The Best Books about the JFK Assassination

“We all know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we learned that President John F. Kennedy had been shot,” writes Dan Rather in the introduction to President Kennedy Has Been Shot. “It was a moment seared into memories for a lifetime. For those who reported the shooting and subsequent events to the nation and the world, it was a profoundly transforming experience… The Kennedy assassination story remains so vivid in the national consciousness, however, because of the work those [reporters] did under intense pressure of deadline and the trauma of the tragedy. They left us with words and images so sharp and powerful that remain with us as if we saw and heard it all yesterday.”

atkins-bookshelf-booksBeyond being one of the most vivid tragedies, the assassination of JFK remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in modern history. In 1964 the Warren Commission published its 26-volume report, riddled with errors and inconsistencies. Americans were immediately skeptical of the Warren Commission’s lone gunman theory and the magic bullet theory,  suspecting a large-scale cover-up. Attorney Mark Lane, who was JFK’s New York City campaign manager in 1960, was one of the earliest researchers to effectively challenge the Warren Commission Report with the publication of Rush to Judgment: A Critique of the Warren Commission’s Inquiry into the Murders of President John F. Kennedy in 1966 (republished in 1992). Since then more than 600 books have been written from just about every perspective about the JFK assassination — re-evaluating photographs, the 26.6-second Zapruder film (consisting of 486 frames), eyewitness testimonies, and new documents. Most of the authors agree that the review of evidence and conclusions by the Warren Commission were flawed.

The initial skepticism of the Warren Commission report has never diminished. Over the past half century, Gallup polls have consistently indicated that the majority of Americans believe that there was a conspiracy behind JFK’s assassination (81% in 1976; 77% in 1992; 81% in 2001; 61% in 2013).  According to a Gallup poll conducted in early November of 2013, Americans believe that possible conspirators include (in order of highest probability): the Mafia/organized crime, the U.S. Government, the CIA, Fidel Castro/Cuba, special interest groups who disagreed with Kennedy, political groups, the KKK, Lyndon Johnson, the Soviet Union, multiple people, a foreign government, big business (oil or finance), the Secret Service, FBI/J. Edgar Hoover, teamsters/labor unions, the military-industrial complex, and right-wing groups (perhaps even further down the list one might find the Knights Templar, the Illuminati, and aliens). If the assassination was truly a conspiracy, it is very likely that the conspirators are all dead and kept their sinister secrets to their graves; it was the perfect crime without any loose ends.

So who killed JFK? The world will never know; however, the subject will forever remain a tantalizing mystery for historians, journalists, scholars, and conspiracy theorists. The evidence will be reviewed and debated endlessly in book after book, supporting either the lone gunman theory or one of several conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, the Kennedy case will never be closed. In his brilliant essay for Time titled “Broken Trust,” David Von Drehle summarizes it so eloquently: “[Kennedy] is cherished less for what was than for what might have been. To close the book on his murder feels, in some way, like letting that open-ended promise slip away into the past. And that’s something we do not wish to do.”

Bookshelf presents some of the notable books about the Kennedy assassination. Most of these, drawing on new research made possible by the release of new documents over the last few decades, have been published in 2013 that marks the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. If you want to buy all of them, be prepared to spend over $900.

Best Evidence by David Lifton (1980)

Carlos Marcello: The Man Behind the JFK Assassination by Stefano Vaccara and Robert Miller (2014)

Case Closed by Gerald Posner (2003)

CIA Rogues and the Killing of the Kennedys: How and Why US Agents Conspired to Assassinate JFK and RFK by Patrick Nolan and Henry C. Lee (2013)

Cold Case Kennedy: A New Investigation into the Assassination of JFK by Flip de Mey (2013)

Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs (2013)

A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination by Philip Shenon (2013)

Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis (2013)

Dead Wrong: Straight Facts on the Country’s Most Controversial Cover-Ups by Richard Belzer and David Wayne (2012)

The Death of a President by William Manchester (1967, republished in 1996)

End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson (2013)

Five Days in November by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin (2013)

From an Office Building with a High-Powered Rifle: One FBI Agent’s View of the JFK Assassination by Don Adams and Harrison Livingstone (2012)

Girl on the Stairs, The: The Search for a Missing Witness to the JFK Assassination by Barry Ernest and David Lifton (2013)

The Great Zapruder Film Hoax: Deceit and Deception in the Death of JFK by James Fetzer (2003)

The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination by Lamar Waldron (2013)

History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy by Howard Willens (2013)

Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination by Richard Belzer and David Wayne (2013)

