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Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
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Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  5,731 Ratings  ·  275 Reviews
A sweeping, magisterial biography of the man generally considered the greatest president of the twentieth century, admired by Democrats and Republicans alike. Traitor to His Class sheds new light on FDR's formative years, his remarkable willingness to champion the concerns of the poor and disenfranchised, his combination of political genius, firm leadership, and matchless ...more
Hardcover, 896 pages
Published November 4th 2008 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2008)
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Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“He is the truest friend; he has the farthest vision; he is the greatest man I’ve ever known.”
- Sir Winston Churchill, speaking of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1943

Having recently finished a book on President Herbert Hoover, it seemed only natural to move on to his successor in office – and the man in whose shadow he has disappeared: Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Finding a book about FDR is easy. Indeed, finding a thousand books on FDR is easy. You literally have to type only those three letters into a
Narrative biography of FDR. The standard facts of his life are well known, and there is little 'new ground' to uncover here, but instead the main focus of the biography is all in the subtitle.

FDR's upbringing was one steeped in the culture of wealth and privilege, where he could have sailed into a life of ease and indolence if he wanted it. Brands describes FDR's upbringing with a careful eye, with a particular focus on his controlling mother and loveless marriage with Eleanor.

The majority of t
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
Brands is a character in his biographies as much as his subjects are; he isn't shy about telling you what he thinks of them. The lasting impression I got from T.R.: The Last Romantic was Brand's distaste for the earlier President Roosevelt. He casts a kindlier eye on Teddy's relative. Despite the ominous title, Brands portrays FDR as a true champion for social (especially economic) reforms, explaining in detail the machinations that led to the New Deal, the National Industrial Recovery Act, and ...more
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it

“Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt” is H.W. Brands’s 2008 biography of FDR and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Brands is a professor at the University of Texas and the author of more than two dozen books (including six presidential biographies). His most recent biography “Reagan: The Life” was published in 2015.

This lengthy single-volume biography of FDR is detailed, comprehensive and magis
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The title implies that the book is going to be about FDR defying the social and financial elite from which he sprang. Fortunately, I didn't let this narrow and negative title deter me because this turned out to be a comprehensive biography encompassing far more than the New Deal and devoting very little text to the "traitor of his class" concept.

There are more pages on FDR's relationship with Louis Howe, alone, than there is for his "betrayal" of his "class". The observations of FDR's relationsh
TR Peterson
Mar 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Brand's Traitor to His Class is a highly fact-filled read on the political life of FDR. While the title suggests a more analytical approach, it is in fact a highly narrative one. Brand focuses a great deal on FDR during the New Deal period and less so on the WW2 period. Clearly this period was the one in which FDR was considered a "traitor" to his upper class roots but as Brand correctly shows, once the war began, FDR turned away from labor and towards big business. While this switch from "Dr. N ...more
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started off reading this book then switched to the listening to the CD version on a trip to Idaho. My husband and I really got hooked on it. Mark Deakins is a skilled reader who did an excellent job of holding our interest on a book that lasts for 37 hours and 11 minutes. Listening to Deakins read is better than simply reading the book. After I'd heard a few hours, I never went back to the physical book.

FDR was a really remarkable man who was a lot more complex than I understood. Where to eve
Amy Moritz
Dec 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
What drew me to this book was the title, "Traitor to His Class." I had just finished reading a book of letters from The Great Depression and was fascinated about class in America in that era and the double-edge sword of pride which kept people from seeking the help they needed until it was too late. With no knowledge other than the fact my dad liked the book, I borrowed it from him, excited to learn about how a man of privilege became a radical voice for poor and labor.

