Barbara’s Picks, Feb. 2013, Pt. 3: Nonfiction from Christopher Andersen to Brenda Wineapple

Andersen, Christopher. These Few Precious Days: The Final Year of Jack and Jackie. Gallery: S. & S. Aug. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781476732329. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781476732343. BIOGRAPHY
Once senior editor of People magazine, Andersen has a real track record when it comes to celebrity bios; he’s written 15 New York Times best sellers, with subjects ranging from Mick Jagger to Bill and Hillary Clinton; The Day Diana Died and The Day John Died hit the top spot. Here, as we approach the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, Andersen looks at Jack and Jackie Kennedy during their final year, pondering aloud whether after all the triumphs and betrayals they still loved each other. With a 100,000-copy first printing; I’m not convinced about that top spot, but readers will swarm.

Clarke, Thurston. JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9781594204258. $29.95. CD: Penguin Audio. BIOGRAPHY
The author of three New York Times Notable Books, Clarke can be expected to take a more sober-minded approach to Kennedy’s last days in office than Andersen (see These Few Precious Days, previewed above), though he does argue that the death of two-day-old Patrick Kennedy persuaded the President to be a better husband and father. Clarke focuses more on Kennedy as politician, pondering issues like civil rights, the Cold War, and Vietnam and on the verge of making decisions that would demonstrate the greatness that got snuffed.

Kelley, Kitty. Let Freedom Ring: Stanley Tretick’s Iconic Images of the March on Washington. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2013. 144p. ISBN 9781250021465. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250022837. PHOTOESSAY
Noted photojournalist Stanley Tretick is perhaps best known for his iconic images of President Kennedy (see Capturing Camelot, also by Kelley), but the 100-plus color and black-and-white images in this book show him in good form as he captures a major political event. On August 28, 1963, nearly 300,000 people, black and white, famous and not, marched to the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital to petition Congress to pass the President’s Civil Rights Act. Touted as a keepsake, it’s also a record that should bring it all back.

Sandler, Martin W., ed. The Letters of John F. Kennedy. Bloomsbury Pr., dist. by St. Martin’s. Aug. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781608192717. $30. HISTORY
So far, this is the only selection of letters to and from Kennedy I’ve seen as we approach the 50th anniversary of his death. Drawn from more than two million letters on file at the Kennedy Presidential Library, the volume includes correspondence with Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., John Wayne, Nikita Khrushchev, Ngo Dinh Diem, and even a young John Kerry—how timely is that? Look for some facsimiles and archival photographs; Sandler is a former U.S. history professor with five Emmys to his name, so he should have an eye for what’s striking.

Wilson, Robert. Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation. Bloomsbury Pr., dist. by St. Martin’s. Aug. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781620402030. $28. BIOGRAPHY
We know his images (not for nothing is Mathew Brady called the father of American photography), and we can visualize the Civil War largely through his work, but how much do we know about Brady himself? American Scholar editor Wilson offers a biography rooted in the work, showing us how Brady advanced his medium in the antebellum era and how his battlefield experience affected him; after Bull Run, which he found traumatizing, he generally sent a team of his photographers into battle, visiting only well before or after the fighting. Lots of images, of course.

Wineapple, Brenda. Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and the End of Compromise, 1848–1877. Harper: HarperCollins. Aug. 2013. 784p. ISBN 9780061234576. $29.99. HISTORY
The author of several award-winning books, most focused on 19th-century America (e.g., White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), Wineapple offers a grand account of a crucial time in American history, encompassing expansion, war, and vastly shifting social expectations while confronting the great evil at the heart of this country: slavery. How can you not be fascinated by a book that includes characters from P.T. Barnum to Walt Whitman to Frederick Douglass? Get it.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.