In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot -- "the colossus of independence," as Thomas Jefferson called him -- who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.
Like his masterly, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Truman, David McCullough's John Adams has the sweep and vitality of a great novel. It is both a riveting portrait of an abundantly human man and a vivid evocation of his time, much of it drawn from an outstanding collection of Adams family letters and diaries. In particular, the more than one thousand surviving letters between John and Abigail Adams, nearly half of which have never been published, provide extraordinary access to their private lives and make it possible to know John Adams as no other major American of his founding era.
As he has with stunning effect in his previous books, McCullough tells the story from within -- from the point of view of the amazing eighteenth century and of those who, caught up in events, had no sure way of knowing how things would turn out. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, the British spy Edward Bancroft, Madame Lafayette and Jefferson's Paris "interest" Maria Cosway, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, the scandalmonger James Callender, Sally Hemings, John Marshall, Talleyrand, and Aaron Burr all figure in this panoramic chronicle, as does, importantly, John Quincy Adams, the adored son whom Adams would live to see become President.
Crucial to the story, as it was to history, is the relationship between Adams and Jefferson, born opposites -- one a Massachusetts farmer's son, the other a Virginia aristocrat and slaveholder, one short and stout, the other tall and spare. Adams embraced conflict; Jefferson avoided it. Adams had great humor; Jefferson, very little. But they were alike in their devotion to their country.
At first they were ardent co-revolutionaries, then fellow diplomats and close friends. With the advent of the two political parties, they became archrivals, even enemies, in the intense struggle for the presidency in 1800, perhaps the most vicious election in history. Then, amazingly, they became friends again, and ultimately, incredibly, they died on the same day -- their day of days -- July 4, in the year 1826.
Much about John Adams's life will come as a surprise to many readers. His courageous voyage on the frigate Boston in the winter of 1778 and his later trek over the Pyrenees are exploits that few would have dared and that few readers will ever forget.
It is a life encompassing a huge arc -- Adams lived longer than any president. The story ranges from the Boston Massacre to Philadelphia in 1776 to the Versailles of Louis XVI, from Spain to Amsterdam, from the Court of St. James's, where Adams was the first American to stand before King George III as a representative of the new nation, to the raw, half-finished Capital by the Potomac, where Adams was the first President to occupy the White House.
This is history on a grand scale -- a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.
Washington Post Book World - Edwin M. Yoder -
The authentic John Adams has been concealed too long in the glamorous shadows of Jefferson and Washington, and some rectification is past due. McCullough's biography will go far to provide it, for none before it -- not even Gilbert Chinard's classic of a generation or more ago -- has attained its height of narrative art. But that is only to be expected of the writer who is our historian laureate in waiting.
Here a preeminent master of narrative history takes on the most fascinating of our founders to create a benchmark for all Adams biographers.
This is a wonderfully stirring biography; to read it is to feel as if you are witnessing the birth of a country firsthand.
This life of Adams is an extraordinary portrait of an extraordinary man who has not received his due in America's early political history but whose life work significantly affected his country's future....This excellent biography deserves a wide audience.
While McCullough never misses an episode in Adams's long and often troubled life, he includes enough biographical material on Jefferson that this can be considered two biographies for the price of one--which explains some of its portliness. Despite the whopping length, there's not a wasted word in this superb, swiftly moving narrative, which brings new and overdue honor to a Founding Father.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Ellen John Adams An absolutely MUST READ novel. The author puts real flesh on historical figures making them complicated yet awe inspiring human beings. An absolutely wonderful read. I will recommend this summer reading to my bookclub.
Rated of 5
by Robert Rohan The real father of these United States I happened to watch the HBO series of John Adam and decided to read the book it was based upon, written by David McCullough. Based upon the letter's Adam's and his family wrote in there days, I found it to be the most enlighting book I've... Read More
Rated of 5
by Carolyn John Adams by David McCullough Being the first book picked by the Book Club, I recently joined,
I was overwhelmed by Mr. McCullough's research on John Adams. I felt like I was back in History class only this time enjoying it. I learned more in this book about our
country and... Read More
Rated of 5
As a 20 something who is not normally apt to reading books thicker then a brick I was completly captivated by the epic story of John Adams life. At times I felt that I was reading my own history. This book has been a catalyst for conversation in my... Read More
Rated of 5
Fascinating. In "As Good As It Gets", Jack Nicholson pays Helen Hunt his highest compliment when he tells her, "You make me want to be a better person." At the risk of sounding schmultzy, this book inspires me to do more for... Read More
Rated of 5
by sandra hunsd
This book is one of the most amazing biographies ever written. It paints an unimaginable picture of the life of John Adams, providing descriptive detail and knowledgable information.
Winner of BookBrowse's 2009 Nonfiction Book Award.
In this vivid new biography of Abigail Adams, the most illustrious woman of America's founding era, prize-winning historian Woody Holton offers a sweeping reinterpretation of Adams's life story and of women's roles in the creation of the republic.
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