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Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  4,428 ratings  ·  428 reviews
What was he like?

Jack Kennedy said the reason people read biography is to answer that basic question. With the verve of a novelist, Chris Matthews gives us just that. We see this most beloved president in the company of friends. We see and feel him close-up, having fun and giving off that restlessness of his. We watch him navigate his life from privileged, rebellious youth
Hardcover, 479 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Simon & Schuster
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  4,428 ratings  ·  428 reviews

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John Kelley
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Here is my overall review:

I just finished reading Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. There is a deep lump in my throat. Chris Matthews captured in his book what has been missing in so many other books about Jack Kennedy - his soul. Maybe it is my empathy with Chris Matthews world. Forty years ago I was involved in doing graduate research on JFK; moving through the sources; interviewing Dave Powers; reading every single article and every single word Kennedy uttered. This was nearly 10 years after I saw
Jan 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Chris Matthews' mind, razor sharp and astute in his political assessments, found its way to dissect the question of what draws Americans, to this day, to the compelling charm of JFK. Heroes, by their nature, if they are to be compelling, should be complex and flawed. What has always pulled me toward considering Jack Kennedy a hero in spite of his personal shortcomings was his complete grasp of history...his willingness to admit and learn from mistakes...a determination to fight for the common ...more
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My father took this book out from the library when I came home for sophomore year's winter break. "It's new," he said, placing it on the kitchen counter. "I thought you'd want to read it."

It's no secret among family and friends that the Kennedys inspire me to see the compassion and wonder in politics that I so often forget is there. Until I read this book, however, it was always Bobby who I respected the most as a politician and a man, someone committed to truth and equality at home and abroad,
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I believe I have read every book ever written about JFK and all the Kennedy's and yet this one gave me an insight into Jack Kennedy the man in a way never experienced before. To be honest I don't really care for the author and his television work but the honesty and passion depicted by this book has truly touched my heart. If you are looking for a blow by blow account of JFK's life, this isn't the book you want. However if you are looking for a peek into the essence of the man ...more
Carl R.
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Whatever your politics, if youve watched Chris Matthews on his Hardball TV show, you cant fail to be impressed with his breezy, energetic delivery and his erudition about issues of the day. He writes just like he talks, and every page of Jack Kennedy resounds with his voice.
This is not an objective, or even an exhaustive biography. One might argue that you could learn as much about Kennedy from Caros deep-plunging biography of LBJ as from Jack Kennedy. However, it is a wide-ranging look at a
Vivian Valvano
Nov 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
A very worthwhile addition to the trove of books on JFK. I like the way Matthews used material available through the Oral History Project at the Kennedy Library as well as interviews with everyone he could find that was part of Kennedy's life and career. I like the way he blended such excellent reporting with careful research via the body of published materials and archived materials at so many different places and some hard to find written sources. I like the way he did not hesitate to express ...more
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
An excellent biography by Chris Matthews. I knew that Matthews has always admired John Kennedy and assumed this biography would paint a very glowing picture. So I was surprised at the profile of the young man who would do almost anything to get what he wanted. His mother didn't seem to care for him at all and he didn't get along well with his father. He was a sickly and lonely person who could never stand to be alone. While he had lifelong friends, he would shed them like a coat if they ...more
Nov 13, 2011 rated it liked it
I've never been a huge JFK fan. I guess that just knowing so much of the behind the scenes realities of his life, that it is hard to put myself in the position of those Americans of the early 1960s who saw him as such a figure of hope, optimism, and change. I really have no idea what he accomplished in his three years to be viewed as a top 10 president in more than one historical ranking.

If you've ever listened to Chris Matthews to any extent, you know about his Bill Clinton-esque hero worship
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Excellent biography. Extremely well written and researched. Quick, definite read.
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it

A somewhat glowing biography that dabbles little into the darker side of JFK. When his decisions or behavior were not the best, Chris Matthews goes out of his way to let you know JFK had no other choice, or the road kill from his behavior were okay with being treated like that.

