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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (31 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: H. W. Brands Narrator: Mark Deakins Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2008 ISBN: 9781415956670
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A brilliant evocation of the qualities that made FDR one of the most beloved and greatest of American presidents.

Drawing on archival material, public speeches, correspondence and accounts by those closest to Roosevelt early in his career and during his presidency, H. W. Brands shows how Roosevelt transformed American government during the Depression with his New Deal legislation, and carefully managed the country’s prelude to war. Brands shows how Roosevelt’s friendship and regard for Winston Churchill helped to forge one of the greatest alliances in history, as Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin maneuvered to defeat Germany and prepare for post-war Europe.

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Quotes & Awards

  • H.W. Brands is a master at finding the essence of an important American life, telling its story grippingly and showing us why it is important to our own generation.  With Traitor to His Class, he has surpassed even his own high standard.  This judicious and compelling work is the first major one-volume biography written by an historian too young to have lived in Franklin Roosevelt's time.  It deserves a wide audience, especially among those younger Americans who need to be told why we all owe so much to FDR. Michael Beschloss
  • This is a rare book, indeed, shedding new light and brilliant insight upon an elusive subject we thought we knew well.  In this elegant, all-encompassing portrayal, master historian H. W. Brands shows us a leader who got the big issues right and, in doing so, forever changed the expectations of the world.  Traitor to His Class will quickly emerge as the finest one-volume biography of FDR. David Oshinsky, Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for History
  • We live in the world Franklin Roosevelt created, and we can never know enough about him. In this illuminating portrait of the man who proved far more radical than his upbringing would have ever suggested, H. W. Brands has painted FDR in bright and brilliant colors. Jon Meacham, author of Franklin and Winston and American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
  • “H.W. Brands’s wonderful new biography of Roosevelt…shows the precision and attention to detail that one would expect from a scholar and, at the same time, [it] reads like a novel…It is rich in insights and fresh perspectives that will appeal to the expert and the general reader alike. This may well be the best general biography of Franklin Roosevelt we will see for many years to come.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Very much worth reading.”

    New Yorker

  • “A thoroughly readable, scrupulously fair assessment of the one president who could inspire a Mt. Rushmore makeover.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “[Brands] explain[s] in detail how this ambitious Hudson Valley patrician, the coddled son of an elderly father and dominating mother, managed to defy his family and social class and become the most reform-minded president in U.S. history. The best part of Brands’s book is his vivid account of FDR’s early life and pre-presidential career.”

    Washington Post

  • "H.W. Brands has accomplished a remarkable feat in this terrific work. As if he were creating characters in a novel, he has brought to vivid life the central figures in his story--FDR, Eleanor, Sara Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and the inner circle in the White House--while at the same time providing a fresh understanding of the rich historical context for their thoughts and actions at every step along the way. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of Team of Rivals

  • If you want to understand how a great president should act, Traitor to His Class is must reading
    New York Observer
  • H.W. Brands’s wonderful new biography of Rooseveltshows the precision and attention to detail that one would expect from a scholar and, at the same time, reads like a novel…it is rich in insights and fresh perspectives that will appeal to the expert and the general reader alike. This may well be the best general biography of Franklin Roosevelt we will see for many years to come. Christian Science Monitor
  • Very much worth reading. The New Yorker
  • Impressive...Roosevelt was prepared to be radical to meet dangerous circumstances. Yet his instincts and the outcomes of many of his policies were often conservative. As a radical, he saved the old order--and advanced Ameriacn power more than any president since Jefferson...Courage, charm, resourceful cunning and a hidden hardness enabled him to save American capitalism, though, as he said himself, it was Dr. Win-the-War, not Dr. New Deal, that ended the Depression. Mr. Brands is masterly in describing the patience with which FDR brought the country to understand the danger of fascism. The Economist
  • The longest-serving president in U.S. history, Roosevelt was arguably the most inscrutable. He kept no diary, wrote no autobiography and unburdened himself to no one. Even his wife had no idea what was on his mind...Brands explains in detail how this ambitious Hudson Valley patrician, the coddled son of an elderly father and dominating mother, managed to defy his family and social class and become the most reform-minded president in U.S. history. Washington Post Book World
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Biography/Autobiography
  • A 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Biography

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe | 2/5/2014

    " Overall, this was exactly what I was looking for: I knew bits and pieces about FDR's presidency, but not much else about him. This gave a good picture of who he was before he became president, and some of the highlights of his presidency. A couple of things I would have liked to see that it didn't have: (1) More about the non-war stuff in America from 1939 on. Yes, the war was the dominant theme at that point, but there must still have been other things happening, right? (2) More about Eleanor and her role during his presidency, especially during the war; my impression is that she remained a significant figure during that time, even though their personal relations were bad. (3) A bit of an epilogue. The book ends pretty abruptly upon his death; it would have been nice to have a bit of a look at what came next, and how FDR's influence played out after his death. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ken | 2/3/2014

    " "Traitor to his class" is a balanced look at one of the most controversial presidents in US history. Brands gives FDR credit where credit is due but is also quite willing to place blame where it is needed. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 1/30/2014

