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An illuminating account of John F. Kennedy’s brief but transformative tenure in the White House, from acclaimed author and historian Mark K. Updegrove, head of the LBJ Foundation and presidential historian for ABC News
“Tremendously absorbing and inviting… An important book.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin • “Elegant, concise, [and] knowing.”—Michael Beschloss • “Rescues JFK from Camelot mythology.”—Richard Norton Smith
Nearly sixty years after his death, JFK still holds an outsize place in the American imagination. While Baby Boomers remember his dazzling presence as president, millennials more likely know him from advertisements for Omega watches or Ray Ban sunglasses. Yet his years in office were marked by more than his style and elegance. His presidency is a story of a fledgling leader forced to meet unprecedented challenges, and to rise above missteps to lead his nation into a new and hopeful era.
Kennedy entered office inexperienced but alluring, his reputation more given by an enamored public than earned through achievement. In this gripping new assessment of his time in the Oval Office, Updegrove reveals how JFK’s first months were marred by setbacks: the botched Bay of Pigs invasions, a disastrous summit with the Soviet premier, and a mismanaged approach to the Civil Rights movement. But the young president soon proved that behind the glamour was a leader of uncommon fortitude and vision.
A humbled Kennedy conceded his mistakes, and, importantly for our times, drew important lessons from his failures that he used to right wrongs and move forward undaunted. Indeed, Kennedy grew as president, radiating greater possibility as he coolly faced a steady stream of crises before his tragic end.
Incomparable Grace compellingly reexamines the dramatic, consequential White House years of a flawed but gifted leader too often defined by the Camelot myth that came after his untimely death.
About the Author
Mark K. Updegrove is a presidential historian and the author of five books on the presidency. He currently serves as the President and CEO of the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation and the Presidential Historian for ABC News. Earlier in his career, he was the director of the LBJ Presidential Library and publisher of Newsweek. He has interviewed seven U.S. presidents. His latest book, Incomparable Grace: JFK in the Presidency, will be published by Dutton in April 2022.
“Absorbing…Updegrove provides a balanced look at Kennedy's personal and political failings while offering a look at why a man who served just 1,036 days in office continues to rank so high by historians among the nation's presidents.”—Associated Press
“Updegrove limns Kennedy’s ascent from overshadowed, somewhat sickly second son to war hero... Updegrove doesn’t lose his way in excessive detail, penning a biography that brings JFK into living perspective for a younger generation who might know him only from their parents’ tales.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Updegrove’s skillful portrait reveals a president who learned on the job and did so with humility, ‘calling forth the best in all of us,’ which helps account for the widely shared enshrinement of Kennedy’s memory today… A well-rendered portrait showing that presidential politics can be both effective and a force for the good.”—Kirkus
“The fast-paced narrative smoothly transitions from one high-stakes matter to the next and reveals just how eventful the abbreviated Kennedy presidency was…. a brisk and entertaining biography.”—Publishers Weekly
“In this tremendously absorbing and inviting portrait, Mark Updegrove delivers a warm, yet unflinching examination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. His deep knowledge of the presidency allows him to convey the political complexity of the issues without ever losing the narrative flow. This is an important book that captures the energy, hope and vision of a young president navigating a potential nuclear confrontation, a gathering storm in Vietnam, and the struggle for justice at home.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Leadership: In Turbulent Times
“We are lucky that Mark Updegrove has brought us this elegant, concise, knowing, fluent and highly-readable look at John F. Kennedy as president. In these troubled times, JFK’s leadership looks better and better in the rearview mirror, and Updegrove here deploys his wise historical judgment to show us the essentials of why.”—Michael Beschloss, New York Times bestselling author of Presidents of War: The Epic Story, from 1807 to Modern Times
“With narrative gifts worthy of its title, Incomparable Grace rescues JFK from Camelot mythology. In its place Mark Updegrove gives us the event- and conscience-driven transformation of a cautious Cold War liberal to a trailblazing advocate for nuclear restraint and the dismantling of his own country’s segregated culture. Candid and clear eyed about Kennedy’s failings, this hugely readable volume explains and justifies his lofty ranking among historians, and his continuing hold over the popular imagination.”—Richard Norton Smith, author of On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller