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John F. Kennedy: Why books were a big part of his life (+video)

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(Read caption) 50 years later, Dallas remembers John F. Kennedy
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John F. Kennedy was a voracious reader. In part this was due to the ill health that led to many invalid days in bed as a youth. He was often stuck in hospital stays for tests and treatment. Visitors would remark that the thin, young patient could hardly be seen behind the books piled around his pillow.

Adult visitors were sometimes surprised at how many of those books were serious histories.

“I was very impressed, because at that point this very young child was reading ‘The World Crisis’ by Winston Churchill,” said a friend of father Joseph P. Kennedy who saw JFK in the Mayo Clinic in 1934.

Throughout his life Kennedy loved what today might be considered dusty tomes. He read most if not every book Churchill wrote. In an article for Life Magazine in 1961 he listed as among his favorites Churchill’s million-word-long biography of ancestor John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough.

Churchill said he undertook Marlborough’s life to rescue his reputation from the smears of past historians. Perhaps the young Kennedy was thrilled by Churchill’s recitations of Marlborough’s many military victories.

“It is the common boast of his champions that he never fought a battle that he did not win, nor besieged a fortress he did not take,” wrote Churchill.


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