Book Review: »JFK Day by Day«

»JFK: Day by Day«, written by Terry Golway and published by Les Krantz, is a detailed, meticulous and thoroughly arranged account of the presidency of John F. Kennedy. It closely follows and documents every single day John F. Kennedy spent as President of the United States of America – literally, as it says on the cover, »from inauguration to assassination«.

Terry Golway, a former member of the editorial board of the New York Times and former City Editor of the New York Observer, is currently the director of the John Kean Institute for American History at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. The historian, author, scholar, and columnist is also publisher of the book »Let Every Nation Know: JFK in His Own Words«, a collection of speeches delivered by the late president. Golway has furthermore appeared in several documentaries and is a frequent public speaker.


»JFK: Day by Day« offers the reader a summary on each year of the Kennedy Presidency, as well as entries (short, however rich in detail) on each of the 1,036 days which can be found on the right side of each page, listed vertically. Days especially high in significance are elaborated on with a more extensive entry. Written in present tense and accompanied by a large number of photographs (both in color as well as black and white) from the White House Selection of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the book vividly describes important events and major themes, giving the reader an impression of immediacy and actuality and offering a »re-living« of JFK’s presidency. 


Each of the three chapters, one for every year, starts with a lengthy introductory section and summary of the events of the following 365 days. Major topics include Kennedy’s efforts to improve the domestic economy in 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and the president’s historic visit to Berlin as well as his commitment to further reinforcement of civil rights in 1963. In addition to the descriptions of particular days, Golway also offers additional entries on certain issues, discussing both topics from the field of politics and public events as well as from the president’s and his family’s private lives. Among these highlighted themes are »Nuclear Peace« (focusing on the tense relationship with the Soviet Union), »Assessing JFK’s Legacy« (an entry on the significance of the abruptly ended presidency) as well as »Jackie as Minister of Culture« and »Loss of a Son« (an account of the miscarriage Jackie Kennedy experienced in August of 1963). 


Golway’s seemingly neutral, yet slightly biased tone as well as his accessible style and diction are skilfully applied means to master the transition from political and governmental issues to trivia and private subjects during John F. Kennedy’s time at the White House. The reader will encounter an appealingly structured account of this remarkable presidency. Whether, however, the book keeps its promise to »Discover the truth behind the myths« (as quoted from back cover), may be left open to debate.