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Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,859 ratings  ·  309 reviews

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
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Simon Schuster
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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
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
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
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 ...more
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, netgalley
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 ...more
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Lou Kreuzer
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Porter Broyles
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Kevin. McKernan
May 11, 2019 marked it as to-read
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
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Bob H
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Mike Glaser
May 07, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
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 ...more
Fredrick Danysh
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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.
Apr 01, 2019 marked it as physical_to-read_stack
I received my copy free through Goodreads Giveaways.
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
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 ...more
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Zach Anderson
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-tier-books
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 ...more
Kelly Fugate
Jun 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
Zero stars, actually. Mourning loss of trees used in publishing this TOTAL WASTE OF TIME.
Matt McCormick
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Noah Goats
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Jerry Kolwinska
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
Justin M.
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Eric Lanser
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
May 24, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
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
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