Encyclopedia of the Kennedys: The People and Events That Shaped America

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Encyclopedia of the Kennedys: The People and Events That Shaped America. By Joseph M. Siracusa. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012. 3 vols. acid free $294 (ISBN: 9781598845389). E-book available (ISBN: 9781598845396), call for pricing.

At first glance, Joseph M. Siracusa's Encyclopedia of the Kennedys: The People and Events That Shaped America appears full of promise. In the preface, Siracusa explains that he wrote this book to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's presidency, and his goal is to "capture the essence" of the legend of John F. Kennedy and the Camelot years. The scope of Siracusa's reference set is admirable, covering the Kennedys themselves, significant events of the 1960s, political figures and their policies, and social issues, with a heavy emphasis on civil rights. The majority of the entries, however, focus on political figures that served as John F. Kennedy's contemporaries. With coverage spanning approximately 100 years, the breadth of Encyclopedia of the Kennedys is clearly its greatest strength.

Given the subject headings assigned to Encyclopedia of the Kennedys, it can be challenging to pinpoint comparable reference titles. Certainly there are reference works that are broader in scope in discussing the 1960s and offer some overlap; some noteworthy titles include the following: Carl Singleton's The Sixties in America (Salem, 1999), David Farber's and Beth Bailey's The Columbia Guide to America in the 1960s (Columbia University Press, 2001), David Farber's The Sixties Chronicle (Legacy, 2004), and James S. Baugess' and Abbe Allen Debolt's Encyclopedia of the Sixties: A Decade of Culture and Counterculture (Greenwood, 2012). Both Singleton's three volume set The Sixties in America and Farber's The Sixties Chronicle are rich with photos, graphs, and charts; the same cannot be said of Encyclopedia of the Kennedys: The People and Events That Shaped America. In contrast, The Columbia Guide to America in the 1960s offers a more scholarly tone and is arranged both thematically and alphabetically, giving it a clear advantage over the Encyclopedia of the Kennedys, which is arranged alphabetically only. …