by Jeffrey Kluger
About the book: In medical school when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was diagnosed with the disease shortly before assuming the Presidency, Salk was given an impetus to conduct studies on polio. His progress in combating the virus was hindered by the politics of medicine and by a rival researcher determined to discredit his proposed solution. But Salk's perseverance made history-and for more than fifty years his vaccine has saved countless lives, bringing humanity close to eradicating polio throughout the world. Splendid Solution chronicles Dr. Salk's race against time-and a growing epidemic that reached 57,000 reported cases in the summer of 1952-to achieve an unparalleled medical breakthrough that made him a cultural hero and icon for a whole generation.
by Susan Richards Shreve
About the book: Just after her eleventh birthday, Susan Richards Shreve was sent to the sanitarium at Warm Springs, Georgia. The polio haven, famously founded by FDR, was “a perfect setting in time and place and strangeness for a hospital of crippled children.” During Shreve’s two year stay, the Salk vaccine would be discovered, ensuring that she would be among the last Americans to have suffered childhood polio. At Warm Springs, Shreve found herself in a community of similarly afflicted children, and for the first time she was one of the gang. Away from her fiercely protective mother, she became a feisty troublemaker and an outspoken ringleader. Shreve experienced first love with a thirteen-year-old boy in a wheelchair. She navigated rocky friendships, religious questions, and family tensions, and encountered healing of all kinds. Shreve’s memoir is both a fascinating historical record of that time and an intensely felt story of childhood.
by James Tobin
About the book: Here, from James Tobin, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography, is the story of the greatest comeback in American political history, a saga long buried in half-truth, distortion, and myth—Franklin Roosevelt’s ten-year climb from paralysis to the White House. In 1921, at the age of thirty-nine, Roosevelt was the brightest young star in the Democratic Party. One day he was racing his children around their summer home. Two days later he could not stand up. Hopes of a quick recovery faded fast. “He’s through,” said allies and enemies alike. Even his family and close friends misjudged their man, as they and the nation would learn in time. With a painstaking reexamination of original documents, James Tobin uncovers the twisted chain of accidents that left FDR paralyzed; he reveals how polio recast Roosevelt’s fateful partnership with his wife, Eleanor; and he shows that FDR’s true victory was not over paralysis but over the ancient stigma attached to the disabled. Tobin also explodes the conventional wisdom of recent years—that FDR deceived the public about his condition. In fact, Roosevelt and his chief aide, Louis Howe, understood that only by displaying himself as a man who had come back from a knockout punch could FDR erase the perception that had followed him from childhood—that he was a pampered, too smooth pretty boy without the strength to lead the nation. As Tobin persuasively argues, FDR became president less in spite of polio than because of polio. The Man He Became affirms that true character emerges only in crisis and that in the shaping of this great American leader character was all.
by David M. Oshinsky
About the book: Here David Oshinsky tells the gripping story of the polio terror and of the intense effort to find a cure, from the March of Dimes to the discovery of the Salk and Sabin vaccines--and beyond. Drawing on newly available papers of Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin and other key players, Oshinsky paints a suspenseful portrait of the race for the cure, weaving a dramatic tale centered on the furious rivalry between Salk and Sabin. He also tells the story of Isabel Morgan, perhaps the most talented of all polio researchers, who might have beaten Salk to the prize if she had not retired to raise a family. Oshinsky offers an insightful look at the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which was founded in the 1930s by FDR and Basil O'Connor, it revolutionized fundraising and the perception of disease in America. Oshinsky also shows how the polio experience revolutionized the way in which the government licensed and tested new drugs before allowing them on the market, and the way in which the legal system dealt with manufacturers' liability for unsafe products. Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, Oshinsky reveals that polio was never the raging epidemic portrayed by the media, but in truth a relatively uncommon disease. But in baby-booming America--increasingly suburban, family-oriented, and hygiene-obsessed--the specter of polio, like the specter of the atomic bomb, soon became a cloud of terror over daily life. Both a gripping scientific suspense story and a provocative social and cultural history, Polio opens a fresh window onto postwar America.
by Joseph Lelyveld
About the book: "By far the most enigmatic leading figure" of World War II. That's how the British military historian John Keegan described Franklin D. Roosevelt, who frequently left his contemporaries guessing, never more so than at the end of his life. Here, in a hugely insightful account, a prizewinning author and journalist untangles the narrative threads of Roosevelt's final months, showing how he juggled the strategic, political, and personal choices he faced as the war, his presidency, and his life raced in tandem to their climax. The story has been told piecemeal but never like this, with a close focus on Roosevelt himself and his hopes for a stable international order after the war, and how these led him into a prolonged courtship of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator, involving secret, arduous journeys to Tehran and the Crimea. In between, as the war entered its final phase, came the thunderbolt of a dire medical diagnosis, raising urgent questions about the ability of the longest-serving president to stand for a fourth term at a time when he had little choice. Neither his family nor top figures in his administration were informed of his diagnosis, let alone the public or his closest ally, Winston Churchill. With D-Day looming, Roosevelt took a month off on a plantation in the south where he was examined daily by a navy cardiologist, then waited two more months before finally announcing, on the eve of his party's convention, that he'd be a candidate. A political grand master still, he manipulated the selection of a new running mate, with an eye to a possible succession, displaying some of his old vigor and wit in a winning campaign. With precision and compassion, Joseph Lelyveld examines the choices Roosevelt faced, shining new light on his state of mind, preoccupations, and motives, both as leader of the wartime alliance and in his personal life. Confronting his own mortality, Roosevelt operated in the belief that he had a duty to see the war through to the end, telling himself he could always resign if he found he couldn't carry on. Lelyveld delivers an incisive portrait of this deliberately inscrutable man, a consummate leader to the very last.