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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The strength and prestige of the American presidency has waxed and waned since George Washington. Accidental Presidents looks at eight men who came to the office without being elected to it. It demonstrates how the character of the man in that powerful seat affects the nation and world. Eight men have succeeded to the presidency when the incumbent NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The strength and prestige of the American presidency has waxed and waned since George Washington. Accidental Presidents looks at eight men who came to the office without being elected to it. It demonstrates how the character of the man in that powerful seat affects the nation and world. Eight men have succeeded to the presidency when the incumbent died in office. In one way or another they vastly changed our history. Only Theodore Roosevelt would have been elected in his own right. Only TR, Truman, Coolidge, and LBJ were re-elected. John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison who died 30 days into his term. He was kicked out of his party and became the first president threatened with impeachment. Millard Fillmore succeeded esteemed General Zachary Taylor. He immediately sacked the entire cabinet and delayed an inevitable Civil War by standing with Henry Clay’s compromise of 1850. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded our greatest president, sided with remnants of the Confederacy in Reconstruction. Chester Arthur, the embodiment of the spoils system, was so reviled as James Garfield’s successor that he had to defend himself against plotting Garfield’s assassination; but he reformed the civil service. Theodore Roosevelt broke up the trusts. Calvin Coolidge silently cooled down the Harding scandals and preserved the White House for the Republican Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression. Truman surprised everybody when he succeeded the great FDR and proved an able and accomplished president. Lyndon B. Johnson was named to deliver Texas electorally. He led the nation forward on Civil Rights but failed on Vietnam. Accidental Presidents adds immeasurably to our understanding of the power and limits of the American presidency in critical times.


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The strength and prestige of the American presidency has waxed and waned since George Washington. Accidental Presidents looks at eight men who came to the office without being elected to it. It demonstrates how the character of the man in that powerful seat affects the nation and world. Eight men have succeeded to the presidency when the incumbent NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The strength and prestige of the American presidency has waxed and waned since George Washington. Accidental Presidents looks at eight men who came to the office without being elected to it. It demonstrates how the character of the man in that powerful seat affects the nation and world. Eight men have succeeded to the presidency when the incumbent died in office. In one way or another they vastly changed our history. Only Theodore Roosevelt would have been elected in his own right. Only TR, Truman, Coolidge, and LBJ were re-elected. John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison who died 30 days into his term. He was kicked out of his party and became the first president threatened with impeachment. Millard Fillmore succeeded esteemed General Zachary Taylor. He immediately sacked the entire cabinet and delayed an inevitable Civil War by standing with Henry Clay’s compromise of 1850. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded our greatest president, sided with remnants of the Confederacy in Reconstruction. Chester Arthur, the embodiment of the spoils system, was so reviled as James Garfield’s successor that he had to defend himself against plotting Garfield’s assassination; but he reformed the civil service. Theodore Roosevelt broke up the trusts. Calvin Coolidge silently cooled down the Harding scandals and preserved the White House for the Republican Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression. Truman surprised everybody when he succeeded the great FDR and proved an able and accomplished president. Lyndon B. Johnson was named to deliver Texas electorally. He led the nation forward on Civil Rights but failed on Vietnam. Accidental Presidents adds immeasurably to our understanding of the power and limits of the American presidency in critical times.

