• JFK

  • Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956
  • By: Fredrik Logevall
  • Narrated by: Mark Deakins
  • Length: 29 hrs and 27 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (404 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian takes us as close as we have ever been to the real John F. Kennedy in this revelatory biography of the iconic, yet still elusive, 35th president.

“An utterly incandescent study of one of the most consequential figures of the twentieth century.” (Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States) 

Winner of the Elizabeth Longford Prize • Named Biography of the Year by The Times (London) • Named One of the Best Books of the Year by The Sunday Times (London) • New StatesmanThe Daily TelegraphKirkus Reviews 

By the time of his assassination in 1963, John F. Kennedy stood at the helm of the greatest power the world had ever seen, a booming American nation that he had steered through some of the most perilous diplomatic standoffs of the Cold War. Born in 1917 to a striving Irish American family that had become among Boston’s wealthiest, Kennedy knew political ambition from an early age, and his meteoric rise to become the youngest elected president cemented his status as one of the most mythologized figures in American history. And while hagiographic portrayals of his dazzling charisma, reports of his extramarital affairs, and disagreements over his political legacy have come and gone in the decades since his untimely death, these accounts all fail to capture the full person. 

Beckoned by this gap in our historical knowledge, Fredrik Logevall has spent much of the last decade searching for the “real” JFK. The result of this prodigious effort is a sweeping two-volume biography that properly contextualizes Kennedy amidst the roiling American Century. This volume spans the first 39 years of JFK’s life - from birth through his decision to run for president - to reveal his early relationships, his formative experiences during World War II, his ideas, his writings, and his political aspirations. In examining these pre-White House years, Logevall shows us a more serious, independently-minded Kennedy than we’ve previously known, whose distinct international sensibility would prepare him to enter national politics at a critical moment in modern US history. 

Along the way, Logevall tells the parallel story of America’s mid-century rise. As Kennedy comes of age, we see the charged debate between isolationists and interventionists in the years before Pearl Harbor; the tumult of the Second World War, through which the United States emerged as a global colossus; the outbreak and spread of the Cold War; the domestic politics of anti-Communism and the attendant scourge of McCarthyism; the growth of television’s influence on politics; and more. 

JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956 is a sweeping history of the United States in the middle decades of the 20th century, as well as the clearest portrait we have of this enigmatic American icon. 

©2020 Fredrik Logevall (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Masterful . . . based on years toiling in the archives but written with a delightfully light touch . . . At times it reads more like a novel than a biography, so vivid is the prose and so extraordinary the material.”The Economist 

“Logevall artfully melds the biographical and historical approaches. Though crafted as a kind of bildungsroman, JFK delivers something more than the traditional story of the callow wastrel’s maturation into the admirable adult.”The New York Times Book Review

“A superb book . . . [The] remarkable rivalries within the Kennedy family—propelled by valour, vanity and greed—form the backbone of volume one of Fredrik Logevall’s riveting life of JFK.”The Guardian

What listeners say about JFK

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Great book

Great book, wish the second part was available now! Mark Deakins is one of the best narrator’s in the business.

5 people found this helpful

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Excellent Portrait of JFK & His Times

This is an extremely well done biography & masterfully narrated. Have read & studied John F. Kennedy a lot, but still learned a LOT from this book. It is a vivid & lifelike portrait of JFK, but also of his family & the remarkable times in which he lived. I cannot imagine a better portrait of the man as he really was. Smart. Funny. Sloppy. Suave. Sometimes insensitive & manipulative. But beloved, bold & inspiring. The Kennedy family history is fascinating & crisply told. His father Joseph P. Kennedy receives a thorough & balanced treatment. The father's philandering established a pattern for his sons & JFK was prolific & reckless in this regard even as he matured & established himself as a public figure of substance. The recounting of JFK's travels in pre-WWII Europe is outstanding, as is the story of how it influenced him & how he differed from his father & his older brother with regard to isolationism vs. interventionism. The same is true for the chapters on PT-109 & Kennedy's myriad health problems. Logevall also does first-rate work on the Kennedy family's close connections to red-baiting demagogue Joseph McCarthy. All the other significant figures in JFK's young life received their due, including, of course, Jacqueline, Rose, Bobby, sister Kathleen, friends like Lem Billings & aides like Ted Sorenson. Just a really great book that never lags or bogs down. The narration by Mark Deakins is virtually flawless & beautifully fits the text. Highly recommend.

