Wednesday, July 17, 2019
JFK, 007, and Favorite Books
President John F. Kennedy was a Fleming fan.
It is the kind of thing you hear and remember, but don’t know if it was really true.
It was true.
Kennedy not only liked From Russia With Love, he included it on a short list of favorite books.
On Sunday, April 14, 1963, newspapers around the country ran a story from the Associated Press with headlines like, “Spy Thriller On Kennedy Reading List.”
A Long Island woman, the head of her local public library’s board, wrote to the president, “asking him to name two books he considered to have played a part in shaping his life.”
She received a reply from Mr. Kennedy through a presidential aid that included a list of books JFK called, “his particular favorites.” This was the list:
The Emergence of Lincoln by Allen Nevins;
The Price of Union by Herbert Agar;
John C. Calhoun, American Portrait by Margaret L. Coit;
Byron In Italy by Peter Quennell;
Talleyrand by Duff Cooper;
Marlborough by Sir Winston Churchill;
Lord Melbourne by Lord David Cecil;
Montrose by John Buchan;
The Red and the Black by Stendhal; and
From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming.
Some publications featured 11 books, and others made it an even dozen by including:
John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy by Samuel Flagg Bemis; and
Pilgrim's Way by John Buchan
Editors must have found it intriguing that the president placed Ian Fleming’s novel among the histories and biographies and they usually listed the James Bond book last, almost as a punch line.
JFK was a voracious reader. “He was always reading,” Jackie Kennedy once said.
Asked in a July 1963 interview, how it felt to have written one of President Kennedy’s favorite books, Ian Fleming said, “It’s quite flattering.”
Fleming said he had met the president and Mrs. Kennedy and had sent JFK autographed copies of his James Bond novels. He said, “It’s the least I can do.”
(Also, please check out my book, Lyme Depot. Thanks.)
(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)