I’ve been meaning to read John Adams for a long time. Now that the HBO miniseries is out on DVD (I haven’t seen it yet) and I recently read a biography on John Quincy Adams, I felt a little more pressure to pick up the book. I’m glad I did.
Adams was the most prolific writer of the Revolutionary generation, penning letters, journals, and newspaper editorials. McCullough used these primary texts not only to describe a fascinating life, but to show the personal thoughts of an important man involved in the Revolution against Great Britain and the formation of the United States. McCullough is a great storyteller, but his use of these materials makes the biography even more personal. Adams becomes more than just an historical figure; he becomes a human being that I can relate to. (Except I’m not so concerned how I’ll be viewed in the eyes of history).
The most interesting aspect of the book is his (at times rocky) friendship with Thomas Jefferson. If you think politics is divisive today, you should take a look at the formation of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties in Adams’ time.
Rather than reading John Adams, sometimes I would listen to the audio version, narrated by Nelson Runger. I highly recommend it. Runger is a great narrator, who speaks clearly but lively.