Impossible: The Case Against Lee Harvey Oswald (Volumes 1-3) by Barry Krusch (2012)

Inside the Assassination Records Review Board: The U.S. Government’s Final Attempt to Reconcile the Conflicting Medical Evidence in the Assassination of JFK [5 Volumes] by Douglas Home (2009)

The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union by Peter Savodnik (2013)

JFK: An American Coup D’etat by Colonel John Hughes-Wilson (2014)

The JFK Assassination Debates: Lone Gunman versus Conspiracy by Michale Kurtz (2006)

JFK: The Book of the Film by Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar (2000)

JFK: Echoes from Elm Street: A Search for Historical Accuracy on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Mark Bridger and Barry Keane (2013)

JFK: From Parkland to Bethesda: The Ultimate Kennedy Assassination Compendium by Vincent Palamara (2015)

JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy by L. Fletcher Prouty, Oliver Stone and Jesse Ventura (2011)

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass (2010)

JFK Has Been Shot: A Parkland Hospital Surgeon Speaks Out by Charles Crenshaw M.D., Jens Hansen and J. Gary Shaw (2013)

JFK: The Smoking Gun by McLaren, Colin (2013)

JFK’s Final Hours in Texas: An Eyewitness Remembers the Tragedy and Its Aftermath by Julian Read (2013)


The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence by Gerald Blaine, Lisa McCubbin and Clint Hill (2011)

The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy by Larry J. Sabato (2013)
Killing JFK: 50 Years, 50 Lies: From the Warren Commission to Bill O’Reilly, A History of Deceit in the Kennedy Assassination by Dr. Lance Moore (2013)

Killing JFK: 50 Years, 50 Lies: From the Warren Commission to Bill O’Reilly: A History of Deceit in the Kennedy Assassination by Lance Moore (2013)

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard (2013)

The Killing of a President: The Complete Photographic Record of the JFK Assassination by Robert J. Groden (1993)

The Last Investigation: What Insiders Know about the Assassination of JFK by Gaeton Fonzi (2013)

Last Word: My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK by Mark Lane and Robert K. Tanenbaum (2013)

LIFE: The Day Kennedy Died: Fifty Years Later by the editors of Life (2013)

Little Book of JFK Conspiracies by Liam McCann (2013)

The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ by Roger Stone and Mike Colapietro (2013)

The Missing JFK Assassination Film: The Mystery Surrounding the Orville Nix Home Movie of November 22, 1963 by Gayle Nix Jackson (2016)

Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK, A Ballistics Expert’s Discovery of the Fatal Bullet that Oswald Did Not Fire by Bonar Menninger (1992)

Murder in Dealey Plaza: What We Know Now that We Didn’t Know Then by James Fetter (2000)

Not in Your Lifetime: The Defining Book on the J.F.K. Assassination by Anthony Summers (2013)

On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison (1991, republished 2012)

Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery by Norman Mailer (1996)

Plausible Denial: Was the CIA Involved in the Assassination of JFK? by Mark Lane (2011)

President Kennedy Has Been Shot (with audio CD) by the Newseum with Cathy Trost and Susan Bennett (2003)

“The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James Swanson (2013)

Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi (2007)

Reclaiming Parkland: Tom Hanks, Vincent Bugliosi, and the JFK Assassination in the New Hollywood by James DiEugenio (2013)

The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen by Mark Shaw (2016) 

Rush to Judgment: A Critique of the Warren Commission’s Inquiry into the Murders of President John F. Kennedy by Mark Lane and Hugh Trevor-Roper (1966, 1992)

The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald: A Comprehensive Photographic Record by Robert Groden (1995)

Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy by Vincent Michael Palamara (2013)

They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK by Jesse Ventura, Dick Russell and David Wayne (2013)

Top Down: A Novel of the Kennedy Assassination by Jim Lehrer (2013)

Watchman: JFK’s Last Ride by Jack Owens (2013)

We Interrupt this Broadcast by Joe Garner (2002)

We Were There: Revelations from the Dallas Doctors Who Attended to JFK on November 22, 1963 by Allen Childs MD (2013)

Where Were You?: America Remembers the JFK Assassination by Gus Russo, Harry Moses and Tom Brokaw (2013)

Who Really Killed Kennedy?: 50 Years Later: Stunning New Revelations About the JFK Assassination by Jerome Corsi (2013)

Read related posts: The Best Books for History Buffs
The Speech that Kennedy Never Gave
The Best Books on 9/11

For further reading:
Time magazine, November 15, 2013 issue

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.