The Defining Moment is up there with the top echelon of recent presidential biographies (John Adams, Team of Rivals, Truman). Jonathan Alter has crafted a book that moves quickly, is full of interesting anecdotes, and makes you feel like you really know FDR in a way that other biographies that culminate in his handling of WWII (rather than the New Deal) never do.
He also has a rather interesting aspect in his writing in that he will occasionally step out of the narrative and explain how FDR compares and/or directly influenced future presidents by name. I found it a very compelling part of the book that did not distract. Of course this book was written just a couple of years ago and the comparisons only extend to George W Bush. A subsequent edition that included comparisons to Obama in a few years would be fascinating.
Of course it is impossible not to compare certain aspects of what FDR did to deal with the Great Depression and what is going on today in Washington. There are a fair number of similarities, though the book is also a great refresher on how much, much worse the Depression was compared to the current economic environment. That being said, it was wonderful to see what the right person can do even in dire circumstances. This has not happened frequently enough in our history and the times is has happened are worth careful study.
As others have noted, the title is a bit misleading in that the book is really a fairly complete biography of FDR up to and including the first 100 days he was in office, but we actually don't get to the beginning of the 100 days until we are about 75% through the book.
Overall a great and timely "read". Grover Gardner does his usual fabulous job narrating the book. I highly recommend it.
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