Review of “The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson…” by Howard Means

My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies

The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days That Changed the Nation” by Howard Means was published in 2006. Means is a former writer and editor for Washingtonian magazine, an editorial board member at the Orlando Sentinel and op-ed columnist. He has also written several books including a biography of Colin Powell.

Perhaps evident from its title, Mean’s book is less a comprehensive biography of Andrew Johnson and more an examination of the weeks following Lincoln’s assassination and Johnson’s ascension to the presidency. But lest the reader take the inference too far, while this book does not provide a systematic exploration of Johnson’s full life neither does it focus primarily on the first forty-five days of Johnson’s presidency.

In fact, although Means is an articulate and interesting writer, the most frustrating aspect of this book is its organizational structure. It is neither a biography nor a…

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