Traitor to His Class

The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Narrated by: Mark Deakins
Length: 37 hrs and 9 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (334 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A sweeping, magisterial biography of the man generally considered the greatest president of the 20th century, admired by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Traitor to His Class sheds new light on FDR's formative years; his remarkable willingness to champion the concerns of the poor and disenfranchised; and his combination of political genius, firm leadership, and matchless diplomacy in saving democracy in America during the Great Depression and the American cause of freedom in World War II.

Drawing on archival materials, public speeches, personal correspondence, and accounts by family and close associates, acclaimed best-selling historian and biographer H. W. Brands offers a compelling and intimate portrait of Roosevelt's life and career.

Brands explores the powerful influence of FDR's dominating mother and the often tense and always unusual partnership between FDR and his wife, Eleanor, and her indispensable contributions to his presidency.

Most of all, the book traces in breathtaking detail FDR's revolutionary efforts with his New Deal legislation to transform the American political economy in order to save it, his forceful and cagey leadership before and during World War II, and his lasting legacy in creating the foundations of the postwar international order.

Traitor to His Class brilliantly captures the qualities that have made FDR a beloved figure to millions of Americans.

©2008 H. W. Brands (P)2008 Books on Tape

What listeners say about Traitor to His Class

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Rare Combination,,, Fact AND Feeling!

The study of history is amazing when truth of BOTH a feeling and a factual nature jumps off the pages.

Agree or not with a given policy of FDR, you will know his feeling as well as his thinking. Not since Carl Sandburg or Bruce Catton history books have I experienced both truths in any one book!

Masterful!

6 people found this helpful

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Worth every minute.

I felt as if I was listening to FDR's own voice through the author's pen and the narrator's performance. The scenes were painted with such two tail and the narrator made them come alive. It was a treat to learn so much more about FDR then I ever could have imagined. I recommend the unabridged version - it may seem daunting to listen to, but I found myself hanging on every word.

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A Magnificent Biography

Writing a one-volume biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt is a daunting task because of the length of his tenure in office and the circumstances he confronted in the United States and the world. This biography is about as close to a perfect one-volume biography as you will find. The author does an excellent job in presenting Roosevelt's decisions within the context of his times while at the same time not excusing their shortcomings- for example, his decision to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II is presented in a balanced and fair way.

If I had a complaint it would be around two-thirds of the way through the book, the author in one short sentence abruptly dismisses the New Deal as a failure so he can move on to discussing the war. I think he owed the readers more of an explanation as to how and why the New Deal was a failure. That oversight in assessing the New Deal and its failure to bring full economic recovery is unfortunate given that so many political leaders since Roosevelt have tried to resurrect or expand parts of the New Deal and reap the same unintended consequences that it has brought to our economy. At the same time, I still admire Roosevelt for doing something to re-instill lost hope to those who suffered during the Depression.

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Overall very good!

Good listen, book was interesting and informative. I learned a couple of new things about the time period as well. The narrator was very good and made the direct quotes sound different than the regular narrative. The only issue I had was that the reader mispronounced several key person's names repeatedly, which was somewhat annoying. It would have been wise to listen to period newscasts to hear the correct way to say their names. Otherwise, great book!

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Too much time spent describing economics

An econ class in high school is the extent of my knowledge of the subject. I zoned out through most of the complicated descriptions and explanations. I know that the Great Depression and the New Deal had all to do with the banks, the private sector, government and so on and so forth, but I wanted a biography, not Economics 401. I wish the book discussed Eleanor a little more. I know this is FDR's biography, but she was such a big part of his life and was often involved in policy matters and was someone he discussed major issues with.

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Excellent Story of a Great President

This is a very interesting read about one of the most turbulent times in American history and of the role of FDR in leading the country out of the Great Depression and through the Second World War. FDR was a complex and highly intelligent President who did a great job leading the nation. His role in helping the British and Russia with Lend Lease early in the war and setting production levels for arms were a key to victory. His belief in self determination for other countries and non belief in colonialism made him an American president highly regarded world wide. He tried to make the government a force for good. He certainly rates on a par with Washington and Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents. His engaging personality, intelligence, and political savvy were key to his success. Brand did a great job portraying his strong points and personal flaws.

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Heavy Dose of History

If you could sum up Traitor to His Class in three words, what would they be?

Not Brands' best.

What other book might you compare Traitor to His Class to and why?

Any of many history books. This is not my favorite HW Brands biography; I read his works on Andrew Jackson and Ben Franklin and found both much more compelling. This could be my affinity for older America, or the difference between reading and listening to a heavily detailed piece of history, but nevertheless I was never as excited for the next page of FDR as I was for the other two. It seems to me more of the predjudices and judgements of the modern man figure into Brands' analysis of the New Deal president, and figure in more favorably than they might another hundred years down the line.

Have you listened to any of Mark Deakins’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, but this was good narration.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, I'd say this should be free to anyone that could.

Any additional comments?

Listening to mammoth recordings of detailed history is not for the faint if heart, or ear. How much did I retain?

6 people found this helpful

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We need a FDR in the White House now

As I write this in the summer of 2020 President Donald Trump is reving up his campaign for re-election to the White House. The meaness and smallness of Donald Trump is so apparent when listening to this book's account of the generosity and grandness of FDR's vision during world war II in the depression.

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Talented writer and narrator, but too biased/long

I've really enjoyed some of H.W. Brand's books, and ordered this one with trepidation due to the title and the title for Teddy's book. I should have listened to my gut.

If you have the same response to the title, don't order. It's a well-written / narrated story that sounds as if it comes funded by some Roosevelt foundation; nothing critical, nothing deep that would be critical, lots glazing over important motivations and facts that are common knowledge and negative.

It's not hitting you over the head as many of these books / history books do, but the language and takes show clear bias, which we all have, yet Brand just ignores about all conflicts that makes history what it is and people who they are. Roosevelt's flaws caused significant damage to the country and his family and there is plenty there to discuss (admittedly, I listened for 1/3 and skipped around for the rest, but the flowery takes become clear). His covering the bank holiday and theft of gold for example just heaps praise while ignoring all of the damage done or well documented takes that this and many of his other actions caused far more harm, but it goes further. Brand finds Roosevelt's own admission of his ignorance to be praiseworthy,

Everything about the president that ended much of what remained of capitalism and helped finally create the imperial presidency is just ignored, in favor of a fantasy of a near flawless human, who just happened to do everything right, yet somehow we just can ignore the misery and greatest depression in history. This book at best paints in more color what your few paragraphs from your leftist grade school book already covered, it doesn't do more, and sadly I'll be crossing this author off my list after several decent books (which, I now will wonder about).

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Amazing book - awesome narration

I just finished the audible version of this book. Very comprehensive and well narrated. I’m no fan of FDR, but H. W. Brands goes into great detail describing the challenges and situations FDR had to go through in order to restore hope to Americans impoverished by a depression, and to a world facing subjugation by tyrants. The detail Brands provides, combined with Mark Deakins’ narration helps you understand the circumstances behind FDR’s decisions and his state of mind, and makes the reader/listener feel like s/he was present and by FDR’s side. Highly recommended!