30 review for Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Thank you Simon & Schuster for providing me with a free copy of this book. Y'all know I love books about politics and politicians, it's a top 3 genre for me. I'm trying to read more books about Presidents & politicians I don't know much about and the majority of the people in this book were not well known to me. Accidental Presidents is about the 8 men who became President because of the death of their predecessor. Its kinda amazing to think about the fact that out of 45 Presidents we have only Thank you Simon & Schuster for providing me with a free copy of this book. Y'all know I love books about politics and politicians, it's a top 3 genre for me. I'm trying to read more books about Presidents & politicians I don't know much about and the majority of the people in this book were not well known to me. Accidental Presidents is about the 8 men who became President because of the death of their predecessor. Its kinda amazing to think about the fact that out of 45 Presidents we have only had 8 die in office. Four died of illness and four were assassinated. As a bonus the last chapter is about close calls. Fun Fact: Junius Brutus Booth a small time actor sent letters threatening the life of Andrew Jackson. Twenty-Nine years later his son John Wilkes Booth would go on to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. I learned a lot about Presidential history and the Constitution. The Constitution doesn't say what should happen in the event of the President's death and the founding fathers were super vague about it. I couldn't believe that none of the founders of this great country even seemed to consider that the President might die. I mean wasn't 30 considered middle aged back then? Dying young was super common but NOPE I guess they thought that the President was immune to early death. Also I thought it was funny that the founding fathers didn't know what the job of the Vice President was and we still don't know today. Most Accidental Presidents didn't make great Presidents only 2 would be considered great Theodore Roosevelt & Harry Truman(I personally think Lyndon Johnson was pretty great). Obviously Andrew Johnson was THE WORST!!!! His mangling of Reconstruction is I think the most damaging thing a President has ever done. I hope he's rotting in HELL. Anyway, most Accidental Presidents were just meh and have been mostly forgotten. It has to be a unimaginably difficult to receive a promotion because your boss died. Accidental Presidents is a well researched and entertaining ride through 8 of the most traumatic times in American history. If you love history you will love this book. I highly recommend it!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    This book is a discussion about the eight vice presidents who became president on the death of the president. They are: John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. Gerald Ford became president after the resignation of Nixon. The book is well written and researched. This book covers a lot of history and provides a number of good trivia questions. The book is easily readable. Cohen points out that most of the me This book is a discussion about the eight vice presidents who became president on the death of the president. They are: John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. Gerald Ford became president after the resignation of Nixon. The book is well written and researched. This book covers a lot of history and provides a number of good trivia questions. The book is easily readable. Cohen points out that most of the men were unremarkable as president except Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman. I would add to this Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford. Cohen only briefly mentioned Ford in his book as he did not fit his criteria. I thoroughly enjoyed the funny stories Cohn provided. After reading this book I realized how important it is to vote for a competent vice president. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is sixteen hours and fifty-seven minutes. Arthur Morey does an excellent job narrating the book. Morey is an actor and audiobook narrator. He has won a number Audiofile Earphone Awards, was twice nominated for an Audie Award and was voted Best Voice in non-fiction and Best Voice in History.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    While many people surely aspire to be President of the United States (POTUS), the role of Vice-President is sometimes called a position ‘not worth a bucket of warm spit’. John Nance Garner, one of FDR’s vice-presidents famously made that remark, though I paraphrase. However, there have been times when the second on the ticket has ascended to the role of POTUS due to death and it is those men that fuel this book by Jared Cohen. In it, Cohen explores eight of the men who assured the office of Pres While many people surely aspire to be President of the United States (POTUS), the role of Vice-President is sometimes called a position ‘not worth a bucket of warm spit’. John Nance Garner, one of FDR’s vice-presidents famously made that remark, though I paraphrase. However, there have been times when the second on the ticket has ascended to the role of POTUS due to death and it is those men that fuel this book by Jared Cohen. In it, Cohen explores eight of the men who assured the office of President upon the death of their predecessor. Exploring some of the backstory that led to the death of the sitting leader, the fallout, and the ascension of the vice-president, Cohen seeks to determine how effective the new POTUS became. As far back as John Tyler taking the position after the death of William Henry Harrison, the idea of American leadership falling into the lap of another has been a reality. The shock of the Tyler situation, in which he became POTUS just over a month into the term is contrasted with the almost expected elevation of Harry S. Truman after FDR’s fourth electoral victory. As Cohen calls him, Truman was ‘President-in-waiting’ and it was only the constitutional limbo of ensuring FDR made it from election night victor to inaugurated POTUS that served as the drama. Some grabbed the reins of power effectively, like Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson (LBJ), and ran with it before they served a term as POTUS and kept the country together, while others were disasters. Cohen argues extensively that Andrew Johnson’s choice by Lincoln during the second term may have been seen as a uniting effort during the Civil War, but when an assassin’s bullet ended the great president’s life, Johnson’s ascendency turned the country on its ear, which led to impeachment trials. Cohen also sandwiches the ‘blip on the screen’ vice-president—Calvin Coolidge—with the likes of Chester A. Arthur and Millard Fillmore, who had little interest in the top job, but worked to make things work as best they could. The United States has seen eight men ‘fall’ into the role of POTUS, making the choice of a presidential running mate all the more important. More in line with what Garner actually said, one would hope future aspirants to the White House choose folks full of ‘piss and vinegar’ rather than clueless and guided by their own wit, as he discusses in a poignant afterward. Recommended for those who love American political history, as well as the reader who find American presidential politics right up their alley. I always love a good presidential biography and Cohen offered up sixteen of them in miniature. His discussion of American history and political goings-on is second to none as he pulls eight presidents and their last running mates into the mix, analyses their effectiveness, and contrasts it with the way America ran itself. While the presidential curse ran long—the man elected every twenty years from 1840 to 1960 died in office—there is more to this elongated collection of biographies. The country is surely one heartbeat away from the second-in-command assuming the office and the choice is sometimes not just to bolster the ticket. Those reading will see how Cohen effectively shows that some selections doomed the country for a time—A. Johnson, Arthur, Coolidge, while others proved effective choices to succeed their predecessors—Roosevelt, Truman, LBJ—and made an indelible impact on the country. It is for the reader, with the help of Cohen’s writing, to decipher what they feel. Cohen’s use of extensive sources and effective arguments make a strong case that these many have been accidents, but also could have been averted. Men chosen to serve as vice-presidents should not only bind the party and the country, but have the wherewithal to serve effectively. There are others who never had the opportunity that would surely have been great players in the game, while other vice-presidents one would surely shudder to think running the country—as many do of some who actually have won victory to the White House—for any period of time. Cohen uses strong academic arguments in an easy to digest format to propel American history into the reader’s mind and shows just how interesting things can be. Besides the eight men who ascended to the presidency, Cohen explores some ‘near misses’ and a temporarily use of the 25th Amendment to show how vice-presidents should be ready at any time While surely not a book for everyone, Cohen’s writing makes it easy to draw conclusions, even if they are not always the ones with which the reader would agree. Well-organized and so thoroughly researched that I will have to see what else I can learn from this man and his on-point arguments. Kudos, Mr Cohen, for a fascinating look. As you mention in your author’s note, this has long been a passion for you. I am happy to join you in being a long-time presidential history (and disaster) fanatic. Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    The vice president is a unique political position in that the person inhabiting it remains largely forgotten until they’re needed. Yet, eight times an American president has died in office, and eight times the vice president has assumed that office. With such a high frequency of occurrence, it could be assumed that the Framers of the Constitution understood the necessity of keeping the country going after the death of a president. And yet the vast majority of these successions have led to, at be The vice president is a unique political position in that the person inhabiting it remains largely forgotten until they’re needed. Yet, eight times an American president has died in office, and eight times the vice president has assumed that office. With such a high frequency of occurrence, it could be assumed that the Framers of the Constitution understood the necessity of keeping the country going after the death of a president. And yet the vast majority of these successions have led to, at best, tumultuous administrations. Author Jared Cohen deftly explores each of these administrations, starting with the disastrous John Tyler, best known for being kicked out of his own party and as the first president threatened with impeachment. These chapters on the early presidential successors are as twisty as the administrations they describe. Making ample use of anecdotes pulled from a wealth of research, Cohen details the confusion that originally surrounded presidential succession. With John Tyler, was he supposed to be the president, or an acting president? And what became of the vacant vice presidency? Though codified in the Constitution, the language wasn’t always clear. But beyond this, Cohen paints broad portraits of each of his eight subjects. To gain a full understanding of their ascension, each section contains a brief biography followed by an in-depth look at their political careers. By the time he gets around to exploring their actual administrations, Cohen has provided plenty of background to showcase why their terms went in the directions they did. Teddy Roosevelt, forward and focused, grasped the reins from an assassinated William McKinley. Meanwhile, Andrew Johnson, never fully removed from the South, bungled Reconstruction after Lincoln’s assassination. While not exhaustive, Cohen provides each president enough attention that his work feels comprehensive. It should be noted, however, that he does not discuss Gerald Ford in-depth because Ford became president through Nixon’s resignation rather than death. It’s understandable that this case doesn’t meet his scope, but this chapter is missed if only because it would have provided more pages to an engrossing read. Presidential succession seems to be on a lot of minds, and it’s impossible not to read this without considering the current administration. Cohen is careful point out that he started this book far before the last presidential election cycle. Even so, it’s a fascinating examination of the succession process while serving as a reminder of the importance of the often thankless role of vice president— they’re only a heartbeat away from serving. Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed the World was an interesting premise on which to base Jared Cohen's historical and biographical narrative of many of the men serving as Vice President, who were suddenly thrust into the office of the President because of death, sometimes resulting from assassination. However, the text often seemed disjointed, which may have been in part attributed to the wide scope of the subject. Basically, Cohen examines the presidency of eight vice-presidents who a Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed the World was an interesting premise on which to base Jared Cohen's historical and biographical narrative of many of the men serving as Vice President, who were suddenly thrust into the office of the President because of death, sometimes resulting from assassination. However, the text often seemed disjointed, which may have been in part attributed to the wide scope of the subject. Basically, Cohen examines the presidency of eight vice-presidents who ascended to the office of the presidency without the Constitution having specified an order of succession. This included John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. It was an interesting look at this crucial aspect of our American history, the peaceful passage of power. "Passage of the Wise Resolution may have formalized Tyler's presidency, but it did little to stop his critics. . . . . Tyler never wavered from his decision. It set a precedent that would pave the way for seven future presidents: Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson. If Tyler's precedent established a right of succession for future vice presidents, his presidency demonstrated how unexpected ascension to power may change the course of history." "Roosevelt had a greater lust for adventure than any president who came before or after. He truly was a Renaissance Man who excelled at everything he did or exhausted himself trying. He was a prolific writer, authoring thirty-five books and more than 150,000 letters. He was a gifted and candid orator. His memory was near photographic." "But public opinion polls from 1952 should not obscure the fact that what Truman achieved was extraordinary. The steep learning curve had made Truman his own man faster than any other accidental president in history. When Roosevelt died, the Missourian had no choice but to buckle down and learn fast. There was perhaps no man less prepared for the challenges that awaited him than Harry Truman, yet he proved to be only one of two success stories--the other being Theodore Roosevelt--among eight accidental presidents.'

