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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  3,556 ratings  ·  183 reviews
One of today’s premier biographers has written a modern, comprehensive, indeed ultimate book on the epic life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In this superlative volume, Jean Edward Smith combines contemporary scholarship and a broad range of primary source material to provide an engrossing narrative of one of America’s greatest presidents.

This is a portrait painted in broad
Hardcover, 880 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by Random House (first published January 1st 2007)
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Steve Sckenda
It was said of FDR that he lifted himself from his wheelchair to lift this nation from its knees. His serene self-assurance (a gift from his devoted mother) was exactly what the country needed as the United States faced down dual threats of the Great Depression and World War II.

FDR had a "first class temperament," and good cheer spilled from his pores. Every evening, he hosted “the children’s hour” in the Oval office where he mixed martinis for his guests and told jokes and exchanged Hollywood
Excellent biography for the general reader. There have been many books on Roosevelt recently, several about his relationship with Churchill specifically, but not a complete biography. Smith sees Roosevelt as, with Washington and Lincoln, in the top echelon of influential American presidents and her book is intended to show why. But he is also sensitive to his faults and doesn’t hesitate to condemn a number of his actions and attitudes, not the least of which was his attempt to "pack" the Supreme ...more
"FDR," by Jean Edward Smith (also author of the highly acclaimed biography "Grant"), adds to the long list of biographies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of our greatest presidents. At the outset, Smith makes clear his admiration for FDR – the book is dedicated to his parents, "proud Mississippians devoted to Franklin Roosevelt," and the epigraph states, "He lifted himself from his wheelchair to lift this nation from its knees." In the preface to his book, Smith mentions the biggest riddle for ...more
Jason Bland
This book is a delicious meal made up of turn of the century politics and a side order of regret on how modern political discourse (and positions) have reverted. The beginning of the book which covers FDR's childhood and early political career, goes into Wilson's administration which offers an insight to a political party that no longer exists. That being one made up of religious conservatives with socially conscious progressive ideals in foreign relations, taxation, and the role to be played by ...more
I can't believe that I have never read a biography of FDR and I was amazed at how much I learned. FDR was a contradiction. A patrician born to old money, established wealth. To get some idea, shortly after he was marriedm, his mother Sara gave the newly weds a beach front cottage at Campabello Island, a cottage with 34 rooms. he was an unlikely candidate to step in to save this country from revolution. The depression was so unlike anything my generation has experienced. Not only malnutrition, un ...more
Bryan Craig
I have to say Jean Edward Smith has become one of my favorites. He did such a great job on Grant, so I read this one. He synthesizes so much information in such a great way. It is the best one-volume biography I have found on FDR. I would really rate this 4.5. If there is a flaw it is that he moved through WWII pretty fast, but you can find other books related to FDR and the war. It is a wonderful book.
If you're a political buff in America, then reading a biography of FDR for the first timeis a bit like watching Casablanca for the first time--maybe you don't know the story entirely, but you could quote all the memorable lines (even the one that isn't even in the movie). And given the breadth and depth of FDR's influence on America, any single volume, no matter how long, is going to struggle to give any particular accomplishment more than cursory attention.

So how does Jean Edward Smith fare, wi
Many people might think that a biography is a biography; they all contain facts about someone’s life. They might think that the only thing important is the quantity and credibility of the facts contained in the biography. To a point, yes, the facts that back up a biography are important. But there are several other factors that can make even a well researched book a not so good one; writing style, the author’s bias (while it is pretty much inevitable for a biography to have a bias, there is a po ...more
Jean Edward Smith acknowledges that there is no lack of biographies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt or histories of the time period in which he lived, but he wanted to bring something new to current readers who have not realized the importance of this president who led the nation in times of the worst economic catastrophe and most momentous war in history. Smith attributes this hazy memory of FDR not only to the passage of time since the Roosevelt era, but to the efforts of conservative leaders fro ...more
Joyce Lagow
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a political genius and arguably the best President of the United States in the 20th century. [return][return]FDR came from a family that could trace its beginnings in the New World back to the early Dutch settlers of New York, making him a member of the "Knickerbocker aristocracy". However, an upbringing surrounded by wealth and privilege did not prevent him, through a combination of circumstances, personal adversity and a compassionate nature, from identifying with ...more
Another fantastic book by author Jean Edward Smith. He has moved to near the top of my favorite historical writers. This book covers the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and does an admirable job of fitting in his amazing experiences into a one volume biography. I feel that as usual, the author was fair to FDR by both praising his actions, but acknowledging the faults and poor decisions when they were present. I learned a great deal about the man.