    " A good overview of FDR's life and presidency but a little too long. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tom | 1/27/2014

    " Writing any biography of Franklin Roosevelt is a difficult task, as any honest historian will tell you. The man kept no journal, few if any personal writings, and died in office before he could write a memoir. Those close to him, including family and friends, never really knew what he was thinking or feeling since he was not in the habit of sharing such things. As such, Brands did a good job with what he could. Covering such a life, starting with his overprivledged childhood under an overbearing mother, into his stormy marriage to Eleanor, and then on to his political career and eventual rise to the presidency, culminating in his stiding onto the world stage as one of the most powerful and influential men of his time. FDR is a man who doesn't sit still and won't let polio slow him down or stop his ambitions, still with his own flaws and far from perfect. A worthwhile read for anyone interested in this important but enegmatic figure. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul | 1/17/2014

    " For any fan of FDR, a must read. Well written, insightful. In these times, also very timely. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chet | 1/9/2014

    " 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. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tara | 12/25/2013

    " This took awhile to finish but I enjoyed it throughout. I know so little about history and this book offered several lessons. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carolyn | 12/8/2013

    " Very insightful and well written, with a lot of parallels to today's world, but a long read. I need something light and fluffy to read next. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Eric | 11/30/2013

    " Entertaining biography that is neither comprehensive nor particularly insightful. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David Haupt | 11/23/2013

    " It's great so far, I'll update this when I'm done. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lois | 8/7/2013

    " 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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark | 5/27/2013

    " A long book, but deserving to a very great man. After reading this book you wonder why Time Magazine got it wrong by not naming FDR "Man of the Century>" "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kristiana | 4/29/2013

    " I have been trying to read this book since July. It's 37 hours long. I had to restart it two or three times. I finally did it though, and it was really worth it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Megan Shipley | 4/2/2013

    " The book was pretty neutral despite the title which is what I was looking for. But I do think the author made light of the negative qualities of FDR. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Harold | 11/18/2012

    " Excellent bio. Brands sheds light on the issues FDR dealt. The parallels between FDR's times and now are pretty evident. He handled it incredibly well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dymphna | 7/20/2012

    " Very detailed and thorough biography on FDR and his times. Like a good, satisfying history class. I finished it just in time for FDR's 130th birthday. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dru | 6/24/2011

    " This massive volume starts off strong and promises to be a readable and intriguing analysis of FDR. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amanda | 6/15/2011

    " It took me quite a while to finish this book I must say, but I'm really glad I did. This was a really good rendering of FDR's time pre-WWII and a great perspective on his New Deal. I liked the author's perspectives even if it took far too long to read this thing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane | 3/20/2011

    " Well-written and insightful. Brands maintains a particular humanist perspective without getting caught up in too much or necessary detail. I was able to close the book with a better idea of the man, as a man. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amanda | 3/11/2011

    " It took me quite a while to finish this book I must say, but I'm really glad I did. This was a really good rendering of FDR's time pre-WWII and a great perspective on his New Deal. I liked the author's perspectives even if it took far too long to read this thing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carolyn | 2/26/2011

    " Very insightful and well written, with a lot of parallels to today's world, but a long read. I need something light and fluffy to read next. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jason | 2/23/2011

    " Excellent book. I love Brand's style. He keeps out of the way of the narrative. I was impressed on how he kept the book so short and still packed it with rich detail. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tag | 2/19/2011

    " Good stuff. Very interesting read...Don't think there are anymore FDR's around, sigh... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debby | 1/26/2011

    " There is a remarkable similarity between the first 100 presidential days of Roosevelt and Obama. Much of the "big government" remains today. Roosevelt masterfully manipulated people to accomplish his goals. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joyce | 10/1/2010

    " An excellent account of Franklin Roosevelt's life and times. At times reads more like a history book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 8/23/2010

    " great book about the man that served as our longest president of the united states. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 8/9/2010

    " A good overview of FDR's life and presidency but a little too long. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kristiana | 7/27/2010

    " I have been trying to read this book since July. It's 37 hours long. I had to restart it two or three times. I finally did it though, and it was really worth it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ed | 6/24/2010

    " Well rounded and dense with facts, this is another good biography by Mr. Brands of a very great president. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kcatty | 6/11/2010

    " To analyze:
    - FDR
    - poor, poor Eleanor Roosevelt
    - the writing
    :) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jeff | 5/4/2010

    " Not interesting enough to capture my attention for 800 pages, but if you really want info on FDR's life, it is definitely here. "

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About the Author

H. W. Brands is the bestselling author and editor of more than twenty books. He has been a professor at Vanderbilt and Texas A&M universities, and he is currently the Dickson Allen Anderson Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. Two of his books, Traitor to His Class and The First American, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. His other works include Andrew Jackson, Age of Gold, and TR. He lectures frequently on historical and current events and has appeared on numerous national radio and television programs. He resides in Austin, Texas.

About the Narrator

Mark Deakins is an actor whose television appearances include Head Case, Star Trek: Voyager, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His film credits include Intervention, Star Trek: Insurrection, and The Devil’s Advocate. He recently wrote, directed, and produced the short film The Smith Interviews.