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The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World

4.54  ·  Rating details ·  1,446 ratings  ·  204 reviews
The dramatic, pulse-pounding story of Harry Truman’s first four months in office, when this unlikely, small-town Washington outsider had to take on Germany, Japan, Stalin, and the atomic bomb, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

Heroes are often defined as ordinary characters who get thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and through courage and a dash of l
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published November 7th 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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4.54  · 
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 ·  1,446 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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I have read many biographies about Harry S. Truman (1884-1972). In this book A. J. Baime narrows the scope of the book to the first four months of the presidency. The author does provide some early history of Truman so the reader understands how events came about.

On April 12, 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt summoned Truman to the White House to inform him of the death of FDR. Truman said his worst nightmare immediately became a reality. He had only been Vice President for three months and had not been i
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I met former President Harry S. Truman when he spent several days at my college. If you wanted to chat you could just walk up to him. The best time was early in the morning when he took his “daily constitutional” walk. Walking along with him was a great way to get to know how “down to earth” he was, and how much he valued every person.

Some of that comes through strongly in Baime’s book, which has as its primary focus the four months after Truman is thrust into the job by the death of Franklin De
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
"Never had fate shoehorned so much history into such a short period." The Accidental President, A. J. Baime

His first response was "No." Truman did not want the position of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's new Vice President.

But FDR commanded it, and Harry S. Truman had to agree.

FDR was not a well man when he took office for a fourth term. And when he died on April 12, 1945, Truman said, "the whole weight of the moon and stars fell on me."

"Who the hell is Harry Truman?"

The Accidental President b
Italo Italophiles
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a popularized history book about Harry Truman and the tumultuous first four months of his presidency. There was a lot more about Truman's history than I expected, stopping in its tracks the story of the first four months, but the background was helpful to get a measure of the man.

Truman, a self-educated man who grew up in poverty, had some redeeming characteristics, such as his work ethic and his respect for knowledge and fact: “There is no substitute for a fact. When the facts are know
Mark Mortensen
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Harry Truman was sworn in as the 33rd U.S. President on April 12, 1945 following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The first 1/3 of the book provides a background while the final 2/3 captures Truman’s first four months in office most notably as Commander-in-Chief during the final stages of World War II. When Truman took office the stage was already set for rapid historical events to unfold, but certain decisions still had to be made. The fall of Germany, the Postsdam Conference and t ...more
Emily Ross
Thank you to the publishers for providing an ARC of this book through NetGalley.

This was a brilliant biography of Truman, concerning the first four months of his presidency. It briefly covers a few months prior to Roosevelt’s death, so we understand how Truman came to make the decisions he did, and goes into depth concerning the war with Germany and the war with Japan, the Manhattan Project, the formation of the United Nations, Europe’s struggle to feed its peoples and refugees and the burgeonin
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Very well written and researched, with vivid scenes and one detail about the bomb that was new to me. (Hard to do...I've read quite a bit about it)

Considering who is president as I write this, it's a bit depressing, but that's not the author's fault!
Jill Meyer
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was not until April 25, 1945 (or page 167 of A.J. Baime's "The Accidental President"), that newly inaugurated president Harry Truman was told about the US development of the atomic bomb. That was nearly two weeks after Truman succeeded Franklin Roosevelt, who had died on April 12th. (I'm not exactly sure, but I think the Soviets may have known about the bomb before Truman did because of the spying done at Los Alamos.) Why hadn't Truman, who had been Vice-President since January 20, 1945, been ...more
Brent McGregor
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Right Man, Right Time
Harry S Truman has been one of the most forgotten presidents of the 20th Century. Standing in the shadow of FDR, it's easy to see why. But my cynicism of FDR is well founded, especially when in his 4th term the events of his hapless arrogance threw this nobody from Independence, MO. into what under his leadership became the most powerful position in the wold.
To think that it was Truman who led America into the position as the greatest superpower the world has ever seen shoul
Abu Hayat Khan
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
This surprisingly good book was published only last year (October 2017). Harry Truman served as a Democrat president for 7 years. But the context of this book focuses only on the first four months of his presidency, until Japan's surrender during WWII.

Truman was a southerner from Kansas City, Missouri. In 1945 he was the vice president of America's arguably the most admired president, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR). Till today, FDR is remembered by many Americans for the current US social security
Noah Goats
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When Harry Truman became president upon the death of FDR, he was stepping into the shoes of the most revered politician of the 20th century. Roosevelt was deeply loved by most Americans and had been president so long that many of the soldiers fighting in Europe and the Pacific couldn't remember a time when any one else was president. Truman, on the other hand, was a relative nobody. He was a fairly obscure Missourian who was picked to be vice president mainly because nobody hated him enough to o ...more
Peter Goodman
“The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the four months that changed the world,” by A. J. Baime (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). And four months it is. I don’t even mind the subtitle. Baime provides essential background: Truman actually saw combat in WWI; his failed businesses; his true farm upbringing. It was his absolute honesty and integrity that brought him to the attention of Tom Pendergast, who ran Kansas City. Truman had no interest in politics, but he turned out to be a good jud ...more
Joe Stack
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a marvelously engrossing biography & history of Truman's first four month's as President. I liked that the author kept the chapters relatively short. I think this helped to keep me engaged with all the details and kept my interest high. In the author's "Notes," he writes that he used "primary sources and direct perspectives from many participants" that were not available to previous historians and biographers. I think this is why the author presents a fr ...more
Brian Williams
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s a readable account of the initial several months of the Truman presidency, from April 1945 through to the Japanese surrender in September 1945. It’s scholarly without being stuffy.

