Books I Read in 2013

Here’s a list of books I read in 2013, in chronological order. Pretty much just nonfiction, as usual. Actually, a couple of weeks ago I started reading The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s new novel (I really enjoyed The Secret History way back when), but for some reason fiction never absorbs me anymore, and instead I found myself pulled into a biography of Alfred Hitchcock.

Anyway, here’s what I read in 2013, starting in January. (Here is last year’s list.)

  • The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, David Nasaw (started at end of 2012)
  • The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America, James T. Patterson
  • George F. Kennan: An American Life, John Lewis Gaddis
  • The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies, David Thomson (first third or so)
  • Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945, Max Hastings
  • Communism: A History, Richard Pipes
  • Ancient Philosophy: A New History of Western Philosophy, Volume 1, Anthony Kenny (almost finished)
  • On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present, Alan Ryan (2 vols.)
  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, Gordon S. Wood
  • The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, Eric Foner
  • Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865, James Oakes
  • The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, Dan Jones
  • The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England, Marc Morris
  • Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors, Peter Ackroyd
  • Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I, Peter Ackroyd
  • Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Vincent Bugliosi (all except first part, which I’d previously read)
  • The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, Larry J. Sabato
  • Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage, Jeffrey Frank
  • (Passage of Power – reread various parts of it – intro, JFK assassination, transition)
  • The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence, Robert Klara
  • Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House, Peter Baker
  • The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, George Packer

Review: The Patriarch, by David Nasaw

I recently finished reading The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, a new biography by David Nasaw. It’s a good read, and it made me reconsider Kennedy’s pacifism, isolationism, and reputation for “appeasement.”

Previously, all I knew about Joe Kennedy came from biographies I’d read of his sons, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, as well as from random pieces of lore. I knew he was rich, probably antisemitic, smarmy, possibly corrupt, and maybe even a Hitler supporter.

I didn’t realize what a remarkably full life Kennedy led: an industrialist during World War I, a movie mogul during the 1920s, the first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and then U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom at the beginning of World War II. (He resigned before the U.S. entered the war.) Nasaw debunks the myth that Kennedy was a bootlegger during Prohibition; he finds no evidence of this.

There are two things any biographer of Joseph P. Kennedy must deal with: his antisemitism, and his desire to appease Hitler.

Nasaw clearly shows that Kennedy was antisemitic. Like most antisemites, Kennedy thought that Jews controlled Hollywood and big business and had undue influence in government. He believed, with no evidence, that Jews were pushing FDR toward war. He also thought there was a Jewish conspiracy to tar his good name, even though one of his closest media allies was Arthur Krock of the New York Times — who was Jewish. Kennedy’s antisemitism is a stain on his life that can never be removed.

Nasaw perceptively relates Kennedy’s opinion of Jews to his identity as a Catholic, another religious minority that faced bias in the first half of the 20th century. Sometimes Kennedy wished Jews would do a better job of assimilating into American life, like he thought Catholics had. But when his son Jack ran for president, many influential Catholics opposed his candidacy. Kennedy wondered why American Catholics couldn’t get more organized, speak with one voice, and rally around Jack like he thought American Jews would do for a Jewish candidate.

In Kennedy’s favor, he did make some efforts to rescue Germany’s Jews and try to find a place for them in the British Empire — not out of humanitarian concern, but because he thought it might remove a cause for war against Hitler, a war Kennedy deeply feared.

Kennedy has gone down in history as a traitor, a Hitler-lover, an appeaser. This is a bit exaggerated; he wanted to prevent war because he loved his country. He thought Hitler was a man one could deal with, but so did many other officials. When he lived in Britain as U.S. ambassador, he supported Prime Minister Chamberlain’s attempts to make peace in Munich. He wrote ridiculously histrionic memos back home to the State Department, urging the U.S. to stay out of the war and predicting terrible consequences, such as worldwide economic devastation and a fascist American economy, if the U.S. went to war against Germany. It times it seemed like his greatest concern was keeping his eldest sons — Joe, Jr., and Jack — from having to fight and possibly die in a war. Sadly, that’s exactly what happened to his oldest son, Joe, Jr., who became a naval aviator during the war and died during a bombing run.

Of course, we won the war — World War II is seen as the last “good war” — and Kennedy is seen today as extremely wrong-headed and bizarrely pessimistic in his isolationism. But his pacifism continued into the Cold War; he opposed President Truman’s containment strategy against the Soviet Union and feared what it might do to our country.

When I read about his views on the Cold War, I started to think that maybe Kennedy was prescient. In a sense, he predicted what President Eisenhower would call the “military-industrial complex” in 1961. As Nasaw writes of Kennedy:

The depression that he feared would result from escalating military spending overseas did not come to pass in his lifetime. The American economy would be transformed, as he predicted, but money spent abroad, much of it on military projects, would not destroy “economic well-being,” but rather stimulate growth and increase per capita income at home. Only over the long term would it become apparent that this Cold War spending spree might have had other, perhaps less positive impacts on American “economic well-being” by diverting capital from infrastructure, nonmilitary industrial modernization, and social welfare projects.

It’s easy to look back and say that Joe Kennedy was an idiot for opposing our involvement in World War II. But look at Darfur and other places in modern times: many Americans, including myself, would like to “stay out of it.” Of course, we live in a different era, when the United States has overextended itself across the world. It didn’t have to be this way, but that’s what happened. If I were alive in the 1930s and not Jewish, what would I have felt about the idea of fighting the Nazi empire? I can’t know. I’d be living in a different time, with different memories, and different assumptions about the world.

As for the Cold War, Kennedy certainly seems prophetic. By the time the U.S. escalated its involvement in Vietnam, ostensibly to fight communism, Kennedy had suffered a debilitating stroke that kept him from communicating complex thoughts to anyone. It seems likely he would have opposed (or did oppose) that war, and he would have been right.

There’s more to this book besides antisemitism and isolationism and other “-isms.” Nasaw brings Kennedy to life as a person: his marriage to Rose; his affairs; his pride in, and concern and love for, his nine children (at times it becomes hard for a reader to keep track of them all); his great wealth; his influence; his ego. After reading this book, I don’t like Kennedy more than I used to, but I don’t dislike him any more either. I just feel like I understand him better — which is what a good biography should do.

I Like Ike

I’m currently reading my second book in row about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Last week I finished Eisenhower: The White House Years, by Jim Newton, and now I’m reading a brand new biography of Ike that just came out last week: Eisenhower in War and Peace, by Jean Edward Smith (who wrote a great biography of FDR that I read a couple of years ago).

Eisenhower seems to be a forgotten president these days: a genial caretaker of peaceful 1950s America, smiling and playing golf between heart attacks. FDR, JFK, and Reagan are icons; LBJ and Nixon are larger than life, almost Shakespearean. By contrast, Ike seems like he was a normal guy presiding over a noncontroversial era. But he didn’t merely preside over a time of peace; he helped maintain that peace, at a time when the U.S. and the Soviet Union could have destroyed each other with nuclear weapons. He ended the Korean War, he declined France’s request to get involved on the ground in Vietnam, he worked with Krushchev, he let Joe McCarthy implode, he signed the first civil rights act in 100 years (albeit a pretty weak one, and he had to be dragged to do it), he initiated the interstate highway system, and he maintained the existing social safety net, and as he left office he warned against the growing military-industrial complex.

True, he also authorized coups in Iran and Guatemala. But on the whole, his record looks good.

In his first year in office, he said:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?

He was not a liberal, as we think of the term today: he wasn’t interested in expanding the social safety net to include national health insurance — for the elderly or for anyone else — and he barely did anything to rectify racial inequality. But he had no interest in lowering taxes or in destroying the existing safety net:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.

He was the last Republican president before the GOP went nuts.

And of course, before he was president, he commanded the D-Day invasion. He is one of the few U.S. presidents who, had he not been president, would still hold a revered place in American history.

I’d always wanted to learn more about Eisenhower, and I’m enjoying reading about him now. The more I read about him, the more I admire him.

(By the way, isn’t it weird that the man who was president during the all-American 1950s had a German last name?)

Stephen King, 11/22/63

I don’t read much fiction, but when I saw that Stephen’s King newest novel was about a man who travels back in time to try and stop the assassination of JFK, I knew I had to read it. I’m a sucker for a good time-travel story, and I’ve long been interested in the JFK assassination, so this was right up my alley.

Well, it didn’t disappoint. Not only is it a thrilling read — it turns out to be a great love story, and very moving. It’s a long book — 850 pages — but I read it in a week, which is very fast for me. Whenever I had a free moment I just wanted to dive back into it. I started it last Saturday and finished it last night.

Time travel is my favorite sci-fi genre, because I love the theoretical implications. You really wouldn’t be able to go back in time without changing history. If you live in the past for any extended period of time, you’re going to have to eat and drink things, and buy stuff, and live somewhere. What if you buy something and that means, somewhere down the line, that the store runs out of stuff that some other person was originally supposed to buy? What if you rent a motel room and it turns out that someone else was originally supposed to rent it? What if your mere presence on a street has some micro-effect on the steps a man takes as he walks down that same street — either because he has to walk around you or merely notices you — and those micro-contortions cause the sperm inside him to jostle around slightly differently than they originally would have, so that when he impregnates his wife, a different sperm inseminates the egg, and an entirely different person is born?

You just never know.

11/22/63 doesn’t go quite that far. But at any rate, it’s terrific.

The only other Stephen King book I’d read before this was The Stand, a long time ago, and I only got about 1/3 of the way through it because it was too long. I’ve tended to dismiss him as a pop-fiction horror writer, but I really enjoyed this book, and I may have to read more of them now. Maybe I’ll work my way backward and read Under the Dome soon. (But right now I have a backlog of books to read. I still want to read the Steve Jobs biography.)

Also, it was refreshing to read a brand-new book. My reading interests are quirky, so most books I read are a few years old. It was nice to read a book that just came out.

Oh, and incidentally: the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination is November 22, 2013. JFK was assassinated on a Friday, and the 50th anniversary will also, somewhat creepily, be a Friday. And Friday is the day when movies are normally released. So maybe 11/22/13 would be a good release date for a movie adaption of this book. Just saying…

Watching TV

Lately I’ve been nerding out with a terrific book: Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television, by Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik. It’s an incredibly detailed history of American television, organized season by season. The first three chapters cover the invention of TV and the beginnings of TV broadcasting, and after that, each TV season is covered in great, engagingly written detail, one chapter per season, from 1944-45 all the way up through 2009-10. (So far I’m up to 1978-79.) Most chapters are about 7-8 pages long, but the book is 8 1/2″ by 11″ and the text is in two columns per page, so on ordinary-sized book pages, each chapter would probably be about 20 pages long. (The chapters have neat titles, too. Here’s an explanation of each chapter title.)

The season-by-season structure lets you follow the story of TV over the years: the rise of the networks, the completion of the coaxial cable that allowed live TV from coast to coast, the move of TV production from New York to Hollywood. You can follow the flow of broadcasting trends over the years: TV experimentation in the 1940s, variety shows and anthologies and Westerns in the 1950s, action-adventure shows and rural escapist sitcoms in the 1960s, smartly-written CBS sitcoms in the early 1970s, and so on. You can follow the changing fortunes of the big networks: CBS was king for the first few decades of TV, but in the mid-70s ABC suddenly rocketed to number one with entertaining escapism like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Charlie’s Angels. (That’s where I am right now.)

The book also covers government regulation of TV and the rise of public TV and cable TV, and it touches on national and world events when relevant. Did you ever wonder why network prime time runs from 8-11 pm (7-10 pm Central/Mountain), except for Sundays when there’s an extra hour? Did you ever wonder why TVs used to have both VHF and UHF dials? It’s in this book.

Each chapter also has a prime-time grid of the networks’ fall schedules for that season, as well as a sidebar listing some important events from the season.

This will sound silly, but I love this book. I’d always been a TV history nerd, but I didn’t know this book existed until a year ago. (It’s actually an updated edition; it was first published in 1982). I haven’t loved a book so much since The President’s House, a two-volume history of the White House, covered chronologically by presidency, that I read a few years ago. I guess I enjoy incredibly detailed, information-packed, well-written chronological narratives about topics I’m interested in.

Yeah, I’m a nerd, and proud of it.

Between Books

Last week I finished reading a long book, and I’m trying to find a new one. So far, no luck.

I’ve got several dozen book samples on my Kindle, but none of them seems to be grabbing me. I keep switching back and forth between different books until my interest latches onto it. I guess that’s the nice thing about the Kindle, though: I can carry more than one book with me at a time.

I’m switching back and forth among Diarmaid McCulloch’s Christianity (a history book), Richard Evans’s The Third Reich in Power (I read the first book in his trilogy, The Coming of the Third Reich, a few years ago), and Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, also about Nazi Germany. But I’ve reached the end of the sample of that last one, and I can’t seem to get myself interested enough to pay for the whole book.

Why such depressing subject matter? I don’t know. I just find it interesting. But apparently not interesting enough to latch onto right now for a full read.

Maybe I need a break from reading the Kindle screen? Maybe I miss old-fashioned paper books?

I don’t know. I’m sure some book will call out to me soon enough.

The Story of Britain

I’ve been reading The Story of Britain, by Rebecca Fraser. It’s a survey history of Britain from ancient times to the present, and I’m enjoying it. I took a British history course in college, but I’d forgotten a lot of it.

My college course was a year-long class, and I had wildly different professors in the fall and spring. The fall professor, who covered English history up to 1688, was old-fashioned and histrionic. All I really remember is him telling us the tale of the princes in the tower in this wildly over-the-top and dramatic manner.

