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John Adams

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  219,937 Ratings  ·  5,332 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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Susan Zographos My first McCullough book was Truman. I listened to the audio and then read the book. It was wonderful. I love history and McCullough makes the past…moreMy first McCullough book was Truman. I listened to the audio and then read the book. It was wonderful. I love history and McCullough makes the past come alive! (less)

Community Reviews

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Stephen
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
...more
Elyse
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LEARNED SO MUCH........
I'm moved - deeply moved......
at this 'book' and 'partly' at myself. SOMETHING HAS SHIFTED INSIDE ME THROUGH THIS READING EXPERIENCE. A handful of books have done this for me --but not usually 'two' in a very short period of time! But..... I can't deny what's so.

SNAP CRACKLE POP....... BOOKS THAT CHANGE OUR THINKING - OUR ACTIONS - MUST BE REMEMBERED..... this is another one of those books!!!!!!

A light switch is turned 'on' in my brain for the first time in almost 65
...more
Mary Etta
Apr 05, 2008 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
Diane
This is a must-read for anyone interested in the American Revolution. I would call this David McCullough's masterpiece, except I've read several of his remarkable books, including Truman and The Wright Brothers, and they are all so good I don't think I could pick a favorite.

But let's get back to John Adams, who, along with Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, was a critical founder of America. If you've seen the impressive HBO miniseries based on this book (starring Paul Giamatti and the ama
...more
Michael
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
Chrissie
Dec 24, 2012 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
...more
Rachel
Sep 02, 2008 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
...more
Kay
"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
...more
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
Jean
Sep 28, 2008 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.
Toni
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.
Kelly
Mar 22, 2008 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.
bonnie
May 22, 2007 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
...more
Rick
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Philip
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
...more
Matt
Mar 26, 2014 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
Demetrius Rogers
5 stars for the telling, and 5 stars for the life.

First, for the life. Could there be a more interesting subject? Raised in modesty, read for the bar, practiced law, got into politics, signed the Declaration, became a diplomat for the new country, became the first vice-president of the US, and its second president, and then died years later while his son was president. What a significant man. And while his accomplishments were intriguing, his character and personality exceeded them. Although cr
...more
Sara
Nov 20, 2010 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
Margaret
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I took this book home for the summer and read through it slowly because I could not bear it being over. McCullogh tells John Adams' and America's story as well as the best novelist while satisfying the history buff's desire for documents and "truth." Enjoy.
Grace
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
I know this is a long book, but it is worth it. I knew very little about John Adams, having forgotten many facts from my high school history class. This book does a very good job of describing all of the events leading up to the American Revolution War and all of the major players in it. It is written in a story telling way that is not another "boring history book." This book really captures the times John Adams lived, his life and love for his wife, and his friendship with Thomas Jefferson. It ...more
Jennifer
John Adams is a well researched and beautifully written biography about the life and times of John Adams and early American history. Using letters and entries from John Adams diary, David McCullough paints such a vivid picture as to transport you back in time some 200 years.

Don’t let the length of this book deprive you of the joy of reading it. If you love biographies and American history you will want to read this.
Sue
Apr 08, 2008 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
Larry Bassett
Jun 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Nathan
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
...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
...more
Sarai
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
Oct 21, 2013 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!
Stephen
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The American War of Independence was something that I knew very little about so I feel much better informed after reading this. I can even name the first 6 presidents now. Fascinating and very readable book helped in its readability by the extensive correspondence between John Adams and his wife that the author drew on.
Ending giving the date when he died and who else died the same day was pretty amazing too - that's another very useful fact that I won't forget (don't look it up as it makes a gr
...more
Peter Krol
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
McCullough is astoundingly readable. He can write a long, long book such as this, and keep you fascinated in his subject until the last page. Finishing the book was like farewelling a dear friend.
Chad Sayban
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
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  • No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
  • Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington
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  • Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years
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David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback; His other widely praised books are 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge, and The Johnstown Flood. He has been honored with the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the Na ...more
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“Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives. - John Adams” 39 likes
“The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know...do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.” 35 likes
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