The first chapter details President Roosevelt’s failing health and his last day alive, April 12, 1945. Truman is promptly brought to the White House where Eleanor Roosevelt tells him of FDR’s death. Shortly thereafter he is sworn in as president. The next chapter is the obligatory m
Terri Wangard
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I like Harry. This is a great story focusing primarily on the four months between his ascendency to the presidency and the end of the war. His earlier life is covered, though, with particular attention to his brief tenure as vice president. He knew when he met with the obviously ailing FDR that he would not remain the vice president for long.

Truman’s style is contrasted with FDR’s. He came into the presidency totally unprepared, but I suspect he did a better job than Roosevelt would have. Roosev

Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Truman had his work cut out for him taking over the Presidency in 1945...he was more than up to the task. The sort of "every man" President we won't see again. I enjoyed Baime's look at an eventful four months.
Larry Bassett
Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, biography
Technically this is the story of the first four months of the presidency of harry Truman. It goes from the day he became president when FDR died on April 12, 1945 until August 12, 1945 just after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the war against Japan. I actually think the best chapter of the book is the apologue the last chapter. Of course the book does cover more of the Truman biography than just those four months. But the claim of the books is that those four months riva ...more
Years ago a workshop facilitator asked the group I was in: "Who was president when you were born?" I like most of the people in the class had no idea. The thought had never occurred to me. When I discovered it was Harry S. Truman, I began to read books, eight in all, about him including the comprehensive Truman by David McCullough. I have even read the boring Meeting at Potsdam by Charles Mee. I was not expecting to learn anything new about Truman and was surprised when I did.

The Accidental Pres
James Scheid
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An eloquently written non fiction history of the momentous first four months of the Truman presidency. Truman met with FDR only twice and knew he would be president at some point due to FDR's visible declining health. He had to learn on the job but worked hard to become informed. The book reads like a moderately paced thriller because of the events that occurred between April and August 1945. The defeat of the Nazis, the Potsdam Conference, the fear of another world war due to Soviet expansionis ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few years back I tried reading about harry S. Truman from a well known author and ended up leaving the book on page 30 after a zillion references that made keeping the flow of the history almost impossible. Then came this book. An overview of Truman's life and how he got to be the President that dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese Empire. A look at the humble man, the lucky politician and the savvy President who understood the World way better than anyone expected including himself.
Peter Mcloughlin
Covers the critical months from the time of FDR's Death in April of 1945 through Potsdam and the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Covers in a personal way Truman's role in this Critical time at the end of WWII and the beginning of Cold War and Nuclear age. Very personal history showing the personality and character of Truman.
Jim Zubricky
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A super quick read, but chock-full of details that focus on the first four months of Truman's presidency. I loved David McCullough's definitive biography on Truman, but this book was outstanding. Well written, engaging. Wonderful!
Alan Tomkins-Raney
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Absolutely first rate, perhaps the best book I've read so far this year. High stakes political drama and war-time events unfold at breakneck pace. The research and writing are superb. You get to know Truman and feel as if you are right there with him during what were arguably the most challenging and momentous first four months any president has ever faced. For any readers who appreciate history and/or political thrillers, this book is for you.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are many biographies of Harry Truman, but I especially liked this one because it focuses on a single time period, the four months from FDR's death to the end of the war with Japan. In between those events were several other world-changing events, too, including Germany's surrender, the chartering of the United Nations, the Potsdam Conference (during which Churchill was replaced by Attlee as Britain's Prime Minister), the testing of the atomic bomb in New Mexico, and of course, its use at H ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
4.5 stars
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very engaging look at President Truman, though sometimes presented without as much nuance as one would hope. Despite billing itself as focusing on four months, almost 50% of the book focuses on President Truman's life before those four months, including a lengthy section about his childhood.
Gene Ripka
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
The book gives only a glance at Truman's life prior to April 12, 1945. It touches very gently on his elected term as president, and his life after the White House. What Baime has done, remarkably, is to examine the 4 months that saw Truman assume the office upon FDR's sudden death. Through the words of Truman himself, from diaries and presidential papers, through the words of his advisers and cabinet, the members of his Senate and House, Baime portrays the events that shaped the end of WWII, an ...more
Tom Groff
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This very readable book presents Truman as an ordinary man who is very reluctant thrust into the presidency. Through hardwork and with integrity he held his own in the climactic final months of world war II.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
What a pleasure to pick a book to listen to and find it to be outstanding. I knew this book would be interesting but Blaime tells a compelling story in a fast-paced way. High school educated, failed businessman, possibly machine politician Harry S Truman becomes President on FDR’s death on April 12, 1945. He then faces four of probably the most consequential months the President, Nation and World may have ever faced: VE Day, the atomic bomb, VJ Day, the Potsdam Conference (which launched the Col ...more
I have no issue with how this book was written in so much as it seems to be three day old left overs. Certainly nothing new, nothing you might find via a deeper dive but just old stuff told one more time. It's certainly a fascinating time that's not the issue I have but it's that the story is being told to us one more time. It might have been more interesting if more time was spent on the decision and debate to drop the bomb. While that does get some coverage in the book it is of very short thri ...more
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The Accidental President 1 3 May 16, 2018 12:47PM  
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“You don’t want to marry that farm boy, he is not going to make it anywhere.” 0 likes
“Stalin revealed at the table that he did not believe Adolf Hitler was dead. “I think he’s loose somewhere,” Stalin said—maybe in Argentina or Spain.” 0 likes
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