12 Books About The Kennedys To Read After You Watch Jackie

In my opinion, one of the best parts about watching a based-on-history TV show or biopic isn't the actual production itself. Instead, it's the black hole I find myself in afterwards, Googling and paging through lists of books I need to read to learn more on the subject.

And after watching Jackie — the breathless, stirring new film starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis —I found myself in a hole that lasted a full week. The film artfully captures an especially harrowing period of Onassis' life: the days following her husband's assassination. While it could have been a rehashing of things we already know, this movie gives new insight into the former First Lady's life and legacy — and it also left me wanting to know everything I could about the Kennedy family.

As the credits rolled and I walked to the subway, I immediately started researching. I wanted to read more about John F. Kennedy as a child, Jackie's later life in book publishing, her relationship with Bobby Kennedy, and more. But when the internet began to feel overwhelming (there are hundreds of articles out there, let me tell you!), I turned instead to adding some books to my wish list to answer any question I could ever possibly have about the Kennedy family.

So here are the dozen best books that I found. I hope these will help in your own post-Jackie journey. Don't be shy about sharing reading suggestions of your own in the comments, too. I'm still not satisfied on my Camelot quest.

Jackie opens in theaters December 2.

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Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy
Foreword by Caroline Kennedy

First up on your reading list will likely be John F. Kennedy himself, of course. JFK notoriously installed secret recording devices in the Oval Office; after his death, that meant that hundreds of hours of audio of the president making crucial decisions in the midst of a nuclear crisis, the Civil Rights movement, and more were available for dissecting. The collection of transcripts includes annotations and a foreword from his daughter, Caroline.
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Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations On Life With John F. Kennedy
Foreword by Caroline Kennedy

What better way to learn more about JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy than from Jackie herself?

This collection includes transcriptions of seven recorded interviews with historian Arthur Schlesinger about President John F. Kennedy's legacy and Jackie's life with him. The full eight (!) hours of interviews include her commentary about their relationship and marriage, but also more about JFK in his private life. This one's also got a personal foreword by daughter Caroline Kennedy.
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When We Were The Kennedys: A Memoir From Mexico, Maine
By Monica Wood

For readers too young to remember what the world felt like immediately following the assassination of President Kennedy, check out Monica Wood's memoir of her own father's death — and how her family healed, all in the same year of the death of the country's president.

The author reflects on grieving her father by also relating to Kennedy's own daughter, Caroline, while crafting a moving memoir that reminds us how our own stories can unexpectedly become intertwined with history.
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A Woman Named Jackie
By C. David Heymann

This best-seller is widely known as the ultimate Jackie O. biography for readers thirsty for detailed, and juicy insight into her life. In fact, the bio was so popular that it inspired a 1991 mini-TV series — just a few years before Kennedy Onassis's death — starring Marianna Bishop as the former first lady.
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One Special Summer
By Jacqueline and Lee Bouvier

Before she was a First Lady, Jacqueline Bouvier was a young girl with the same dreams many of us a teenager: Seeing the world.

It was as an 18-year-old that she traveled to Europe for the first time with her younger sister, Lee. The pair created an illustrated diary of their travels, which they gifted to their parents upon return. Little did they know that the book would one day become available for the entire world to get a look at what life was like for the young and free Bouvier girls.
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Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story
By C. David Heymann

One of the best things about Jackie is that the filmmakers make it clear that Jackie Kennedy and her brother-in-law Bobby had a special relationship.

But if you're interested in learning just how special it got, biographer C. David Heymann's followup to A Woman Named Jackie tackles their alleged love affair head-on, complete with evidence from FBI documents and first-person accounts of friends and employees familiar with their four-year dalliance.
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Mrs. Kennedy And Me
By Clint Hill

If we're to believe Scandal (okay, or history) the person who most likely spends the most time with a president or first lady might not even be family — but their Secret Service Agent.

So it makes sense that Special Agent Clint Hill, who spent four years serving Jackie before and after her first husband's assassination, would know it all. In fact, it was Hill who was there the day Jackie cradled her husband's head in her lap as they sped to the hospital after he was shot. As Amazon describes the 2012 novel: "Mrs. Kennedy’s strength, class, and dignity over those tragic four days in November 1963 held the country together. This is the story, told for the first time, of the man who perhaps held her together."
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Jackie As Editor: The Literary Life Of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
By Greg Lawrence

Much has been said about Jackie Kennedy's time as first lady and her many romances, but lesser-written about is her time (19 years!) as a book editor.

In fact, it wasn't until she was 46 years old that she went to work for the first time on her own. In this 2011 book, Greg Lawrence — who had his own work edited by Kennedy Onassis — spoke to over 100 of her colleagues and collaborators to get a sense of who the mother, wife, and former First Lady was as a working woman.
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Fairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir Of Life, Love, And Loss
By Rosemarie Terenzio

When you've made your way through reading about JFK and Jackie, you can move on to the unfortunate tragic stories of other family members — including, of course, John F. Kennedy Jr.

There are two intriguing stories about his short life told through two different women: This one is by Rosemarie Terenzio, his personal assistant. Terenzio, a "blue-collar" Italian girl from the Bronx, didn't expect to befriend the son of a former president, but in her novel she chronicles her memories of how their close friendship blossomed over the years.
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Come To The Edge: A Memoir
By Christina Haag

Here's another look at what JFK Jr. was like. But this time, from the slightly juicier perspective of his ex-girlfriend, Christina Haag.

Yes, that would be the girlfriend before he dated and eventually married Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. There's details on what John was like as a prep school kid, their mutual time as college theater geeks, and yes, their sex life. Get the popcorn ready.
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The Missing Kennedy
By Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff

Another somewhat scandalous element of the Kennedy family tree worth digging into is the story of Rosemary Kennedy.

Coincidentally, there were two books released about John F. Kennedy's little-known-about sister recently: This first, out last October, was written by the niece of Rosemary Kennedy's longtime caregiver, who saw to the "slow learner" for years after she underwent one of America's first ever (and secret) lobotomies in 1941. Sad stuff, but also deeply fascinating.
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Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
Kate Clifford Larson

Also in October of last year came another look at the secretive and sad life of Rosemary. This one is more straightforward and based on facts from resources closest to the life of Kennedy: Her diaries, letters, and interviews with family members.

(One of the biggest revelations? That JFK himself visited Rosemary for the first time in 20 years while campaigning in the midwest.) Prepare to shed a tear for a heartbreaking story that could have been so different had she lived in a different era — and in a different family.
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