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Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created ModernAmerica

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  473 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
A revealing account of the critical first days of FDR’s presidency, during the worst moments of the Great Depression, when he and his inner circle launched the New Deal and presided over the birth of modern America

Nothing to Fear brings to life a fulcrum moment in American history—the tense, feverish first one hundred days of FDR’s presidency, when he and his inner circle
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 8th 2009 by Penguin Press (first published December 24th 2008)
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Sep 06, 2016 Steve rated it really liked it

“Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the 100 Days that Created Modern America” is Adam Cohen’s 2009 review of the early days of the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency. Cohen is a former lawyer and member of the New York Times editorial board. He is currently an editor at The National Book Review.

As its title suggests, “Nothing to Fear” is not a comprehensive biography of Franklin Roosevelt nor is it a thorough examination of his entire New Deal program.
Oct 27, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it
It might bore some people but I LOVED this inside look at FDR's cabinet. It's far more about Frances Perkins, Henry Wallace and Harry Hopkins (among others) than Roosevelt. But really you can't understand how we got to modern america without understanding something about this. It seems to me this is the beginning of much of what most of us think America stands for.
Bob Hoffman
Apr 13, 2010 Bob Hoffman rated it liked it
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to office in March of 1933, banks, businesses and farms were failing, unemployment stood at 25%, thousands of Americans were going hungry, and an increasing number of citizens were talking of armed rebellion. And FDR was promising “action and action now” but he was a fiscal conservative, and he had only a few untested ideas, “experiments” he called them, on how to pull the nation out of the Depression.

Thankfully, at this very critical time, FDR made some reall
Jan 05, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As indicated by the subtitle, NOTHING TO FEAR: FDR'S INNER CIRCLE AND THE HUNDRED DAYS THAT CREATED MODERN AMERICA, this book is heavily biographical, focusing on key members of President Franklin Roosevelt's cabinet and other close advisers who helped cobble together the greatest burst of legislative activity in American history.

One standout figure is Frances Perkins, FDR's labor secretary and the first female cabinet member in U.S. history. It's a shame that, when people speak of the role of w
Tim Jin
Oct 17, 2014 Tim Jin rated it really liked it
The first 100 days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency are what leaders are made of. Out with the old and in with the new. FDR brought back confidence to the American people by backing up banking from the federal reserves, implemented labor laws, establishing unemployment and Social Security as an insurance by boosting morale for many Americans. It takes a keen ear to build up good leadership to listen. Herbert Hoover was from a different era and didn't knew how to change. Roosevelt was ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Les rated it it was ok
Finally finished this one..

While it was informative of FDR and his inner circle & the 100 days that created everything from relief programs for the jobless, Fair Labor Standards Act to Social Security..

But I almost think this guy wrote this book just to have a 3 or 4 page rant that ended the book abruptly, consisting of:

1.) How the Reagan administration called for 'starving the beast' of relief to the poor.
2.) How Gingrich oversaw the end to cash assistance to poor children in 1994
3.) How un
Aug 16, 2009 Julie rated it really liked it
I listened to the audio version of this book. It was interesting reading this in the context of our times today - to see how so many of the innovations of that day remain with us; and how we are trying to replicate some of them now. You also think about the old adage "those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it" as you see what led up to the Glass Steagall act, so that Americans would have more financial protection. Then 60 years later Clinton moved to have it repealed; Bush and his ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Feb 05, 2009 Bookmarks Magazine rated it really liked it

Critics agree that by focusing on five aides to the president, Nothing to Fear provides a new and interesting perspective on an epochal period in American politics. Cohen gears his writing to the lay reader, sparing the heavy policy analysis and producing a narrative both enjoyable and compelling. While the New York Times Book Review notes that focusing only on FDR's first 100 days might yield a misleading impression of the New Deal and that Cohen's framework

Alex Abboud
Dec 04, 2016 Alex Abboud rated it really liked it
By focusing on key officials in the White House during FDR's first 100 days, Cohen sheds light on some of the lesser known personalities who shaped the New Deal. Learning about the lives and contributions of the likes of Hopkins, Wallace, and Perkins is valuable and relevant to everyone interested in public life and policy issues.
Oct 20, 2016 Colleen rated it really liked it
Well-written, engaging primer on FDRs cabinet. Learned about quite a few things I didn't know, most notably: 1) the march of the Bonus Army and 2) HOW AMAZING FRANCES PERKINS WAS! Thoroughly enjoyed reading about the team that implemented many of the programs/privileges 21st century Americans take for granted.
Oct 30, 2016 Susan rated it liked it
Good information, a bit dry and text book like. A little slow
Patrick Sprunger
Nothing to Fear is a good anthology of the backgrounds of the first generation New Dealers and a primer for the "alphabet soup" of New Deal agencies. Unfortunately, it is not very deep.

