Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy” as Want to Read:
John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  751 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
The New York Times bestseller from master biographer Evan Thomas brings to life the tumultuous story of the father of the American Navy.

John Paul Jones, at sea and in the heat of the battle, was the great American hero of the Age of Sail. He was to history what Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey and C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower are to fiction. Ruthless, indomitable, cleve
Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 10th 2004 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2003)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about John Paul Jones, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about John Paul Jones

John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. ShirerThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Best History Books
219th out of 1,859 books — 1,908 voters
Six Frigates by Ian W. TollIn the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel PhilbrickThe Pirate Coast by Richard ZacksLongitude by Dava SobelTwo Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr.
Age of Sail Nonfiction
22nd out of 126 books — 36 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jason Koivu
Apr 18, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
Poor ol' John. If only the US Navy at the time of Jones' life was the size of the man's ambition and ego, it would've been unstoppable!

If he'd lived just a few years longer, he would've been the ideal sea captain to head up Thomas Jefferson's hesitant-yet-ambitious expansion of the U.S. navy. But we do what we can with the time we're allotted and Jones did just about everything he could.

JOHN PAUL JONES: Journeyman Seaman

What an easy biography to write! The man's life reads like a legend. C.S.
Dec 13, 2010 Marty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simple mathematics explains why I chose to read this biography.

me=naval and American history lover + sailing lover.
John Paul Jones biography=naval sailor + fought during the Revolutionary War

Therefore, me=John Paul Jones biography reader.

Okay, maybe my math skills aren't airtight ... it's been awhile ... but pretty much this book and I were inevitable. I had only heard scant details about John Paul Jones, and I knew I wanted to know more. Often I wondered why I hadn't heard more than I had. Now,
Jack Harding
Aug 02, 2015 Jack Harding rated it really liked it
Evan Thomas's John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy is good biography. Thomas covers the life of John Paul Jones from his birth in Scotland to his actions in the US and Russian Navies to his death in France. Jones is shown to be a very flawed individual who often let his own ambition and moodiness get the better of him. Yet, Thomas also paints a picture of a deeply dedicated, patriot whose actions would help change the history of the US Navy.
This is a very enjoyable book. Th
Don Sullivan
Sep 13, 2015 Don Sullivan rated it really liked it
This book is well written. I appreciate the forward thinking of John Paul Jones who was really a pioneer espousing tactics that our Navy uses today. With a heart very much akin to the founding fathers, he had some true high ideals that nurtured our seedling nation. It's too bad that he did not achieve the renown that he hoped for or deserved until nearly a hundred years later. The author did not sugar-coat the story of this remarkable man. He had a terrible vanity, but the final verdict is that ...more
David Miller
Jul 29, 2008 David Miller rated it it was amazing
If you like naval history this book is great, also tells the story of the revolutionary war from a different perspective and shines a light on the life of a very interesting man, who, for all his flaws and foibles was always amazing when it mattered most, battling the enemy or the high seas.
Dec 13, 2010 Matthew rated it really liked it
Must be the ultimate name, as 2 people have it and are awesome. Also, the queen of Russia was kind of a slut.
Oct 15, 2016 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good ... not great ... biography of John Paul Jones. I knew little about his life only his legend. The book provided that nicely. But I did not feel that I got a knowledge of what drove him. He was a very complex man with several flaws but also many strong characteristics. The best learning that I got from the book was the authors conclusion that Jones was generally vilified during his life and his accomplishments generally exaggerated after his death. Apparently, most of the quotes a ...more
Jeremy Perron
Jan 08, 2012 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing
If there is a movie in need of a modern remake Hollywood should look no further than another John Paul Jones movie based on this book by Evan Thomas. Jones is the only military commander during the Revolution who would take the fight to the Great Britain itself. Thomas's work is an exciting adventure story that is a historical biography.

Born John Paul, Jr. as young man he grew up with little promise in a world that judged your worth by social status of birth. As old orders were challenged, they
Oct 14, 2016 Paul rated it liked it
I guess this was interesting enough, but I'm really still not all that sure that I care about this guy. The stories about him make him seem like a sorta OK guy (who also has sex with 12 year old prostitutes sometimes), but one assumes they're slanted in his favor given that he came out victorious. This may be interesting if I had paid enough attention in the past to have some preconceptions about the man that would need correcting.
Mike Prochot
Sep 24, 2012 Mike Prochot rated it liked it
All in all, a fact filled biography with details that are almost stunning when one thinks that 220 years have passed since Jones died. Details of ship maneuvers and Jones' sense for ship control and clear thinking during a fight are outstanding. Information regarding Jones' relationships with other "stars" in our Revolution was very interesting as was the story of Jone's as a Russian admiral - with some details that I had not heard before.

