I’ve been wanting to do a Top 5 post for a while now. With the 59th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death coming up on November 22nd, I thought this would be a good place to start. Books like this make for some of my favorite non-fiction reads.
Please note that these books lean toward the theoretical side of the assassination. I know this is a controversial topic but it’s a discussion that intrigues me. That being said, I am in no way claiming any of these to be the tell-all of what ‘actually’ happened. Most are purely speculation and ones that I have personally found fascinating.
#5 – Oswald and the CIA by John Newman
This book takes a look at Lee Harvey Oswald’s life leading up to JFK’s assassination, mainly focusing on his years living in Russia New Orleans. It goes through his years on the CIA’s radar, his erratic behavior in both Russia and America, and how tied he was to the agency. It’s less about whether or not he was their friend or foe, rather it looks objectively at declassified records.
The writing itself isn’t particularly engaging and if you have little to no interest in the topic then it’s dry and uneventful. If these kinds of theories are your cup of tea, it’s a unique perspective.
#4 – LBJ: The Mastermind of JFK’s Assassination by Phillip F. Nelson
As the title suggests, this book presents the theory that Lyndon B. Johnson had a hand, if not the final say, in the assassination of JFK. I went into this one skeptically. That’s a pretty outrageous claim. However, as I read on, it started to make sense. Things added up. (A key point for me was the discussion on a photo of LBJ’s car taken a few minutes before the shots were fired.) If I had to pick one solid theory to subscribe to, this would be it. The evidence is there, and frankly, who had the most to gain?
Do I believe it word for word? No. You simply can’t with any text printed about this time in history. It’s been so distorted and discussed in the decades following. Am I convinced there is a truth to this claim? Absolutely, though I’d be hesitant to say he planned out the entire attack. Nonetheless, this was the most riveting take I’ve read and it’s stuck with me.
#3 – JFK and the Unspeakable by James W. Douglass
This one isn’t so much of a whodunit. It speculates why anyone, no matter who it was, would want JFK out of the picture. The book focuses on JFK’s plight for peace during the Cold War and Vietnam. The Bay of Pigs is a recurring theme, probably touched upon more than the assassination itself.
Fingers do point toward a CIA involvement, but nothing is conclusive. What I enjoyed about this book was that it discussed JFK as a person (with less of a focus on his personal scandals). It portrayed a spiritual side of him that I haven’t seen talked about at length anywhere else.
#2 – Denial of Justice by Mark Shaw
The subject of this book is Dorothy Kilgallen more than JFK himself. There’s also quite a bit about Jack Ruby. What fascinates me about this one is that it goes through the evidence surrounding Dorothy Kilgallen’s suspicious death coinciding with the disappearance of her investigation into the assassination.
This is part of a series of sorts. This is the second book of three (with a fourth coming out 11/29). Though the third book does tie in Marylin Monroe’s death, it mostly regurgitated Denial of Justice and the first book The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. I can’t comment much on the Marilyn side of things, but the evidence around Dorothy Kilgallen’s death presented here is difficult to dismiss. There’s also not a whole lot of discussion elsewhere about the fact she was the only reporter ever to get an interview with Jack Ruby while he was in prison and was one of the most popular (and pioneering) reporters of her time. The fact that was lost with everything else raises some questions.
#1 – Five Days in November by Clint Hill
Of all the books I’ve listed, this one is not a conspiracy discussion. It’s the personal account of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Secret Service agent, Clint Hill (the man seen jumping on the back of the car in the Zapruder film). Complete with photos, it’s an emotional read from someone who had to witness the nightmare unfold up close and deal with the aftermath.
As interesting as it is to get lost in the different theories, it’s important not to forget that a man — a president, father, husband, and friend — died on November 22nd, 1963. His loss was felt around the world and especially by those close to him. This book captures this sad reality with dignity.
Have you read any interesting books on this topic? I would love to hear your recommendations in the comments! I love looking at all ends and perspectives of the story. Somewhere in the middle of all of these different takes lies the truth.
Though I wasn’t alive during John F. Kennedy’s time, his life and legacy have been a large part of my life in a way. I can’t tell you where I was that day, but I try to take a moment to acknowledge his death every year. May God rest his soul.