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Extended Audio Sample Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books Audiobook, by William Kuhn Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (356 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: William Kuhn Narrator: Susan Denaker Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2010 ISBN: 9780307913579
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Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis never wrote a memoir, but she told her life story and revealed herself in intimate ways through the nearly 100 books she brought into print during the last two decades of her life as an editor at Viking and Doubleday. Based on archives and interviews with Jackie's authors, colleagues, and friends, Reading Jackie mines this significant period of her life to reveal both the serious and the mischievous woman underneath the glamorous public image. 
 
Though Jackie had a reputation for avoiding publicity, she willingly courted controversy in her books. She was the first editor to commission a commercially-successful book telling the story of Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his female slave.  Her publication of Gelsey Kirkland's attack on dance icon George Balanchine caused another storm. Jackie rarely spoke of her personal life, but many of her books ran parallel to, echoed, and emerged from her own experience. She was the editor behind bestsellers on the assassinations of Tsar Nicholas II and John Lennon, and in another book she paid tribute to the allure of Marilyn Monroe and Maria Callas. Her other projects take us into territory she knew well: journeys to Egypt and India, explorations of the mysteries of female beauty and media exploitation, into the minds of photographers, art historians, and the designers at Tiffany & Co. 
 
Many Americans regarded Jackie as the paragon of grace, but few knew her as the woman sitting on her office floor laying out illustrations, or flying to California to persuade Michael Jackson to write his autobiography. Reading Jackie provides a compelling behind-the-scenes look at Jackie at work: how she commissioned books and nurtured authors, as well as how she helped to shape stories that spoke to her strongly. Jackie is remembered today for her marriages to JFK and to Aristotle Onassis, but her real legacy is the books that reveal the tastes, recollections, and passions of an independent woman.

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Quotes & Awards

  • William Kuhn provides a thorough, well-researched, and insightful biography that focuses on [Jackie's] life as editor, but incorporates it as the centerpiece for understanding the fullness of this woman of unsurpassed celebrity who developed a life and career of her own. She emerges as an accomplished editor as well as perhaps America's most iconic woman of the 20th century. The Post and Courier
  • A fascinating window into an aspect of Jackie Kennedy Onassis that few of us know. USA Today
  • In his impeccably researched book, Kuhn unearths plenty of juicy revelations... Enlightening and surprising... Reading Jackie [is] a fascinating book. The Buffalo News
  • This is a rigorously researched book that doesn't shrink from having a go at the question that Gloria Steinem once asked Ms. Magazine, 'Why does this woman work?' Avenue Magazine
  • The best way to get beyond the well-beaten ground of the facts of [Jackie’s] life is absolutely through her books ... Kuhn definitely did his research, interviewing former colleagues, friends, and authors, and they sing like birds ... In the end we all have our own frame of reference for Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, debutante, queen of Camelot, socialite, widow, kingmaker, and editor of books. She was so much more than that pink suit. I believe she led the last generation of icons of whom we demanded substance. Book publishing is slow to change, so if you want some fly-on-the-wall insight, you'll still get it in Reading Jackie, as well as Jackie-dish you won't find anywhere else. The Austin Chronicle
  • A surprisingly insightful and intriguing look at the woman behind the glamorous façade ... This is not a startling exposé, but a graceful, perceptive and respectful look (with a bit of behind-the-scenes eavesdropping) at a most unlikely working girl ... Through the book topics she chose and the literary relationships she cultivated, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, while never an open book, is strikingly revealed—at least in elegant cameo relief. BookPage
  • William Kuhn reveals the Jackie I knew as a person and professional: serious, smart, intuitive about ideas and aesthetics, but also down to earth in the sense of understanding the potential audience for a book. In Reading Jackie I learned so much about her I didn't know, and Kuhn tells the story with such flowing grace of phrase and structure. A splendid work. Bill Moyers
  • Jackie appears (as she was) a well-liked, respected colleague, often slyly funny and not given to showboating ... Seeing Jackie kneeling on her office floor going through page layouts gives us a new image to keep that myth alive ... If we're going to have a myth, why not one with her nose in a book? The Washington Post
  • Unexpectedly and intelligently dishy … In the end, this is quite a fascinating portrait of a complex woman, who had the interests and enthusiasms of her class and was allowed to indulge those passions with singular force and focus. The Boston Globe
  • A revealing, readable, and insightful book. Readers of biographies of iconic figures will eat this up ... Kuhn’s respectful approach would probably have met with Onassis’s approval. Library Journal
  • A clever, surprisingly substantial take on the life of Jaqueline Onassis ... Both respectful and scintillating. Kirkus Reviews
  • Kuhn describes in fascinating detail the final third of Jackie's life and argues persuasively that the books she edited or helped bring to publication shed light on her inner life, forming an autobiography of sorts ... Kuhn's originality of research is striking. Many of his interviews were conducted with Jackie's colleagues, authors and friends, and they often provided him with fresh and intriguing details about her life ... A treat for bibliophiles and Jackiephiles — and especially for those for whom those interests overlap — Kuhn's insightful book sheds welcome light on a vital, and previously neglected, aspect of her life. Richmond Times-Dispatch

