Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “John Adams” as Want to Read:
John Adams
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

John Adams

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  335,239 ratings  ·  6,524 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, 751 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Simon & Schuster
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about John Adams, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Steve Bera I suggest the Johnstown Flood. Not too long a book, and you will get his writing flavor and decide whether you like it or not. Second choice is a rece…moreI suggest the Johnstown Flood. Not too long a book, and you will get his writing flavor and decide whether you like it or not. Second choice is a recent book, Wright Brothers, for the same reason.
I don't do audio, so cannot comment there.(less)
Clarke Owens Section V, Chapter 8 contains the election. It took several months to count the votes. Jefferson was expected (by Adams) to win, but then fortunes tur…moreSection V, Chapter 8 contains the election. It took several months to count the votes. Jefferson was expected (by Adams) to win, but then fortunes turned. The change in fortune occurs on the couple of pages before 466 in my paperback edition.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  335,239 ratings  ·  6,524 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of John Adams
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
Elyse  Walters
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well now I just want to read a biography on Abigail Adams. Watch me discuss this book in my June wrap up: ...more
#5 Best Book I Read During 2020

When the door opened, they proceeded, Adams, as instructed, making three bows, or "reverences," one on entering, another halfway, a third before "the presence."
"The United States of America have appointed me their minister plenipotentiary to Your Majesty," Adams began, nearly overcome with emotion.
"I felt more than I did or could express," he later wrote. Before him, in the flesh, was the "tyrant" who, in the language of the Declaration of Independence, had plunder
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
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
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
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 Revolut
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
McCullough has us believe, for 466 pages, that Adams is generally disliked among the political set of his time and that there is no way he could be elected President: he is anti-slavery, deeply spiritual, a fine family man who loved first his wife, then his children, then farming, and he was always dedicated to doing the right thing (he even defended the British at one point and won the trial: it was the right thing, but not the popular thing to do). But suddenly, on page 467, in what feels like ...more
"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
Roy Lotz
This is a wholly enjoyable book, which is the secret of its success. Merely flipping through and scanning a couple passages was enough to convince me to abandon everything else I was reading and to go on a pleasure cruise through history. McCullough’s writing is charming to a rare degree—elevated yet folksy, readable without being simple, and filled with personality without being opinionated. I can see why he is so popular.

Yet it must be said that McCullough achieves this charm by relegating muc
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.
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So good I don't know where to start -- review to come. ...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 re
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
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.
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. ...more
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
Bryan Alkire
Readable biography. At the time this was written, John Adams deserved a positive biography and he got one. That said, the book is just too long and bogs down in places. It’s at it’s best when the author can use his narrative voice to talk about Adam’s life. It’s at it’s worst when constantly quoting Adam’s letter’s or Abigail’s letters which destroys the narrative flow and makes the book seem much longer than it already is. There were times I felt I was reading a letter collection. Additionally, ...more
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
This is a masterpiece! McCullough writes history that reads like a novel. I know his access to all the Adams correspondence gave him an advantage, but still, the man can write.
I didn’t realize what a fascinating man John Adams was and the many personal sacrifices he made for our country.
I felt like I knew the Adams family and actually slowed down my reading because I didn’t want the book to end. In fact, I want to read it again instead of the Thomas Jefferson biography next on my tbr list.
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
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! ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
Learned a lot from this massive, well researched, well written, and easy to follow biography on one of our best founding fathers.
Applause to McCullough for once again writing so well.
While McCullough is certainly a brilliant author and historian (he made the politics and engineering behind the Brooklyn Bridge entertaining in The Great Bridge), clearly the genius of this work is Adams himself, as well as Abigail, their friends, and family. Every page of this biography seemed to seethe with written correspondence that survives to this day, painting a portrait that no Peale or Stuart could possibly approach. I do not have many to compare it to yet, but I have been told that thi ...more
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I’ve ever read—flat out. I literally wept at the end. These people died hundreds of years ago, but it doesn’t matter—I was still crushed.
This is a book written 20 years ago, about people who lived centuries before the current political landscape, and it is still fresh and ever so relevant.
Living through the Covid, and have no idea how people can survive, thrive, and make lasting political change for the better? Try yellow fever, typhoid, small pox, amidst several wars and
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I saw the John Adams miniseries on TV and then wanted to read this John Adams biography. Entertaining, interesting, and accessible, McCullough's biography didn't leave me disappointed. Lots of primary resources are used, and I learned a lot more than was covered in the miniseries (Paul Giamatti made for the perfect John Adams). ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: John Adams - David McCullough - 4 Stars 6 11 Mar 25, 2021 05:04AM  
NonFiction Pulitzers: John Adams: Group Read Jan-Feb 2021 48 46 Feb 14, 2021 12:31AM  
John Williams' Stoner... what did I miss? 3 26 Apr 17, 2020 05:27PM  
Play Book Tag: John Adams by David McCullough - 4 stars 3 10 Dec 28, 2019 04:43PM  
HBO 30 199 Dec 13, 2018 02:00PM  
A.Ham Book Club: Chapter 12 6 15 Feb 26, 2017 09:57AM  
A.Ham Book Club: Chapter 11 3 6 Feb 16, 2017 07:55PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
  • American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson
  • Theodore Rex
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
  • Steve Jobs
  • The Diary of a Young Girl
  • Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
  • Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
  • The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin
  • Einstein: His Life and Universe
  • Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
  • Eisenhower: Soldier and President
  • The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
  • Washington: A Life
  • Master of the Senate
See similar books…
See top shelves…
David McCullough is a Yale-educated, two-time recipient of both the Pulitzer Prize (Truman; John Adams) and the National Book Award (The Path Between the Seas; Mornings on Horseback). His many other highly-acclaimed works of historical non-fiction include The Greater Journey, 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge, The Wright Brothers, and The Johnstown Flood. He has been honored with the Nation ...more

Related Articles

The two-time Pulitzer winner chronicles the daredevil ingenuity of two bicycle mechanics destined for greatness in his new work of narrative...
34 likes · 12 comments
“The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.” 53 likes
“Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives. - John Adams” 52 likes
More quotes…