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John Adams

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  148,106 ratings  ·  4,527 reviews
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 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 w ...more
Hardcover, 752 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Simon & Schuster (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
Steve Sckenda
Thanks to God that he gave me stubbornness when I know I am right. ” (John Adams)

David McCullough transports 21st Century readers to the 18th Century and introduces us to the magnificent character of John Adams in this Pulitzer-Prize-winning biography. My review emphasizes personal details about Adams and his philosophy and will assume that you know that Adams was a founding father of the American Revolution and the second President of the United States. Therefore, I will not attempt to restat
Mary Etta
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
Dick Gullickson
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
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
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
"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
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
mah boi john was in dat white haus 4 jus 1 term...but his mark b mad indelible on da office. from da beginning of da prerevolutionary dais 2 his deef on da same dai as my boi tj - john adams helped forge dis grate nation n founded da first major political dinasty in da usa. mccullough's bok covers all da main pointz of mah boi's lyfe n does so in reedable proze. git dis bok now, nom sayin?
We are so used to driving ambition with candidates/characters who would do anything short of knifing a competitor in the back to achieve the office, that a man like John Adams, a public servant who felt the need to do his best and put aside his own preferences for the sake of the public good provides a refreshing read.

The time and place in which he lived made it possible for a farmer to speak out and be chosen by his community to represent it, moving on to higher office purely on ability rather
McCullough’s biography deserves all the accolades. It is written with depth and with passion. More than just a history, this is a penetrating look into the minds of Adams, Jefferson, family, friends and enemies that brings them and their times to life for us. This remarkable accounting of the birth of a country and how it found its early footing foreshadows the civil war and debates that still rage in America. Contrasting the beliefs, politics and personalities of Adams and Jefferson, McCullough ...more
This might be the most outstanding biography I have ever read. It was very thorough and I really feel like I know John Adams. Benjamin Franklin was portrayed as an annoying rascal. John Adams was an upright, moral man who devoted his life to serving his country. He spent so long away from his wife and children on diplomatic missions in Europe and serving in the Continental Congress and as vice president. Yet he did not get much recognition or appreciation and all his responsibility and power jus ...more
Michelle Stie
Oct 04, 2008 Michelle Stie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Shelves: biography
I picked up this book when the HBO series came out. I didn't know much about John Adams--just that he was a Founding Father and was married to an exceptional woman in Abigail Adams. McCullough's portrait of Adams is exceptionally done; his work is guided by question "what inspires greatness?". The author takes great pains to present a picture of Adams that is fair--his foibles and strengths are presented in equal measure. Evidently, no one was a tougher critic on Adams than Adams himself, and th ...more
Oh, my goodness! I didn't plan it this way, but I started listening to this amazing bio of John Adams on January 18th, 2009--2 days before the inauguration of our first African-American president. Well, the book added such depth and excitement as I watched the proceedings! I was actually "tingling" with pride and love for my country and its founding fathers. I couldn't believe how often I thought of John Adams that day, especially during Obama's speech.

And I'm in LOVE with John Adams! I've know
I just finished reading this book and it was absolutely outstanding. Adams is one of the least appreciated of the Founding Fathers, often overshadowed by Washington, Franklin and Jefferson. This book brings the man to life and gives an intimate view of the struggles and sacrifices that he endured in the cause of freedom. His compatriots widely acknowledged him as the driving force behind the Declaration of Independence (he was referred to as the voice and Jefferson as the hand in declaring indep ...more
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  • John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life
  • Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
  • The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
  • Paul Revere's Ride
  • James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
  • Theodore Rex
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • James Madison: A Biography
  • The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
  • John Tyler: The Accidental President
  • My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams
  • American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
  • No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt - The Home Front in World War II
  • James Madison
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...
1776 Truman Mornings on Horseback The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris The Johnstown Flood

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“Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives. - John Adams” 32 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.” 26 likes
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