JFK assassination anniversary brings a wealth of new titles

Houston ChronicleNovember 21, 2013 

Ten new titles, just a fraction of the recent releases on President John F. Kennedy, suggest the breadth of coverage on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

AT A GLANCE

Here is what that selection of titles has to offer.

Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House by Robert Dallek (Harper, $32.50): A close look at Kennedy's trusted — and, at times, untrusted — advisers, who weighed in on the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, civil rights, Vietnam and more. JFK emerges as a leader who kept his own moral compass and listened to his gut, often disagreeing with his cabinet. The exception, of course, was his brother Bobby Kennedy. The president's attorney general was "a sounding board and instrument for testing out ideas on others."

Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis (Twelve, $28): Minutaglio and Davis take readers back to the dark forces brewing in Dallas half a century ago. A group of city leaders shared a dislike for Kennedy and a distaste for civil rights, creating a toxic climate that came to a head in Dealey Plaza.

The Day Kennedy Died: 50 Years Later Life Remembers the Man and the Moment (Time Home Entertainment, $50): Highlights from this coffee-table book include a striking photo of JFK as a young boy, a fold-out section of frame-by-frame stills of the Zapruder film, and snapshots of Lee Harvey Oswald's family at home in Irving, Texas. The piece de resistance is a removable reprint of Life's commemorative magazine of Kennedy, originally published Nov. 29, 1963.

End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James Swanson (William Morrow, $29.99): This dramatic tick-tock follows key players in the months, days and hours leading up to the assassination. Swanson's pulpy style and understanding of the rhythm of melodrama make it a page turner.

If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History by Jeff Greenfield (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $26.95): Greenfield's speculative book answers the sorts of "what-ifs" political junkies love. Among his insights: JFK would have dropped LBJ as his running mate in 1964; JFK would have ended the Vietnam War early in his second term; without the pall that JFK's death cast over the country, the culture wars would have been less intense.

The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union by Peter Savodnik (Basic Books, $27.99): Savodnik examines Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union. Oswald became an anti-hero when he convinced the KGB to let him stay in the Soviet Union, Savodnik argues. But Oswald's return to the States, without accomplishing what he set out to do, was a failure, "monumental and devastating." With that in mind, the author asserts, "something calamitous was almost inevitable."

The Kennedy Half Century: The Presidency, Assassination and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy by Larry J. Sabato. (Bloomsbury, $30): Sabato's exhaustive investigation of the 35th president includes 150 pages of footnotes and public opinion surveys to explain how and why the legacy of JFK has proven positive and both durable.

JFK: Conservative by Ira Stoll (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27): Although liberals claim him as one of their own, Kennedy was a conservative by the standards of his day — and ours, Stoll argues. Why? JFK believed in tax cuts as economic stimulus; he allowed Catholicism to lead his vision of democracy; he disliked big government; and he built up the military while in office.

They Killed Our President by Jesse Ventura with Dick Russell and David Wayne (Skyhorse, $24.95): With 63 chapters (and even more exclamation points), this book is devoted to conspiracy arguments. Chapter 21, for example, argues the paper trail on the rifle was intentional. The former Minnesota governor and his co-writers conclude the official version of the assassination "was, and still is, more full of holes than Swiss cheese."

These Few Precious Days: The Final Year of Jack With Jackie by Christopher Andersen (Gallery Books, $27): A behind-the-scenes look at the love story of the first couple.

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