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Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reaga n

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  728 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
The New York Times bestseller from Jeff Greenfield, the renowned CBS News senior political correspondent and veteran of CNN and ABC news, offering an alternative history of America. These things are true: * In December 1960, a suicide bomber paused when he saw the young President-elect John F. Kennedy's family come to the door to wave good-bye.... * In June 1968, Robert F. ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Berkley (first published January 28th 2011)
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Matt Mitrovich
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've made no secret on how I disprove of America presidential alternate histories. Next to the American Civil War, it is one of the easiest alternate histories to get wrong. When an alternate historian changes the results of an election they are doing one of two things: either the world will be a utopia when the loser wins or the world will be a dystopia when the loser wins. There is rarely any middle ground.

Then I read Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics J
...more
Sally
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History turns on a dime. It is dynamic, not static. A missed meeting, a chance encounter, a different choice of words, and the outcome changes dramatically (from the inside flap).

In Then Everything Changed, political analyst Jeff Greenfield gives us three events in 20th century American politics and presents the 'what might have been' scenarios. First is a little known attempt on John F Kennedy's life in December 1960, after election day but before the Electoral College met to confirm the result
...more
Daniel
Nov 05, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I finished THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED quickly but I grew more and more annoyed with it as I did so. I'm up for a good counter-factual, and the scenarios explored in the book are not your standard what-if-JFK-had-lived scenario, but Greenfield's narratives feature a number of bad habits that writers of alternate history often fall into: anachronistic jokes, awkwardly shoe-horning in famous people (and famous quotes) into the story, and active wish fulfillment (in this case of the boomer high Broderi ...more
Noah Gittell
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Asking the question - "what if?" - is a serious and delicate proposition. Looking at back at one's life to wonder what would have happened if a few key moments had turned out differently can lead to an innocent fantasy or a darker path of regret. Would I still be alive? Would I be happier? What would I be doing with my life? These questions are no simple matter. Greenfield respects this notion by crafting both a serious alternative-narrative of key moments in recent Presidential history, while t ...more
Mal Warwick
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trade-fiction
There is a subspecies of the human race that is afflicted, usually from birth, with an insatiable thirst for politics. This book was written for them — and, to this political junkie, what a book it is!

Here we see one perspective on what might have happened had a little known but all too real would-be-assassin succeeded in killing John F. Kennedy in 1960, after the election but even before the Electoral College met to certify his winning the Presidency. With Lyndon Johnson ascending to the White
...more
Andi
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gives you a lot to think about...what if JFK had been assassinated before the electoral college had cast its votes? How would that constitutional problem been solved? What if RFK hadn't been assassinated in California and he won the presidency? What social programs would we have today? Would we have gotten out of Vietnam earlier? The most interesting segment was on Carter and Ford. What if Ford hadn't flubbed the debate question about Soviet domination in Eastern Europe and had beaten Carter? Ho ...more
Billy Roper
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is a real political insider with an intimate knowledge and understanding of Presidential politics, and the mechanisms by which D.C. functions. This book is highly recommended for any political junkie or fan of alternate history.
Orville Jenkins
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent, well-written, even riveting, analysis of American political history in the last half of the 20th century.

This work represents a new, productive and insightful approach to history, called Alternate History. The approach is to review a key event or factor and develop what might have happened if one important event had turned out differently.

Greenfield analyzes these Presidencies this way. What if John F Kennedy had been assassinated after his election, but before he was inaug
...more
Tony Heyl
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a lot of fun for a history/politics junkie like me. Greenfield, a CNN contributor, takes three actual instances of major events that nearly happened and then alters history. Instead of being shot in 1963, JFK is killed by a suicide bomber in the late fall of 1960, after his election but before the inauguration, making LBJ President for the Cuban Missile Crisis and very much altering how the civil rights struggles happened. (There had been a bomber in 1960, but he stopped himself at the ...more
Zachary
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. It took on three what if events and used historical data to justify certain paths political avenues took. I loved the arguments presented, though some of the endings took much suspension of disbelief. A fun read.
Rob
One for the political junkies but also an interesting take on alt-history. Small differences may make a difference.
Greenfield certainly knows his modern American politics. This could well be read as a primer on modern politics in the U.S..
He can certainly tell a story and tell it very well.
Ty
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Megan
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Let's get the elephant out of the way first: I'm shelving this as nonfiction because of the volumes of research used to create these alternate histories, and because it read more like a nonfiction work than a novel. That said, obviously, there are liberties taken here with history that make it entirely fictional.

What if JFK had been assassinated as president-elect? What if Robert Kennedy had been saved? What if Ford had handled just one question better in the debate?

For someone interested in but
...more
Steven
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy alternate history; in fact, I write it. I sure don't write it like this, though. Mr. Greenfield offers a very well researched book that contains three separate sections, each starting with a minor point of divergence and examining the effect on history, addressing many aspects.

In the first section, an assassin kills John F. Kennedy after the election but before he takes office. In the second, Robert Kennedy doesn't get assassinated. In the third, Gerald Ford adeptly recovers from a verb
...more
Debbie J
I think Then Everything Changed resembles a history textbook, but with fantasy mixed in. The problem is, if you don’t know what truly happened, you may at times have trouble separating the fiction from the facts.

Author Jeff Greenfield shows here a rich writing style and one which includes some stylistic choices I saw as annoying. First he takes real game-changing events and both has them happen in different time frames and involve other people.