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lou Kreuzer

    It was marred by errors and bias. Lincoln was never a senator and JFK wasn't shot on live tv. And if you want a shorthand way to refer to Theodore Roosevelt, it's "TR" - not "Teddy". The author makes it clear that he is in favor of progressivism and that's fine. But, when he describes how prosperous America was under Coolidge, what is the excuse for not considering him a success? There are two other vice-presidents who are treated strangely. First, Ford was the most accidental of all presidents It was marred by errors and bias. Lincoln was never a senator and JFK wasn't shot on live tv. And if you want a shorthand way to refer to Theodore Roosevelt, it's "TR" - not "Teddy". The author makes it clear that he is in favor of progressivism and that's fine. But, when he describes how prosperous America was under Coolidge, what is the excuse for not considering him a success? There are two other vice-presidents who are treated strangely. First, Ford was the most accidental of all presidents because wasn't even elected vice-president. Although Ford is mentioned in the last catch-all chapter, doesn't get a full chapter for some reason. Second, in the afterward the author mentions the possibility of Pence becoming president because of the Mueller report. If you're going to write history - write history - not random speculation about future events.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    I have admit that was not expecting too much from this book---I mean a 500 page book about 8 presidents? That’s about 60 page per president. It is hard to adequately cover the subjects in 60 page, but Cohen did a more than adequate job. There are time where I felt that he reverted to pulp history---which face it is, that is what this book is---but on a whole, I was impressed. The book covers not just the 8 presidents who assumed the office due to a death in office, but the 8 presidents who preced I have admit that was not expecting too much from this book---I mean a 500 page book about 8 presidents? That’s about 60 page per president. It is hard to adequately cover the subjects in 60 page, but Cohen did a more than adequate job. There are time where I felt that he reverted to pulp history---which face it is, that is what this book is---but on a whole, I was impressed. The book covers not just the 8 presidents who assumed the office due to a death in office, but the 8 presidents who preceded them. What makes this book interesting is how Cohen focuses on the similarities (or more frequently differences) between the two presidents. This shift in focus helped to elevate the book above other introductory text on the presidents.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kevin. McKernan

