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Essential assassination reading.

The Warren Commission Report (1964). Huge and hugely fascinating, it firmly asserts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Appendixes include JFK’s autopsy report, Ruby’s polygraph test, and an analysis of Oswald’s strained budget.

Six Seconds in Dallas, Josiah Thompson (1967). A Kierkegaard scholar, Thompson was the first writer to study the Zapruder film frame by frame. His book eschews theories and focuses solely on physical evidence.

Conspiracy, Anthony Summers (1980). A readable, well-reasoned, and persuasive tome, it is the best of its breed (runner-up: Crossfire, by Dallasite Jim Marrs) and fingers what have now become the usual suspects: the CIA, the Mafia, and American complacency.

American Tabloid, James Ellroy (1995). The author of L.A. Confidential applies his hard-boiled style to this noir-ish hodgepodge of dicks, molls, thugs, spies, Cubans, Russians, Jimmy Hoffa, and Howard Hughes.

Libra, Don Delillo (1988). This intelligent novel interweaves Oswald’s fatal ambition, CIA revisionism, and a Castro caper, but the real message is how “theories that gleam like jade idols” helped enshrine JFK.

Oswald’s Tale, Norman Mailer (1995). This sympathetic but overlong biography combines facts and minutiae with meaningful musings (“To approach Oswald, we must deal with metaphor as often as with fact”).

On the Trail of the Assassins, Jim Garrison (1988). The former district attorney in New Orleans was deluded and megalomaniacal, a dangerous combination. His book is interesting as a case study in paranoia but not at all reliable about the assassination.

Case Closed, Gerald Posner (1993). Posner refutes conspiracy confabulations and assembles a mountain of evidence to prove that “Lee Harvey Oswald, driven by his own twisted and impenetrable furies, was the only assassin at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963.”

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