The second half covered British history from 1688 to the present, and I enjoyed it much more – in part because I found the modern era more interesting, and in part because the professor was much more sane and coherent and analytical.

This book is bringing it all back, and filling in the gaps I’d missed. It focuses more on the monarchs in the first half, but once it gets to the 18th or 19th century, it turns into a more general history. I’m about 70% through the book, up to the middle of the Victorian era.

One great thing about reading this book is that I’ve finally memorized the order of the English monarchs from William the Conqueror to the present. I was already mostly familiar with the Tudors onward, but everything before that just seemed like a mishmash of Henrys, Edwards and Richards. No more; now it all makes sense. Along with the book, this Wikipedia page has been pretty helpful in getting things straight, particularly this simplified family tree.

Also, since I’m much more familiar with American history, it’s always interesting to see it from the British point of view. The American Revolution is a pretty big deal. The War of 1812 is barely mentioned; although it was a major milestone in the formation of an American national identity, the British were much more occupied at the time with Napoleon’s takeover of Europe (although they did manage to burn the White House to a shell). The U.S. Civil War matters because of its effect on the cotton trade. It’s kind of like those books or movies where you encounter the same events from wildly different points of view.

I love history so much. I don’t know why. I’m kind of addicted to learning, although sometimes my brain capacity is too small for my ambitions: I can’t read as fast as I’d like to, and I can’t remember as much of what I read as I’d like to, either. Still, I love it.

Books Read in 2010

Here are the books I read in 2010, in chronological order. As always, I followed my interests wherever they led me. They reflect some of the things I did this year: got a Mac, went to Walt Disney World. In the winter and early spring, I got back into the history of broadcasting, one of my recurrent interests. I read two novels this year; everything else was non-fiction. Oddly, there were a few books that I read for a second time this year. Here we go:

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, Robert Caro

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent, Robert Caro

Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television, Erik Barnouw (half)

Stay Tuned: A History of American Broadcasting, Christopher H. Sterling & John Michael Kittross (first few chapters)

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software, Charles Petzold (2nd time)

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas R. Hofstadter (3rd time started, 1st time finished!)

Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications, Richard H. John

Think Python: An Introduction to Software Design: How To Think Like A Computer Scientist, Allen Downey

Upgrading and Repairing PCs (19th Edition), Scott Mueller (first few chapters)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Snow Leopard Edition, David Pogue

Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer That Changed Everything, Steven Levy (2nd time)

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2011, Bob Sehlinger, Menasha Ridge, and Len Testa

Right Star Rising: A New Politics, 1974-1980, Laura Kalman

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, Rick Perlstein

Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television, Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik (first few chapters; would love to get back to this)

Walt Disney: An American Original, Bob Thomas

Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World, David Koenig

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, Daniel Walker Howe

The Imperfectionists: A Novel, Tom Rachman

Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace (started for the second time)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I don’t read very much fiction, let alone bestseller fiction, but last night I finished Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Matt bought and raced through it a few weeks ago after reading an article about the author. (Stieg Larsson died in 2004, shortly after submitting his trilogy to the publisher.) Matt enjoyed it, so I decided to take it with me on my business trip to Banff. I started it on the airplane and read it on and off during my trip.

I had several meals at the hotel alone, so each time I’d bring the book with me. Not one, not two, but three servers commented on it. My waitress at lunch one day said she had just finished it the night before. My waitress at dinner that night said she was reading it. My waiter at dinner the next night said he had just finished it and that I was in for a ride. I guess the book had been going around the hotel.

So I finished it last night, and I liked it.

But it’s a curious book.

First, it’s an English translation of a Swedish thriller, and a British English translation at that, so on top of the occasional stilted sentence there are Britishisms like gaol instead of jail. It’s like looking at something through two window panes.

And people in the book are always drinking coffee and eating sandwiches. I did a word search inside the book on Amazon, and coffee is mentioned 98 times, an average of once every six pages.

And the author focuses on weird details. He goes into detail not only about the types of sandwiches characters make, but also about their computers — the brand, the hard drive storage and memory capacity, and so on. (Those details are interesting to me, I’ll admit.) He repeatedly refers to one character’s iBook. (In fact, iBook gets 19 mentions; laptop, only 10.) Details in a work of fiction are a nice touch, of course, but it’s like a fetish or something.

The book moves slowly. There are long stretches when not much seems to be happening. The story involves an extended Swedish family, and it takes a while before you start to remember who’s who — but maybe that’s supposed to echo the main character’s confusion? I don’t know. It rambles at times and could be more tightly plotted.

