Forty Ways to Look at JFK

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Ballantine Books, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 387 pages
2 Reviews
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived, and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”
–John F. Kennedy

Statesman and hero, opportunist and fraud. John F. Kennedy’s contradictions have inspired such fascination that the public’s interest in him has never dimmed. Now, with the same striking technique she used in the bestselling Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, Gretchen Rubin has written an enthralling new work that captures the crucial elements of Kennedy’s story.

Rubin’s “forty ways” approach highlights JFK’s high ideals, trenchant wit, glamorous family, and unforgettable charisma; it also examines his astonishing sexual appetite, his lies to the public, his shrewd manipulation of the press, and his exploitation of imagery. By showing the many sides of JFK–ranked by the public, but not historians, as one of America’s greatest presidents–Rubin invites readers to decide whether Kennedy was a great statesman or a shallow charmer; whether his success was due to his own merits or to his ruthless father; whether he could be both an unfaithful husband and a good man.

Most important, this biography seeks to solve the enduring puzzle about JFK: What made Kennedy Kennedy? What made him such a dazzling, unforgettable figure? How did he become a secular saint and a political movie star? Rubin illuminates Kennedy’s provocative character and explains the source of his enduring magic as not even the most exhaustive JFK studies have managed to do.

Forty Ways to Look at JFKstands out among Kennedy biographies as a splendidly focused assessment of Kennedy’s life, presidency, and myth. It is for both Kennedy fans and anyone fascinated by the impact of his personality on American culture and politics. Crisp, vivid, and brilliantly readable, it is a significant addition to the author’s innovative approach to biography.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

The 1,037 days of Camelot and the life preordained to produce it. What was real, and what wasn't?Readers who like sequentially flowing biography may initially recoil at Rubin's approach. This isn't ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I liked the book but couldn't help but feel that the author disliked JFK and was unable to be unbiased. Interesting facts, great quotes and great research but falls short. Recommended but don't be surprised if you find more "bad" ways than "good" ways to look at JFK.


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About the author (2005)

Gretchen Rubin is the author of Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life and Power Money Fame Sex: A User’s Guide.

Rubin received her undergraduate and law degrees from Yale and was editor in chief of the Yale Law Journal. She clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court and served as a chief adviser to Federal Communications Commission chairman Reed Hundt. For many years she taught a seminar at Yale Law School and Yale School of Management. She can be reached through her website:

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