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa Railey | 2/8/2014

    " Another terrific biography. I have to admit this is another part of history that I'm pretty ignorant about. I know who the Kennedys are (you couldn't be American and not know that) but I just didn't know much about their background. I still don't know a lot about the Kennedys but I did learn a lot about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I had no clue that she had ever worked as an editor. I felt like I got to know who she was by reading about her choices in books to publish and her feelings about the subject matters and the authors. I also liked her sense of humor. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Samantha | 2/5/2014

    " Okay...this book might actually have been three stars. It might actually have been two stars, but anything associated with Jackie? FOUR STARS! I LOVE HER! I just LOVE HER! She's so classy and so wonderful! I just LOVE HER! The book...eh. I will admit, it was a bit of a slog. Sort of like the medicine head you get when you've taken Ny Quil and woken up in the middle of the night. It was interesting though and the information about Jackie and her life was, as always, fascinating. I might try it again when perhaps I'm a little more on my game, but this is a definitely must try for Jackie/Kennendyphiles. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 janet Burke | 2/3/2014

    " An excellent biography that focusses on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' life after her marriages, as a working woman editing books, first for Viking Press and then for Doubleday. I couldn't really figure out how a biography would come out of this period of her life based upon the books she edited, but amazingly the author gives a lot of insight into Jackie Kennedy's character, values, taste and even her attitudes about JFK, etc.. Much information and insight is gleaned from the books she chose to promote and edit and through her correspondence from that period with her authors along with interviews with these same authors and her co-workers. Not only was this an interesting slant on an interesting woman, but it provided me with many leads for future reading! My Kindle now has about 8 free samples waiting to be read - and most of them are NOT about the Kennedys! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kathy | 1/20/2014

    " Could not finish....this woman is just not interesting to me at all. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jonelle | 1/11/2014

    " I enjoyed this book and actually came away respecting Jackie Onassis more than I had expected. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Barbra Luce-turner | 12/8/2013

    " This was given to me as a birthday gift. Several chapters---early on---are so informative and intriguing but the re are some chapters that are a bit tedious. But it was good to know that in becoming an editor she felt she was finally her own person. Just finished this 15 minutes ago. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kristen | 12/7/2013

    " It is interesting to read although I do not really enjoy the author's writing style. The extent of her influence is impressive. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Keri | 12/1/2013

    " I found this book partially boring because it was a lot of name dropping of people I'm not interested in. There were some bit stories that were interesting, but overall this book may be interesting to those in the NY trade field or from Jackie's or the baby boomer generation. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura Mccormick | 11/6/2013

    " I loved this. It was a fair portrayal of a lady who has been criticised and lauded in equal measures. It didn't focus on her time as the wife of Kennedy or Onassis, but on her successes as an editor with Doubleday in New York. Fascinating! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cindie Harp | 10/14/2013

