Title: Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books
Author: William Kuhn
Published: Anchor, 2011 (paperback edition)
Where I Got It: My wonderful Secret Santa, Kimberly, sent it to me.
I am a huge admirer of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I think that she embodied so much of the grace and charm that I always seek to cultivate in my own life. She had a varied set of interests that included art, ballet, reading, fashion, decorating, and even pop culture. All of these are interests of mine as well, which, I think, is why I feel such an affinity towards her. I first saw press on this book back in 2010 before it was originally published. I really wanted a copy because I thought the biography was extremely interesting, but just never bought it. So I was elated when it showed up in my Secret Santa package in December. I started in on it immediately and finished in a few days, underlining, taking notes, and dog-earing pages throughout.
So...about the book...
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was a notoriously private person, who really resented the spotlight's glare on her personal life. She rarely gave interviews. She did not write her memoirs. She even put a ban on her letters and papers being published after her death. But through the projects she was involved with as an editor at Viking, then Doubleday, she left some clues about herself. William Kuhn looks at these clues and tells a story about her based on these books and projects and what others have said about Jackie. During her tenure as an editor, Jackie was involved with upwards of 100 books that speak to her various interests and opinions.
The book opens with a wonderful testament to Jackie's love of reading and books. From there, Kuhn breaks the biography into several topical chapters--such as a chapter about relationships and a chapter about beauty. All the while, Kuhn weaves together a narrative that tells the story of the book's publication process and what it meant to Jackie--the chapter on relationships includes a book about Sally Hemings (Thomas Jefferson's mistress) and the chapter about beauty includes a book with pictures of Marilyn Monroe.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about Jackie Kennedy while reading it. I added a long list of books, authors, and topics to investigate to my already long list. Though maybe some of the connections that the author draws are specious (there's not a whole lot of definitive evidence that she chose to support this book or that book because of a personal connection, in my opinion) there are a lot of coincidences that I think lead the reader to accept these claims as plausible. It is a book that I will definitely look at again in the future, having quickly become a person favorite. Another thing that this book did for me was it reignited an old dream of working in publishing, especially as a book editor, so it's given me a career path that I want to work towards.
I would highly recommend this book to people who are interested in Jackie Kennedy or to people who are interested in the concept of how books tell the story of a person. It's also just a great bookish read.