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

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,229 ratings  ·  75 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)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,229 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
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.
Jack Harding
Aug 02, 2015 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
johnny db
Feb 15, 2010 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
Nov 17, 2009 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
Oct 15, 2016 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
Tom Rowe
Jul 08, 2016 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
Don Sullivan
Aug 21, 2015 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 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.
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like to read one very good book about each of the founding fathers or change makers in American history. Most of the time though, I am looking for the best or a book that will thoroughly probe into that persons past and reveal to me who they really are. I have a long reading queue, so I want to get it right the first time, without stumbling around trying to find yet another “right book” on that historical figure who still eludes me.
I have never read a book solely on John Paul Jones, So I thoug
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
One comes away from this biography certain that, thanks to a sterling combination of empathy and research, Evan Thomas knows John Paul Jones almost as well as the indomitable Jones knew himself. This smoothly-written book is a treat to read, and the only part of it that I was at all displeased with was the index, because that couldn't point me back to the nautical definition of "crank" when I had forgotten its meaning a few chapters after Thomas had introduced the term.

I was pleasantly surprised
Jeff Wilson
I've liked the myth of John Paul Jones since my childhood. From his "I have not yet begun to fight!" to his "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.", and even his bringing the Ariel back to port after incurring a hurricane strong enough to remove all the masts of the ship...these things easily played on my imagination. This biography of Jones was good enough to keep almost all of those things in tact. Thomas does a good job introduci ...more
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written, and well-researched, warts-and-all biography of a man who yearned for glory all his life, but only attained that prize posthumously because he could not subdue his own hubris.
Lisa Borges
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed the story telling.
Thaddeus A. Opiola
A must read! Characters like this in history write the best novels and yet the stories are not fiction but fact.
David Bush
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book. Focused heavily on his character deficiencies. Interesting to see the interactions with other key historical figures. Lots of possible lessons learned from his life.
Poet Felon
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite age of sail books.
Roger Barnstead
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
great of course
Ginette Seare
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ha! Fascinating history here—mostly because I had no idea about his life story.
Jeremy Perron
Jan 08, 2012 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
Marty Reeder
Dec 13, 2010 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,
Mike Prochot
Sep 24, 2012 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 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
Jun 03, 2014 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 05, 2015 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
Nov 29, 2008 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
Sep 17, 2013 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 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
Clay Asbury
Jun 15, 2012 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)
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Evan Thomas is one of the most respected historians and journalists writing today. He is the bestselling author of nine works of nonfiction: Being Nixon, Ike's Bluff, The War Lovers, Sea of Thunder, John Paul Jones, Robert Kennedy, The Very Best Men, The Man to See, and The Wise Men (with Walter Isaacson). Thomas was an editor, writer, and reporter at Newsweek for 24 years, where he was the author ...more