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John Adams

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  186,128 Ratings  ·  4,915 Reviews
Told by one of our country's greatest historians, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Truman, here is the extraordinary history of the birth of our country, seen through the lives of two extraordinary men: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Unabridged. 25 CDs.
Audio CD, 30 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 2001)
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MESSAGE TO BIOGRAPHERS: Tidy up your prose, sharpen your story-telling, knowledge up on your source material and bring your entire bag of game, because the gauntlet has been chucked, the bar has been raised and David McCullough has taken off his literary glove and pasted all of you upside your second rate heads. The challenge is before you.

This is, WITHOUT QUESTION, the best biography I have ever read. It is also, again WITHOUT QUESTION, the best story on the American Revolution and the creatio
Mary Etta
Apr 21, 2008 Mary Etta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group
Since reading John Adams I have continually been reminded of my delusion of our country's history. Today as I saw the conclusion of the John Adams' series on HBO I realized I was one of those John Adams saw as "deluded" by the artistic portrayal of our history in Trumbell's "Declaration of Independence." Adams was right. Too many of us believe Trumbell's view of the Declaration of Independence not acknowledging the many difficulties over many years before and after the signing of that great docu ...more
A solid and satisfying biography of a key leader in the birth of the American Republic. This book helps make him my favorite of the bunch because of his paradoxical mix of humility and ambition, idealism and pragmatism. Unlike Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton, he didn’t have aristocratic bearings and valued honesty, sincerity, and free thinking as the highest virtues. He appreciated the simple things in small town life and farming and liked doing his own physical tasks like chopping wood. I a ...more
Sep 02, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Adams is an extraordinary book, and an excellent political history of the beginning of the United States. This is the first book I've read by David McCullough, and I'm impressed at his ability to be respectful but blunt, and be serious but entertaining at the same time.

John Adams was an unusual man -- though he had the ambition and vanity characteristic of all politicians, he was a remarkably uncomplicated and generally happy family man. The impression one gets from this book is much like
Feb 12, 2013 Chrissie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Laura
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 Revolutio
"No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it," wrote John Adams, and this superb biography by David McCullough makes it clear why Adams was undoubtedly sincere in this sentiment. Adams was a plain and honest speaking man who rose to the challenges of extraordinary times. In this biography he emerges from the shadows of the better known presidents - Washington and Jefferson - whose administrations bracketed his.

McCullough did not originally intend to
Book Riot Community
I began reading John Adams four years ago, if you can believe it. Somewhere along the way I set it down and failed to pick it up again until a few weeks ago. I was a fan of David McCullough before I read John Adams, but it has certainly deepened my respect for this incredibly gifted historian. I think it’s rare for a biographer to leave you with the feeling that you don’t just know about the subject, but that you actually know the subject on a personal level. And that is exactly what McCullough ...more
Sep 28, 2008 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Adams always seemed like a dumpy old president, but the man was incredibly physically and intellectually rigorous, and without his undaunted labors that were often overlooked, we might not have had the necessary support to win the war against the British.

McMullough is a master. He takes musty old documents and makes them read like fast-paced fiction.
Dec 21, 2008 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I knew so little about Adams before reading this. I've heard some rank Jefferson as an historical figure they'd like to dine with: forget Jefferson! Adams is seemingly so under appreciated, but was a giant both in his role as a founder of the United States but also in character.
This is such a well written, interesting book. I keep wishing we had a John Adams to vote for this November. The caveat for me is that there is so much content to this book I need to continually take a break and do some light reading between and/or at the same time. Highly recommended for any American history buff.
Dec 28, 2007 bonnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those curious about early american history, those too enamored with party politics
I read John Adams largely because my grandfather's response when I told him I was reading Alexander Hamilton last year was "I hear that John Adams biography is excellent." Additionally, I was interested because Hamilton was always at odds with him, but I like them both a great deal (and incidentally do not feel the same way about Thomas Jefferson).

This book did not disappoint. McCullough masterfully selected quotations of Adams, Abigail, John Quincy, Benjamin Rush, Jefferson, and other major pla
Larry Bassett
It is April 21, 2016 and I am experiencing this book for the second time. This time I am listening to the Audible format. I have recently listened to Alexander Hamilton and thought John Adams was not treated very well in that book and wondered how you would be treated in a book that was focused on him.

