It’s no coincidence that it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who first established a national system of presidential libraries in 1939, by donating his archives to the federal government and committing himself to the construction of a building that would house them for posterity. For FDR was a great reader from childhood on, and a very serious book collector beginning during his college years at Harvard.
Roosevelt spent some of his honeymoon in Europe browsing bookshops, and later formed relationships with several book dealers around the eastern US. His favorite topics included naval history, marine architecture and sea exploration; nature, particularly ornithology; local history, especially of Dutchess County and the Hudson River; and children’s books. By the time of his death in April 1945, his personal collection numbered more than 21,000 books.
To provide a permanent repository for them, he built the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum on his Hyde Park estate. It opened to the public in 1941, and remains to this day an extraordinary resource for authors doing research for books and scholarly papers on the history of the Great Depression, the New Deal and World War II.
Both to honor FDR’s great love of books and to showcase the new works that get written utilizing his archives as a resource, each year the Library presents a Roosevelt Reading Festival, inviting authors of recently published books that either draw upon the Roosevelt Library archives or focus on the Roosevelt era to speak about their works. This year’s Reading Festival – the ninth – is an all-day affair that takes place this Saturday, June 23 in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
The prime spotlight for 2012 is on Jean Edward Smith, author of Eisenhower in War and Peace, and on Joseph E. Persico, author of Roosevelt’s Centurions: FDR and the Commanders He Led to Victory in World War II, who will give a special afternoon presentation. In six concurrent sessions taking place throughout the day, 12 distinguished historians and journalists will present author talks followed by question-and-answer sessions and book-signings.
Besides Smith and Persico, this year’s speakers will include John Bodnar, author of The “Good War” in American Memory; Jennet Conant, The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington and A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS; Ren and Helen Davis, Our Mark on This Land: A Guide to the Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in America’s Parks; Michael Hiltzik, The New Deal: A Modern History; Mark A. Huddle, editor, Roi Ottley’s World War II: The Lost Diary of an African American Journalist; Cathy Knepper, Jersey Justice: The Story of the Trenton Six; James Tertius de Kay,
Roosevelt’s Navy: The Education of a Warrior President, 1882-1920; John J. McLaughlin, General Albert C. Wedemeyer: America’s Unsung Strategist in World War II; Greg Robinson, After Camp: Portraits in Mid-Century Japanese American Life and Politics; Craig Shirley, December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World; and Mary E. Stuckey,
Defining Americans: The Presidency and National Identity.
The program begins at 9:45 a.m. with coffee and donuts, and runs until 5 p.m. Copies of all of the authors’ books will be available for sale in the New Deal Store located in the Wallace Center, so you can get your copy signed. The full schedule for the day is posted online at www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu.
It’s all free and open to the public, but regular admission will be charged for the Roosevelt Library and National Park Service sites, if you want to add a tour to your day’s agenda. For additional information about the Roosevelt Reading Festival, please call Cliff Laube at (845) 486-7745.