John Adams, by David McCullough

Before I read this biography, most of my knowledge about John and Abigail Adams came from the movie 1776 because my mom made my brother and me watch it every 4th of July.  She raised nerds, for sure and if she did nothing else for us, I thank her for that because I love being a nerd.  Anyway, once I was able to stop singing show tunes every time I picked up this book, I felt like a got not only an education in the life of John Adams but also of the history and political climate of the times in which he lived.

John Adams has always been one of my favorite Founding Fathers (probably partly because I imagine John to look something like Mr. Feeney from Boy Meets World).  But this biography cemented my love and awe for the Adamses.  The author did a fantastic job of making the reader feel like she truly knew our second president and what his motivations were. 

There’s so much to admire about Adams.  He was one of the most well-read men of his time and was a great writer and orator.  He worked persistently in the face of vicious attacks from friends and enemies.  I mean, basically his entire cabinet was secretly out to get him.  I can’t even imagine how he got anything accomplished!  He truly was brilliant. 

He had so much integrity.  He was an independent thinker and wasn’t interested in getting involved in bashing his opponents or becoming involved in party politics.  He was his own man and he wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was or make unpopular decisions.  He didn’t shy away from confrontation, but met it head on.  He kept America from becoming involved in a pointless war even though at the time it would have been a popular decision. 

He loved his family–especially his wife–and their relationship was one of love and mutual respect.  They wouldn’t see each other for years on end, but they kept it together which just amazes me.  He truly trusted her and valued her opinion.

He wasn’t afraid to forgive and forget and he rekindled his friendship with Jefferson who at one time was basically his archrival.  I mean, Jefferson was a huge backstabber.  He actually PAID people to write lies and slanderous crap about Adams in the papers.  But Adams was able to be the bigger man and let bygones be bygones.  I can’t imagine a politician from today doing that, but Adams was able to.

He was by no means a perfect person, but it is just completely awe-inspiring to learn about all of the things he did that had such a major impact on the founding of America and continue to have an influence on America today.  

I’d recommend this book to anyone.  The subject matter and the writing are just THAT good.  It read more like a novel than a biography.  I can only hope to find more biographies that are this well done as I continue this Presidential Challenge.

Abigail & John: Portrait of a Marriage, by Edith Gelles 

I can finally say that my second president is in the books for the Presidential Challenge. This book was not easy for me to get through, but I am so glad that I did.

Before I knew much about John and Abigail Adams, I knew that they sent letters to each other throughout their marriage. I immediately loved the romanticism in writing letters to your significant other. What I didn’t realize was that the quantity of letters they wrote to one another was based on necessity. If they wanted to maintain their marriage while John traveled for decades during their relationship, letters were the only way for them to do so. I can’t imagine living without my husband or father as much as the Adamses did and then when I think about the available outlets of communication then and now it just seems impossible. The Adams made it work though and it wasn’t always easy. 

I really enjoyed reading about John Adams’ time abroad in the Netherlands, London and Paris. I think of the amazing education and experiences his son was provided by accompanying him overseas. When Abigail and his daughter, Nabby, were finally able to join John and John Quincy in Paris, I thought it was fascinating to read Abigail’s letters documenting that time. She had similar fears and anxiety in being in a foreign country that I believe are still faced by people today. I was heartbroken for John and Abigail when he did not win his second term as president. I felt as if he had given up so much of his life to see the United States as a successful country and that his time as a public official was cut short. 

John and Abigail Adams really have quite the history together and the thing that always held each of them together individually was each other. It was wonderful to see a couple to support each other through some of the most difficult and rewarding periods of their lives.

While I found their story to be fascinating, I wasn’t really a fan of the writing in this book. I found it to be repetitive and the flow between narrative and quotations from the letters didn’t read smoothly at times. Even though I did not particularly enjoy the writing, I feel as if there was great quality, historical information in this book and I am happy to have some insight on our second president and first lady.

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