The best books on Eleanor Roosevelt and her world

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been intrigued by Eleanor Roosevelt since I was a little girl in Sedalia, Missouri, and my mother read me Eleanor's "My Day" columns in the Kansas City Star. Mother would look up and say, "I'm sure she is better than he is," referring, of course, to Eleanor being better than Franklin. My family was rock-ribbed Republican and disapproved of Franklin's policies. I wondered then—and still do—why my mother and other women of her era had so much reverence for Eleanor. I have been looking for the answer ever since.


I wrote...

Eleanor Roosevelt: Transformative First Lady

By Maurine Beasley,

Book cover of Eleanor Roosevelt: Transformative First Lady

What is my book about?

Gives a comprehensive account of the way Eleanor changed the position of the First Lady from that of a hostess to one approaching a co-presidency. Shows how she and Franklin D. Roosevelt operated as partners in a relationship that made her a role model for American women. 

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Eleanor

Maurine Beasley Why did I love this book?

Endeavors to tell in one volume the story of an American icon, integrating her personal and public lives. This work offers an introduction to her many public roles—as a journalist, First Lady from 1933-1945, delegate to the United Nations (1945-1952), political leader, media personality—as well as her multifaceted personal life.

By David Michaelis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eleanor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller from prizewinning author David Michaelis presents a “stunning” (The Wall Street Journal) breakthrough portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt, America’s longest-serving First Lady, an avatar of democracy whose ever-expanding agency as diplomat, activist, and humanitarian made her one of the world’s most widely admired and influential women.

In the first single-volume cradle-to-grave portrait in six decades, acclaimed biographer David Michaelis delivers a stunning account of Eleanor Roosevelt’s remarkable life of transformation. An orphaned niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, she converted her Gilded Age childhood of denial and secrecy into an irreconcilable marriage with her ambitious fifth cousin…


Book cover of Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism

Maurine Beasley Why did I love this book?

ER's many accomplishments perhaps overshadow the importance of her as a political force after the death of Franklin.  I like this book because it spells out what an important role she played in the Truman administration, in particular, and during the Eisenhower years in keeping alive the beacon of liberalism in the Democratic Party.

By Allida M. Black,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Casting Her Own Shadow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Black shows how Eleanor Roosevelt, after being freed from the constraints imposed by her role in the White House, eagerly expanded her career and unabashedly challenged both the Democratic party and American liberals to practice what they preach.


Book cover of The Early Years

Maurine Beasley Why did I love this book?

It presents Eleanor as a passionate woman who drew initial strength from feminist networks as she emerged from a bigoted aristocratic background marked by her unhappy orphaned upbringing and her subordinate role as a wife and mother. First (and the best) of Cook's three volumes of biography on Eleanor, it paints an absorbing picture of the way Eleanor shed Victorian prejudice to become an advocate for social justice.

By Blanche Wiesen Cook,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Early Years as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first volume in the life of America's greatest First Lady, "a woman who changed the lives of millions" (Washington Post).

Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. Three: 1938-1962, will be published in November 2016.

Eleanor Roosevelt was born into the privileges and prejudices of American aristocracy and into a family ravaged by alcoholism. She overcame debilitating roots: in her public life, fighting against racism and injustice and advancing the rights of women; and in her private life, forming lasting intimate friendships with some of the great men and women of her times. This volume covers ER's family and birth, her childhood, education,…


Book cover of A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Maurine Beasley Why did I love this book?

This book brings to life Eleanor's remarkable accomplishment at the United Nations in 1948 when she shepherded the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights without a dissenting vote. Describes the importance of this declaration as the primary instrument for the human rights movement today and argues there is much to learn from Eleanor's effort that incorporated both liberty and social responsibility in one of the world's most important documents. 

By Mary Ann Glendon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A World Made New as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FINALIST FOR THE ROBERT F. KENNEDY BOOK AWARD •  “An important, potentially galvanizing book, and in this frightful, ferocious time, marked by war and agony, it is urgent reading.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, Los Angeles Times
 
Unafraid to speak her mind and famously tenacious in her convictions, Eleanor Roosevelt was still mourning the death of FDR when she was asked by President Truman to lead a controversial commission, under the auspices of the newly formed United Nations, to forge the world’s first international bill of rights.
 
A World Made New is the dramatic and inspiring story of the remarkable group of men…


Book cover of Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady

Maurine Beasley Why did I love this book?

This depicts the intimacy between Eleanor and Lorena Hickok, a reporter for the Associated Press, that existed at the time Eleanor first moved into the White House in spite of vast differences between the social backgrounds of the two women. Describes Hickok's influence on Eleanor's contacts with other women reporters as well as Hickok's undercover reports on poverty-stricken areas for the Roosevelt administration that prompted Eleanor to personally undertake relief efforts in West Virginia.

By Susan Quinn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eleanor and Hick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A warm, intimate account of the love between Eleanor Roosevelt and reporter Lorena Hickok-a relationship that, over more than three decades, transformed both women's lives and empowered them to play significant roles in one of the most tumultuous periods in American history

In 1932, as her husband assumed the presidency, Eleanor Roosevelt entered the claustrophobic, duty-bound existence of the First Lady with dread. By that time, she had put her deep disappointment in her marriage behind her and developed an independent life-now threatened by the public role she would be forced to play. A lifeline came to her in the…


You might also like...

I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

Book cover of I Meant to Tell You

Fran Hawthorne Author Of I Meant to Tell You

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Museum guide Foreign language student Runner Community activist Former health-care journalist

Fran's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not a criminal, she stumbles into other secrets that will challenge what she thought she knew about her own family, her friend, Russ—and herself.

I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

What is this book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not…


Topics
  • Coming soon!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Eleanor Roosevelt, activists, and American first ladies?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Eleanor Roosevelt, activists, and American first ladies.

Eleanor Roosevelt Explore 22 books about Eleanor Roosevelt
Activists Explore 26 books about activists
American First Ladies Explore 39 books about American first ladies