On a personal note, I did not find that I became
Gary Schroeder
Walking through FDR'S estate in Hyde Park, New York, I was intrigued by the exhibits that I saw there, particularly a display of letters written by desperate Americans petitioning the White House for support in light of extreme hardship. These letters were posted in a room dedicated to explaining the origins of the social security program. I needed to know more. I went in search of a well-rated FDR biography and this is the one I chose.

Jean Edward Smith's biography covers every period of Rooseve
It took me nine months to listen to this four-part, 24+-hour unabridged audio biography of the great president, because my life is now structured so I do less driving and also less time at the gym, which were the two main venues to consume audio books.

But still, this is a wonderful book, and I could take weeks off and return to it without any loss of comprehension, because by now the story of Franklin Roosevelt is more familiar than more recent, if not more admirable, people in the same business
Rich DiSilvio
FDR is a titanic figure that some reviewers of this book believe should have been more thoroughly dissected and ripped apart. Others just seek to tarnish and degrade this godlike icon for his human faults, while overlooking his immense contributions to our nation and Western civilization.

We're all aware of Lucy Mercer and that burning question that many could a rich dandy be the man of the common people? As such, they assume that FDR was a poser or cheap politician. Well, one only ne
Not too long ago I read the FDR Biography Franklin D. Roosevelt A Rendezvous with Destiny by Frank FreidelFranklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny by Frank Freidel and was rather disappointed by it. After consulting with some friends on Goodreads, I bought this biography and, I have to say, it was money well spent. Mr. Smith has written a fabulous one-volume biography of FDR that truly brings the man to life. Despite it being roughly 630-plus pages, Mr. Smith's narrative flows freely and rapidly with few wasted words. It is also surprisingly detaile ...more
Dec 26, 2007 Sara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: serious FDR fans
I am glad I made the time for this nearly 33-hour, 26-disc audiobook, but listeners who don't have a round trip commute of 150 miles may not feel the same way.

First of all, I now know much more about Franklin Delano Roosevelt than I did when I chose it. However, FDR-related events and people received strangely lopsided and minimal treatment. The author, Jean Edward Smith, went into unnecessarily great detail about how WWI began, but the level of detail on events for which FDR was president varie
I'm such a big fan of Teddy Roosevelt that for me FDR has always been 'the other Roosevelt' - although I'm very aware for most people the Roosevelts are very much reversed and Teddy is the other lesser Roosevelt. It's no coincidence, after all, that FDR is generally ranked in the top five of all America's presidents.

