I haven’t read a book this good in years!
I cannot imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this book.
This is a book about a man, John Adams, but it is also much, much more. It is a book about American Independence, the American Revolution and all the Founding Fathers, the seven most important being George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, George Madison and Benjamin Franklin. The book follows all the events from the Declaration of Independence and the Revolution, through the presidencies of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Madison, James Monroe and finally John Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, the sixth president!
This is a book about people, each very different in character, but the author brings each one of them to life. I adore learning about people. I loved the book for this reason alone. You understand how the individuals think, what they feared, what they loved, what made each one special. You understand their differences. It is the little details that will make you LOVE this book. John Adams, this guy wrote volumes in the margins of his books. Jefferson loved his books too, but rarely did he write in them. The relationship between these two men is extraordinary. John Adams relationship with his wife Abigail is extraordinary too!
I love how it taught me history, and it was never ever boring. I don’t read books about politics, but this book is definitely about politics, and I adored it! I normally avoid books on politics because I find them confusing. Why? Because for me politics doesn’t follow the rules of logic. A party claims they stand for a given set of principles, but then the politicians do not follow these principles. The result is that I get confused. A central theme is, and particularly John Adams presidency and the following election where he sought his second term but lost it to Jefferson, was a battle of politics, and yet I understood exactly what was happening. This book is clear, informative and presents a balanced view of all the prime players.
John Adams by David McCullough is stupendous. I cannot help but compare it with Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, which I recently read and loved, but Isaacson’s book doesn’t come near to McCullough’s. John Adams wrote letters to all his contemporaries, to newspapers, public officials, friends and his dear wife Abigail. He kept diaries. John Adams was opinionated. Jefferson and Franklin were close-mouthed! After his presidency, when he was much older, Adams wrote copious letters to his dear friend and previous arch-enemy, Jefferson. Adams is the person to follow if you are interested in learning about American Independence, American life in the colonies during the 1700s and about France and England and Holland too, about the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. It is all here and it is all interesting.
Every page has quotes. Don’t assume that this makes the book dry and difficult to read. The opposite is true! You learn about the peculiarities of all the important Founding Fathers. Jefferson bought and bought and bought. He couldn’t stop buying. It is the way the author depicts these small idiosyncrasies that will make you laugh out loud! Jefferson lists all that he buys, but the funniest is that the columns and columns of purchased items are never added up. Never. Both Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, fifty years after the Declaration of Independence!!!!! Guess which one was wealthy then! I REALLY love this book and I want you to understand that this is the book to choose if you have any curiosity about any of the Founding Fathers, about American Independence or about life in Europe during the 1700s and early 1800s.
Have I convinced you to choose this book? Here is another reason why! The descriptions of the people, places and events are vivid! When the British ships are set to attack at Staten Island you see them in the sun and you feel the imminent threat. At Washington's inauguration he travels in a canary yellow carriage pulled by white horses. I am skipping all over the place, I know, but the descriptive quality of the lines is perfect throughout the entire book. I personally adored the depiction of French, English and Dutch mores. I adored how family problems are described so you laugh. Charles, one of Adams’ sons, had some difficulties in Harvard and almost got thrown out. Yes, they were running around naked. But wait, you will cry too when you learn of his final fate. “Moral” and so very devoted to his wife as Adams is, you should hear his conversation with the French women! “Instincts” will show us what to do, he replies to a tricky question about men and women’s sexual behavior! :0) This reply is just so perfect; it is so “Adamsee”! And Hamilton, oh what he does! I could wring his neck!
All the details are amusing, engaging, thorough, and accurate. When I compare Isaacson’s versus McCullough’s portrait of Benjamin Franklin, I feel that McCullough’s is superior. His is unbiased and clear-sighted. An author may not “fall in love” with the character being portrayed; impartiality is essential. So here is my advice: read John Adams first! The two are similar, but this one is superior. Read Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life afterwards if you then still want a little bit more about Franklin’s scientific inventions. Nelson Runger is the narrator of both of the audiobooks. Yes, he slurps and seems to need to swallow his saliva repeatedly, but there is less of that in McCullough’s book. His French pronunciation could definitely be improved, but otherwise the narration is fine. Don’t shy away from either audiobook for these reasons. The narration’s speed and clarity is fine, and that is what is most important.
I really did enjoy Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, but I absolutely loved John Adams! And I think I sort of have a crush on John Adams, even with his faults! What a man! What a time! What writing!