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Great read.

Beautifully narrated & written . I lived the years of the Kennedy & admired his tenacity and brilliance.everyone should read this wonderful book.
Ester AclanRn, BSN

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Great listen for anyone interested in JFK.

This book was VERY detailed starting from his birth and before. I recommend this to anyone fascinated with JFK..You’ll definitely learn things I promise you never knew about him and his family.

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Burnishing the Burnished

No doubt that this book and its proposed second volume will be the top selling books written by this author. That is a tragedy. The author, Professor Logevall, is the eminent scholar of the long American trajectory that ended in the US involvement in Vietnam. Indeed, Kennedy’s life is the summation and culmination of the same, as Kennedy’s life span covered by this biography takes place during the same period covered in this book, and the upcoming volume.

However, this book does not have the gravitas of the Professor’s previous excellent writings. In many ways, this book felt that it was on one hand hagiographic. Elsewhere, such as the chapter on Jackie Kennedy, it becomes almost completely tabloid. Clearly, there is an audience that has an exceptional appetite for consumption of all things celebrity.

JFK perpetuates notions of the romance of Camelot, and that is itself the American tragedy that brought us to the current state of America. The sacrifice of critical thinking in favor of joining the throng of celebrity worship.

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy

A very thorough book on the life of John Fitzgerald kennedy. the narration was very good and clear with much information on this president.

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Amazing biography!

I loved this book from that start. The author skillfully merged the story of Jack Kennedy the person with the historical events of the times, events that played a big role in Kennedy's life. JFK comes alive on these pages, as do the the times. To me, this was a page-turner. I listened to almost 30 hours in two weeks! The writing is crisp and the narrator was great (except when he mispronounced my home town in Massachusetts - why don't these audio companies check for pronunciation of local places?). Jack Kennedy is a fascinating person who lived in such interesting times, and my biggest unhappiness is that I need to wait to listen to the next volume! For history lovers, it does not get much better than this.

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Astonishing. As Complete as a Part 1 Bio Can Get

I am one of the many fans of biography plodding through the biographies of all the presidents and some of their close contemporaries, like Franklin, Hamilton, Napoleon and Churchill. So I have read a lot of bios. I look for completeness and coherence, historical detail and arching themes, good storytelling, psychological insight and a fresh telling of often familiar stories. This newish biography of JFK - Part 1- is as good as it gets and takes a solid place in my Top Five favorite presidential biographies. The stellar audio production clinched it. I haven’t looked forward to a sequel this much since reading Edmund Morris’ The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.

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Phenomenal Biography

In short, Friederik Logevall has produced a phenomenal biography.

This biographical manuscript is comprehensive yet held my interest from beginning to end. Spanning the years 1917-1956, the arc of this book examines, in great detail, how the Second World War and early Cold War shaped JFK. A significant advantage Friederik Logevall has in approaching a JFK biography, is his previous scholarship on the Vietnam War. Specifically in his book "Embers of War The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam". The present volume concludes at the 1956 DNC, after JFK failed to secure the vice-presidential nomination. Just on the eve of when JFK begins to shape many of the pivotal events of the Cold War himself. For this reason, I am looking forward to Logevall's second volume. (In particular JFK's role in the early stages of the Vietnam War.)

Mark Deakins has long been one of my favorite narrators and delivers a splendid performance in the present volume. I very much hope he narrates the second volume of this Duology.

(Mark Deakins narrates two other presidential biographies I highly recommend; Days of Fire by Peter Baker and Traitor to His Class by H.W. Brands)

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Detailed and personal

This was a very fair and detailed look at the first 3/4 of JFK’s life. There was an awful lot of detail from his letters and correspondence - salacious stuff. Excellent book though.