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4.02  ·  Rating details ·  10,083 ratings  ·  359 reviews
NATIONAL BESTSELLER - A model presidential biography... Now, at last, we have a biography that is right for the man - Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World

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
Paperback, 858 pages
Published May 13th 2008 by Random House Trade (first published May 15th 2007)
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Mark I would definitely recommend it over Brands's FDR biography. Smith is an engaging writer who offers a lot of insight into Roosevelt.
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Peter Beck
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: presidents
Seeking Solace from the Sakura and "FDR"

I am typing this with one hand as our cat Muffin is sleeping in my lap. On Sundays I bike to the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., home to hundreds of Korean-Japanese cherry trees and several memorials. I usually loop by the Jefferson Memorial and then head on to Hains Point, where there are hundreds more cherry trees, but this time I headed straight for the FDR Memorial to find solace in these gut-wrenching times.

"Masterful" and "even-handed" are the first
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) has been called one of the three most important US presidents of all time, by historians and political figures alike. Known best for his New Deal to help America and acting as one of the three Allies political leaders during the Second World War, Roosevelt's legacy is thoroughly documented in the history books. But there is more to this man, as Jean Edward Smith argues in this lengthy biography. The leader behind these great acts helped shape America in ways known to ...more
May 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
"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
Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 doesnt hesitate to condemn a number of his actions and attitudes, not the least of which was his attempt to "pack" the Supreme ...more
Frank Theising
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-presidents
Another excellent bio from Jean Edward Smith. Well researched, very engaging, and relatively objective (the author is clearly a fan but is not afraid to discuss FDRs political ruthlessness, character flaws, or mistakes). Like his book on Eisenhower, the conclusion is rather unsatisfying, abruptly ending with FDRs death. FDR was hugely consequential and his life and accomplishments are impossible to fit into a single volume but Smiths does a great job fitting so much into a mere 636 pages. Only ...more
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

FDR is Jean Edward Smiths 2007 biography of the thirty-second U.S. president and is the 2008 recipient of the Francis Parkman Prize. Smith taught political science at the University of Toronto for 35 years and at Marshall University for 12 years. His next biography Bush will be released July 2016.

FDR is among the most widely read and beloved of biographies and for good reason. It is meticulously researched, exceedingly well-footnoted, admiring but
Jason Bland
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bryan Craig
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: croah
One of the great challenges of writing a biography of America's 32nd president is encapsulating such a challenging character, complex life, and momentous career into the pages of a single volume. Doing so successfully requires incorporating his patrician background and upbringing, his marriage to one of the most remarkable women in American history, his early career in state and national politics, his affliction and adaptation to polio, his successful ascent to the presidency, and his management ...more
Alan Tomkins-Raney
One of the best biographies I have ever read, about one of the greatest Americans to have led and served his nation. A very balanced portrait of FDR, revealing his flaws as well as his talents and attributes. FDR transformed this country, and many of the ideas and political views that were so vociferously argued during his time are the same that challenge and vex us today. We can learn from history and example if we are willing.
I have mixed feelings about this one, but mostly it is no fault of the author. FDR's life really deserves multiple volumes, but even as single-volume biography, this one could have used a couple hundred more pages. The handling of World War II was both disappointing and brilliant, as this was after all a book about a man and not about a war. But his term as governor of New York seemed little more than campaigning for reelection and then election to president, and surely deserved more attention. ...more
Regina Lindsey
FDR by Jean Edward Smith
5 Stars and a heart

FDR is almost deified by those on the left and attacked vociferously by those on the right. As is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It is difficult for an author to write a truly objective biography on a subject. Most authors either detest or adore their subjects, and that bias readily shows. After all, there almost certainly has to be strong feelings one way or another in order to commit the kind of time necessary to accomplish
Nov 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very easy to read , accessible, fast-paced (as biographies go) and extremely interesting/informative. This book has been called the best one-volume bio of FDR and, even though this is the only bio of FDR that I've read, I can see how this could be true. Without hesitation, I would recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in history, US presidents, WW II, and of course, FDR himself.

