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

Read Book* *Different edition

The Education of Henry Adams

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  2,734 Ratings  ·  282 Reviews
As a journalist, historian, and novelist born into a family that included two past Presidents, Henry Adams was forever focused on the experiences and expectations unique to America. A prompt bestseller and Pulitzer Prize-winner, The Education of Henry Adams (1918) recounts his own and his country's development from 1838--the year Adams was born--up to 1905, thus incorporat ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published August 12th 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1918)
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 The Education of Henry Adams, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Education of Henry Adams

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Epistemological inquiry in the form of self-denigrating autobiography. Written in the third person, at times overbearingly acerbic. Author Henry Adams was grandson of President John Quincy Adams and great-grandson of President John Adams. He was a Boston Puritan born in 1838 who at sixteen attended Harvard College—severely berated here—and went on to pursue a career as a journalist, novelist and historian.

His historical gamut stretches from the American Revolution to the years just before World
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2012
Amazing. There are a just a few books (Meditations, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Brothers Karamazov) that I feel every person on the planet should read. This is one of those books. If you are a historian, a diplomat, a Civil War buff or an amateur philosopher, this book will strongly resonate.
Justin Evans
Apr 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the oddest books I've ever read, and am ever likely to read: an autobiography written in the third person, which tells us almost nothing at all about the author/central character, this seems more like a pre-modernist bildungsroman than anything else. The weirdness doesn't end there- Henry Adams spends much of his time philosophizing about history while the narrator (call him Mr Adams) spends most of his time explaining that Henry Adams is a fool who has no idea what he's talking about; He ...more
Roy Lotz
Once more! this is a story of education, not of adventure! It is meant to help young men—or such as have intelligence enough to seek help—but it is not meant to amuse them.

Everyone agrees that this book is difficult and odd. An autobiography of an American man of letters, the son of a diplomat, grandson of a president, historian, journalist, secretary, all told in the third person, written for his private circle of friends. At once claiming to be the story of one man’s life, a critique of the
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
there is no book like this anywhere else in American literature. It annoys, it fascinates, it bores, it amuses... a densely textured, thoughtful, at times exasperating story of growing up in the American 19th Century by the great-grandson of one president and the grandson of another -- who freely admits he should have lived in the 18th Century.
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Henry Adams was the original celebutante: famous for nothing other than being related to the two John Adams(es), he was in the unique position of having access to the upper crust of post-revolutionary America without having the burden of any kind of responsibility.

This book is a guided tour of 19th-Century America, told with surprising wit and self-awareness-- his description of Harvard as (and I'm paraphrasing, but only slightly) a place where rich children went to drink beer and call themselve
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Nothing I could write would do justice to The Education of Henry Adams. Adams combines erudition, keen observation, wit and clear prose in creating the best example of the memoirist’s art.
Victoria Olsen
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I slogged through a Kindle edition of this classic, dodging the typos, and struggled with what to make of it. It wasn't at all what I expected of an American patriarchal autobiography. It was relentlessly, even annoyingly, self-effacing and pessimistic. Chapter after chapter details what he didn't learn in Boston, in London, in Germany.... from the senators and ambassadors he grew up with. I couldn't figure him out until I finally decided that he was really talking to himself the whole time. He ...more
Jun 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my second least favorite book thus far from the Lifetime Reading Plan. My least favorite being the Q'uran.