Here's the thing -- I don'
Jee Koh
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Written with a full appreciation of Roosevelt's accomplishments and a frank understanding of his flaws, Traitor to His Class is an engrossing read. The chief burden of the book is to explain how a man of Roosevelt's class and privilege could have become so firm a supporter of ordinary men and women, and so visionary an architect of American internationalism. Part I "Swimming to Health 1882 - 1928" covers the early period, right up to his becoming the Governor of New York. Part II "The Soul of th ...more
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: history buffs
Recommended to Donna by: I like the author
Shelves: biography-memoir
This is a straight-forward biography of Franklin Roosevelt. I liked it because it stuck mostly to chronological reporting and only occasionally went "out of order" to pick up an important theme. Brands is really good at this kind of writing. I look forward to reading his works on B. Franklin & A. Jackson.

As I was reading this I began to watch "The Waltons" (first season DVD). It was interesting to see the impact of FDR on these people, from his picture in the homes to the "blue eagle" in the
Marshall Smiland
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
An amazing book about an amazing man. He led the US through the darkest days of its history and gave the ordinary people a hope which they may not have had without his reassuring voice. As usual, Brands does a terrific job with his biography and in this case gives us a fascinating view of a man who, although afflicted by polio, changed his country and the world forever.
Wow, this was a good one. I'd say, like, 4.6 or 4.7 stars. Don't judge it by how long it took me to get through it -- I had a very strange month and multiple weekends of travel and didn't read a page for days at a time three different times. When I did read, I was fascinated by FDR's life, impressed by his leadership, alarmed by his (for lack of a better word) manipulation, and so intrigued by how it all went down. I learned new things about Eleanor, about Stalin, about the war effort, about the ...more
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Although long and tedious it was worth the read. We spent a day in Warm Springs, GA and toured FDR's summer home and thus began the journey to know the man. The author H.W. Brands makes following the life of FDR difficult because he flips back and forth in his writing so you have trouble keeping dates straight along with the many conversations (I wonder if they were really as he wrote them). However, after being the only President to sit for four consecutive terms I came away with a greater appr ...more
Greg Bailey
This book is an adequate history of the FDR administration. As a biography, it is less so. I came away from it without a sense that I know FDR significantly better than I already did. The chapters covering his early life are helpful, but as FDR ascends to the presidency, Brands seems to allow the rush of events--the Depression, the Second World War--to become his focus. We're told what FDR did, but as a general rule, not why he did it. Brands rarely steps back to analyze what inner convictions d ...more
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A truly exceptional book. Eleanor and Franklin were two people who history placed at the right time and place. It is very sad that their marriage which started out based on love ended in sadness of both misunderstanding and acrimony. Despite the people who think theirs was a marriage of convenience for political reasons it was not. I think it failed because a/ FDR's mother interfered constantly b/Eleanor had a very unhappy and loveless childhood which FDR could not or would not deal with and try ...more
John Hively
May 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
H.W. Brands has done it again. This is a superb book that I would've rated a four and a half if we had that option. Like a lot of great biographies, Traitor to his Class begins in slow methodical way. Then it picks up steam. Unfortunately, the slowness is about the first ninety pages. That's why it's not a five.

The book provides wonderful details of the last great American president (except for Truman). It focuses on how he betrayed his social class to defend and promote the interests of workin
Irving Koppel
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A thoroughly researched and annotated work by a very literate author,H.W.Brands'"Traitor to His Class" will join the pantheon of other
great works written about our thirty-second president.Brands traces the
growth of a wealthy,pampered,aristocratic only son,almost suffocated by
his overprotective mother,from a rather insouciant youth to a suffering
adult who could identify with others who were needy. A natural politician,a socially adept person, he was the ideal person to be our
president during suc
Susan Albert
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you're looking for a book that sets FDR as a patrician born and bred in the context of his efforts to deal with the devastation of the Depression on the lower and middle class, this is the book to read. Often charged with being a socialist, "[FDR] believed in democracy--in the capacity of ordinary Americans, exercising their collective judgment, to address the ills that afflicted their society. He refused to rely on the invisible hand of the marketplace, for the compelling reason that during ...more
Robert Sparrenberger
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I saw this title a few months back and had read HW Brands in the past and was excited to get my hands on an FDR book with an interesting title.