The depths of JFK's illnesses and his long sickly childhood made me wonder if he also had Crohn's Disease. A quick internet search says that he was diagnosed with colitis, but he also had Addison's disease and
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
This book deals more with Kennedy's life before he was president. It seems to gloss over his life after the presidency and plays up his positive achievements while minimizing his faults. For instance, there is no mention of Marilyn Monroe, which surprised me. It mentions he was unfaithful to Jackie but doesn't go into detail, and barely mentions that Jack and Jackie had more than their fair share of marital difficulties. There wasn't much here that I hadn't read somewhere else but it was a ...more
Amanda McBreen
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent Biography that ignores 90% of the personal and focuses on the politics and the man as he matured from rich kid to US President. Very little on his wife and children, instead the focus is on Jack, Bobby, and the interplay between the brothers, their father, and the political machines at the time. The ultimate focus is on how Kennedy became the perfect person to deal with Castro and the Cuban missile crisis.
Raimo Wirkkala
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A biography every bit as informal and affectionate as the title might suggest. Matthews may choose to soft-soap some of the seedier aspects of JFK's character but he does bring a journalist's eye to the accounts of events such as the 1960 presidential election campaign and the Cuban-missile crisis. To Matthews, "Jack" was most certainly a man-in-full.
Sarah (A French Girl)
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
OMG, I'm only in the preface and I already feel teary-eyed! There's something about Jack Kennedy that makes me go mushy. For some reason, I can't help being reminded of Bernard Cornwall's Arthur. Especially, I'm reminded of when Derfell says, "there was Arthur, and then there was darkness".
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A powerful account of the story of John Kennedy. There was so much detail in this book about that era that I did not know. It was a different time thats for sure. Kennedy came in to our lives at a time when we needed hope and he certainly gave that. It was also a very dangerous time with our relationship with the USSR and nuclear bombs. We understood that it was a dangerous time but we did not know until later how dangerous it was. Chris Matthews goes over all of this in detail and makes one ...more
Donna Taggart
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I decided to read this book after reading the author's biography of Bobby Kennedy. I did find it informative about the life of John F. Kennedy, especially his younger years. It is interesting to see how Kennedy got involved in politics, especially with numerous health problems and being Irish-Catholic. I have read several books on JFK and this one is a good biography.

I did find one error in regards to his sister's Kathleen's husband. One chapter says he died in 1944 while a few chapters later,
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was 14 yrs old when John F. Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic elected as President of the United States. I was 17 and a junior in high school when he was assassinated. My father, a WWII veteran, was enthusiastic about Kennedy's candidacy although he kept on telling me that he wasn't going to win. Everyone I knew pretty much was enthusiastic about Kennedy.

Of course I lived in something of a bubble: a working class row house neighborhood in Northeast Philly where you were, for the most
Ralph Hermansen
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Chris Matthew seems very proud of his new book. I know this because I have watched his TV show "Hardball" for years and I can sense a new excitement and personal pride when he talks about his new book. Having read it, I can see why he is so pleased with his creation. The book is easy to read, It moves along at a crisp pace. Moreover, I learned things about JFK that I didn't know before. For one, I knew JFK had medical problems, but I never realized how severe they were. It is amazing that ...more
Jul 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!

I always liked Jack Kennedy, but I wondered how much of that feeling was from all the myths and his legendary charisma. What I believe is the real Jack comes through in this book.

Hardly a saint, neither was he that bad of a sinner.

From an early age he was a reader. His physical problems led to his having to spend a great deal of time at home alone, and books kept him company nicely. He developed or was born
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I just cant get enough of Jack & Jackie. This book added another dimension of the man for me. This book was personal. I think Nixon and Kennedy must be the most intriguing and fascinating presidents. They both had their good and not so good sides. This book even mentioned how in their early professional lives respected each other.

There were things I did not know or even thought about JFK. Such as Rose not being a nurturing mother. And yet the world thinks shes so sacred. The book mentions
Irving Koppel
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing

Chris Matthews has written an exciting,well-written,informative study of JFK's life. Most of us
have thought that there was no more to write;however,Matthews brings us such new information as how
dependent Jack was on a circle of close friends. He tells us that Rose was very chilly towards Jack.
The fact that Jack was given the last rites of the Catholic Church at least three times before he was
assassinated because he had been that near death. We never knew just how frail he was.He had a very bad
I really sped through this, and enjoyed it immensely. It was an interesting perspective, and I think, justifies the intense interest in the Kennedys. It paints Jack Kennedy as a man, someone who liked practical jokes, and for all his personal flaws, was a brilliant and tactful politician. But what really sealed the deal for me was the end of the book. Chris Matthews had access to many of Kennedy's close friends. He recounts the interview with Life Magazine Jackie Kennedy gave about a week after ...more
Shawn Bowen
Dec 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
In a display of powerful biographical literature, Chris Matthews is able to explore the question, "What was Jack Kennedy really like?" Beginning with Jack as a child striving to live up to the expectations of his over ambitious father, Joe Sr., and working its way through his political life and into the White House, this book gives the reader a clear window into not only the public side of Jack, but even more interesting, the private side.

Throughout the book, the direct quotes from friends
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
You know from the title that Chris Matthews is going to write about a personal hero. But I was surprised at how thoughtful and readable this was. I have read several other biographies of Kennedy and yet I still learned to things. I enjoyed getting to know Kennedy as a leader in WWII. Also Mathews spends a lot more time on the campaigns then on the marriage to Jackie. The setting up of grassroots campaigns for senate and later for the presidency are of particular interest to Mathews. He loves the ...more
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Matthews' thesis is that, whatever else you may think about JFK, he saved the world from the brink of nuclear war in the fall of 1962. He not only stared down Krushchev over the Soviet missles in Cuba, but he stared down Gen Lemay & the other chiefs of staff who were hot to make a preemptive strike on the USSR. JFK was not a perfect man - he did not have a great presidency - he was not King Arthur at Camelot - but he by God had his shining moment of heroism.

I first learned about this book
Michele Weiner
Feb 05, 2012 rated it liked it
What there was of this was fine, even interesting, but there wasn't much to it. Perhaps any comment is unfair because I didn't read the notes, which comprised a quarter of the total length of the book ----but a quick glance at the first page or two suggests that Matthews interviewed Tip O'Neill and some of the Irish Mafia, gave his notes to his son to organize for him, then wrote it up without further research. I don't know that this is true, but it looked like it. There were no footnotes, and I ...more
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This will FOREVER be one my favorite biographies--& books--of all time. Beautiful. I'm finally satiated, all my Qs feeling answered re: JFK. And EVERY word seemed meticulously chosen. While I've never paid heed to Chris Matthews the TV personality, I appreciate the political analysis he brought to this, and what a fun read during the 2016 US Prez Election! (finished the night of the Iowa Caucuses)
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
After a friend recommended this book, my first thought was "why do we need another book on JFK? But I trust his judgment and began reading. Glad I did, because Matthews has put together a balanced, yet loving, look at the man and his legacy. You'll find little new about Kennedy, but a different slant on his many accomplishments and, yes, his mistakes.

This book should be in every school's history library.
Fred Forbes
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
My father helped run Kennedy's campaign in New Hampshire and West Virginia and I, at age 14 got to meet Kennedy when he kicked off his primary campaign and again in Washington a couple of years later so I have quite a personal interest in his life and times. I enjoyed this book as it is a bit more casual in tone than most of the Kennedy bios and deals well with some heavy subjects. It does a good job of balancing the good and bad aspects of the man and provides some interesting family insight.
Nov 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you're a political junkie, you'll LOVE this book. Chris Matthews has "fleshed out" all the details of JFK's life written in a crisp manner, much like how he talks on "Hardball". However, if you're looking for gossip, this book is not for you, as there is no "gossipy" talk of the Kennedy family, which is refreshing.
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Christopher "Chris" Matthews is an American news anchor and political commentator, known for his nightly hour-long talk show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, which is televised on the American cable television channel MSNBC. On weekends he hosts the syndicated NBC News-produced panel discussion program, The Chris Matthews Show. Matthews makes frequent appearances on many NBC and MSNBC programs. On ...more

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“It was his detachment that saved us. Another man would have reacted with force to the Soviet treachery. He would have shared the righteousness of the cause, been stirred to attack by the saber rattling. Jack resisted. He was not moved by the emotion of other around him. He knew his course and stayed to it. Thank God. The boy who had read alone of history's heroes was now safely on of them. He had done it not winning a war, but by averting one far more horrible than any leader in the past could have imagined." - p.373” 2 likes
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