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

4.52  ·  Rating details ·  4,472 ratings  ·  525 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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Robert Huddleston It is an excellent biography but with one factual error that has gone uncorrected. When North Korea invaded South Korea, Truman was in Independence bu…moreIt is an excellent biography but with one factual error that has gone uncorrected. When North Korea invaded South Korea, Truman was in Independence but departed for Washington the next morning. When he arrived at the Washington airport waiting were "Dean Acheson ,[Secretary of Defense] Louis Johnson and Budget Director James Webb.
The "Budget Director?" To make a "cost-benefit' analysis of what must be done. No, McCullough misspoke: Webb had become the Undersecretary of State. Some must have lifted an eyebrow on the "Budget Director" being included.(less)

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Start your review of The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World
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
Mikey B.
Page 26 (my book) April 12/1945 the day that President Roosevelt died

Ushers greeted the vice-president at the door [of the White House] … They led him upstairs to the First Lady’s private study, where Truman found Mrs. Roosevelt, her daughter and son-in-law Anna and John Boettiger, and Stephen Early, sitting quietly. The First Lady approached Truman and put her arm around his shoulder.

“Harry,” she said, “the president is dead.”

He gathered himself. “Is there anything I can do for you?’ he asked t
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
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
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
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.
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though this book focuses on only four months of Harry Truman's presidency -- between the time Franklin Roosevelt died and Japan surrendered to the USA -- you may never read a better political biography. Author A.J. Baime's extraordinary research, organization and writing make THE ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENT a must-read, even for those of us who already know the Man from Missouri's life story. I especially enjoyed the way the author fused the personal with the political aspects of Harry Truman, sho ...more
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!
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
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
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
Douglas Graney
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding! An amazing snap-shot in history. The first four months of the Truman presidency had enough history for four years. Get this!
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
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 fresh ...more
Peter (Pete) 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.
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
Dean Glover
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot of facts about President Truman, World War II, and our country. Baime does his research, and presents many facts the history generally skip over. Recommended for those students of history, or readers of biography who hope to increase their knowledge and appreciation of the events of the twentieth century.
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Other than the broadstrokes of his presidency, I really didn't know about Truman. I've read and watched a lot of documentaries on FDR and the rest of the Roosevelts but never really understood what happened after. This book changed that for me and gave me a lot to think about. It's focused only on the 4 months after Truman became president which is different from a lot of biographies and makes it feel more clear cut and easy to follow. It also makes it easy to follow the time line of events you ...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

Zachary D Shubkagel
Fascinating read about the most modest President.

Fascinating read about the most modest President. This book is well researched and packed with some of the most eventful moments that defined the 20th century. Blaime lets the reader decide if Harry was a good or bad President. His journey to the office is certainly lucky or misfortune the depending on whom you ask.
Timothy G
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.
Lana McCall
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent account of the early life and presidency of Truman! It was very dense (historically) and I had to rely on Google at times to aid my understanding of the political climate of the time. Even though, it’s still a great read for anyone with even a passing interest in this era!
Wanda Keith
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have read several books about President Truman but never one that focused on the first four months of his presidency. The book starts out on April 12, 1945, the day FDR died. Baime takes the reader through the day with FDR in Warm Springs, Georgia having breakfast and with Truman in Washington, D.C. going about his morning. The author flashes back and forth between the two men on this day and as he does so he tells of Truman's rise from a humble, plain spoken, common man from Independence Miss ...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
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can think of few books that I’ve read that have been, at the same time, as thoroughly educational and as wholly enjoyable to read as A. J. Baime’s “The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World.” This is a rather unusual biography in that it focuses on a relatively short time span – the four months from the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (April 12, 1945) until Japan’s acceptance of the terms of surrender (August 14, 1945).

It’s hard to argue with Baime
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
Sara Shefchik
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5+/5Most of what I read of the war was about Europe: it’s battles, concentration camps and hardships. This book told the story of how Harry Truman, who never should have been President, had to take over at the time of Germany’s surrender because of FDR’s death. Never has any person had to literally take on the weight of the world at such a chaotic and uncertain time in human history. FDR kept him in the dark about everything. In fact, his Senate committee in charge of making sure the Federal gov ...more
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