That being said I was surprised to find out this was another bio of FDR. I had already read "FDR" by Jean Edward Smith and found that to be a solid book about FDR. I was curious as to why another FDR book had been written in less that a year about FDR. The title for this book makes one think there is going to be some big revelation about FDR. There is no
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
A tough time to be president. Great history review.
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent biography of a great and complex man. Much of this book reads like a novel. If you are looking for a balanced overview, this is a great choice.
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book - I remember the years of FDR's presidency and now have a much better understanding of them. So well written and hard to put down.
George Dziuk
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Writing a biography on FDR is difficult. His presidency ranged over two world crises that each alone are entire tomes within themselves. This means anyone attempting such a feat needs to have some knowledge and the capacity to write a political, economic, and military history all in one book.

Traitor to His Class is more of a political history than an economic or military one. Brand's approach is to focus on FDR himself, his approach and decisions, and then to provide some context for those deci
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent biography and analysis of a great humanitarian and president. The book clearly illustrates not only his strengths, but his flaws, both in character and in policy. He provided people with hope during the darkest days of the depression, and courage in time of war against agressive dictatorship. Despite many obstacles, he put to rest the notion that government did not care, and would not, or could not work to improve the lives of its citizens, especially the least powerful or most vuln ...more
Karen Potts
May 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A well-written account of FDR's political career which was of interest as well as educational even to me with my lack of political leanings. Insights into his family life, too. More detail than I needed but the accounts of the two world wars were fascinating. Overall, worth reading.
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Other reviewers have commented on the "epic" scale ("epic" being the parlance of the day) of this book. Actually, that particular slang works well to describe the sheer breadth of FDR's story. It took me about a month of reading, on and off, to finish the book, and it felt like the decades of FDR's career passed in the meantime. By that, I mean, that when Brands mentioned people from the sections on FDR's New York career, I had to stop and try to remember who they were. The protagonist outshone ...more
Tom Johnson
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
H. W. Brands is no Ron Chernow but nevertheless a fine writer. Read his The Man Who Saved the Union and based on that book's merits chose his FDR bio. Notes to self: Sara b. 1854, my own grandfather b. 1875, I find that fascinating. Pg. 112 during The Great War the .01% had their yachts drafted (pun inadvertent) - post war pandemic killed 50 million souls - WWI ended with an armistice not a surrender, exhaustion in the mud, my mom's dad was a sniper but I never heard his tales, not sure why - po ...more
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Love him or hate him, Franklin Roosevelt changed America forever.
Coming into office during the Great Depression, he was responsible for public works programs which put thousands of poor young men to work. Many of them would not have made it without a little boost from such programs as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Public Works Administration.
The CCC planted trees all over the country and Public Works employees built the roads, bridges and buildings that can still be seen on the Skyl
Yancy Dominick
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very readable discussion of a pretty amazing figure at the center of an amazing stretch of US history. Questions remain, mostly about FDR's inner motives (if such things exist), but overall I really liked this. What I liked most is the story itself, but it's a credit to the book that the story is told so clearly.

I also really liked being introduced to the 1944 State of the Union, and especially this excellent passage:

"We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I'm a big fan of this author's books - he's written three very good and readable single volume biographies of Ben Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson - all of whom led busy lives. In his latest work the author tackles FDR, another complicated historical figure. What makes this book work is also its flaw, although very engaging - at over 800 pages the book is actually not a tedious read - there is a glossing over or lack of detail on topics such as The New Deal, FDR's attempt to chang ...more
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Henry William Brands was born in Portland, Oregon, where he lived until he went to California for college. He attended Stanford University and studied history and mathematics. After graduating he became a traveling salesman, with a territory that spanned the West from the Pacific to Colorado. His wanderlust diminished after several trips across the Great Basin, and he turned to sales of a differen ...more
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“or creed.” These rights included: The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home; The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; The right to a good education. Roosevelt” 0 likes
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