And yet it’s an absorbing read.

During the summer of 1992, I read John Grisham’s The Firm. Say what you will about John Grisham’s later work: The Firm was an exciting book, amazingly entertaining, well plotted, with a great payoff. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not quite like that. It’s idiosyncratic and some editing might have helped. But I’ll probably read the next book in the trilogy anyway.


Today is the 46th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I just finished reading Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, by Vincent Bugliosi, an engrossing minute-by-minute narrative of November 22-25, 1963, encompassing Kennedy’s assassination, LBJ’s swearing in, the arrest and questioning of Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby’s killing of Oswald, and JFK’s funeral. It’s written in the present tense, which increases the sense of immediacy.

Four Days in November is actually an excerpt of a much, much larger book by Bugliosi, Reclaiming History, published in 2007, in which Bugliosi aims to shoot down all the conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination, one by one, and prove that Oswald did it and that he acted alone. Having finished Four Days in November, my interest is piqued, so I’ve decided to try reading the whole thing, or at least as much of it as I can before I get tired of it. So I took the big kahuna out of the library the other day.

I certainly won’t be able to carry it around with me on the subway. According to it weighs 5.6 pounds. And yes, it is massive, almost three inches thick. Maybe I’ll buy the Kindle version (just $12.55) and read it using the free iPhone Kindle app.

How many pages is Reclaiming History? Well, the Four Days in November portion of the book, which took me a week and a half to read, is 317 pages. But the entire book is more than 1,500 pages. More than 1,500 pages! (Excluding the bibliography and index.)

Oh, but wait! The book comes with a CD containing two PDF files, the Source Notes and the Endnotes, since the book was already so big. The Source Notes are 170 pages of citations, which are basically just one-line citations that don’t contain substantive information. But the Endnotes? The Endnotes run to 958 pages! And they are substantive, providing various asides on numerous topics for those who want it. One of those endnotes, perhaps the longest in the book, is 66 pages.

So if you include the book’s Introduction (36 pages), the main text (1,510 pages), and the Endnotes (958 pages), that’s 2,504 pages. As Bugliosi writes in the Introduction, “if this book (including endnotes) had been printed in an average-size font and with pages of normal length and width, at 1,535,791 words, and with a typical book length of 400 pages, and 300 words per page, this work would translate into around thirteen volumes.” Maybe more like eight volumes, since Four Days in November is about an eighth of the total, but that’s still massive.

Not to mention obsessive. But there are a lot of conspiracy theories to deal with.

I’m a novice when it comes to all the assassination conspiracy stuff, but it seems to me that it’s all bullshit and that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Of course, I know barely anything about the topic, so my opinion doesn’t count for anything. But conspiracy theories just seem silly.

For one thing, there are tons of conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination. Reams of books have been written. But as Bugliosi points out in his well-worth-reading Introduction, if one of the conspiracy theories is correct, then all the rest of them are incorrect. And if that’s so, then the tons of people who claim to have uncovered evidence or witnesses or inconsistencies that prove or support their pet theories are simply wrong. Therefore, there’s no reason to give credence to one of these theories just because someone puts forth what seems to be a well-argued case.

For another thing, the Warren Commission, which examined the assassination, did not conduct a superficial investigation. It was massive, including interviews with more than 500 witnesses, trips to numerous locations over several months, and examinations of evidence. And it did not have a predetermined goal in mind; it was open to finding conspiracies. It found none. Most people who discount the Warren Commission’s conclusions (and apparently that includes a majority of Americans) have not read the Warren Commission’s report, let alone the 26 volumes of supporting testimony and documentation, which together run to more than 18,000 pages. Most people don’t even know how extensive the investigation was. If the victim had been an ordinary person instead of the President of the United States, such a thorough investigation would convince most people. But because it’s JFK, his death apparently has to be a result of sinister forces.

I have only begun to dip into Bugliosi’s book, in which he claims to have settled the issue once and for all. And yet… I go online and find numerous criticisms of his book by conspiracy theorists who say he ignored this and ignored that. It actually upsets me. Not physically or emotionally, but intellectually. Because if Bugliosi can devote more than 20 years to this enormous volume and pick apart conspiracy theories one by one, and yet people can respond, “That idiot is totally ignoring X and Y and Z,” then what am I, a novice who is only a fraction of the way through this book, supposed to think? It just makes me frustrated.

I don’t know why I should even bother dipping my toes into the most obsessively studied one-day event in American history, an event people have devoted their entire lives to examining. All I can say is that I find it interesting, and I’ll read this book until I get sick of it. And then I’ll move on to something else.