Think of each chapter as elongated Wikipedia articles on cabinet officials. Adam Cohen gives his subjects' backgrounds an equal (sometimes greater) amount of space as discussion of the New Deal programs themselves. I think this is more than a little imbalanced. An example: Frances Perkins's work for New York stat
Jul 27, 2014 Joe rated it it was ok
Shelves: listened-to
Book twenty-one of my presidential challenge.

Ug, what a disappointment! This book was supposed to be a little reward to myself! I'd been saving FDR for a rainy day. The last truly great President on my list, but this book was a failure.

Best case scenario: Adam Cohen was trying to make "Team of Rivals: FDR Edition" and failed. Worst case scenario: This was a covert way of him selling and getting me to read a biography of Frances Perkins. Who? Exactly. I would never have picked up a book about Fra
Luke Held
May 28, 2014 Luke Held rated it liked it
I assume that Cohen wrote this book as an attempted kick in the shorts for Obama, after winning in 2008, and that Cohen has progressive tendencies. He seems to be blind the reality of contemporary politics, as the discourse is heading AWAY from the new deal, these policies have been in constant attack with a full on assault since Reagan, with NO effective push from the progressive end. Cohen talks as if new deal policies still rule the framing of discussion, when, in actuality, it’s the ...more
Dec 05, 2014 Robert rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Nothing to Fear is an inside look at the first Hundred Days of the "New Deal" and the individuals in FDR's Inner Circle that made it possible. They included Lewis Douglas, Frances Perkins (the first woman Cabinet member), Harry Hopkins, Henry Wallace, and Raymond Moley. Each of them brought something to the table and would play a vital role in the transformation of America at the time.

I did like many of the details included about the first Hundred Days itself in the book but felt that it was oft
Mar 24, 2009 Diane rated it it was amazing
Adam Cohen, the author of Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the First Hundred Days that Created Modern America, reads like a suspense novel in parts. Roosevelt swept into office in a landslide with the highest hopes of any president since George Washington, and he managed to pull together a team of people who were able to put programs in place that Americans are still benefitting from. Recently, contemporary conservatives have tried to downplay or outright deny the impact of Roosevelt's pr ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: presidents
I have read a lot of books about FDR, what can I say the man fascinates me?!?! This book spoke of things that both critics and worshipers have forgotten. (Warning Political Soap Box) FDR was a thrifty spender. He cut every department budget by a least a fourth, balanced budget, spending only for public good, created Social Security out of tax (SS would still be solvent had not been for Congress/Presidents borrowing from it) and he believed that every person should have the pleasure of earning ...more
Aug 25, 2012 Patrick rated it really liked it
A thorough portrait of the people behind FDR who pushed this country into a new era of government. Frances Perkins was the first female cabinet member and served through the entire FDR administration. She is given a large portion of the text, her career fighting for workers rights and against child labor was a revelation.

The beauty of this piece is the thorough treament of each part of legislation in FDR's first 100 days. The reader is shown the history of the ideas--many of which were career-l
Apr 18, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing
This is a great book. I love this time period and I have read a great deal on the infamous Hundred Days of Franklin D. Roosevelt. This book takes a new look at the Hundred Days by focusing on the advisers close to FDR and how they influenced and shaped the Hundred Days. Each person, such as Francis Perkins, was focused on. Each got a short background history and the author eloquently explained how they got involved with FDR and how they influenced FDR.

To go along with all the great information,
Nicholas Mosley
Oct 09, 2012 Nicholas Mosley rated it liked it
The year is 1933 and the country is in ruins. The new president elect Franklin Roosevelt has been challenged with the task of rebuilding the economy . The banks have failed and the farms are broke. He has 100 days to put the New Deal into place and start the recovery process. IF he fails, so does the country.People who are interested in history would be interested in this book. The book could also interest people who are avid FDR fans and those who are interested how modern America was ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Peggie rated it liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Considering that many people compare Obama to FDR, I thought this was a timely book. The author goes into great detail about how FDR choose his cabinet and often included details about how they came to have the knowledgte to be chosen.