Adam spent about two years in France during the time of the Revolutionary war. He returned to Massachusetts and almost immediately began work on the Massachusetts constitution.

After a brief return
Jan 30, 2009 Rick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David McCullough’s JOHN ADAMS paints a vivid portrait of Adams the patriot and Adams the man. Well-written and engaging, it relies in large part on Adams’s voluminous correspondence – with his wife Abigail and with friends and public figures. At times I thought the picture was a bit one-sided. Despite making some mistakes and being decidedly irascible, Adams is depicted as the true patriot, who doggedly pursued his beliefs against all odds to do what was best for the country. His selflessness, h ...more
Jun 21, 2014 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say? This book took me months to read and challenged my thinking on a number of preconceptions I had about the Revolution and the Founders. Instead of "correcting" me and forcing me into a new way of thinking, McCullough gently and deftly inspired me to soak in everything he had to say about Adams and to seek out biographies of other Founders to compare and contrast the men, their ideas and their accounts of history. This book is verbose but in a very engaging and pleasant way. It wou ...more
Wheeeeeere's Johnny?

where's Adams - a picture showing all US paper denominations - there are none that feature Adams

Thanks to David McCullough's 2002 Pulitzer Prize winning biography Adams will no longer be overlooked as a lesser president of the United States.

Although our currency fails to recognize him, that's never been much of a big deal to me, as my wallet generally fails to recognize any currency... they're so rarely acquainted:

  empty wallet 

John Adams - the president - was complex, ambitious, decisive. John Adams - the book - is complex, ambitious, definitive, and a remarkably readable master
May 16, 2016 Jenica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
A book that's this well written, balanced, and informative can only be reviewed in one way: WITH GIFS!
V. serious review to come.

"I am obnoxious and disliked, you know that Sir!"
Actually, no. The only one who, during his time in the continental congress, ever thought John Adams obnoxious was John Adams himself!

This was an education! Sure, I had textbook (and musical!) knowledge of the smol and grumpy founding father, but nothing beats getting to know him personally, and, thanks to a RIDICU
May 25, 2008 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished it! This book took me a while to read, but it's well worth it! McCullough gives such a personal view into who John and Abigail, actually the whole Adams family, really were. And they were truly wonderful, honest, patriots, full of integrity, and not afraid of hard work for their country. John and his wife Abagail wrote over a thousand letters to each other and these and countless more to other family and friends, including Jefferson who became a friend while they were both working in ...more
May 01, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
McCullough dazzled with his depiction of Harry Truman and brings that passion now to look at the life of John Adams. As he tackles the more daunting task of bringing this Founding Father and former president to life, through a plethora of research and historical tomes, McCullough illustrates the varied life Adams lived and the complexities of his journey. Presenting Adams as both a man of the people and a politically-minded gentleman, McCullough shows how he shaped the formation of the United St ...more
Well-researched, incredibly detailed, and well written. A bit long in parts and not too many note worthy moments. All in all, I enjoyed getting to know John Adams on a personal level, but I wouldn't recommend this biography to anyone unless they specifically wanted to know more about this important figure.
Doreen Petersen
Dec 28, 2015 Doreen Petersen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: presidents
Finally finished this book tonight. Couldn't sleep until I finished it. It is so good that it's no wonder the author won a Pulitzer Prize for it! You have got to read this book!
May 01, 2014 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened-to
"Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives." - John Adams

Fantastic book! I knew very little about John Adams going into this one. As the second POTUS he was the first of too many things to count:
- First V.P. to run for President
- First one term President/First President voted out of office
- Ugliest President (Tie with his son)
- First President with no military background

Such an interesting life! He held foreign diplomatic positions in England and France. He was enemies, then
Nov 30, 2015 Bea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am intimidated by huge books. This book at over 700 pages seemed very daunting to me, so I tackled it with a buddy.

I was fascinated! It was obvious to me that David McCullough had gained an admiration for John Adams and his wife, Abigail, because he was able to write of him and his life in a way that communicated the man and his times positively to me.

