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Extended Audio Sample Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon, by Larry Tye Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Larry Tye Narrator: Marc Cashman Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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History remembers Robert F. Kennedy as a racial healer, a tribune for the poor, and the last progressive knight of a bygone era of American politics. But Kennedy’s enshrinement in the liberal pantheon was actually the final stage of a journey that had its beginnings in the conservative 1950s. In Bobby Kennedy, Larry Tye peels away layers of myth and misconception to paint a complete portrait of this singularly fascinating figure.

To capture the full arc of his subject’s life, Tye draws on rare access granted to him by the Kennedy family, including unpublished memoirs, unreleased government files, and fifty-eight boxes of papers that had been under lock and key for the past forty years. He conducted hours of interviews with RFK intimates, including Bobby’s widow, Ethel, his sister Jean, and his aide John Siegenthaler—many of whom have never spoken to another biographer. Tye’s determination to sift through the tangle of often contradictory opinions means that Bobby Kennedy will stand as the definitive one-volume biography of a man much beloved but just as often misunderstood.

Bobby Kennedy’s transformation from cold warrior to fiery liberal is a profoundly moving personal story that also offers a lens onto two of the most chaotic and confounding decades of twentieth-century American history. The first half of RFK’s career underlines what the country was like in the era of Eisenhower, while his last years as a champion of the underclass reflect the seismic shifts wrought by the 1960s. Nurtured on the rightist orthodoxies of his dynasty-building father, Bobby Kennedy began his public life as counsel to the red-baiting senator Joseph McCarthy. He ended it with a noble campaign to unite working-class whites and poor blacks in an electoral coalition that seemed poised to redraw the face of presidential politics. Along the way, he turned up at the center of every event that mattered, from the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis to race riots and Vietnam.

Bare-knuckle operative, cynical White House insider, romantic visionary—Bobby Kennedy was all of these things at one time or another, and each of these aspects of his personality emerges in the pages of this powerful and perceptive new biography.

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Quotes & Awards

  • This is not just another Bobby Kennedy book. It is the definitive biography of one of America’s most compelling political figures. Larry Tye has given us the complete Bobby, from the Bad (Early) Kennedy to the Good (Later) Kennedy, from Joe McCarthy’s committee counsel to ‘ruthless’ political manager to gentle, softhearted presidential candidate. Tye’s book rests on prodigious and original research, including rare, on-the-record interviews with Bobby’s widow, Ethel, who confesses that seeing Bobby for the first time was like meeting George Clooney. Roger Mudd, winner of the Peabody Award and former co-anchor of NBC Nightly News
     
  • Robert Kennedy led one of the great unfinished lives in American history. With skill and verve, Larry Tye has written a fascinating account of a transformative figure who continues to summon us to heed our better angels even all these years distant. Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
  • Drawing on the personal papers and insights of the Kennedy family, this biography will appeal not only to those wanting a portrait of a dynamic idealist, but also to those seeking to understand the emotions of the times in which he lived. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Dreamy and calculating, joyful and sad, hard and soft, good and bad, Bobby Kennedy remains one of history’s fascinating and elusive figures. In this fair, lively, and insightful biography, Larry Tye makes him real. Evan Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of Robert Kennedy: His Life and Being Nixon: A Man Divided 
  • Larry Tye, with the eye of a good reporter and the diligence of an accomplished scholar, writes a fascinating, timely report on the other Kennedy—the one named Bobby, who started out supporting Joe McCarthy and died fighting in the anti–Vietnam War crusade. Bobby has always deserved a crackerjack bio. Tye has delivered it. Marvin Kalb, senior adviser at the Pulitzer Center and author of Imperial Gamble: Putin, Ukraine, and the New Cold War
  • It is difficult to envision anyone getting Robert F. Kennedy more right than biographer [Larry] Tye does in this superb book. Tye beautifully captures Kennedy’s contradictions, his emergence from under the hard-to-like father to whom he remained forever loyal, and his growth into a public figure killed by an assassin’s bullet. . . . Tye equitably concedes that Kennedy’s detractors have much reason to be tough on the man, and his clear depiction of Kennedy’s many blemishes is just one of the book’s many fine qualities. Another is its wonderful readability. In the end, Tye’s subject stands forth as an admirable man. Publishers Weekly (starred review)
     
