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Robert Kennedy and His Times

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,306 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., chronicles the short life of the Kennedy family's second presidential hopeful in "a story that leaves the reader aching for what cannot be recaptured" (Miami Herald). Schlesinger's account vividly recalls the forces that shaped Robert Kennedy, from his position as the third son of a powerful Irish Catholic political clan to his concern for issue ...more
Paperback, 1088 pages
Published June 3rd 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1978)
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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Thomas Canfield
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The 50th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s assassination seemed an appropriate occasion to read Arthur Schlesinger’s epic biography, ‘Robert Kennedy and his Times’. Sufficient time has elapsed where one can take a dispassionate look at the man and at the era which he helped to define.

Or perhaps not. The Kennedys continue to evoke strong passions, pro and con. Their merits, and flaws, remain the subject of debate to this day.

What impressed me most about RFK - perhaps the dominant impression I took
Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Aaron Million
Nov 03, 2011 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
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Still the definitive RFK biography; I think any criticism that this is hagiography is unwarranted. While Schlesinger was not an unbiased observer (which always begs the question if such a thing is even possible), he was extremely fair in portraying the criticisms that arose in response to RFK. His own critiques were often more mild, and information revealed decades after this was published was obviously not included, yet it is tremendously informative and insightful and no other single book to d ...more
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting, filling in gaps in my knowledge and letting me see how the whole Kennedys thing is more than just JFK. It does almost portray Bobby Kennedy as a latter day saint though and our daughter who also read the book for her Modern History course keeps reminding me that Schlesinger was a family friend of the Kennedys.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Liked this slightly better than Schlesinger’s “A Thousand Days” about JFK. Definitely a different style than Evan Thomas’s RFK bio, but good nonetheless. The chapters regarding Vietnam were particularly poignant. We’ll never know exactly what difference Bobby Kennedy would have made on the war had he lived beyond 1968. However, we can remember his passion for justice and his caring for society’s underdogs. He was a unique statesman who demonstrated courage when the U.S. needed leaders willing to ...more
Jeffrey Blake
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Daphne Ryan
Mar 10, 2012 is currently reading it
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. ...more
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
John Hardin
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Chris Rousell
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It takes a special kind of person (with an excellent biographer I might add) to make one mourn their death 50 years after the fact and 24 years before you were even born, and yet.

A gripping read despite the length, an excellent insight into the life of perhaps the greatest president the US never had
Robert Morrow
Dec 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aaron Collins
Sep 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book took me a long time (with a few stops and starts) to finish. It’s extremely detailed and has a personal telling because of the author’s friendship with Kennedy. However, I found that at times it would go into minute details on certain things and gloss over others without a good explanation. Either way, it’s a must-read for people who are interested in Bobby’s life.
Aaron Shields
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Pete daPixie
A huge volume, both in size and content. Having read Schlesinger's book on JFK's time in the White House, 'A Thousand Days', for which he received the Pulitzer prize for biography, I consider 'Robert Kennedy and His Times' the superior publication.
Purchased from a book shop in Hey on Wye for the laughable price of £3, this has to be one of the best value for money literary works in my collection.
Although Schlesinger was a dedicated Kennedy man, first with JFK and after with Bobby, I thought his
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
916 pages before notes, acknowledgements, citations, etc. -- a big 3 week project! This was my first read of Schlesinger (political prize winning Kennedy aid/New Dealer/New Frontiersman w books on FDR, Jackson, among others) and I came away fairly impressed. The first 1/4 or so covered Joe Kennedy Sr. in tremendous detail, at the cost of a relatively brief coverage of RFK's early childhood, adolescence, and more formative years. The book barely grazes RFK's familial relationships (outside of JFK ...more
Ronald Wise
Jul 22, 2011 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
Nov 12, 2012 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
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Lizzie Twachtman
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
If you want plenty of detail about the politics during RFK's life, this is the book for you. If you're looking for a read that is more focused on the man himself (and something a little less dense), you may want to steer clear. As an unashamed RFK fan, I love the depth and minutiae of this book - and really appreciated Schlesinger's personal anecdotes.

RFK remains my favourite of the three brothers, and this book really exemplifies why. RFK was incredibly complex. The ability and willingness to
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Eric Millhoupt
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 04, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
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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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