Henry Adams was the grandson and great grandson of Presidents. Although a Bostonian, he inherited an eccentric outsider-dom from his famous forebears, and remained to the end of his life apart from the business community of that city. Adams has the disconcerting habit of speaking of himself in the third person like Jimmy from Seinfeld. "Henry Adams doesn't like this steak! Henry Adam
Roxanne Russell
The "hallelujah" did escape, and loudly, from my lips when this read was finally done, but that reaction was only to the last quarter of the book or so. Otherwise, well worth the read.
As the book begins, he vividly and concretely describes his youth, and throughout his middle-aged years also, his ponderings are grounded in specific descriptions and prompts for reflection. Since he has two Presidential ancestors and is part of the Bostonian elite, his access to the most prominent figures of histo
J. Dunn
I'll agree with the ratings of this among the best nonfiction of the 20th century. It is another of my favorite genre, the "books about everything." It covers roughly the period from 1850 to 1905, and hits on almost every major historical and intellectual development of the time, but from a unique personal and anecdotal perspective. Adams was a man of great gifts and cultivation, but with a unique, eccentric, mugwumpishly conservative temperament that makes his collision and confrontation with t ...more
Perhaps, in another life, Henry Adams would have been a great thinker, one who, like Benjamin or Nietzsche, penetrated the myths of modern society and showed the world a glittering realm of possibility. There's a sense of the doom of modernity that wreaths his thoughts like a fog-- in line with T.S. Eliot, Thomas Carlyle, and other anti-moderns. It's a conservatism that, unlike that of Christians and free marketeers, at least deserves a certain sympathy. Pathetic, perhaps, but ultimately you fee ...more
Jan 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The memoir of a man and a family, Henry Adams was the son of a diplomat/ politician, grandson of a president and the great-grandson of another. The Adams family had produced leaders for the country since its founding and Henry Adams was heir to that leadership. In his Education he produced one of the best autobiographies ever written, chronicling the rapid change of the last half of the nineteenth century while sharing personal experiences with his father, at Harvard, Washington and elsewhere. I ...more
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Henry Adams was the fly on the wall for many years. His self-report is that he never had any power, his actions had no effect and he never really understood anything. I don't know how true any of that was but he was still complaining at the end. The book made me want to know a lot more about the 'fly-over' parts of US history. I am now certain that we have had several absolutely horrible presidents and survived. You will have to read the book to see who Adams put in that category.

Interesting ti
Jon Frankel
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Henry Adams’ The Education of Henry Adams is intellectual autobiography told in a slightly mocking, gently ironic third person. Henry Adams is never off the page. He anatomizes himself with the same acuity, but greater clarity, than the other Henry, Mr. James, analyzes his characters. Adams was born in 1838 and bears witness to the industrial, scientific, cultural, and intellectual revolutions of the 19th century. He is aware that he shares a womb with the future, even as his instinct draws him ...more
I'll augment my review later, but I'll give my first impression of this book now, having finished reading it yesterday. Adams's life, in itself, is interesting. He seems to have been a man of good grace, kindness and ability. (He was extremely well-placed, being the direct descendent of both Presidents Adams.) As the book progresses, more and more of the education he claims not to have shows, until, by the end, he almost seems to be throwing educational firecrackers at the reader. I learned THIS ...more
Brad Lyerla
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Education of Henry Adams is on my list of books to re-read. I first read it as a senior undergrad in the '75-'76 academic year at the University of Illinois. It was an introductory political theory course. In addition to EOHA, we read Civilization and Its Discontents, The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and a few others. EOHA was our "conservative book".

It was a fluff course that I took to fill in my social science requirements. But the books we were assigned are all worthwhile and I would lo
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An important book for anyone with an interest in American history and literature, by a descendant of two presidents (John Adams and John Quincy Adams). I especially enjoyed his accounts of British politics during the American Civil War, which he spent in London serving as private secretary to his father, Charles Frances Adams, the Minister to Great Britain. Since Adams did not intend his "Education" to be read by anyone other than close friends and family it can be a bit obscure, so it helps to ...more
Sep 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While acknowledging that this book is Important, I respectfully submit that it won't stay that way for much longer. The most interesting aspect of the book - its commitment to something like psychic catastrophism - is also, from a formal perspective, what makes it a tedious read, and the sheer volume of petty political sniping (about slights and missteps that occurred in, like, 1872) is enough to make one almost embarrassed for the aging Adams. Add to that the author's by now pretty untenable co ...more
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even up to the first 200 pages, I was ready to give this work one star but then, I started to get it. After that , every page, every paragraph had to be thought about. I do not think I have ever used the word amazing to describe a book before this but this was amazing..PERHAPS THE NUMBER ONE NONFICTION OF THE 20TH CENTURY. This was self published and not publicly available until after the authors death. He wrote his true thoughts, not just what he thought people would pay to read. HE WAS HONEST ...more
Russell Bittner
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Education of Henry Adams is just that: i.e., the education of Henry Adams. But as he uses the word, it denotes a never-ending process between the two parentheses of birth and death. In that sense, Adams strips the word of its conventional value and re-dresses it in a habit more befitting a man who genuinely understands that education doesn’t end with formal schooling, but rather continues until he draws his final breath. And in this matter of education, Adams (who here — as in much of this ...more
كنان القرحالي
هذا الكتاب ليس بالكتاب السهل، وهو لا يروي سيرة ذاتية عادية ولا يتحدث عن التعليم الذي تلقاه هنري آدامز فحسب، إنما هو موجز حيّ لأمريكا (الولايات المتحدة) القرن التاسع عشر، ولهذا السبب يُعتبر الكتاب من أغرب وأصعب وحتّى أهم السير الذاتية.
يقودنا هنري في جولة تاريخية هامة وتأتي صعوبتها من كونها جولة فلسفية وفكرية معمّقة لا تفارقها نكهة السياسة، وهذا أمر طبيعي إذ أنّ هنري ينحدر من عائلة سياسية بارزة وصل منها رئيسان إلى الحكم، ولذلك فإنّ هذه الجولة ليست بالممتعة أغلب الأحيان لصعوبتها وكثرة شخصياتها، فه
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review based on the LibraVox recording of this book.

