There is something very familiar about The Most Famous Man in America. It is a portrait of a charismatic leader, a brilliant but troubled man who reached the pinnacle of fame only to land in a sexual imbroglio. Its theme could fit any number of contemporary public figures. But this is not the story of a president, televangelist or athlete. It is the story of a minister, the scion of one of the first families of American religion, who became the most prominent preacher of the mid-19th century. Debby Applegate, who holds a Ph.D. in American studies from Yale, is well qualified to tell the story of Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), having spent nearly two decades researching and writing on her subject. Not only is she intimately acquainted with a wealth of primary sources, she writes in a fluid, captivating style that allows readers to feel that they know Beecher almost as well as she does.