New Deal Book Reviews

WPA American Guide Series

In another sign that America is waking up to the rich legacy left to us by the WPA, the American Guide Series— out of print since the 1940s—is being reissued as quality paperbacks, which are selling well. Over the last… read more

Archie Green: The Making of a Working-Class Hero

  Like many others, I made the pilgrimage to Casilli Street in San Francisco to interview the American folklorist Archie Green.  As usual, he was sitting in the front window of his home watching the street. Although we were a… read more

When Art Worked: The New Deal, Art, and Democracy

President Franklin Roosevelt once remarked to his Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., “One hundred years from now my administration will be known for its art, not for its relief.”

Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

In his new book, historian Ira Katznelson lays out in fine detail the challenges and contradictions of the New Deal and how it shaped liberalism as we know it today.

Shovel Ready: Archeology and Roosevelt’s New Deal for America

Little known in the story of the New Deal is how the federal government, in the midst of the Great Depression, supported archaeological projects across the country. It is yet another example of New Deal initiatives on behalf of public education in its broadest dimensions.

Public Art and Architecture in New Mexico, 1933-1945: A Guide to the New Deal Legacy

As a girl, Kathy Flynn took little notice of the New Deal’s presence in her hometown of Portales, New Mexico, though the tiny town held a courthouse, post office, schools and swimming pool, all built by the New Deal. As Deputy Secretary of State Flynn began inventorying New Deal works statewide. What she discovered led her to found the NNDPA ( and to a book on the New Deal’s lasting impact.

American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California

This pioneering work of history tells the story of Dust Bowl refugees. Based on in-depth research, census data, and oral histories, it masterfully chronicles the experiences of migrants from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri who moved to California in the 1930s and 1940s.

The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame

In 2010, Peter Dreier’s article for The Nation, “The Fifty Most Influential Progressives of the 20th Century,” drew both praise and criticism for who made the list and who didn’t. In his book, “The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century, A Social Justice Hall of Fame,” Dreier expands the list. It’s a collection of tightly written biographies of those who, against long odds, battled to make the U.S. a more just, humane, and inclusive nation.

The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

Michael Grunwald’s The New New Deal offers a unique, journalistic view on the opening act of the Obama administration, comparing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to the legacy of the original New Deal. Authored by Time magazine… read more

Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s

Originally published in 1979, Donald Worster’s Dust Bowl offers an account of the southern plains in the 1930s. Now considered a classic example of modern environmental history, this book offers a richly textured portrait of one of the worst environmental… read more

A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and U.S. Economic Growth

This book makes a surprising claim. In A Great Leap Forward, economic historian Alexander J. Field challenges the notion that the Second World War single-handedly saved the U.S. economy from the Great Depression. In fact, the recovery from the collapse of 1929… read more

Coit Tower San Francisco: Its History and Art

Nearly 80 years after it opened, San Francisco’s Coit Memorial Tower stands not only as a celebrated architectural landmark but also as a historical record of the city’s tumultuous past. The murals that embellish the tower’s interior are the legacy… read more

Modern Housing for America: Policy Struggles in the New Deal Era

The small single family house, backed by a federally guaranteed mortgage and residing within the confines of a sprawling subdivision, is a commonly recalled image of America in the post World War Two era.  Yet the origins of the country’s… read more