In my opinion, summer is the REAL “most wonderful time of the year.” Awesome weather, no school, and, most importantly, my birthday! But one of the summer’s more subtle gifts to us all is some much needed free time to complete a long list of ‘to read’ books. I love reading for leisure, but that pastime always goes by the wayside when my professors try to bury me alive with silly things like ‘Finance’ and ‘Accounting,’ so breaks from school are the only time I really get to catch up. I’ve read a lot of great books, and a lot of trendy books that lack a certain quality of writing (cough cough 50 Shades trilogy… more on that later). In my search, I’ve come across some really fun, summer reads with interesting subject matter that are perfect for laying out or trying to avoid the kids you went to high school with. Let’s start things off right with Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Lisa McCubbin and Clint Hill.
Simply put, Jackie O is one of my idols. I’ve read more biographies about her than I can count, but this particular book about her life during the Kennedy administration differentiates itself right off the bat. The book, written by her most trusted Secret Service agent, gives a rare look inside the personal life Mrs. Kennedy fought so hard to keep from the public eye. The story starts right after JFK won the election against Nixon, when she and Clint Hill first meet. Separated by years, Hill shares a variety of experiences that he shared with Jackie, from state dinners and international trips to her everyday life.
Clint Hill had the best job ever, in that he spent pretty much all day, everyday with Jackie Kennedy. Now this gives the best possible reading outcome to us because you get to see literally every side of Jackie: Fabulous Jackie yachting around the Mediterranean, Elegant Jackie winning the hearts of foreign dignitaries, Natural Jackie riding her horse in the Virginia countryside, and Raw Jackie facing great tragedy. Hill was there for everything from 1960-1964, and he really captures her shy and charming personality behind the confident and dignified image we have all seen.
My hands down favorite thing about this book is that there are literally 2 sentences about Marilyn Monroe. So many biographies about Mr. and Mrs. John Fitzgerald Kennedy always delve way too much into speculation about his infidelities, but I already get enough gossip from People Magazine and the sisters. This is one of the only books that doesn’t go on for chapters about something that really wasn’t that important. Jack and Jackie may not have had the perfect marriage, but many biographers don’t understand that there’s a reason why we picked up a book and not a copy of US Weekly. Consider this book as the most fun learning experience you’ve had in a while. Speaking of learning, did you know Jackie was hilarious? I didn’t either! I’ve picked up on fabulous, glamorous, intelligent, and captivating while reading several other books about her and the Kennedy family, but this is the only book that captures her smart, deadpan sense of humor that only those close to her were fortunate enough to experience. All of the little jokes she snuck into everyday occurrences made me love her so much more, which is saying something.
The only downside to the book is that it was written and narrated by a Secret Service agent. While this does give us an inside look we couldn’t get anywhere else (which is awesome), Hill does go into a lot of detail about the nitty gritty of the security measures that went into protecting the First Lady. Some of that detail is pretty cool, and I suspect that its an aspect that would make this book more enjoyable to male readers, but at times it does drag on a bit. As Bacon put it, I wanted “less guns and more glamour.” Hill redeems himself by trying very hard to include things that most men wouldn’t, like what she wore to various events and state dinners and the shopping trips he made for her. Hill obviously cared a great deal for Jackie and that comes through a great deal in his storytelling. For an amateur writer, he includes a great mix of stories that express his deep emotional connection and great friendship with the First Lady, which makes it a good read.
Overall, I would definitely encourage the ladies of TSM to give Mrs. Kennedy and Me a try. Even though we’ve all heard the story dozens of times in history class, on TV, or other books, Mrs. Kennedy and Me never feels like a sorority sister telling you the same story about her fratdaddy for the 73rd time. It’s able to show what Jackie was like behind closed doors, while still upholding the respect she so deserves. Refreshing, interesting, and relatively short, it’s an ideal book for these lazy summer months.