    I have to say that this was an extremely interesting book. Although I am a history buff, the book is great even for non-history buffs. Just shows how history can be accidental

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alisa

    Historically, to serve as Vice President is to occupy a role of all title and very little power or purpose. They were largely on the ticket at election time to draw in more votes, and some of them didn't even agree with or support positions taken by the President on policy issues. Once elected, they were kept in the dark about what the President was doing. Really, what was the need? But when William Henry Harrison died 30 days into his term, someone needed to take over. Enter John Tyler, who too Historically, to serve as Vice President is to occupy a role of all title and very little power or purpose. They were largely on the ticket at election time to draw in more votes, and some of them didn't even agree with or support positions taken by the President on policy issues. Once elected, they were kept in the dark about what the President was doing. Really, what was the need? But when William Henry Harrison died 30 days into his term, someone needed to take over. Enter John Tyler, who took over more based on his own presumption because there was no standard for succession, and President Harrison's cabinet couldn't come up with anything or anyone else. The book examines how presidential succession evolved, and tells the story through the lens of the eight men who have risen to power when the incumbent unexpectedly died. The stories of transition are all pretty interesting, due to the personalities involved and the politics of the day. The author takes the position that none of the eight were really prepared for it and for the most part didn't rise to the challenge. The noted exception was Teddy Roosevelt, who of course later went on to get elected in his own right, but the author pretty much throws the rest of the lot under the bus. When the book stuck to the central theme and delved into how each of these eight men impacted history and illustrated how they handled the presidential power and leadership, for better or for worse, it was enlightening. It excelled at uncovering this unique aspect of presidential history. But when the author diverted into speculation (for example, Lyndon Johnson would have been forced to resign the Vice Presidency had JFK not been assassinated) that the book goes awry. I'm not much for the 'what if' scenario in retelling history, because the reality is we can't say to a moral certainty what would have transpired. What made it worse in this book is that the speculation was usually pretty brief and tossed into the text without a lot of substantiation or discussion. I also found the chapters on the Kennedy assassination and Lyndon Johnson's subsequent term as President to be lacking. In comparison to the seven previous transitions, this one was given short shrift. I don't know if that is due to the authors dim view about JFK and LBJ or whether he was getting tired of writing, but it was confusing, disappointing, and an unsatisfying analysis. The other thing that bothered me was that the only men included as 'Accidental Presidents' were the eight who rose to power through death. Um, hello, what about Gerald Ford taking over when Nixon resigned? To be fair, there was some treatment of this at the end of the book and almost as much attention was paid to the Nixon-Ford transition as to JFK-LBJ. Apparently the only reason Ford was not included as an accidental president in this book was because Nixon resigned rather than died? I get that death of a President isn't a planned thing. I would argue that neither is resignation or impeachment, and there isn't much difference as to how it impacts unanticipated transition of power. I'm not trying to sound like an academic, but there were some history aspects that got lost somehow in this book. Still, it was interesting on several fronts and moved along even during the points where it skipped around. I received this book through Goodreads giveaways in exchange for an honest review. Thanks.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bob H

