The best books on Eleanor Roosevelt, her life and works: a small but inspirational sample of a wealth of choices

Who am I?

Eleanor Roosevelt loved to teach history and she must have been really good at it. As a historian with a specialty in U.S. women’s history, I love exploring the life and impact of Eleanor Roosevelt. It's a rewarding way to experience the early decades of the 20th century, to gain familiarity with the culture, issues, and politics of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, and, while so doing, to meet up with an astonishingly talented group of writers and scholars who have made their own inquiries into Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and works. Studies of ER now constitute a thriving subfield in scholarship and publishing; it's a privilege to be part of it.


I wrote...

Eleanor Roosevelt: In Her Words: On Women, Politics, Leadership, and Lessons from Life

By Nancy Woloch (editor),

Book cover of Eleanor Roosevelt: In Her Words: On Women, Politics, Leadership, and Lessons from Life

What is my book about?

Acclaimed for her roles in politics and diplomacy, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt was also a prolific author, journalist, lecturer, broadcaster, educator and public personality. Using selections from her books, columns, articles, press conferences, speeches, radio talks, and correspondence, Eleanor Roosevelt: In Her Words tracks her contributions from the 1920s, when she entered journalism and public life; through the White House years, when she campaigned for racial justice, the labor movement, and the “forgotten woman”; to the postwar era, when she served at the United Nations and shaped the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Entries convey Eleanor Roosevelt’s preparation for leadership, the skill with which she defied critics and grasped authority, her competitive drive as a professional, and the force of her message to modern readers.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Early Years

Nancy Woloch Why did I love this book?

The irresistible first volume of Cook’s much-praised, magisterial 3-volume study of Eleanor Roosevelt’s eventful life. An expert narrator and historian, Cook follows ER through her difficult childhood, impactful education, challenging marriage, political training, and fascinating early career in public life, right up to the brink of becoming first lady in 1933. Sensitive, solicitous, and a triumph of biography.

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 Courage in a Dangerous World: The Political Writings of Eleanor Roosevelt

Nancy Woloch Why did I love this book?

Historian Allida M. Black tracks Eleanor Roosevelt’s vast outpouring of political commentary from the 1930s onward by tapping the most vital sources. These range from entries in “My Day,” Mrs. Roosevelt’s inimitable syndicated newspaper column, to selections from letters, speeches, books, and essays. From the New Deal to the Cold War era, the writings reveal ER’s allegiance to democracy and internationalism, to civil rights and human rights. A rich collation for students and admirers, the book caters as well to general readers who seek connection with ER.

By Eleanor Roosevelt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Courage in a Dangerous World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dozens of books have been written about Eleanor Roosevelt, but her own writings are largely confined to the Roosevelt archives in Hyde Park. Courage in a Dangerous World allows her own voice again to be heard. Noted Eleanor Roosevelt scholar Allida M. Black has gathered more than two hundred columns, articles, essays, and speeches culled from archives whose pages number in the millions, tracing her development from timorous columnist to one of liberalism's most outspoken leaders. From "My Day" newspaper columns about Marian Anderson and excerpts from Moral Basis of Democracy and This Troubled World to speeches and articles on…


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

Nancy Woloch Why did I love this book?

Few diplomats of the late 1940s thought that Eleanor Roosevelt had much to offer the new United Nations, which had just begun after World War II. The former first lady, in the view of most experts, lacked preparation in foreign affairs; too voluble and too inexperienced, she might blunder into controversy. But they were totally wrong. As law professor Mary Ann Glendon so memorably shows, Mrs. Roosevelt as UN delegate became a star player on the international stage, the guiding spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and a much-admired “first lady of the world”.

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 You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

Nancy Woloch Why did I love this book?

Eleanor Roosevelt became an expert on interpersonal relations. Her skill at advice-giving reached millions in her popular magazine columns. Toward the end of her life, Mrs. Roosevelt wrote an advice manual that conveyed her educational convictions, along with her behavioral precepts and positive outlook. As elsewhere, she focused on her own experience and on the all-important process of learning from experience, which she shared through anecdote and analysis. A lively bestseller of 1960, the book has appealed to readers ever since.

