title: Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books [support an independent bookseller and buy at Strand]
by: William Kuhn
source: my personal library
In addition to being one of the most iconic First Ladies in history, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was also quite the accomplished editor, with a career at Viking and Doubleday that spanned the last two decades of her life. It’s always struck me as a bit sexist that so much attention has been paid to Jackie’s personal style and her handling of her husbands infamous infidelities, but little has been paid to her intellect. Jackie (it feels weird to refer to her as Kennedy or Onassis, because she was so much more than her relationships with these men) was a voracious reader, and in Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books, William Kuhn takes the road less traveled and explores her life through the books she edited and helped bring to the public. He asserts, which is a genius angle, that we can learn a ton about what Jackie valued through the lens of the authors she championed and topics she explored.
Some of the books Jackie edited:
- Allure by Diana Vreeland
- The Ballad of John and Yoko by Jonathan Cott and Christine Doudna
- The Secrets of Marie Antoinette by Olivier Bernier
- Dancing on my Grave: An Autobiography by Gelsey Kirkland
- Blood Memory by Martha Graham
- The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
- Amy the Dancing Bear by Carly Simon
- Skies in Blossom: The Nature Poetry of Emily Dickinson
Kuhn’s writing is fairly good. It didn’t knock my socks off but it got the job done. There were chapters that read more like a research paper and lost track of the intended audience a bit, but there were also chapters that were tight and well-developed. I feel like, unless you’re super interested in or have some background knowledge of the publishing industry or are a devoted bibliophile, this might read a bit dry…the book really focuses on her professional life, so if you’re looking for yet another biography that covers her relationships with JFK or Onassis, this isn’t the book for you. But I am Kuhn’s target audience, and the information he presented was incredibly interesting. The examination of projects she chose to champion really provides some fresh insight into what Jackie was passionate about, and really helps to flesh out a more dynamic picture of who she was: Elegant, intensely private, and incredibly intelligent.
Rubric rating: 6.5 Not sure I’ll actively seek out more titles by William Kuhn, but I absolutely found the information he provided interesting.