    A fascinating and readable history of the presidents who weren't supposed to be; with the exception of Teddy Roosevelt they were not apt to be elected president in their own right, and only two of the accidental Presidents -- TR and Harry Truman -- would become great Presidents. The book tells us about a number of unremarkable presidents we might not otherwise have met, like John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Chester Alan Arthur, or Calvin Coolidge, so the book does take up some out-of-the-way biogra A fascinating and readable history of the presidents who weren't supposed to be; with the exception of Teddy Roosevelt they were not apt to be elected president in their own right, and only two of the accidental Presidents -- TR and Harry Truman -- would become great Presidents. The book tells us about a number of unremarkable presidents we might not otherwise have met, like John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Chester Alan Arthur, or Calvin Coolidge, so the book does take up some out-of-the-way biographies. We also learn about some fortuitous accidents in the presidency: the intra-GOP intrigue between Garfield's and Arthur's factions and Chet Arthur's highly checkered career before and during his time as VP, or the astonishing corruption of Harding's administration. Warren G. Harding's death probably spared him a terrible culpability for the antics of his cronies and his mistresses. Harry Truman became FDR's VP in the most casual and chancy way during the 1944 convention. LBJ was in severe trouble over the Bobby Baker corruption scandal when JFK was shot, shifting the spotlight away. The book also traces the history of presidential succession, and its uncertainties up till LBJ's time, when the 25th Amendment clarified it. The original Constitution was not clear about that, and when William Henry Harrison, the first president to die in office, did so one month into his term in 1841, what was Vice President John Tyler to be? Acting president? President? Something or someone else? And with the Vice Presidency vacated by the successor, what then? One fascinating aspect of this book is that it tells how close several accidental presidents came to dying accidentally themselves, in their accidental first term, with no VP in place. John Tyler: almost killed in an explosion on a US Navy vessel. Andrew Johnson: almost assassinated along with Lincoln; almost died of illness in his first weeks as President; impeached and almost removed from office. Chester Arthur: terminally ill in his final year. Theodore Roosevelt: almost killed in a 1902 streetcar crash. LBJ: a known history of heart trouble. It's a quirky set of histories, but as a review of presidential succession it's a fine summary, and it's an interesting new contribution to the history of the U.S. presidency. Strongly recommend. (Read in advanced-reading copy courtesy of Amazon Vine).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mike Glaser

    Tough call on this book as it could have been rated as high a four star or as low as a two star book. I settled for three but in the end it was probably a little lower than that. The issue with the book is poor editing and fact checking. William McKinley was never a General in the Civil War (his actual rise through the ranks to major was very interesting) and Abe Lincoln was never a senator. Someone should have explained to the author the difference between the percentage of those eligible to vo Tough call on this book as it could have been rated as high a four star or as low as a two star book. I settled for three but in the end it was probably a little lower than that. The issue with the book is poor editing and fact checking. William McKinley was never a General in the Civil War (his actual rise through the ranks to major was very interesting) and Abe Lincoln was never a senator. Someone should have explained to the author the difference between the percentage of those eligible to vote versus the percentage of the population that voted and then he might have understood why you should not compare the two from different elections to make a point. These are three of the errors that I caught and if I found around ten or so, how many did I miss? The policy solutions in the afterword are simplistic and unrealistic and further detract from what could have been a fairly strong book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Read the first three chapters then set aside because this book seems to be more truthiness than truth, and it is wildly uneven. He talks at length about John Tyler's presidency, but spends almost zero time on Fillmore, even though he was president for more of Taylor's term than Taylor was. Spends less than 2 pages on Andrew Johnson's impeachment. Many of the author's numbers are incorrect (see my progress notes) as well as several facts, so even though the book makes heavy use of citations, I ca Read the first three chapters then set aside because this book seems to be more truthiness than truth, and it is wildly uneven. He talks at length about John Tyler's presidency, but spends almost zero time on Fillmore, even though he was president for more of Taylor's term than Taylor was. Spends less than 2 pages on Andrew Johnson's impeachment. Many of the author's numbers are incorrect (see my progress notes) as well as several facts, so even though the book makes heavy use of citations, I can't shake the idea that a lot of it is bullshit, either by deliberate choice or because the author isn't very competent. If he cited 70 or 80 books in writing this one, did he actually have time to read all of them, or to read them carefully enough that he understood what he'd read? The omission of Ford as an accidental president is stark.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    Eight United States vice-presidents have risen to the presidency upon the death of the incumbent president. This work examines how they achieved the office of vice-president, the events leading to their becoming president, and the politics of each individual. A good American history read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    I received my copy free through Goodreads Giveaways.