There are, however, a couple of things that prevent me from awarding this biography a full 5-Star
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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,
Shawn Thrasher
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best pieces of nonfiction I've read in many months. Smith's writing style is superb; this isn't hagiography or hatchet-jobbery either. You can't write about a revered historical figure like Franklin Roosevelt without some sense of laud, but Smith maintains a mostly even keel. FDR has warts on show here. What I thought was particularly interesting was the Smith's premise that four women - Franklin's mother Sara, his wife Eleanor, his secretary Missy LeHand, and his one time ...more
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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, ...more
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extensive, objective and interesting biography of one of the greatest presidents USA ever had. very informative.
Aug 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Zach Waldis
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though he is undoubtedly one of America's (and probably the world's) greatest leaders, FDR and his legacy have largely disappeared from public memory. Smith recounts his life in an accessible and honest way which instils in the reader a sense of the perils of FDR's day and the greatness of the man. Highly recommended.
Many people might think that a biography is a biography; they all contain facts about someones 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 authors bias (while it is pretty much inevitable for a biography to have a bias, there is a ...more
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
Aaron Million
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a well-balanced, thoroughly researched biography of FDR. The notes section is excellent - there is so much more information contained in both the footnotes and the end notes that I followed along with the end notes as I finished each corresponding chapter. Smith does an admirable job of balancing the strengths and weaknesses, flaws and virtues, that made FDR such a complex person. Smith details certain instances of FDR's ruthlessness (1938 congressional elections, for example), while ...more
Not too long ago I read the FDR Biography Franklin D. Roosevelt A Rendezvous with Destiny by Frank Freidel Franklin 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 ...more
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second biography I have read by Jean Edward Smith. Both this work and his book on Eisenhower are outstanding. More than any other author I have read, he covers his subject in a very evenhanded manner. He points out the good and the bad character traits and actions of his subject and does not fall prey to "hero-worship" as many biographers have a tendency to do. When Roosevelt missteps, Smith does not hold back judgement. For instance, Smith spends quite a bit of time criticizing ...more
Jason Aldous
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never a hero among conservatives and constitutionalists, FDR nonetheless contributed mightily to the power and prestige of America in the world. Smith's book makes this case in spades!

Smith is the same author as for the Eisenhower book I've also read. After reading both books, I honestly found Ike's story to be an even more compelling one than FDR's. The Second World War provided Eisenhower with a unique opportunity in military history, the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe, making
Judy Baker
There is a reason why many consider Jean Smith's FDR one of the best biographies of our 32nd president. His research was extensive with 150 pages of notes and 25 pages of bibliography, the combination longer than some of the other biographies I have read. He seems to have written a balanced view of man whose political prowess managed to get him elected for an unprecedented 4 terms during a time of national and international upheaval. FDR was a consummate politician who could balance issues, ...more
Jeremy Perron
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the most important person of the twentieth century, he helped the United States shake off bonds of the nineteenth century and prepared the nation to accept it's new role as a global superpower. When he came to power of March 4, 1933 after the stunning November 1932 election, the nation was at its weakest point since the dark days of the Civil War. The nation had been crippled by the devastation of the 1929 crash, and a man, who was himself disabled, was going to show ...more
Jeremiah Tesch
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been curious to learn more about FDR for some time now, and this biography did not disappoint. Smith seems to provide a balanced, engaging viewpoint of FDR in terms of his family background, personal relationships, career development, leadership abilities, etc., and he discusses both FDR's failures and his successes. Through this biography I found FDR to be a fascinating, inspiring figure. He, like several in his family, faced personal struggles and was able to use those experiences to ...more
Mike Blackwell
Going in, all I knew about FDR was his role in World War II, a vague understanding of the New Deal, and that he was considered one of the (few) "good presidents."

Now, my opinion hasn't changed that much. FDR was a good president. He did a lot of nice, smart things, helped people out, and basically created the current idea of social services in the USA.

However, what surprised me was his life before being president. His family was rich. Mega rich. FDR traveled to Europe every year as a kid, was
Kimberly Simon
From birth to his death, this book follows FDR's life into politics. Every other character including Eleanor is lightly portrayed in relation to him, but he remains for sure the star of the story. The story is the perfect man at the perfect time that had the endurance to win the Presidential office 4 times. He brought America back from a depression, carried us through the attack on Pearl Harbor and into war and prepared us for a post war economy.

His legislation remains a testimony for his
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Jean Edward Smith was 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 served 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

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There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
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“He lifted himself from a wheelchair to lift the nation from its knees.” 20 likes
“Not to be overlooked are the four women who played crucial roles in FDR’s life: his mother, Sara; Lucy Mercer, the woman he loved; Missy LeHand, the woman who loved him;” 1 likes
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