By Eleanor Roosevelt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Learn by Living as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most beloved figures of the twentieth century, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt remains a role model for a life well lived. At the age of seventy-six, Roosevelt penned this simple guide to living a fuller life. Now back in print, "You Learn by Living" is a powerful volume of enduring commonsense ideas and heartfelt values. Offering her own philosophy on living, Eleanor takes readers on a path to compassion, confidence, maturity, civic stewardship, and more. The following are her keys to a fulfilling life: Learning to Learn; Fear - the Great Enemy; The Uses of Time; The Difficult…


Book cover of The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia

Nancy Woloch Why did I love this book?

An inspired reference book, ideal reader’s companion, and invaluable guide to further investigation of Eleanor Roosevelt’s life, time, interests, passions, friends, enemies, and relationships. And most important, a perfect gift for any Roosevelt admirer! Even the most casual reader can open the pages at random, discover some fascinating entry, and become utterly immersed in one of ER’s experiences and absorbed in the contents of the book. Diversions abound! I cannot praise this unique and impressive volume too highly.

By Maurine Hoffman Beasley, Holly Cowan Shulman, Henry R. Beasley

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Perhaps the most important woman in 20th century America, Eleanor Roosevelt fascinates scholar and layperson alike. This exciting encyclopedia brings together basic information illuminating her complex career and making the interaction between her private and public lives accessible to scholars, students, and the general public. Written by scholars-including the most eminent Eleanor Roosevelt and New Deal scholars-journalists, and those who knew her, the 200 plus entries in this book provide easy access to material showing how Eleanor Roosevelt changed the First Lady's role in politics, widened opportunities for women, became a liberal leader during the Cold War era, and served…


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Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

By Martha Marks,

Book cover of Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

Martha Marks Author Of Rubies of the Viper

New book alert!

Who am I?

I made my first visit to Pompeii at age seven. That day, I told my parents that I had been there before. It was all very familiar. And that sense of déjà vu has never left me. I feel it whenever I go back to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Roman Forum. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but... As an adult, I’ve returned many times to those places and visited others featured in my books: the Etruscan necropolis at Caere, which was already 1,000 years old at the time of my novels; Athens; and the ancient ports of Piraeus in Greece and Itanos in Crete. I earned a Ph.D. at Northwestern University, taught for many years, and enjoyed a million marvelous experiences, but my lifelong love of ancient Rome is the direct result of that long-ago visit to Pompeii with my parents.

Martha's book list on the Roman Empire in 1st Century AD

What is my book about?

Bernard Marks and Martha Alford met by chance. The odds were long that they would hit it off. That wasn’t in the cards they’d been dealt at birth. But, as gamblers in love, they rolled the dice. And then they worked hard, took risks, caught lucky breaks, built satisfying careers, enjoyed terrific travels, and won their own version of the lottery of life. Over four decades, Lady Luck smiled on them, until one day, she didn’t. Out of the blue, Fortune spun her wheel and taught them that no one is immune to tragedy and heartbreak.

Betting on Bernie is Martha Marks’s memoir of their improbable courtship, happy and prosperous marriage, and not-so-golden “golden years.” It will make you think, wonder, laugh, and cry.

Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

By Martha Marks,

What is this book about?

Bernard Marks and Martha Alford met by chance. No real reason for it, just a series of fluky coincidences. The odds were long that they would hit it off. That wasn’t in the cards they’d been dealt at birth. “It’ll never last,” people whispered after they got engaged. “Poor probability of success” was the general consensus when they married. But Bernie and Martha ignored the naysayers. Gamblers in love, they rolled the dice.

And then they worked hard, took even more risks, caught a few lucky breaks, built satisfying careers, enjoyed terrific travels, and won their own version of the…


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Interested in Eleanor Roosevelt, American first ladies, and human rights?

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

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