  15. 4 out of 5

    E

    What an interesting idea, poorly executed. The book is about vice-presidents who ascended to the presidency upon the death of their running mate. That's four assassinations; four natural deaths. Despite the title, the book spends more time talking about the presidents who died than it does about those who took their place. The book is poorly edited, full of run-on sentences and dumb errors ("yays and nays" might have been my favorite). His political judgments are annoying too. He's terribly hard What an interesting idea, poorly executed. The book is about vice-presidents who ascended to the presidency upon the death of their running mate. That's four assassinations; four natural deaths. Despite the title, the book spends more time talking about the presidents who died than it does about those who took their place. The book is poorly edited, full of run-on sentences and dumb errors ("yays and nays" might have been my favorite). His political judgments are annoying too. He's terribly hard on Calvin Coolidge but forgets to mention the disaster that was LBJ's "great society." He misunderstands the relationship between Mark Hanna and William McKinley. Perhaps worst of all, he sees his book as making an open-and-shut case for a "living constitution." No really, he does. How so? The original constitution did not lay out in enough detail what was to happen if a president died. John Tyler and others had to figure some things on the fly. Ergo, boom--a living constitution, just like that. And it's not like this is an implicit argument. It's how he ends the book! It's on the inside dust jacket! It beats me why he things "interpreting and filling out the meaning of vague or terse clauses" is equated to "meaning changes over time and must be adapted to the present-day," but clearly Cohen had a point to make and wasn't going to let semantics get in the way. The saddest element of this book is that it was published in 2019 and yet still had a blurb on the back from . . . wait for it . . . Sydney Blumenthal. I kid you not. Who on earth would want that disgraced man anywhere near his or her book's publicity? (Of course, if you think he's bad, look up his son Max). Best of all, the guy can't do math. The blurb says that "nearly 10% of presidents died in office. It's actually nearly 20%, but what's a 100% difference among friends?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    3.5 stars, rounded up In the Author's Note at the end of the book, Cohen tells readers that as a youth he became obsessed with all things presidential but especially the unexpected transitions that occur when a president dies in office either due to illness or assassination. The book explores in great detail the eight times in America's history when a president has died in office and the implications of those unexpected and sometimes very sudden transitions. It also follows the complicated histor 3.5 stars, rounded up In the Author's Note at the end of the book, Cohen tells readers that as a youth he became obsessed with all things presidential but especially the unexpected transitions that occur when a president dies in office either due to illness or assassination. The book explores in great detail the eight times in America's history when a president has died in office and the implications of those unexpected and sometimes very sudden transitions. It also follows the complicated history and precarious nature of the Constitutional provisions for transition of power leading finally to the clarifications of the 25th Amendment. Cohen also looks at the often capricious way in which vice presidents have been selected through the years given that the person chosen is but a "heartbeat away." It's a fascinating book for anyone interested in American politics. The level of detail with which Cohen explores each transition is pretty impressive and fun for the presidential history buff. But the book gets bogged down with two much detail sometimes and suffers from too little comparative analysis or the lack of a cohesive unifying thesis. Some topics just get buried in minutia, such as Truman's selection as VP for FDR's fourth term, for example. I have to admit I got fatigued by the end of the book and skimmed the final two chapters. Nevertheless, I learned a lot and appreciate the amount of research that went into writing the book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    This book is well written and researched. Each chapter (except Harry Truman who gets two for some reason)  is devoted to one of the eight vice presidents who came into office due to the death of the president. The chapter covers the selection process of the vice president and their role after becoming president. The author also covers the evolving process of who actually became president and under what title until the 25th amendment was passed. There is also a chapter on the near misses due to a This book is well written and researched. Each chapter (except Harry Truman who gets two for some reason)  is devoted to one of the eight vice presidents who came into office due to the death of the president. The chapter covers the selection process of the vice president and their role after becoming president. The author also covers the evolving process of who actually became president and under what title until the 25th amendment was passed. There is also a chapter on the near misses due to assination attempts and illness. The only thing I felt was missing was a chapter on Gerald Ford who became president due to a resignation instead of a death in order to make the book complete. I recommend this book to anyone who had an interest in american history and particularly about the development of succession to the presidency upon the death of the one in office. I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook and Twitter pages.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    This book is the story of the eight vice-presidents who have succeeded to the American presidency after the death whilst still in office of the incumbents. Interesting – up to a point. But I didn’t find that the writing drew me in and overall I found it a fairly dry and occasionally tedious read. I never felt that I got to know these men in any depth, and I found myself skipping large chunks. One for the devotee of political sagas rather than anyone looking for the human stories behind the polit This book is the story of the eight vice-presidents who have succeeded to the American presidency after the death whilst still in office of the incumbents. Interesting – up to a point. But I didn’t find that the writing drew me in and overall I found it a fairly dry and occasionally tedious read. I never felt that I got to know these men in any depth, and I found myself skipping large chunks. One for the devotee of political sagas rather than anyone looking for the human stories behind the politics.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I was inspired to read this book when I heard Jared Cohen's enthusiastic presentation at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and, for the most part, it did not disappoint. His accounts of the eight men who became president without having been elected to that office as well as the "close calls" that would have elevated others to that position gives much food for thought. And, over the centuries since William Henry Harrison's sudden death a month after his inauguration, it is surprising how litt I was inspired to read this book when I heard Jared Cohen's enthusiastic presentation at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and, for the most part, it did not disappoint. His accounts of the eight men who became president without having been elected to that office as well as the "close calls" that would have elevated others to that position gives much food for thought. And, over the centuries since William Henry Harrison's sudden death a month after his inauguration, it is surprising how little attention has been paid to the need to plan for the possibility of succession. However I eventually came to the conclusion that the author had taken on much too much since others have devoted entire books to the materials that he attempts to cover in each chapter. I also wonder, considering the time and effort he spent analyzing each instance of a president's death in office (or, in the case of Nixon, his resignation) how he could refer on page 373 to EIGHT presidential assassinations when, in fact, by his own (and history's) account, there have been only four.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Zach Anderson

    A fantastic, well-written narrative that opens insight into the process of a vice president assuming the presidency. I consider myself an amateur-y expert on the presidents, yet I didn't know nearly 75% of the information found within these pages. The writing is top notch, in a way most non fiction lacks. There are a few factual errors that irked me (inconsequential to the narrative, but still), but author Cohen found his love for the presidents in his youth, like I did, and I can empathize with A fantastic, well-written narrative that opens insight into the process of a vice president assuming the presidency. I consider myself an amateur-y expert on the presidents, yet I didn't know nearly 75% of the information found within these pages. The writing is top notch, in a way most non fiction lacks. There are a few factual errors that irked me (inconsequential to the narrative, but still), but author Cohen found his love for the presidents in his youth, like I did, and I can empathize with his sense of excitement for writing a truly interesting book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Fugate

    Zero stars, actually. Mourning loss of trees used in publishing this TOTAL WASTE OF TIME.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matt McCormick