John Adams was a man, not a saint. He wanted to be liked and appreciated as much as anyone, but he was also dedicated to serving his country. He
Dick Gullickson
Dec 13, 2009 Dick Gullickson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading David McCullough’s outstanding biography, I now have a new favorite president. John Adams was advocate for the declaration of independence in congress, the young lawyer willing to defend the British soldiers accused in the Boston massacre, the President who avoided war with the French, the envoy and ambassador to Britain and France. Adams was passionate, opinionated, objective, a scholar committed to books and reading, and an incorruptible champion for his country. Adams greatest b ...more
Chad Sayban
More reviews at The Story Within The Story

Among the founding fathers, perhaps no one’s contributions to the revolution and to liberty are less understood than those of John Adams. But it was his fierce independence, unarguable brilliance and absolute moral grounding that made him in indispensable part of the American Revolution. If Washington was the face of the new nation, and Jefferson was the voice, then Adams was most certainly its heart.

“The longer I live, the more I read, the more patien
Nov 15, 2011 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the challenges of writing a biography is to know when to stop. In the case of Adams, McCullough has so much material from which to draw that the opportunity to present intimate detail could soon render it unreadable. McCullough is a masterful biographer and in this case does an skillful job at skirting the fine line between an insightful portrait and drowning us in minutia.

Beyond just exploring Adams' role in the host of world-changing events that took place in his lifetime, McCullough do
Popular history. That's what this book is. David McCullough is obviously engaged with his story; he likes Adams, respects the Founders, and knows his history. But he seems shackled by having to tell two stories at the same time, while making both flow into one accessible and engaging narrative.

The first story is the political one. Adams the politician is an energetic, combative creature, not afraid to step on toes or burn bridges in the name of principle. McCullough cuts no corners in fleshing o
Mar 05, 2015 Florence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an immense and personal recording of the life of John Adams, our second president, and the tumultuous events of our nation's birth that he did so much to shape. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and he argued persuasively for its adoption. He was a true patriot and he always acted to strengthen America's fledgling institutions. During his presidency he suffered the slanderous attacks of political rivals who spewed as much vitriol as our present day politicians. It is com ...more
Aug 22, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The happiness of the people was the purpose of government, he wrote, and therefore that form of government was best which produced the greatest amount of happiness for the largest number. And since all "sober inquirers after truth" agreed that happiness derived from virtue, that form of government with virtue as its foundation was more likely than any other to promote the general happiness." pg. 102 I have EIGHT pages of quotes I journaled from this fabulous book. It is very long and detailed a ...more
Jul 28, 2009 Teri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A well written book takes you on a ride through many emotions and John Adams definitely does that. I enjoyed the beginning, reading about the Revolutionary War from Congress' point of view rather than G. Washington's as in 1776. I was soooo frustrated through the middle reading about political intrigues, backstabbing, and why is that worm Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill anyway?!? And finally felt the peace of forgiveness and acceptance through Adams letters to and from Jefferson during the la ...more
Jay Perkins
I wish I could give this book 10 stars. David McCullough has written not only the best biography on the life of John Adams, until now one of America's most unappreciated founding fathers, but an incredible view into the age of the American Revolution. At times I felt as if I had traveled back into time and was watching the historical events fold before my eyes, seeing many events, sensing many emotions.

John Adams was an original American Patriot, brilliant, one of courage and honor, but portray
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  • Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #2)
  • Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
  • Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams
  • Theodore Rex
  • John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life
  • Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800
  • The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness
  • Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
  • Coolidge: An American Enigma
  • Eisenhower: Soldier and President
  • My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams
  • No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
  • Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington
  • James Madison: A Life Reconsidered
  • Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years
David McCullough has been widely acclaimed as a “master of the art of narrative history,” “a matchless writer.” He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, twice winner of the National Book Award, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

(update: His most recent book is The Wright Brothers, published on May 5th 2015 by Simon & Schuster.)

Mr. McCullou
More about David McCullough...

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“Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives. - John Adams” 34 likes
“When a friend of Abigail and John Adams was killed at Bunker Hill, Abigail's response was to write a letter to her husband and include these words, "My bursting heart must find vent at my pen.” 29 likes
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