Presidential Biography Challenge discussion

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Book Discussions > John Quincy Adams

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message 1: by Mike (new)

Mike I'm waiting on my library getting the Unger Monroe back in, so I decided to be a rebel and jump ahead to JQA. I've been reading Fred Kaplan's "John Quincy Adams: American Visionary" and really enjoying it so far. This guy led a fascinating life! I love how introspective both he and his father are (and the records they left behind that allow us to see it!)


message 2: by Brandon (new)

Brandon Harbeke | 10 comments I read A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel in the last year. Quincy had an interesting life. I was most fascinated by his earlier years working as an ambassador/diplomat. He was not able to do much in his presidency, and his post-presidential crusades were important but not necessarily great reading. I gave Nagel's book 3/5.

I started to do a similar challenge to this group's idea, but I skipped Monroe due to lack of Ammon availability, and I completely started jumping around when the only Van Buren biography I could find read like the driest textbook imaginable (Niven's).

I liked Chernow's Washington, McCullough's Adams, Bernstein's Jefferson, Cheney's Madison, and Brands's Jackson. Later on in time, I can recommend Borneman's Polk and George W. Bush's biographies of himself and his father.


message 3: by Mike (new)

Mike I completely agree Brandon. I felt like the story really dropped off once he was elected. I was shocked by how little space Kaplan gave to his presidency. But I guess it just reflects how little he was able to do. But up to that point, I simply loved his story.

I'm trying to decide whether to go with the Remini or the Brands for Jackson. I'm not a big Jon Meacham fan after his Jefferson book.


message 4: by Brandon (new)

Brandon Harbeke | 10 comments Both books have Amazon samples. Comparing the two, Brands has the definite edge in readability. The Brands book is also more recent and intended as a single-volume book. Remini's probably has lots of good information, but it is an abridgment of a three-volume set.


message 5: by Mike (new)

Mike Thanks for the suggestion, Brandon. I'm reading a bio of George McLellan at the moment, so I have a little time to decide.


message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Funderburg (grubrednuf) | 45 comments I think I'm going to go for the Nagel. I've got some more time this month so I think I can devote the time to it. Looking forward to his story!


message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Funderburg (grubrednuf) | 45 comments I have enjoyed Nagel's JQA. I feel like I'm getting a well-rounded view of his life. It is interesting to me, that the political rival or 'villain' we have seen pop up in other biographies, is not a rival but rather his mother. I think a first we've seen a biography paint the landscape as such.


message 8: by Elisabeth (new)

Elisabeth | 25 comments Finished (kind of gave up from boredom) the Kaplan JQA. I can't believe how fast some of you are reading these presidents. I am taking them slowly so that I might remember a bit more. JQA did a lot, but Kaplan just killed him for me. Oh well. I might go back and read Nagel's since Lisa made it sound intriguing.


message 9: by Willie (new)

Willie Krischke | 3 comments Hi all - I just joined, so I'm late to the game. Hope that's ok.

I read the Kaplan biography - came away with the impression that JQA, a lot like his father, was a much better statesman than politician. Not skilled at political games and consensus building, but very thoughtful and deliberate in terms of policy and diplomacy. He was a much better ambassador and Secretary of State than he was a President.

I was really impressed with his post-Presidency career, and how he learned to play the game in Congress in order to advance an abolitionist agenda.

And he was the first President I've read about who seemed to have given real thought to the Native Americans, and how the U.S. ought to relate to them. His positions were unpopular, but history shows that he was right. And he was a man that stuck to his guns when he knew he was right. That makes him my favorite President so far.


message 10: by Jeff (new)

Jeff (murainman) | 16 comments I'm so glad you think so. I think history has been unkind to the Adamses. The father could be a real bastard, the son assigned to a corrupt bargain, but you would be hard pressed to find two more dedicated servants of the American people.


message 11: by Willie (new)

Willie Krischke | 3 comments I think history has been unkind to the Adamses.

I think McCullough's biography, and the following miniseries, have done a lot to rehab the first Adam's reputation.

Hamilton: the Musical didn't help it, though.


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