    I was fortunate enough to receive this book as a birthday gift from my son and fellow Goodreads user. It's an interesting and easy read that provides a unique perspective on American history through the lens of Vice Presidential succession. The timing of the gift was just right as I recently finished Dark Horse by Kenneth Ackerman which chronicled the election and assassination of James Garfield. I was ready to learn more about the less known occupants of the White House and add to any knowledge I was fortunate enough to receive this book as a birthday gift from my son and fellow Goodreads user. It's an interesting and easy read that provides a unique perspective on American history through the lens of Vice Presidential succession. The timing of the gift was just right as I recently finished Dark Horse by Kenneth Ackerman which chronicled the election and assassination of James Garfield. I was ready to learn more about the less known occupants of the White House and add to any knowledge I had of the more illustrious. Each of Cohen's presentations (eight VP "accidental" transitions to the presidency) describes the climate and issues in play at the time. He gives a good synopsis of the soon to be deceased President and how his Vice President was chosen. Cohen provides a critique of the man who would take control of the executive branch of government and how that person was initially chosen as the President's running mate. Cohen's work reminds us of how ill prepared the country was, constitutionally, to deal with succession even as late as the 2oth century. He further reminds us just how capricious the choice of VP often is. Little does it matter, until it matters. An ancillary benefit of reading Accidental Presidents is the documentation of why political choices can influence the course of the nation and how history often turns on what seems a whim of Tyche. Before a wrap-up section at the book's end Cohen discusses Lyndon Johnson and uses a number of people as sources. He quotes H. R. McMaster (of current fame) " What Johnson wanted to do always overwhelmed what he needed to do in terms of the decision, ..... he wanted options that allowed him to escape the big decisions that could alienate key constituencies and that would get in the way of reelection. " One wonders if McMasters found that history really does repeat itself.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    The framers of the constitution didn’t put much thought into the office of the vice president or the process that brings a veep into the presidency, and during presidential campaigns even less serious thought goes into who should fill the office (of course, during the last election the country put its full mental powers to the task of deciding who should be president and the best answer it could come up with was Donald Trump). And yet, eight presidents have died in office and eight of these men w The framers of the constitution didn’t put much thought into the office of the vice president or the process that brings a veep into the presidency, and during presidential campaigns even less serious thought goes into who should fill the office (of course, during the last election the country put its full mental powers to the task of deciding who should be president and the best answer it could come up with was Donald Trump). And yet, eight presidents have died in office and eight of these men who were chosen with so little thought have become president. The results have been mixed. Some were disasters (lookin at you Andrew Johnson), some were mediocre, at least two were improvements (TR, Coolidge) and Truman turned out to be solid despite following a colossus of a predecessor. This book provides eight case studies in how vice presidents were chosen, how power was passed to them, and what they did with that power. Lots of fascinating details about attempted assassination and presidential near death experiences are here too (if you want to read a hilarious book about presidential assassinations, you gotta pick up Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell.)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Kolwinska

    A very good read. Cohen does a great job mixing background on the presidents and the men who succeeded them into the office. The challenge of stepping into the office of president upon his death is dealt with in good detail with solid supporting evidence. If you like history, you will like this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Justin M.

    Accidental Presidents is a book about the 8 people who became president due to the former president's death. One idea it focuses a lot on is how little attention vice presidents get, especially in comparison to the President. I liked how in each chapter they talk about both the presidency of the prior president's term, the transition, and the vice president's term. However, some parts were boring to read, especially in the Arthur chapter. Accidental Presidents is a book about the 8 people who became president due to the former president's death. One idea it focuses a lot on is how little attention vice presidents get, especially in comparison to the President. I liked how in each chapter they talk about both the presidency of the prior president's term, the transition, and the vice president's term. However, some parts were boring to read, especially in the Arthur chapter.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Examining the eight Vice Presidents who assumed the presidency due to the death of their predecessors in office is an interesting premise for a book, and with Accidental Presidents, Jared Cohen pulls it off nicely. He seems to warm to his subject as the chapters go on (probably because the later presidents and the circumstances they find themselves in are more compelling than the earlier ones—let’s face it, who really remembers Millard Fillmore or Chester Arthur?). Although some biographical inf Examining the eight Vice Presidents who assumed the presidency due to the death of their predecessors in office is an interesting premise for a book, and with Accidental Presidents, Jared Cohen pulls it off nicely. He seems to warm to his subject as the chapters go on (probably because the later presidents and the circumstances they find themselves in are more compelling than the earlier ones—let’s face it, who really remembers Millard Fillmore or Chester Arthur?). Although some biographical information on each is included, the book’s focus is firmly on the vice presidencies of these eight men and their ascent to the White House, and on how prepared or, in most cases, unprepared they were for their new role. I found the chapters on Harry Truman the most fascinating in this respect, as he (along with Andrew Johnson) arguably faced the most difficult issues from the moment he took the oath. (Interestingly, Truman is one of the two accidental presidents—Teddy Roosevelt is the other—who gets highest marks from Cohen, who ranks Johnson as the worst.) There were times when I wished I had more historical context—Cohen does try to set the stage for each presidency, but this is certainly not an exhaustive study—but I think this is just a natural constraint of the project’s scope. Chock full of fun facts and interesting historical tidbits (who knew that Eleanor Roosevelt wrote HUNDREDS of letters to Harry Truman offering unsolicited advice on every issue imaginable?), Accidental Presidents is a nice addition to the genre. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eric Lanser