I have read "The Education of Henry Adams" but found that listening to it (as was the case with "The Illiad") is such a different experience as to make it seem like a different book. Adams's humor comes through much more clearly in the audio version as does the constant if almost unconscious examination of class. "The Education" is an important primary source in studying the home life, domestic scene, diplomacy and narrowness of view of the Bos
I didn't really enjoy this book. I found it hard to pay attention to it. I've read other autobiographies with no problems, I just couldn't really get into this one. I found the talking in third person a little odd. There were a few interesting things, which bumped it from 1 to 2 stars, but overall, I just didn't enjoy this one.
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer
The writing of Henry Adams can take some getting used to. At times he seems pompous, and falsely modest (after all, how modest can you be when you have decided to write an autobiography of your life), but I suspect the reality is that Adams is simply the product of another time. Clearly influenced by his illustrious family (great grandson of John Adams, grandson of John Quincy Adams, and son of Charles Francis Adams, a Congressman and Ambassador), one can clearly imagine that this is precisely h ...more
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
I rather enjoyed the writing in this autobio of Henry Adams (grandson of John Quincy), but surprisingly though I never felt it while actually reading the book, it was rather slow moving-I read much of it without as such getting bored but at the same time, however long I read, I seemed to make very little progress in terms of the actual pages read.

The period during which Henry Adams lived- when Darwin and Dickens were writing their works, and on the other side of the pond, the civil war was being
I tried to place this among the other books I’ve read, and strangely the one that seems most similar to me is “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. Like that book, Adams takes a journey, albeit through a life, and riffs on topics great and small, from politics to education, women in history to evolution. And like “Zen”, Adams drills down into a topic, not quality but history through a scientific eyepiece. The writing felt of a similar theme, while expounding on looking at history through ...more
This is an autobiography of a descendant of the Adams family written in the early 20th century. The author distributed the work to personal friends and was only published after his death.

The period covers the civil war up to before the first world war.
His father was a minister to England and took his son with him as a private secretary.
Most likely his dad got him out of participating in the war.

The writing is interesting as the author refers to himself in the third person. The majority of the b
Warren Perry
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the composite American diplomatic history of the Civil War plus the political history of America before the Civil War plus the political, academic, and social history of America for Adams' lifetime, plus forty years before, minus twenty years during his marriage and the recovery after his dear wife's suicide, and minus the American experience of the Civil War. A professor at Georgetown told me, "We have probably gotten all we can get out of Henry Adams," and there are moments where ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Samuel Johnson
  • Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department
  • Eminent Victorians
  • Selected Essays
  • The Promise of American Life
  • The American Language
  • The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It
  • Jefferson the Virginian
  • A Smuggler's Bible
  • Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War
  • The Contours of American History
  • The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society
  • Vermeer
  • The Life of Samuel Johnson
  • An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy Vol. 1
  • The Proper Study of Mankind
  • Melbourne
  • The Americanization of Edward Bok
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Born in 1838 into one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Boston, a family which had produced two American presidents, Henry Adams had the opportunity to pursue a wide-ranging variety of intellectual interests during the course of his life. Functioning both in
More about Henry Adams...

Nonfiction Deals

  • Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
    $8.24 $1.99
  • A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
    $27.00 $2.99
  • Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
    $8.99 $1.99
  • A Room of One's Own
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Life in a Medieval City
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Too Close to Me: The Middle-Aged Consequences of Revealing A Child Called "It"
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
    $13.99 $2.99
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Heart of Christianity
    $9.74 $1.99
  • The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
    $10.49 $1.99
  • Skin: Talking about Sex, Class, and Literature
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Hidden Figures
    $4.09 $1.99
  • Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
    $7.24 $1.99
  • K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Art of Living: The Classical Mannual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness
    $10.49 $1.99
“Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.” 234 likes
“No man means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.” 108 likes
More quotes…