Kate's Reviews > The Stranger and the Statesman: James Smithson, John Quincy Adams, and the Making of America's Greatest Museum: The Smithsonian

The Stranger and the Statesman by Nina Burleigh
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Apr 04, 07

bookshelves: nonfiction-bios
Read in February, 2007

Interesting historical account about the man behind the Smithsonian and the world he lived in. Interesting, that is, without reading like a textbook.

Based on the reviews on the back, I was really hoping for a more gripping tale though. I would still read it again regardless of this, but I feel that was slightly misleading as some of the writing can really get tedious and meanders as the author skims the bottom of the well for "facts" about a man we know so very little about. It is more an account of assumptions about what his life may have been like and why he chose to donate the money rather than providing any substantial new findings.

The title/cover is also misleading because the book hardly deals with John Adams at all. He makes a brief appearance at the end. While this is fine and dandy and is fine reading, I just wish it was represented accurately in the way the book is being marketed.

The author comes from a backgroud in journalism and I found her choppy sentences and bird-walking-esque reporting style of writing to be distracting at times.

I'm being pretty hard on it though because it was worth the read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the formation of the United States, The Smithsonian Institution, James Smithson, Early American Presidents and the Congress/Senate, as well as British and American relations in those early formative years.
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