Get personalized recommendations and earn points toward a free book!
Check Out
The Bestselling Books of All Time
See the List
The ReadDown

Nothing to Fear: The Best FDR Biographies

The 32nd president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, wartime strategies, and “Infamy Speech” all transformed the United States’ path in the 20th century. These five titles examine his relationships, triumphs, and yes, failings to boot.

  1. 1
    FDR Book Cover Picture
    FDR Book Cover Picture

    FDR

    by Jean Edward Smith

    Smith writes with scholarly admiration, delving into FDR’s intimate life and WWII successes in this Francis Parkman Prize winner and FDR biography standard. Smith’s insights remains balanced, in which she critiques his major failures — stuffing the Supreme Court and the shameful interning of Japanese citizens — while maintaining that few leaders could so masterfully navigate wartime and The Great Depression. It’s a comprehensive volume on a brilliant, influential American exemplifying rare compassion towards servicemen, the poor, and the ill.
    FDR Book Cover Picture
    FDR Book Cover Picture

    Buy now from your favorite retailer:

  2. 2
    Traitor to His Class Book Cover Picture
    Traitor to His Class Book Cover Picture

    Traitor to His Class

    by H. W. Brands

    Traitor opens with FDR perusing Sunday’s headlines, one of which spells out the “prospect of war in the Pacific [and] realities of war in the Atlantic and Europe,” as he reflects on the unpleasant probabilities. All the while, the first Japanese planes are descending upon Pearl Harbor. Such detail is memorably applied throughout Bran’s erudite biography. Divided into thirds, the first section is probably the most enlightening for FDR scholars. Exploring his childhood, education and early political career, w’re offered understanding into how a man from high birth would eventually create a Great Depression agenda geared towards the disenfranchised. Shrewd but relatable with an aptitude for alliances and machinations, FDR  was a completely fascinating paradox.
    Traitor to His Class Book Cover Picture
    Traitor to His Class Book Cover Picture

    Buy now from your favorite retailer:

  3. 3
    FDR's Folly Book Cover Picture
    FDR's Folly Book Cover Picture

    FDR’s Folly

    by Jim Powell

    Some critiques are inevitable. From Chapter One — “How Could Such Bright, Compassionate People Be Wrong?” — Powell is a forthright critic of FD’s New Deal strategies. All chapters, titled with a question, lend to straightforward (sometimes rhetorical) criticisms such as “How Did New Deal Policies Cause the Depression of 1938?” He argues the New Deal, authorizing billions of dollars for relief and public works projects, sent a “disproportionate amount” of cash not to poor Southern states but to the West, where FDR could garner electoral favor. Using empirical data, layman’s language of taxation, federal pricing policies and some unsettling Depression revelations, it contradicts and balances conventional FDR portraits.
    FDR's Folly Book Cover Picture
    FDR's Folly Book Cover Picture

    Buy now from your favorite retailer:

  4. 4
    Franklin and Winston Book Cover Picture
    Franklin and Winston Book Cover Picture

    Franklin and Winston

    by Jon Meacham

    Meacham recognizes that the personal is often more gripping than the political. The adage of “know a man through the company he keeps” has great effect here. The book sings with empathy, intrigue and an insider’s perspective on two legendary statesmen of the last century. Churchill was born eight years earlier and an ocean away, but both shared appreciation for “tobacco, strong drink, history, the sea, battleships, hymns, pageantry, patriotic poetry, high office and hearing themselves talk.” Franklin and Winston will make any historian of the “two lions” starry-eyed.
    Franklin and Winston Book Cover Picture
    Franklin and Winston Book Cover Picture

    Buy now from your favorite retailer:

  5. 5
    Six Months in 1945 Book Cover Picture
    Six Months in 1945 Book Cover Picture

    Six Months in 1945

    by Michael Dobbs

    A slice-of-life approach about the cusp of global upheaval, Six Months “brings to life the remarkable leaders — FDR, Stalin, Churchill, Truman — who dined, charmed and quarreled with each other against the backdrop of the ruined palaces of the Crimea and Soviet-occupied Berlin.” Dobbs, with an ear for intrigue and character, shows how the expected effect of 1945’s military conference in Yalta could change so drastically, so fast. The Big Three’s personalities (and that of the pivotal Truman) are explored as thoroughly as the events around WWII’s conclusion, achieving the rare one-two of being both informative and entertaining.

    Six Months in 1945 Book Cover Picture
    Six Months in 1945 Book Cover Picture

    Buy now from your favorite retailer:

  6. 6
    Franklin D. Roosevelt Book Cover Picture
    Franklin D. Roosevelt Book Cover Picture

    Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by Robert Dallek

    Robert Dallek’s Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life takes a fresh look at the many compelling questions that have attracted all his biographers: how did a man who came from so privileged a background become the greatest presidential champion of the country’s needy? How did someone who never won recognition for his intellect foster revolutionary changes in the country’s economic and social institutions?
    Franklin D. Roosevelt Book Cover Picture
    Franklin D. Roosevelt Book Cover Picture

    Buy now from your favorite retailer:

Find other titles in

Related Lists:

Back to Top