Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race” as Want to Read:
American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,025 ratings  ·  177 reviews
Instant New York Times Bestseller

As the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing approaches, the award winning historian and perennial New York Times bestselling author takes a fresh look at the space program, President John F. Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and America’s race to the moon.

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not
ebook, 576 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Harper
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about American Moonshot, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about American Moonshot

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,025 ratings  ·  177 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race
Will Byrnes
“We choose to go to the moon--we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because the challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” – JFK at Rice University- September 12, 1962.

“The Eagle has landed.” – Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969

JFK delivering his “we choose
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing only a few days away, Douglas Brinkley’s latest book surrounding the early years of space exploration, seemed the perfect fit. Told as a loose biography of the race to get into space, Brinkley explores the two main camps vying for control of the territory outside of Earth’s atmosphere—USA and USSR—as well as bringing in the promise President John F. Kennedy made about sending a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. Brinkley begins his ...more
Jeff J.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Not exactly what I expected. It’s marketed as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and while it does cover the space program up to the moon landing, the real focus is on President Kennedy’s career and his contributions to the space program. It may not be false advertising but be wary.
Peter Mcloughlin
covers the history of the space program from earliest imaginings of Jules Verne in 1863 through the rocketry of Robert Goddard in the 1920s, Werner Von Braun and the Nazi V-2 during the second world war, and a big focus on the cold war especially the JFK and his role in the moonshot and covers the story up to the 1969 moon landing. Good political history which is its focus rather than the science of the moonshot. Good to know how cold warriors got Apollo off the ground.
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Terrific book. Brinkley is a wonderful writer. I read his book about Theodore Roosevelt and all he did to preserve significant sections of our country as National Parks and wildlife habitats.

This book follows the develop of the space program. Having been a JFK fan, for many years this books’ pairing of the race to the moon with JFK’s excitement and support of the space program allowed me too see another side of this remarkable man.

Very well documented and a wonderful read in this 50 year
Porter Broyles
I don’t know if the Pulitzer Prize committee is going to feel sentimental about the 50th anniversary of the moonlanding, but if it does, then I would not be surprised if this book wins it.

This is by far the best book about the space race that I’ve encountered.

While other books focus on the astronauts and the space program, this book deals with American culture and politics that drove the space race.

The book starts off talking about the earliest days of flight and rocket science, but unlike other
On July 20 1969, the country and the world watched as Astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon's surface. Nearing the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, David Brinkley's latest novel reminds us of President John F. Kennedy's tireless and dedicated work towards space exploration and travel. This novel encourages us to forever look upward; to gaze deeper and further and especially into the great beyond.
Sherry Sharpnack
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Douglas Brinkley is an historian at Rice University and a pre-eminent scholar of US Presidents. This is the first book of his that I have read, but it won’t be the last. (In fact, I have his “Cronkite” sitting in my bookcase, waiting to be read.). Of course, I read this book to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing.

“Moonshot” is less a book about the history of space exploration and more a book about John F. Kennedy’s decision to make the “race to the moon” a proxy for the Cold
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing inspires the acclaimed historian to take a fresh look at the American space program, at President John Kennedy’s inspiring challenge, and at the race to the moon.

Drawing on new primary source material, Douglas Brinkley brings this fascinating history to life as he turns the spotlight on the men and women who made this giant leap possible while exploring the technology and the political tensions of the time.

Readers will find much to appreciate
Brian Willis
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly great overview of the technological advances and political willpower needed to put Americans on the moon. The second half of the title is the most relevant. This is a Presidential biography of JFK filtered through the motivations and personality traits that led him to call for, motivate, push, cajole, and even cheerlead the Space Race. As it turns out, JFK was more indispensable than previously thought. It wasn't just the famous speeches; the willpower and enthusiasm emanating mainly ...more
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This really was a fascinating story. And very easy reading - almost like a work of fiction. Even though I lived through these events, this book made me appreciate all the work that went on to land a man on the moon. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed that the book as more about Kennedy than I had anticipated - but on further consideration, I appreciate all that I learned about him, too. And even though the book kind of zooms over the actual moon landing, because it occurred after JFK's ...more
Jul 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I timed my reading of this book to complete it on July 20, the anniversary of the moon landing. I learned a lot about the Mercury program, a bit less about the Gemini program and coverage of the Apollo missions was incredibly brief, so that was disappointing. But the book is about Kennedy and the Space Race and it does cover Kennedy (and Von Braun) in depth. I was raised in a pro-Kennedy family so I loved the positive points made about him, but I did feel the coverage was incredibly one-sided. ...more
Ted Hunt
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
As part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the July, 1969, touchdown on the moon, Douglas Brinkley has written a book about the origins and early stages of the American space program. The book begins with the earliest research and inventions in rocket technology, both inside the United States and in Europe, it extensively delves into the Nazi rocket program, and then describes the origins of the Cold War "space race" between the United States and the Soviet Union. As someone who was ...more
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For what it is, this is a wonderful book. However, adjustment of expectation may be warranted. This book covers the early days of the space program in the context of U.S. and the world geo-political / Cold War landscape. It tracks technology advancements and political circumstances that led to the space race culminating on the moon landings.

There are many books that focus solely on the astronauts, controllers and engineers and never venture out from the labs, sims, and space craft of the U.S. /
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great read I was,so always excited by this American space program wish it was still going
Jonathan Jesse
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
A couple of thoughts about this book...