Next he has noted D.C. insiders posit the absurdity
...more
Michael
An interesting interpretation of what might've happened had history been turned in the other direction at a few pivotal moments in regards to the president of the United States. An interesting read, however, in some cases I think it dragged on.

Maybe it would be more enjoyable for people who have lived through the era. An era that mainly began with JFK as president. My parents' generation.
Robin
Mar 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting look at what could have happened if specific historical atrocities hadn't occurred. The insight that Jeff Greenfield provides makes you almost believe that his alternative history actually happened.
Joseph
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In the end, it feels like an entire book of speculation arranged just to end with a weird and mean Clinton joke.
Danilo DiPietro
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing and very credible alternate scenarios for some key historical events. And you learn a lot about the politics of the times along the way.
Matt
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Greenfield creates a wonderful piece of alternate history meant to entertain the history and political buff alike. His three novellas posit that a single change in history can greatly alter everything that happens thereafter, leaving the ‘new truth’ totally unrecognizable from the known reality that history birthed. With a strong cast of historically accurate characters and plausible scenarios, Greenfield uses his experience in the political world and his smooth writing style to create ‘what if’ ...more
Artie
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was prepared to give this 5 stars until the inexcusably weak ending. Great idea and almost great execution though.
Adriana
I won a copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program, and thank you very much for that. I'm not sure what prompted me to enter the drawing, as I generally prefer reading fiction. I do remember watching Mr. Greenfield do political commentary on television when I was a teenager, and I remember being impressed by his command of the language. Upon winning a copy of the book, I became alarmed that I was about to read a book written in overly academic and esoteric language, thereby making ...more
Judie
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most of us are aware of how much life can change in a minute: A gunshot kills someone. A gun shot misses killing someone. A person says the wrong thing and damages a relationship. A person says or explains everything correctly. Using fact and fiction in THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED, Jeff Greenfield puts this to a test by exploring how the United States might have been different if the actual scenarios had differed.
In the first incident, an extremist planned to run a car filled with explosives into J
...more
Brentin
Alternate history stories are among the most difficult. To really enjoy them, the reader must have some understanding of the history surrounding the events that the author chooses to alter. In the case of Greenfield's book, unless you lived through the events, you would need graduate degrees in History and Political Science to fully appreciate the stories.

The first story takes an event that history has almost forgotten: in 1960, a suicide bomber named Richard Pavlick has a car full of explosives
...more
Dan C.
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
I like and don't like "alternate history." On the one hand, I find it interesting to contemplate what might have happened had certain events happened or not happened. But more often than not, alternate history fiction is handled very clumsily and is usually reduced to "what would happen if someone showed up at the US Civil War with automatic weapons?" THAT kind of alternate history doesn't intrigue me in the slightest and honestly, that's probably more science fiction than anything else. But as ...more
Bob
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
LBJ was one of the most interesting presidents from recent history. His dislike of JFK was well known, and his mutual hatred with RFK was legendary. If JFK had lived, and if RFK had become president? Much would have changed.
Schnaucl
Three and a half stars.

I have no doubt that Greenfield could write brilliant, well researched and insightful essays about each of his central premises. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he decided to explore those ideas in novella length fiction that reads very much like essays forced into a story format.

One of the basic rules of good story telling is to show rather than tell and this is where Greenfield fails. The stories are 90-95% exposition. Each story even has at least one section with bu
...more
Scott Martin
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(Audiobook). With as much attention as we are giving the 2016 Presidential Election in Summer 2015, perhaps it is just as well that I would end up listening to a book about a series of counterfactual histories regarding the American Presidency between 1960-1980. This was actually quite a well-researched work as Jeff Greenfield applied his insider political knowledge combined with extensive historical and political research to try to put together a plausible alternative if certain things happened ...more
Gina
Mar 09, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting theories about some major "what if's" in American history. But, you have to know somIn this disjointed fiction, there are some interesting theories about several "what if's" in American history. But, you have to know something about the periods (1960's-1980's) to appreciate the stories. And, it helps to have a strong constitution to plow through the unending paragraphs of exposition rather than a novel with characters, plot, and dialog. If Jeff Greenfield had just taken one inci ...more
Natalie
Jan 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always love asking the "what if" question when I consider history. There were many points in national and world history when a seemingly small detail drastically changed what would have happened. Wen I found this in audio book format from my library it seemed like it was right up my alley.

This book is shelved in the non-fiction section of the library but it is almost fiction. The author is able to move past fiction by using histories, opinions from eye witnesses (including his own opinions as
...more
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Jeff Greenfield (b. 1943) is one of the most prominent political writers in the United States. Born in New York City, he went to college in Wisconsin, and received a law degree from Yale. He entered politics in the late 1960s, as a speechwriter for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and has covered the beltway ever since, contributing to Time, the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, and, in a lighter vein, ...more
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“In politics, Bugs Bunny always beats Daffy Duck. Daffy's always going berserk, jumping up and down, yelling. Bugs's got that sly smile, like he always knows what's up, like nothing can ruffle him.” 5 likes
“A citizen at his home in Rockford, Illinois, or Boulder, Colorado, could read a newspaper, listen to a radio, or watch the round-the-clock coverage on television, but he had no way of connecting with those who shared his views. Nor was there a quick, readily available tool for an ordinary citizen to gather information on his own. In 1960, communication was a one-way street, and information was fundamentally inaccessible. The whole idea of summoning up data or reaching thousands of individuals with the touch of a finger was a science-fiction fantasy.” 4 likes
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