby of his family, looking up to his energetic and accomplished older brothers. Now, more than four decades after John and Bobby were killed, and at the end of his own life, Ted recounts the story of how he grew up to be the person that he became, a leader and champion in his own right.

It’s a warm and bighearted book and filled with inside stories behind the headlines and the legends. It’s not an unbiased historical biography (although it relies upon historical records,
David Kubicek
Jun 15, 2010 David Kubicek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults
This is an extraordinary memoir. It held my interest and was a quick read, which is good for a 500+ page book. There are several reasons why this autobiography is so intriguiing:

* It gives a well-rounded look at Ted Kennedy's life: his family, his schooling, his years campaigning for his brothers, and his own political service.
* Kennedy writes candidly about the low-points in his life: his brothers's assassinations, Mary Jo Kopechne, and his divorce.
* He gives a behind-the-scenes look at the
Oct 25, 2009 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the writing is a bit plodding and pedantic, it's hard to not be intrigued by yet another window into the epic Kennedy family. Kennedy's voice rang sincere and earnest to me. Although written as his life was ending, Ted still spoke like the youngest child- one forever trying to catch up to and shine as brightly as his older siblings, one seeking to create his own opinions and future underneath the iron rule of strong parents determined to set the course of their childrens' futures.

Jan 02, 2010 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I quickly became tired of the self-serving, bloviating tone of this book. While the early chapters are interesting with a look inside the Kennedy family, the rest is just all about how self-important Kennedy found himself.

One example is two paragraphs complaining about how Jimmy Carter didn't serve alcohol at the White House. If having a drink was that important to you, Teddy, (and it was) get yourself liquored up before heading over there for dinner or take yourself to the bar after you leave.
Carl R.
True Compass is labeled a “memoir.” I always thought a memoir had a limited scope of time and events, such as Pamuk’s Istanbul, which focuses on his growing up years. True Compass is really an autobiography. A rather eerie experience reading this, knowing it was written with a true, not a figurative, deadline. The acknowledgements state that it was begun in 2004, but I’m sure it was not then slated for a 2009 finish. Certainly the author (Kennedy gives credit in the acknowledgements section to ...more
May 23, 2013 Jim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I know that I'm not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but words cannot adequately describe how much this book irritated me. I'm an avowed liberal who works in the US for 6 months a year, so the autobiography of the last significantly political Kennedy should interest me. That's why I bought it after all. It didn't.

As soon as I sat down, it became apparent that this book isn't anything more than a puff piece where Kennedy spends 532 pages skimming through his life, putting the most positive spin
Oct 21, 2009 Siobhan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the moment this book was published, it was inevitable that I would buy it. Eventually, armed with a 30% off coupon from Borders, I did just that. And I'm glad I did.

Anyone interested in the political process would probably enjoy this book, because there is plenty of that included. But Kennedy's poignant reminiscences of his family are both touching and revealing, and make up one of the best parts of this book.

The best part, though, the thing that sets this book apart from other memoirs, i
Nov 11, 2009 Tamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised how different the Ted Kennedy in this book was to my image of him. When he described his childhood, he reflected a real innocence. It reminded me that he was truly the youngest child with his parents and siblings nurturing him. Not only was he able to have a long childhood but he was seeing the world through the eyes of a family that was very famous.

Between his family's nurturing and the suffering he felt about the losses he experienced, he became a really compassionate person.

Andy Miller
Nov 25, 2012 Andy Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ted Kennedy wrote this after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, in fact the first chapter describes the day of his seizure and the events after that.

I am an admirer of Ted Kennedy, despite his personal flaws, some of which he acknowledges in his book. You can tell that Ted Kennedy truly likes people which sets him apart from many liberals(and I consider myself a liberal) who can be condescending and patronizing to people. And Kennedy had a reputation for liking and working with people he did
Oct 01, 2009 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-read
Ted Kennedy's biography is insightful. Unlike third-party observers who have tried to recount the personal and political lives of Kennedys, Ted Kennedy's observations are unmatched. This is his family. Bobby and JFK become more than tragic heroes - they become sons, brothers and fathers. And these are Ted Kennedy's tragedies and personal failures - his viewpoint, not those of theorists and lovers of conspiracy.
The only complaint is his restraint. After so many years of reticence (ingrained into
Rena Jane
May 19, 2010 Rena Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading the Boston Globe's biography of Kennedy, I read his own version of the story. And it was very readable and enjoyable. I've always been a fan of Ted Kennedy, and this book did nothing to detract from my view of him. He was honest about his philandering, drinking and mistakes. He reminds me of myself, in that if he breaks the rules, he's bound to get caught!

Kennedy's insights into the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton presidencies was interesting and enlightening. It reaf
Kelli Peters
This was a moving and detailed memoir of Ted Kennedy's life. Kennedy describes his relationship with his family and time in politics. I would encourage anyone who is interested in the Kennedy family to read this book.
Aug 01, 2016 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall a good memoir by Sen. Ted Kennedy, filled with family and political anecdotes. The first half was more interesting where he talks about growing up Kennedy. The second half was more about what it takes to make things happen in the Senate.
Steven Peterson
Oct 17, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book ends up being a personal reflection of Ted Kennedy's life near its end. Indeed, Kennedy says (Page 13): ". . .I think of them often: my parents and my brothers and sisters all departed now save for Jean and myself. . .My story is their story, and theirs mine, and so it shall be in these pages." Thus, more personal reflections than discussion of issues and people in historical context. It is unfair for me to ask that he write a book that I would have wanted him to write, but. . . .