    I really enjoyed learning about the 8 "accidental" Presidents. The author's point is that each of these Presidents faced a major decision which he executed in a way not necessarily consistent with the views of the President he seceded. 1. John Tyler and the annexation of Texas 2. Millard Fillmore and the Compromise of 1850 3. Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction 4. Chester Arthur and civil service reform 5. Teddy Roosevelt and regulating the trusts 6. Calvin Coolidge and ending widespread corruption of g I really enjoyed learning about the 8 "accidental" Presidents. The author's point is that each of these Presidents faced a major decision which he executed in a way not necessarily consistent with the views of the President he seceded. 1. John Tyler and the annexation of Texas 2. Millard Fillmore and the Compromise of 1850 3. Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction 4. Chester Arthur and civil service reform 5. Teddy Roosevelt and regulating the trusts 6. Calvin Coolidge and ending widespread corruption of government 7. Harry Truman and dealing with Soviet aggression and the spread of communism 8. LBJ and civil rights It was also interesting the learn about the reasons why each of the above were added as a VP to the ticket. Often this was decided by party leaders with no thought given to the possibility that these men would become President. In the cases of the first 4, they were inserted to balance the ticket and win the election, so their views were by nature heavily opposed to that of the President they replaced. The book's final chapter covers "close calls," these were many other cases in which presidents were nearly killed but have been mostly forgotten. We take for granted today that there are strong procedures put in place to ensure presidential secession and continuity of government. This is a recent phenomenon that was actually only solidified after the attempt on Reagan's life in 1981. Before that, there were many cases in which it was unclear who was in charge, if anyone.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Russ

    A great book. In my opinion deserves more than 5 stars. Eight men who became president upon the death of the sitting President, either by natural causes or assassination. Before the Civil War, Jefferson Davis, served in Zachary Taylor's Cabinet. He was also married briefly to Taylor's daughter. Andrew Johnson, although a Southerner, was a staunch Unionist, but he was also a racist. Chester Arthur, a product of machine politics, was deeply affected by James Garfield's death. People were fearful o A great book. In my opinion deserves more than 5 stars. Eight men who became president upon the death of the sitting President, either by natural causes or assassination. Before the Civil War, Jefferson Davis, served in Zachary Taylor's Cabinet. He was also married briefly to Taylor's daughter. Andrew Johnson, although a Southerner, was a staunch Unionist, but he was also a racist. Chester Arthur, a product of machine politics, was deeply affected by James Garfield's death. People were fearful of his impending administration, but in the end, he had a respectable Presidency. FDR knew he was dying, but stubbornly sought an unprecedented 4th term. Then there were the close calls, some we heard about, some we didn't. The man who wanted to kill President-elect JFK, but never followed through because he had a conscience and didn't want to kill him in front of his family. Then there were the eight. Some equipped to handle their new situation, others who weren't. Others were shut out by their predecessor's inner circle.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kristian

    I actually would give this book three and a half stars. I won this book on a Goodreads Giveaway. The first impression when I received the book was how thick and overwhelming it seemed to me. Historical books are not my favorite because they usually seem a bit dry, although the topic is what drew me to want to read the book. So, I did put it off for a little bit. This book actually ends on page 391. The rest of the book is the citings and notes. That being stated, I found Cohen's tone and method o I actually would give this book three and a half stars. I won this book on a Goodreads Giveaway. The first impression when I received the book was how thick and overwhelming it seemed to me. Historical books are not my favorite because they usually seem a bit dry, although the topic is what drew me to want to read the book. So, I did put it off for a little bit. This book actually ends on page 391. The rest of the book is the citings and notes. That being stated, I found Cohen's tone and method of story telling very interesting. Is approach made for an energetic through line for me. He explains the situation of the existing President, how the VP was chosen, the conflicts, how the existing President passed and the conflicts that arose out of the VP taking office. Nothing about the narrative felt dry to me. I found it very enjoyable and believe I read it faster than I have any other non- fiction book. Thank you Jared Cohan for the opportunity to read your book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    saranimals

    A great book for history buffs/ political junkies. An intriguing concept. Everyone knows about Lincoln, JFK, & FDR but I certainly couldn't have named all eight prior to having read this book. The presentation was a bit clunky. Every other sentence had an end note. (If I had wanted to read a history textbook, I would have done so.) The actual body of the book is only 377 pages, the rest is all notes and whatnot. But then the author uses a lot of vernacular and such, perhaps in an attempt to balan A great book for history buffs/ political junkies. An intriguing concept. Everyone knows about Lincoln, JFK, & FDR but I certainly couldn't have named all eight prior to having read this book. The presentation was a bit clunky. Every other sentence had an end note. (If I had wanted to read a history textbook, I would have done so.) The actual body of the book is only 377 pages, the rest is all notes and whatnot. But then the author uses a lot of vernacular and such, perhaps in an attempt to balance out the overly dry presentation but the result is somewhat of an identity crisis for the book. Overall though, definitely worth reading and recommended. The author is spot-on as far as the need to give the voters more of a say in the vice president. Though the parties seem unlikely to accomodate.

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