  • A comprehensive, thesis-driven account . . . richly researched . . . Relying on countless interviews, including the contributions of RFK’s widow, Tye weaves a compelling story of Bobby’s changes: his growth from the ‘ruthless’ image his political enemies attached to him to the committed humanitarian, the friend of African-Americans, the enemy of poverty, and the outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. Kirkus Reviews
  • Larry Tye has done his homework. He has read the books and articles, interviewed hundreds of family members, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and made use of newly released materials in the Kennedy Library and elsewhere to produce a nuanced, balanced, affectionate and mostly favorable portrait. . . . [Tye] presents us . . . with a kind of bildungsroman of a young, privileged man who is forced to learn on the job and makes mistakes. . . . We are in Larry Tye’s debt for bringing back to life the young presidential candidate who . . . for a brief moment, almost half a century ago, instilled hope for the future in angry, fearful Americans. David Nasaw, The New York Times Book Review
  • Sweeping . . . [Tye] captures RFK’s rise and fall with straightforward prose bolstered by impressive research. Along with hundreds of interviews with Kennedy intimates, including his widow, Ethel, Tye sifted through unpublished memoirs, unreleased government files, and boxes of Kennedy papers that had been locked away for some forty years. USA Today
  • Absorbing . . . a captivating account of the political career of Robert F. Kennedy, from his years as a zealous communist hunter for Joe McCarthy through the 1968 presidential campaign during which he was assassinated ate age forty-two. For this state-of-the-art political biography, Tye conducted four hundred interviews with people who worked with Kennedy. He also had access to national archives. The author’s admiration for his subject shows, but this is no hagiography. . . . Shedding new light on Kennedy’s relationships with Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr., Tye ultimately reveals Kennedy as a work in progress who, by the end of his life, had become a beloved advocate for minorities and the poor. Library Journal (starred review)
  • The trouble with calling someone iconic is that the truth is often obscured under layers of mythology. . . . Through extensive conversations with Bobby’s widow, Ethel, and far-reaching interviews with key aides, colleagues, close friends, and ideological adversaries, Tye unflinchingly illustrates the evolution of a statesman who captured the imagination of a generation and whose assassination galvanized a nation. . . . Even-handed and probing, Tye’s perceptive analysis of RFK’s career and its impact avoids the hagiographic tone frequently associated with Kennedy biographies to provide a complete portrait of a complex man whose contributions to history were essential and whose potential will remain forever unknowable. Booklist (starred review)
  • Mr. Tye’s account is nuanced and thorough, and he manages the rare feat of interviewing Kennedy’s widow Ethel, now eighty-eight. . . . [RFK’s] vision echoes through the decades. ‘Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly,’ he said in 1966. If only modern-day leaders were so bold. The Economist
  • Bobby Kennedy, who was assassinated during his 1968 presidential campaign, is remembered for his antiwar stance and for standing up for civil rights and against poverty. But Tye (“Superman”) shows how RFK was not always the progressive hero but a work in progress—after all, Kennedy worked for Joseph McCarthy for a spell. Tye’s pages on the assassination are heart-wrenching. New York Post
  • Like Alexander Hamilton during our nation’s founding, [Bobby] Kennedy was the most dominant figure of his time not to be elected president. . . . Tye has crafted a multi-layered, inspiring portrait of RFK. Because the author refuses to avert his eyes from the uglier chapters in Kennedy’s life, he provides readers and historians their most in-depth look at an extraordinary figure whose transformational story shaped America at mid-century. The Washington Post
  • Very, very good . . . It captures RFK’s cold, ruthless side with appropriate relish, and it provides fast-paced and very detailed accounts of RFK’s early working relationship with soon-to-be-disgraced politician Joe McCarthy. Christian Science Monitor
  • Fascinating . . . The book is most successful in tracing Kennedy’s transition from a brash, patrician lawyer to a skilled liberal politician who overwhelmingly identified with those in the greatest need. AP News
  • Tye’s vivid journalistic style makes the biography an arresting read. . . . Bobby Kennedy’s journey closely mirrors the history of the country, from the Cold War through the civil rights movement, the dissent against the Vietnam War and growing public awareness of poverty in America. . . . Many of the most fascinating stories come through Tye’s dissection of Bobby’s relations with his adversaries. San Francisco Chronicle
  • “With skill and verve, Larry Tye has written a fascinating account of a transformative figure.”

    Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winner

  • “Sweeping…Captures RFK’s rise and fall with straightforward prose bolstered by impressive research.”

    USA Today

  • “Tye’s account is nuanced and thorough, and he manages the rare feat of interviewing Kennedy’s widow Ethel, now eighty-eight…[RFK’s] vision echoes through the decades.”

    Economist (London)

  • “Larry Tye has done his homework…to produce a nuanced, balanced, affectionate, and mostly favorable portrait…We are in Larry Tye’s debt for bringing back to life the young presidential candidate.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Trac[es] Kennedy’s transition from a brash, patrician lawyer to a skilled liberal politician who overwhelmingly identified with those in the greatest need.”

    Associated Press

  • “Very, very good…It captures RFK’s cold, ruthless side with appropriate relish, and it provides fast-paced and very detailed accounts of RFK’s early working relationship with soon-to-be-disgraced politician Joe McCarthy.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “It is difficult to envision anyone getting Robert F. Kennedy more right than biographer Tye does in this superb book. Tye beautifully captures Kennedy’s contradictions…[with] wonderful readability.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “A captivating account…shedding new light on Kennedy’s relationships with Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “Unflinchingly illustrates the evolution of a statesman…A complete portrait of a complex man whose contributions to history were essential and whose potential will remain forever unknowable.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Marc Cashman provides an affable, approachable narration for this biography of Bobby Kennedy. Listeners will find Cashman’s comforting voice a welcome respite, not only during the well-known tragedy that befalls Kennedy, but also as his complicated political and personal path unfolds.”

    AudioFile

  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • A New York Times Bestseller
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