However, I was half way through the book and only about 10 days of FDR's 100 days had been covered. It was interesting but very slow reading.

The similarities with Obama ended with the hand he was dealt. FDR had no qualms about challenging Congress to give him the
Apr 01, 2011 Joseph rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Really interesting to say the least. The book was exactly what the title says it was about. There were great details of how society was at the time and how Hoover really had a different philosophy about how the Fed gov should play a roll in it. America voted for change and FDR become president. There is a lot of good background on the "brain trust" that created the 15 major programs or reforms within the first 100 days of his adminstration. That is how all future presidents are looked at with in ...more
FDR got advice from his agriculture secretary Henry Wallace, presidential aide Raymond Moley, budget director Lewis Douglas, labor secretary Frances Perkins and Civil Works Administration director Harry Hopkins.
If you love women's history or are any kind of feminist go right to the part about Perkins. I loved that part. There was a lot of detail, which unfortunately means that there was a lot of detail about the other four characters which engendered less enthusiasm. These characters did not wor
Jan 10, 2013 Crystal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book serves as a new way to look at Roosevelt and his New Deal- through the lives of those who toiled away at its creation for him. Rather than focus on the president himself, Cohen gets at the heart of the New Deal; the cabinet members who made it happen. In a candid look at the ups and downs of the creation of a monumental piece of American legislation, this book lays it all on the table. There were struggles and defeats, but through the persistence of a select group the groundbreaking ...more
Candace Rollins
Oct 23, 2014 Candace Rollins rated it really liked it
This book was less about FDR and more about the cabinet and advisers that reversed the downward spiral this country was in after the 1929 market crash and subsequent depression.Perkins, Wallace, Douglas, Hopkins they all brought a lot to the table, but I found their most valuable assets to be tenacity. They came they served, they righted the course. I also found FDR to be not really hands on, but a big picture kind of leader that analyzed the recommendations and acted quickly. FDR's management ...more
Mar 30, 2016 Alvin rated it really liked it
The focus on the rapid responses of FDR and his advisers during the first 100 days of his Presidency. Clearly sympathetic to the FDR legacy, but does point to some ineffective policies and blunders. You do get the sense that there was a call for "Action, action now." The public was ready for a dictator if that's what it took and fortunately FDR resisted that call (though some will disagree). Still we did not end up with a Mussolini, Hitler, or Stalin. I do think it represents a time when our ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Fred rated it really liked it
Cohen offers a very interesting read as much about the struggle for power by FDR's cabinet as the Cult of Personality of FDR himself. Noone oversaw more activity to relieve the suffering of a nation, noone has been more effective--at least tentatively, and noone has been more misrepresented.
Even FDR's cabinet states that his policies offered only temporary relief and often times lead to greater social problems than they solved. Yet this President served longer than any other.
The reader will lear
Nov 28, 2011 Lambert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far so good. I read about 30-40 pages each night. I am learning a lot about many important people that I knew almost nothing about. I am startled to read how similar the early 1930s are to the present time. I am also depressed about the current state of education vis-a-vis history in our country. We are committing the same dreadful mistakes and our leaders are having the same arguments that were put forth 70 years ago. The book is very well written and allows one to see FDR through the eyes ...more
Sam Motes
Feb 15, 2016 Sam Motes rated it really liked it
The distancing Roosevelt put between himself and Hoover and the subsequent of strong arm tactics by Hoover to try to drive his parties platform into Roosevelt's administration seemed like a discussion of today's dysfunctional politics of party extremes down strict party sides. The book gives interesting insight into the events and mini biographies of the cabinet members that helped drive the first 100 days of the new deal policies. The book keeps its focus on the first 100 days and does a great ...more
The American Conservative
'FDR didn’t cause the Great Depression. His predecessor Herbert Hoover made a bad situation worse with his steep tariffs and big tax increases. But FDR was president when the Great Depression dragged on and on until World War II. If he had retired after his second term, he probably would now be seen as a failed president. His reputation was bailed out by World War II, which he will always get credit for winning.'

Read the full review, "Nothing to Fear But Roosevelt," on our website:
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