My favorite books on Jacqueline Kennedy’s creation of Camelot’s magic

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for the Kennedy family dates to seeing JFK in person as a young child. Shortly after his death, my mother purchased a children’s book about the 35th president, which I read repeatedly and still have in my extensive “Kennedy library.” It led me to pursue a professional career as a political scientist, specializing in the presidency and First Ladies. I now direct Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, am a member of the Advisory Board of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation, and serve on the Board of the White House Historical Association, founded by Mrs. Kennedy in 1961.


I wrote...

Jacqueline Kennedy: First Lady of the New Frontier

By Barbara A. Perry,

Book cover of Jacqueline Kennedy: First Lady of the New Frontier

What is my book about?

In a mere thousand days, Jacqueline Kennedy created an entrancing public persona that has lasted six decades. My book is the first to focus largely on Mrs. Kennedy’s White House years, portraying a First Lady whose beguiling family, stylish couture, promotion of the arts, and charming diplomacy contributed to America’s ultimate victory as leader of the free world.

From a reluctant political wife, to one of the nation’s youngest presidential spouses, to that dark day in Dallas, Mrs. Kennedy’s glamor, fashion, beauty, and ability to master symbolism and imagery through her use of television and state entertainment, seared her legacy in the public’s psyche. Her layering of the Arthurian legend of Camelot over the “brief, shining” Kennedy presidency and its tragic end remains among her crowning achievements.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy

Barbara A. Perry Why did I love this book?

This set of 8 CDs and corresponding transcripts, with hours of interviews between Jackie Kennedy and the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., brings alive the First Lady’s memories of her husband, their marriage, and life in the White House, only a few months after JFK’s assassination. I will never forget listening to Jackie’s authentic voice as if I were sitting in the room with her as she relived the triumphs and tragedies of Camelot. Her description of the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, when she told her husband, “I want to die with you,” is riveting.

By Caroline Kennedy, Michael Beschloss,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Jacqueline Kennedy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To mark John F. Kennedy's centennial, celebrate the life and legacy of the 35th President of the United States.

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded seven historic interviews about her life with John F. Kennedy. Now, for the first time, they can be read in this deluxe, illustrated eBook.

Shortly after President John F. Kennedy's assassination, with a nation deep in mourning and the world looking on in stunned disbelief, Jacqueline Kennedy found the strength to set aside her own personal grief for the sake of posterity and begin the task of documenting and preserving her husband's legacy. In January of…


Book cover of Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House

Barbara A. Perry Why did I love this book?

Written by a bestselling biographer of British royals and statesmen, this story of John and Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House years is a sparkling account of their life at the pinnacle of power before tragedy ended the American fairy tale. Its rich detail and compelling narrative make it a genuine page-turner.

My mother took me to see Senator John F. Kennedy campaigning in our hometown of Louisville, KY, in October 1960, just before his selection as America’s youngest elected and first Catholic president. Although only 4 years of age, I was hooked on the excitement of presidents, the White House, and First Ladies, and I’ve been reading POTUS and FLOTUS biographies ever since. Smith’s accessible story of the Kennedys’ style and grace is my favorite.

By Sally Bedell Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Grace and Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In GRACE & POWER: THE PRIVATE WORLD OF THE KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE, New York Times bestselling author Sally Bedell Smith takes us inside the Kennedy White House with unparalleled access and insight. Having interviewed scores of Kennedy intimates, including many who have never spoken before, and drawing on letters and personal papers made available for the first time, Smith paints a richly detailed picture of the personal relationships behind the high purpose and poiltical drama of the twentieth century's most storied presidency.
At the dawn of the 1960s, a forty-three-year-old president and his thirty-one-year-old first lady – the youngest couple…


Book cover of Mrs. Kennedy and Me

Barbara A. Perry Why did I love this book?

