When it comes to reading a weighty tome, the only thing a reader has to fear is fear itself. That's why "FDR," a 600-plus page biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Jean Edward Smith, is the latest recommendation from this pseudo-intellectual.
Roosevelt was a wonderful character cast in momentous times, and Smith is his equal as a researcher and writer. This combination makes "FDR" a terrific book.
It's hard to imagine a man more suited to leadership than Franklin D. Roosevelt. Most history buffs are familiar with the oversized personality of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt's cousin and predecessor in the White House. Although not a bull in a china shop like Teddy, Roosevelt was his equal in strength of character, determination and ambition.
Born to a wealthy family and raised in unimaginable privilege, Roosevelt had a strikingly even temperament that allowed him to thrive in any culture or at any level of society. A law school graduate who was not really interested in being a lawyer, Roosevelt was drawn to politics. In his first race for office in upstate New York, he took on an incumbent Republican state senator, campaigned hard and won a surprise victory.
Roosevelt was a politician on the rise, a former assistant secretary of the Navy and unsuccessful vice presidential candidate in 1920, when he was stricken a year later by polio, a condition that left this energetic, handsome man in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. His perseverance in the face of this handicap is inspiring. He would not abandon plans to live as normal a life as he could, he would not abandon public life and he would not be defeated.
Elected governor in 1928 and then to the presidency in the midst of the Depression four years later, Roosevelt proved an inspiring, creative leader whose mastery of the art of communication in the early days of radio helped inspire a beleaguered people.
Although a brilliant political strategist, he was not without fault [– ] his ill-fated plan to pack the U.S. Supreme Court and his 1938 effort to purge the Democratic Party of dissenters were unmitigated disasters.
His clear-eyed analysis of the threat German dictator Adolf Hitler posed to world freedom was his greatest contribution to this country. He was unyielding in his effort to prepare America for World War II and help Great Britain stave off a defeat that would have left the U.S. an isolated democracy in a world dominated by dictatorships. Smith's description of the diplomatic back-and-forth between the U.S., Great Britain and Japan prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor is fascinating.
The only man elected to the presidency four times, Roosevelt was a larger-than-life character in dangerous and economically desperate times. Smith's presentation of the man and the era make for great reading.
Here are the previous recommenations from Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club.
[–] "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission" by Hampton Sides.
[–] "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris.
[–] "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord.
[–] "April 1865: The Month That Saved America" by Jay Winik.
[–] "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand.
[–] "Lindbergh" by A. Scott Berg.
[–] "The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963" by Laurence Leamer.
[–] "The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case" by Sam Roberts.
[–] "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy.
[–] "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions" by Ben Mezrich.
[–] "Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World" by Steve Neal.
[–] "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.
[–] "Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone" by Martin Dugard.
[–] "In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton.
[–] "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34." by Bryan Burrough.
[–] "Flags of our Fathers," by James Bradley.
[–] "Cary Grant: A Biography" by Marc Elliot.
[–] "Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager" by Buzz Bissinger.
[–] "Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York" by Kenneth Ackerman.
[–] "They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967" by David Maraniss.
[–] "Flashman" (a novel) by George MacDonald Fraser.
[–] "Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and A World on the Brink" by David Margolick.
[–] "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City" by Jonathan Mahler.
[–] "Five Families: the Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires" by Selwyn Raab.
[–] "The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball." by John Taylor.
[–] "American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies" by Michael Kauffman.
[[–] "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" by Lawrence Wright.
[– ) "A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports" by Brad Snyder.
[–] "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" by Michael Lewis.
[–] "The Education of a Coach" by David Halberstam.
[–] "Arc of Justice: A Sage of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age" by Kevin Boyle
[–] "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl" by Timothy Egan.
[–] "The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case" by James Neff.
[–] The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House" by John Harris.