    " this was not a bad book -- I just probably should not have read it right after I read "Jackie as Editor." Basically, it was the same book "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julia | 9/27/2013

    " Not incredibly well written and the author was a little too fawning but the subject matter was fascinating, ie what Jackie's list of books she published as an editor revealed about her character, apart from her two famous husbands. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Debbie Ensign | 7/25/2013

    " This was a book selection for my book club. I didn't find it interesting, and didn't finish it. There are too many other really great books to read, and I'd rather spend my time on them. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lee Willoughby-harris | 5/16/2013

    " For me, this doubles as a look back on a certain period in publishing as well as an intriguing glimpse into the amazing woman's life. Was interesting to be reading it when the tapes of her conversations with Arthur Schlesinger in the months after JFK's death. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pat Lampe | 10/5/2012

    " Loved this book. Learned so much about Ms. Kennedy as an individual in her own right and not just as JFKs widow or Onassis' spendthrift wife/widow. She was very intelligent and contributed significantly to our lives. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Deana | 7/16/2012

    " I did really enjoy this book. I guess the part that took me by surprise, was when a friend's name was part of the book! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan | 5/10/2012

    " Interesting perspective of Jackie, particularly in her later life as a publisher. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alice | 4/28/2012

    " I love reading about Jackie Kennedy, and this was very interesting. It covers her working days in New York with two publishers, which presents a different side of her. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Zooey Bloom | 3/11/2012

    " It's readable, but in the end it didn't provide even much information about such a fascinating character/subject. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 False | 3/15/2011

    " I read this at the same time I read "Jackie As Editor." Same material covered, more or less. Both agreed she was a good editor and chose books that mirrored her own passions.

    "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dana | 3/13/2011

    " I enjoyed reading the story behind the books she worked on ... a fascinating perspective of the independent, feminist side of Jackie O. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Pam | 2/15/2011

    " There was nothing terrible about this book. I was just not all that interested. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cindie | 2/11/2011

    " this was not a bad book -- I just probably should not have read it right after I read "Jackie as Editor." Basically, it was the same book "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan | 2/10/2011

    " Very good read. Im an editor so I look for books (fairly rare) about editors. I recommend this book. Ordered one of the books she did in the 80s about india. A lovely book too. This book set me thinking. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Georgiann | 2/6/2011

    " Good book on Jackie O...takes a more interesting bigraphical aspect by examining her career as a book editor for two major publishing firms. Jackie has usually been defined by the two famous men in her life, it's refreshing to see this perspective. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pat | 1/29/2011

    " Loved this book. Learned so much about Ms. Kennedy as an individual in her own right and not just as JFKs widow or Onassis' spendthrift wife/widow. She was very intelligent and contributed significantly to our lives. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan | 1/19/2011

    " Interesting perspective of Jackie, particularly in her later life as a publisher. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Keri | 1/17/2011

    " I found this book partially boring because it was a lot of name dropping of people I'm not interested in. There were some bit stories that were interesting, but overall this book may be interesting to those in the NY trade field or from Jackie's or the baby boomer generation.
    "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth | 1/11/2011

    " Interesting look at Jackie O's editorship at Viking and DoubleDay. It mentions a lot of books that I have written down for future reading. "

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About the Author
WILLIAM KUHN is a biographer and historian. He is the author of three previous books, including, most recently, a controversial biography, The Politics of Pleasure: A Portrait of Benjamin Disraeli. His Henry and Mary Ponsonby: Life at the Court of Queen Victoria was a BBC Radio Four Book of the Week read by actor Geoffrey Palmer.
About the Narrator

Susan Denaker is an actress and Earphones Award–winning narrator. Her extensive theater credits include numerous plays in the West End of London, national tours, many English rep companies, including a season with Alan Ayckbourn’s company in Scarborough. In the US, she has appeared in Our Town and Sweet Bird of Youth at the La Jolla Playhouse and Breaking Legs at the Westport Playhouse.