Thursday, October 22, 2009

Five best biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Richard Norton Smith is Scholar-in-Residence of History and Public Policy at George Mason University. A presidential historian and former head of six presidential libraries, his books include An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (1984), The Harvard Century: The Making of a University to a Nation (1986) and Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation (1993). His book, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, was a finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize.

In 2006 he named a five best list of biographies of FDR for the Wall Street Journal. One title on the list:
"Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom" by James MacGregor Burns (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1970).

Long overshadowed by its companion volume, "The Lion and the Fox" (which covers FDR's life from 1882 to 1940 and is an invaluable guide through the labyrinth of his character), this gripping account of Roosevelt during World War II presents a would-be crusader adapting to events on a global scale. "I am waiting to be pushed into the situation," the president told associates in the spring of 1941. This strategy of no strategy was deceptive--there was nothing passive, after all, about the $7 billion lifeline to embattled Britain known as Lend-Lease. After Pearl Harbor, the original Great Communicator eased his countrymen through a string of early defeats, inspired mobilization on a staggering scale, refereed an administration often at war with itself and juggled utopian possibilities and crass realpolitik.
Read about the other four books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue