JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956

In the first really complete biography of the enigmatic 35th president, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian brings us as near as we have ever been to the real John F. Kennedy.

Before his assassination in 1963, John F. Kennedy stood at the helm of the most powerful country the world had ever known, a prosperous American nation that he had guided through some of the most dangerous diplomatic standoffs of the Cold War era. President John F. Kennedy was born in 1917 to a hardworking Irish American family that had risen through the ranks of Boston’s complex political machine. Born into public service, Kennedy’s meteoric rise to become the youngest president in history cemented his legacy among the most mythologized political figures in American history. Although he died tragically young, the hagiographic portrayals of his dazzling charisma, reports of his extramarital affairs, and disagreements over his political legacy have made our 35th president more mysterious than ever. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that no comprehensive biography of his life has yet been attempted.

Fredrik Logevall has spent the better part of seven years seeking for the “genuine” John F. Kennedy, spurred on by this vacuum in our historical knowledge. The outcome of this titanic endeavor is a sprawling two-volume biography that, for the first time, places President John F. Kennedy in the right historical perspective of the turbulent twentieth century. From the three generations of Kennedy men and women who transformed the clan from working-class Irish immigrants to members of Boston’s political elite, this first volume follows JFK’s life for the first thirty-nine years of his adult life, from sickly second son to restless Harvard undergraduate and World War II hero, through his rise to the top of the political ladder on Capitol Hill and, finally, his decision to run for President of the United States.

In documenting Kennedy’s remarkable life and times, Logevall provides the clearest portrayal we have of a famous, but yet enigmatic, American president in the history of the world.

Margaret MacMillan, author of War: How Conflict Shaped Us, provides her analysis of the book. “Fredrik Logevall has expertly peeled away the various layers of myth surrounding John F. Kennedy in this masterful biography, revealing a complicated and unexpectedly sensitive human being under the surface of the legend. This first chapter of his Kennedy biography is also the narrative of the United States’ journey from relative obscurity to global superpower during a tumultuous period. This is a must-read for anybody who is interested in the life and times of the author.”

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