Unfortunately, I found this a rather depressing book. Ev
May 30, 2013 Jason rated it really liked it
Heroic, visionary, social climber, patriot, depressive, difficult to get along with others, a victor and self destructive are words that can be used to describe the life of John Paul Jones in Evan Thomas now decade old biography. This is a solid, relatively short work that is accesible to the general reader who has interest in naval warfare, the American founding and the late 18th century. Thomas, besides a career as a journalist and writer, is a high amateur sailer, and is able to articulate na ...more
Jul 05, 2014 Jimmy rated it really liked it
This is an interesting biography of a naval war hero during the American War of Independence. Being in the military I have heard his name thrown around but know next to nothing about him. I imagine I’m not the only one. So I thought I give this book a read and since I didn’t know what to expect from his rather interesting life there were moments in the book I was left in suspense since I didn’t know what the outcome would be! One doesn’t get such thrills often with historical biography. John Pau ...more
Gary Gudmundson
John Paul Jones (JPJ) was ahead of his time in naval affairs... the US navy finnaly came as he was dying. Though self-absorbed and looking for glory he never shunned a naval fight. In the chapter entitled "A Ghost of Himself" (ch. 15) it says "he had learned that nursing a grudge only brought more bitterness."

JPJ quoted Pope's Universal Prayer to get his fighting sisters to reconcile:
"Teach me to feel another's woe / To bide the fault I see/ That mercy I to others show,/ Such mercy show to me!"

In popular history of the the American War of Independence, very little attention is given to the naval aspects of the conflict. This is due in large to the fact that it was one-sided. Until the later direct involvement of the Dutch, Spanish, and French fleets which brought an end to the war, the Royal Navy's control of the Atlantic was virtually uncontested. Additionally, there are very few figures to whom a modern reader can be drawn.

John Paul Jones (1747 – 1792), a Scottish-born American sai
Mar 13, 2015 Iain rated it really liked it
John Paul Jones... pirate or naval hero, that depends who you ask. The "father of the American navy" started out as a poor boy in southwestern Scotland but would rise up to be one of the most notorious/celebrated characters of the American Revolution. Evan Thomas puts this flamboyant figure tale to paper. Jones' audacity of attacking the British on their home soil catapulted him to villainy rivalled by no other of his contemporaries. England had not come under direct attack for centuries but her ...more
Dec 21, 2008 Almak rated it really liked it
Evan Thomas' John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy was a well written, comprehensive work that gave a fair portrayal of Jones' searching for greatness while continually attempting to overcome his shortcomings (and failing numerous times to do so).

Jones was an incredibly interesting character who was ahead of his time in regard to Naval and warfare tactics. Ever seeking to become a gentleman as well as a great Navy Admiral, he often stumbled due to situations both in and out
Jan 15, 2014 Kayse rated it really liked it
This book was a fascinating look at the life of John Paul Jones, an unlikely American patriot who went on to be immortalized as the Father of the American Navy.

I knew virtually nothing about Jones prior to reading this, aside from his legendary status among the Parthenon of Revolutionary War Heroes. I learned that Jones was a complicated man; ambitious, yet not a genius; vainglorious, yet humble; not a lover of democracy; yet one of the American Revolution's finest heroes. He was a self-made man
Todd Van Meter
Aug 12, 2011 Todd Van Meter rated it it was amazing
A very enjoyable biography of John Paul Jones and his role in the Revolutionary War. A native Scotsman considered a traitor by the British, John Paul Jones was treated as a celebrity by the American people. Nevertheless, he possessed a complicated personality that alienated him from the American millitary hierarchy and limited his rise in the American navy. Little known details of his life are covered including his stint as a naval officer/advisor in the Russian navy, his penchant for romantic e ...more
johnny db
Feb 25, 2010 johnny db rated it really liked it
Not the best writing i ever read...
evan thomas writes like he doesnt really like Jones. kind of a negative slant to the whole thing. I think he was trying to make ones out to be a tragic hero... Blind ambition and irrascibility get in the way of Jones meeting his full potential....

I think it's more likely that the nascent U.S. government was not able to create a professional navy and was fairly uninterested in naval power which ld to Jones' inability to dramatically effect any naval events, let
Clay Asbury
Jun 30, 2012 Clay Asbury rated it liked it
Liked this book, but Thomas writes as though he's still at 'NewsWeek' with a detached neutrality at times. While Jones is a fascinating character study, the book had the feel of a very long article rather than a biography.

Jones was a brave visionary, but he was certainly no Washington, John Adams, Lord Admiral Nelson, Cornwallis, et al. (view spoiler)
Nov 30, 2009 brendan rated it really liked it
I found Mr. Thomas' biography of John Paul Jones entertaining and informative. I particularly appreciated the honesty.

Paul Jones was dredged out of history and vaulted onto the slopes of mount olympus by the US government. The navy needed a hero. Paul Jones, his life most dynamic and farsighted of histories US naval commanders, obliged. Only many decades of death stood between his utmost living desires, Fame and Glory, and the realization.