1: How come we haven't been back to the moon? Reading this book made me wonder about how we invented all this amazing technology to get us there. And yet here it is 45+ years since we last step foot on the moon. Imagine how much better the trip could be now with all the improved technology we have. I cant believe we haven't been back.

2. I learned a lot about the space race and the race to put somoene on the moon. I didn't know the only thing we beat the
Steve Majerus-Collins
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Douglas Brinkley's new book on the space race is a decent read but nowhere near as wonderful as I both hoped and expected. I'm no expert on any of this, but I learned precious little and came away strangely unfulfilled, as if Brinkley had promised to show me something about my country and its history that would enlighten or astound me. That just didn't happen.
I've read some pretty good books on the race to the moon, from Tom Wolfe's sterling The Right Stuff to Norman Mailer's Of a Fire on the
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Long read, but rewarding. A great interplay of the various aspects at play in the moonshot, and how they all caused the stars to align for the US to make it to the moon. It very much stresses the political and world stage rather than the technology needed to get there, which is an interesting take. The public's imagination was grabbed and kept by astronauts and the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. So many similarities are happening now with the discussion of Mars exploration that it really ...more
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
Great book about the Apollo project using JFK’s biography as the centerpiece. The book is a wonderful antidote to today’s cynicism and divisiveness. The book also reminds us of JFK’s leadership, enthusiasm, accomplishments and failures (professional and personal). We live in a world rich with technologies created to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth. The book ends with a beautiful scene: not long after Apollo 11 landed someone placed a note on JFK’s grave which read “Mr. ...more
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Account Of President Kennedy and The Space Race

This is my favorite account of the Space Race and President JFK 's involvement in it. As a representative and senator, Kennedy always decried Eisenhower's lack of interest in rockets and space travel. He befriended a former Nazi rocket scientist who became important in the building of our rocket science. Kennedy was right in trusting him and the American success was due to that trust. The Kennedy focus on how he treated the rocket program and
Robert Foley
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Since I was a kid I've had an odd passion for JFK and Space. When a book came out which combined the two and went over the history it was fantastic. I've read a lot about the two different subjects and found this book gave a lot more context on mix between the two. Overall, very very good book if this is a subject which you enjoy.

Favorite part was JFK starting to fall in love with the idea of the space race and moon shot. He had a clear vision of what it would mean for not only USA and it's own
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, audio
This was really excellent. It’s not a thorough bio of Kennedy, just a look at him in relation to the space program. The other major players (von Braun, the astronauts, LBJ, Jackie, etc) appear mostly in the context of JFK/space tech development with only brief backstories (except von Braun’s Nazi work). It’s a very engaging, well-paced audiobook. 4.5 stars.
ZSR Library
The footprints are still on the moon half a century since Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar landing vehicle and Walter Cronkite on CBS gasped “man on the moon”. The wonder, people, politics and earthshaking awe of the improbable quest are expertly described in this new study rich in revelation.

- Reviewed by John Cooper, ZSR Board of Visitors
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I expected this book to be solely about Apollo 11 with little about how it came to be. I was pleasantly surprised by the detailed timeline of the space program as well as the politics behind the space race. Above all, it gives credit where credit is due to JFK, the scientists, engineers, and astronauts who made the moon landing possible.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Solid read about President Kennedy and the moonshot. But I was disappointed to not get more about all the efforts towards the actual moonwalk after his assassination. The first couple of chapters has so much detail about rocket missile technology during World War II (too much detail). So it was kind of a letdown that only the Epilogue covers everything from his passing to 1969.
Paul Elliott
Jul 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting historical overview of the build-up to the first moon landing. I found the political background fascinating (how Kennedy used the space race to win an election), as well as the role of German-born scientists in the American space program.
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this on hoopla thanks to my local library.

Excellent research and thoughtful writing. For a science book it sure had a wonderful human touch. The narration was also well done. I loved how the author wrapped things up in the epilogue.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: political, nonfiction
Over all, too long. and although the errors felt minor in the grand schemem of things, it felt ruched to publication. I do not regret reading it, just feel it could have been better
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent overview of NASA's early years and Kennedy's involvement.
Christian Neff
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A highly enjoyable read, telling the story and Kennedy and NASA within the broader context of the time period. Digressions from the main topic are interestingly explored without going too far away from the story. Also, Brinkley is able to reflect with modern sensitivities on topics like discrimination, Operation Paperclip, etc.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11
  • Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America
  • The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West
  • The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777
  • One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon
  • The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation
  • Chasing the Moon: The People, the Politics, and the Promise That Launched America Into the Space Age
  • Barnum: An American Life
  • The First Wave: The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II
  • George Marshall: Defender of the Republic
  • Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster
  • Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing
  • American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump
  • Spying on the South: Travels with Frederick Law Olmsted in a Fractured Land
  • K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches
  • The Crowded Hour: Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Riders, and the Dawn of the American Century
  • Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow
  • Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation
See similar books…
Douglas Brinkley is a professor of history at Rice University and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. The Chicago Tribune has dubbed him “America’s new past master.” His most recent books are The Quiet World, The Wilderness Warrior, and The Great Deluge. Six of his books have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He lives in Texas with his wife and three children.
“Eisenhower started his presidency on this same note, with a plea to avoid what he called the “burden of arms. . . . Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” 1 likes
“Hitler’s commitment to the V-2 advanced the pursuit of a moonshot by perhaps decades. Though Hitler had no expressed interest in reaching the moon, the uncomfortable fact is that the darkest shafts and foulest backwater of human savagery helped bring this loftiest of human dreams to reality.” 0 likes
More quotes…