American often seems quite fortunate in its Presidents; when the situation is really desperate the right man seems to present himself. They were fortunate indeed with Washington duri
This is a very abbreviated bio (I was sure I had an abridged copy and looked more than once on the dust jacket for some indication). From the beginning of FDR’s 3rd term until his death spans roughly 100 pages. His death is discussed in the closing paragraphs. After reading the last sentence, I just scratched my head and thought, “well, I guess that’s that.” In dealing with the War, I can appreciate Smith placing a greater emphasis on Roosevelt, rather than bogging the reader down with yet anoth ...more
Jordan Gomez
I have had the pleasure of reading two single volume biographies of FDR back to back, so my views on one was affected by how I contrast it with the other. Any student of political history would be well served by reading either of these books. They are FDR by Jean Edward Smith and Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H.W. Brands. They are both of a similar length but the emphasis of the two books felt different, probably more different f ...more
Holy crap, this book was a beast! I'm not really into politics per se, so parts of the book were a little difficult for me to slog through, but overall it moved along quite well -- especially the last section, which delved into WWII. I also thought it was pretty well balanced, acknowledging FDR's shortcomings as well as his virtues. However, I would've appreciated a bit more follow through at the end. It seems obvious that a biography should end with the subject's death, but there were so many b ...more
Janine Urban
If you're looking for an overview of the life of FDR, this is the book. Much was crammed in and much left out, and like FDR's life, it ends suddenly. But a good sense of the man is gained. After I finished this book, I pondered for a few days of what I would say for this review, as FDR is not my favorite president; I have yet to find my favorite. (If there even ends up being one.) But I will forever admire him for not letting polio and his disability best him in life. I find this quote sums his ...more
I have long wondered about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the man and the leader. I knew the basic outlines - he was the most important American president of the 20th century. He laid the groundwork for many of the federal government services that exist today; and he led the nation to victory in the worst war in human history. He was well-born, well-heeled, and well-educated. His wife became widely known for her humanitarian efforts and was a proto-feminist leader. He was a cripple, the result of a ...more
Ric White
This was a fantastic, well-researched biography with great insights into the life of FDR. I never appreciate a biographer that pulls punches, and I was satisfied in that respect with Smith. FDR is painted as a human; an extraordinary human, maybe, but human nonetheless. By outlining his struggles with polio, his unusual relationship with Eleanor, and his, at times, unrelenting selfishness, we get to see the whole picture. My one gripe is that when the book hits World War 2 years, it seems less a ...more
Jean Edward Smith is a master historian ... this is the third book of his that I've read - "Eisenhower in War and Peace," "Lucius Clay," and now "FDR."

I've learned a lot about the 20th Century, WW2 and FDR, one of the greatest of our Presidents, including Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan (I don't like him, but he played, for ill, I fear, a pivotal role in shaping the America we know, or lament, today) and Obama, who's race is a crucial piece of the American puzzle and who's policies and vision
Tom Gagne
It ends a little suddenly after FDR's death. I was expecting a wrap-up, an epilogue, or something.

Other than that, a fantastic biography about a fantastic man, without any preach-i-ness regarding his New Deal programs. Makes me wonder about the wisdom of the 22nd amendment, much as it I never supported term limits in Michigan. Elections are the mechanism for term limits the constitution intended.

I recommend the book to anyone interested in national politics during WWI, the depression, the Roosev
Smith captures the full breadth of FDR's life, with extensive coverage of the New Deal years. I felt a little shortchanged on the World War II chapters, especially because she ends the book at FDR's death, before the end of the War, but it gave me a sense of how people in the country must have felt when FDR passed.

The early years are also revealing, and Smith deals forthrightly and sensitively with some of the more controversial aspects of FDR's life, including his extra-marital relationships.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this biography of FDR. I found it interesting that twice within the first 10 pages of the book the author went out of his way to state unequivocally that the myth that FDR maneuvered the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor is pure bunk. When the author gets to that point in FDR's life, he points out that FDR was very focused on the war in Europe - getting supplies to both Great Britain and the USSR, increasing war production dramatically in the U.S., and raising an ...more
Jeni Enjaian
I wish I could say that I loved this book.

It's not that it was bad or historically inaccurate. It's that it lacked a few things that would have made the book an outstanding biography. With a man as famous as FDR there are plenty of biographies to choose from. This one doesn't have that extra spark to set it apart from the others. For example, once America went to war after Pearl Harbor, the narrative shifted to focus on a truncated summary of the events of the war rather than FDR's actions. Mos
Overall, this was an excellent read. Smith ably rises to the challenge of producing a comprehensive biography that also manages to be (relatively) brief. At close to 900 pages including the very interesting end notes, it’s as brief as a single-volume biography can be about a person with such a long and storied career. Smith lays plenty of groundwork for the emergence of FDR the president, detailing his crucial relationship with his mother, with his famous cousin Theodore Roosevelt, and his years ...more
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Currently he is the John Marshall Professor of Political Science at Marshall University and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto after having served as professor of political economy there for thirty-five years. Smith also currently serves as professor of history and government at Ashland University.

A graduate of McKinley High School in Washington, D.C., Smith received an A.B. from Prin
More about Jean Edward Smith...
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“He lifted himself from a wheelchair to lift the nation from its knees.” 9 likes
“must do the thing you think you cannot do,” 0 likes
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