As a student of men and particularly men at sea and thei
Adam Smith
Jun 07, 2016 Adam Smith rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Early American History buffs whom need filling in on our fledgling naval efforts.
Good biographic on the father of the Iniyed States Nsvy replete with exciting naval battles and tie ins with the American Revolution.

Also how Jones is an underrated and significant part of our successful rebellion do to his forward thinking, his understanding of psychological warfare on a new scale.

During his life he yearned for glory in sea battles but under appreciated and remained unsung. He is now buried on the catacombs of Annapolis in a sarcophagus as large as Lotd Nelson and Napoleon. H
Tom Rowe
Jul 18, 2016 Tom Rowe rated it liked it
I didn't know much about John Paul Jones before I read this, and apparently all of that was fiction. So, I learned about him. The naval battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis was very well written and as fascinating a naval battle as I have ever read. I also like how Jones would tweak the British by sneaking into England and taking silver tea sets. Or how he was able to freely travel through England because the propaganda wanted posters made him look like a crazed bearded pirate and ...more
Jon Box
Nov 10, 2014 Jon Box rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
A challenging read for those who swallow the myth of John Paul Jones. As a naval history enthusiast, this book is provocative in that it brings to light the life of a very interesting American during frustrating times, who for all his flaws on land, was able to courageously persevere in his battles on the high seas. I found the stories of his ambition, vanity, sexploits, and ever failing search for glory a bit tiring in the end. However, that was his life; and, in this case, the truth is not so ...more
Jan 19, 2014 George rated it liked it
Shelves: audible
The summary is correct: the description of Jones' engagement on USS Bonhomme Richard with HMS Serapis was indeed engaging. However, the minutiae of Jones' incessant, prigish, whining about his career must have gotten on the nerves of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, etc. A self described naval strategist, he had many opinions which he freely shared with members of Congress or anyone who would listen. I had a hard time with this book because it droned on about relationships with count-this and du ...more
Oct 24, 2015 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot reading this book. I previously read a biography of John Adams and there are minor connections between these people. Both living in the same time period helps you get a broader view of things. Politics then was not all that different from now and the failures of each person always find a way to make you wonder how much more they might have done had they not had that flaw. In John Paul "Jones" case he did a lot with his life but wanted to do so much more and mostly tripped over hi ...more
Aug 18, 2008 Eric rated it liked it
This was an interesting book about an interesting man. Turns out he was brave at sea "I haven't yet begun to fight", but a bit of a small-man on land. He could win sea battles against seemingly insurmountable odds, but then was a crybaby if he didn't get proper recognition from his peers. John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy...when he wasn't complaining amount his "unfairly" tarnished reputation.
Mar 24, 2008 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
John Paul Jones was a terrorist to the British. His endeavor of revenge against the aristocrats of England would put him on a no fly list today. Naval warfare in the 1700's was little more than organized pirates fighting for a government. But Jones did understand the need for professional fighters in the manner of the royal navy and that was his big contribution. Interesting contrast to his contemporary John Adams.
Jeremy Touma
Mar 30, 2014 Jeremy Touma rated it really liked it
This story gave a great point of view of how the life of John Paul Jones was molded and how he always pushed for fame and glory as well as for the cause of freedom. This biography also gives an intereesting point of view of other extremely notable historical figures such as Hancock and Hopkins. John Paul Jones proved to be an extremely persistent man who never took orders easily but knew how to deal them out, and how to win a battle.
Dec 28, 2012 Smh624 rated it liked it
A very misunderstood character in the history of the United States. The book does a good job of describing who John Paul Jones was and why he is important. The opening pages are difficult to get through and paint an unappealing picture of Paul Jones almost resulting in my stopping reading the book. I'm glad I read on because in the end the author does an excellent job of placing him in context in American history.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Benedict Arnold's Navy: The Ragtag Fleet That Lost the Battle of Lake Champlain But Won the American Revolution
  • The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army
  • If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy--from the Revolution to the War of 1812
  • The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution
  • The Winter Soldiers: The Battles for Trenton and Princeton
  • Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution
  • Edith Kermit Roosevelt: Portrait of a First Lady
  • John Marshall: Definer of a Nation
  • Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations
  • Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris, the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution
  • Washington's General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution
  • Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution
  • John Jay: Founding Father
  • The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States
  • John Paul Jones: A Sailor's Biography
  • Mr. Adams's Last Crusade: The Extraordinary Post-presidential Life of John Quincy Adams
  • U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth
  • General George Washington: A Military Life
Evan Thomas has been assistant managing editor at Newsweek since 1991. He is the magazine’s lead writer on major news stories and the author of many longer features, including Newsweek’s special behind-the-scenes issues on presidential elections and more than a hundred cover stories. Thomas was pivotal in spearheading Newsweek’s award-winning coverage on the war on terror from the Washington burea ...more
More about Evan Thomas...

Share This Book