The b
I felt Ted Kennedy's biography was quite insightful. Hearing the events of history from his viewpoint was something I feel the Kennedy literature was always missing. Third-person recounts of Kennedy tragedies and triumphs lacked any personal touch the way that Ted's memoir was obviously able to seamlessly include. As the youngest, of a powerful, Democratic driven, Irish Catholic family, Ted had big boots to fill as a child. He speaks of Joe Jr., Jack, and Bobby not only as the tragic heroes Amer ...more
Out of all the memoirs from public figures I have read, this is the best. Senator Edward M. Kennedy --- who earned the title "Lion of the Senate" for his unrivaled skills and achievements as a legislator --- takes the reader through the various phases of his life in a way that brings the reader closer to who he was, through triumph and the many tragedies he and his family faced. He was the youngest child of that generation of Kennedys who took to heart the value of public service as a way of pro ...more
Ronald Wise
Jul 24, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The sad passing of this man and almost immediate publication of his memoir could not have been more dramatically timed. He played a key role in the election of a president he felt would carry on his dream, and I hope he died feeling that the passion of his Senate career - health care reform - was to soon produce concrete results.

In the introduction he addresses his cancer diagnosis and prognosis, and at the end sums up as though death is close. In between he recounts in a conversational manner h
Apr 03, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily by: Carolyn Clark
Shelves: memoirs
The entire Kennedy family is shrouded in as much scandal as it is old Camelot majesty. Teddy certainly embraced sharing the idyllic flavor of his upbringing in this book, but he unapologetically avoided talking in depth about his or any of his brothers' scandals. Senator Kennedy and a really wonderful writing staff wrote through his father's history, his childhood growing up on the beach in Massachusetts, his college years while his brothers entered the political arena, his finding himself and h ...more
Dec 26, 2009 Duncan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Our roof looked to Joe & Jack as if it might be ideal for launching a parachutist. So they made up a parachute from sheets & ropes. For the test run, they were generous enough to invite the son of the chauffeur to share the adventure. They helped him on with the straps, and then they helped him off the roof. Luckily, he only suffered an ankle sprain., but it was a pretty bad one."

Well, this is the Kenendy's, isn't it? Magic and black magic! You read that passage, and at first you think
Nov 14, 2009 Marcia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned that being the youngest of 9 is not a piece of cake. As a very young boy he was shunted from boarding school to boarding school as his parents were very busy people and they had already raised 8 children. Expectations were tremendous and failure was not an option. When Teddy's dad tells him there are two ways to live - productive and non-productive lives and that his brothers and sisters were doing some good and intereting things in their productive lives, but if Teddy wanted to live a ...more
Jul 27, 2011 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir contains a treasure trove of our nation's recent history. It is a recollection of a time when legislators treated one another in a more collegial way. Like him or not, Teddy Kennedy was a highly intelligent man and a dedicated student of the senate during his time. He breathes life into what seems to have now become only a shell of the former great institution our founding fathers intended it to be. Overall, an enjoyable history lesson with interesting characters and a heartfelt pers ...more
Jan 14, 2014 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kennedy's warm and witty personality shines through in this book. Very interesting mini-history lesson as it spans from World War II to 9/11. As someone in politics' inner circle for decades, Kennedy also gives a glimpse into the many facets of wheeling and dealing and campaigning. Combined with his personal story, this was a great read.
Karen Suglia
I was disappointed in that I thought I would learn some of the truth to his past. Anything that might be considered less than perfect is not probed in depth and usually only in a paragraph or two and then sometimes by the need to share responsibility -- divorce, car crash -- it was interesting in reading about the backstabbing and party politics but that is hardly news.
Gordon Francisco
Jan 11, 2010 Gordon Francisco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-enjoyed
Teddy opens up on what I had always assumed before. How he survived all that he endured is absolutely unbelievable. And, he not merely survived, but kept on and on. Fascinating read...fascinating life...
Nov 14, 2009 Leslie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If Ted was half the man that comes across in this book, he was quite a human being. I loved reading about the Kennedy's and was heartened that maybe some people in Congress really believe they are representing the people. I was truly sorry to finish the memoir of this man.
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Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy was a United States Senator from Massachusetts and a member of the Democratic Party. In office since November 1962, Kennedy served nine terms in the Senate. At the time of his death, he was the second most senior member of the Senate, after Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and the third-longest-serving senator in U.S. history. He was best known as one of the most outspoken ...more
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“This is the greatest lesson a child can learn. It is the greatest lesson anyone can learn. It has been the greatest lesson I have learned: if you persevere, stick w/it, work @ it, you have a real opportunity to achieve something. Sure, there will be storms along the way. And you might not reach your goal right away. But if you do your best and keep a true compass, you'll get there.” 11 likes
“I have fallen short in my life, but my faith has always brought me home.” 10 likes
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