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American moonshot : John F. Kennedy and the great space race
2019
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New York Times Review
AMERICAN MOONSHOT: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race, by Douglas Brinkley. (Harper/ HarperCollins, $35.) In his study of the politics behind Apollo ll's launch, Brinkley fits the space program into a wider American social context. He also asks whether the program was worth the tens of billions it cost, and argues that for its technological advances alone, it was. ORIGINAL PRIN, by Randy Boyagoda. (John Metcalf/Biblioasis, paper, $14.95.) This highly original novel traces an unexceptional professor's path to becoming a suicide bomber. The comedy of literary and cultural references involves unfunny matters like cancer, a crisis of faith and Islamic terrorism, as well as easier comic subjects like juice-box fatherhood and academia. BIG SKY, by Kate Atkinson. (Little, Brown, $28.) After a nine-year absence, Atkinson's laconic private eye, Jackson Brodie, returns to deliver his idiosyncratic brand of justice to crime victims in a case involving human trafficking. THE PLAZA: The Secret Life of America's Most Famous Hotel, by Julie Satow. (Twelve, $29.) Satow's gossip-stuffed tale traces the history of one of New York's most iconic landmarks, the imposing white chateau at the corner of 59th and Fifth. THE WHITE DEVILS DAUGHTERS: The Women Who Fought Slavery in San Francisco's Chinatown, by Julia Flynn Siler. (Knopf, $28.95.) From the Gold Rush to the 1930s, a sex slave trade flourished in San Francisco's Chinatown. Siler's colorful history includes portraits of the determined women who helped thousands of Chinese girls escape to freedom. ORANGE WORLD: And Other Stories, by Karen Russell. (Knopf, $25.95.) Florida is the original or adopted home of some of America's most inventive fiction writers, Russell prominent among them. Her new collection is a feat of literary alchemy, channeling her home state's weirdness into unexpectedly affecting fantastical scenarios and landscapes. STRANGERS AND COUSINS, by Leah Hager Cohen. (Riverhead, $27.) Cheerful and lively, Cohen's new novel - set at an anarchic family gathering in rural New York - packs a lot of themes into its satisfyingly simple frame. As in a Shakespearean comedy, disparate relationships are resolved and familial love prevails. WAR AND PEACE: FDR's Final Odyssey, D-Day to Yalta, 19431945, by Nigel Hamilton. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.) The final volume in the "F.D.R. at War" trilogy presents a heroic Roosevelt fending off myopic advisers to lead the Allies to victory. ASSAD OR WE BURN THE COUNTRY: How One Family's Lust for Power Destroyed Syria, by Sam Dagher. (Little, Brown, $29.) Dagher draws on history, interviews and his own experience as a reporter in Syria to depict an utterly ruthless regime. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books
Publishers Weekly Review
Brinkley (The Great Deluge) frames the life and career of President John F. Kennedy through the Cold War-tinged lens of the Space Race in this inspiring history. The book opens with the parallels between the WWII experiences of PT boat commander Kennedy and Nazi rocketeer Wernher von Braun, whose lives intersected after the war with the launch of Kennedy's political career and von Braun's newfound role as the United States' top rocket scientist. In Brinkley's telling, Kennedy's impassioned response to Soviet advances in space technology, which contrasted sharply the Eisenhower administration's, led him to victory in the 1960 presidential election. His declaration before Congress that Americans would put men on the moon by the end of the decade and his public embrace of John Glenn and the other Mercury Seven astronauts were, Brinkley argues, political gestures also motivated by personal passion. The author argues that it was Kennedy's appeal to a sense of American greatness, evident in his famous "We choose to go to the moon" speech at Rice University in September 1962, that made the U.S.'s space achievements possible. By highlighting the visionary, charismatic political leader's role, Brinkley offers a new perspective on one of the greatest accomplishments in human history. Photos. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary

Instant New York Times Bestseller

As the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing approaches, the award winning historian and perennial New York Times bestselling author takes a fresh look at the space program, President John F. Kennedy's inspiring challenge, and America's race to the moon.



"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win."--President John F. Kennedy

On May 25, 1961, JFK made an astonishing announcement: his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In this engrossing, fast-paced epic, Douglas Brinkley returns to the 1960s to recreate one of the most exciting and ambitious achievements in the history of humankind. American Moonshot brings together the extraordinary political, cultural, and scientific factors that fueled the birth and development of NASA and the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects, which shot the United States to victory in the space race against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

Drawing on new primary source material and major interviews with many of the surviving figures who were key to America's success, Brinkley brings this fascinating history to life as never before. American Moonshot is a portrait of the brilliant men and women who made this giant leap possible, the technology that enabled us to propel men beyond earth's orbit to the moon and return them safely, and the geopolitical tensions that spurred Kennedy to commit himself fully to this audacious dream. Brinkley's ensemble cast of New Frontier characters include rocketeer Wernher von Braun, astronaut John Glenn and space booster Lyndon Johnson.

A vivid and enthralling chronicle of one of the most thrilling, hopeful, and turbulent eras in the nation's history, American Moonshot is an homage to scientific ingenuity, human curiosity, and the boundless American spirit.

Table of Contents
Preface: Kennedy's New Oceanp. xi
Part IRockets
1Dr. Robert Goddard Meets Buck Rogersp. 3
2Kennedy, Von Braun, and the Crucible of World War IIp. 21
3Surviving a Savage Warp. 41
4Who's Afraid of the V-2?p. 61
Part IIGeneration Sputnik
5Spooked into the Space Racep. 93
6Sputnik Revolutionp. 125
7Missile Gaps and the Creation of Nasap. 155
8Mercury Seven to the Rescuep. 181
9Kennedy for Presidentp. 191
Part IIIMoonbound
10Skyward with James Webbp. 209
11Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepardp. 223
12"Going to the Moon": Washington, DC, May 25, 1961p. 247
13Searching for Moonlight in Tulsa and Viennap. 265
14Moon Momentum with Television and Gus Grissomp. 283
15Godspeed, John Glennp. 307
16Scott Carpenter, Tel Star, and Presidential Space Touringp. 335
Part IVProjects Gemini and Apollo
17"We Choose to Go to the Moon: Rice University, September 12, 1962p. 359
18Gemini Nine and Wally Schirrap. 373
19State of Space Explorationp. 395
20"The Space Effort Must Go On"p. 413
21Cape Kennedyp. 431
Epilogue: The Triumph of Apollo 11p. 449
Acknowledgmentsp. 463
Notesp. 471
Bibliographyp. 515
Image Creditsp. 527
Indexp. 529
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