I was a second-grader at St Albert the Great School in Louisville, KY, on November 22, 1963. It was the week before Thanksgiving, and we were coloring pictures of pilgrims. Suddenly, our principal appeared at the door. We were told that President Kennedy had been shot and that we were going to church to pray for him. Soon word came that the president had died. The next day’s newspaper pictured Mrs. Kennedy’s Secret Service agent, Clint Hill, jumping up on the trunk deck of the presidential limousine in Dallas, after the fatal shots, as he saved the First Lady from injury. This book about his association with Mrs. Kennedy is a tasteful rendition of his behind-the-scenes experiences with the First Lady. I was honored to meet this genuine hero in 2011.

By Clint Hill, Lisa McCubbin Hill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mrs. Kennedy and Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Clint Hill will forever be remembered as the agent who jumped onto the car after President Kennedy was shot and clung to the sides of the car as it sped toward the hospital. Now, in Mrs. Kennedy and Me, he recounts those painful memories along with his fonder recollections of the First Lady's strength, class, dignity, and beauty during the time he was assigned as her personal agent.

Hill was by Mrs. Kennedy's side for some of the happiest moments in her life as well as the darkest. He was there for the birth of John, Jr. as well as…


Book cover of The Kennedy Baby: The Loss That Transformed JFK

Barbara A. Perry Why did I love this book?

This e-book by The Washington Post’s book editor is the moving account of Jackie’s heartbreaking loss of her and the president’s baby, Patrick, in August 1963. Always plagued by problematic pregnancies, resulting in a miscarriage and stillborn daughter in the 1950s, as First Lady Mrs. Kennedy hoped to give birth to her and the president’s third child (to join five-year-old Caroline and two-year-old John Jr.) in September 1963. But the baby arrived more than a month early, suffering from undeveloped lungs, and died within two days. Jackie and Jack were devastated. As they clung to each other in grief, the First Lady told her husband that she couldn’t bear to lose him. She would just three months later.

By Steven Levingston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Kennedy Baby as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sensitive portrait of how a profound tragedy changed one of America's most prominent families.

Their marriage is the subject of countless books. His presidency has been pored over minute by minute by historians. They lived their lives in the public eye and under a microscope that magnified all of their flaws, all of their scandals, all of their tragedies. Now Steven Levingston, nonfiction editor at the Washington Post, presents a devastating story in unprecedented detail, about a child John and Jackie Kennedy loved and lost. On August 7, 1963, heavily pregnant Jackie Kennedy collapsed, marking the beginning of a…


Book cover of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story

Barbara A. Perry Why did I love this book?

Many books have been written about Mrs. Kennedy’s post-White House life, especially her 1968 marriage to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, her jet-set lifestyle, and her second widowhood as a successful New York book editor, but I find Leaming’s deeply researched look at how JFK’s horrific assassination may well have afflicted the former First Lady with PTSD to be as credible as it is moving.

By Barbara Leaming,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For almost six decades, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis has fascinated people worldwide. The subject of numerous books and thousands of articles, her life has probably been documented in millions of words. And yet, there has always remained something mysterious, something private about this very public woman. With extraordinary skill and great sensitivity, Barbara Learning explores the seemingly magical world of Jackie's youth, her fairy-tale marriage to a wealthy and handsome Senator and Presidential candidate and her astonishing transformation into a deft political wife and unique First Lady. This spirited young woman's rejection of the idea of a safe marriage" as the…


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Book cover of The Truth About Unringing Phones

Lara Lillibridge

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What is my book about?

When Lara was four years old, her father moved from Rochester, New York, to Anchorage, Alaska, a distance of over 4,000 miles. She spent her childhood chasing after him, flying a quarter of the way around the world to tug at the hem of his jacket.

Now that he is in his eighties, she contemplates her obligation to an absentee father. The Truth About Unringing Phones is an exploration of responsibility and culpability told in experimental and fragmented essays.

The Truth About Unringing Phones

By Lara Lillibridge,

What is this book about?

When Lara was four years old, her father moved from Rochester, New York, to Anchorage, Alaska, a distance of over 4,000 miles. She spent her childhood chasing after him, flying a quarter of the way around the world to tug at the hem of his jacket. Now that he is in his eighties, she contemplates her obligation to an absentee father.




The Truth About Unringing Phones: Essays on Yearning is an exploration of responsibility and culpability told in experimental and fragmented essays.


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