Book Review: Becoming FDR by Jonathan Darman

“Campaigning for the presidency in the summer of 1932, Franklin Roosevelt looked like a political natural, yet his real genius had been shaped by his search for hope in his struggle with polio.”

Jonathan Darman, Becoming FDR

Title: Becoming FDR: The Personal Crisis That Made a President
Author: Jonathan Darman
Genres: Non-fiction, History, Biography, Politics
Pages: 448 (Kindle)
Publish Date: September 6th, 2022

My Rating: ★★★★
Read: 8/28/2022 – 8/31/2022


This isn’t so much a biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as it is a prelude to his presidency. Most of the focus is on his battle with polio and how he used this challenge to shape himself into the man we look back upon today.

I knew a fair amount about FDR going into this book, but I’d never known about his life before his illness to such a great extent as illustrated here. Though to begin with the pacing is strange, going back and forth between different eras of both his and Eleanor’s lives, towards the middle it finds steady footing, telling the story in a more linear timeline. Becoming FDR is an up close and personal account of life in the Roosevelt home through infidelity, illness, and politics.

There are also some mentions of those involved with the Roosevelts, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Louis Howe, friends of Eleanor’s (among others), as well as quotes from Franklin and Eleanor’s children. These interactions paint a broader picture of FDR through his social circle and family.

Informative and a relatively quick read, this book is a great accent to history book collections.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing a free digital ARC to read and review.

Likes & Dislikes:

What I liked:

  • Following the ups and downs on FDR’s illness.
  • The inclusion of Eleanor.
  • The pictures placed throughout along with various quotes from FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and others.

What I didn’t like:

  • How long it took for the book to find a steady pace.
  • A little too much focus on scandals. I say this given the book is ultimately about Franklin’s illness and not his life as a whole.


It was interesting to read about this time in FDR’s life rather than the usual topics of The Great Depression and World War II. I would recommend it to any history buff. Very well researched.

Where to buy the book:

Leave a Reply