(Re-) Reading John Adams

I am in the process of re-reading John Adams by David McCullough, which I read when it first came out back in 2001. At the time, I thought it was the best presidential biography ever written, and it made John Adams one of my favorite presidents and one of my favorite historical figures.

Re-reading it 13 years later, I am delighted to find that my esteem for the book, and for Adams, is growing with every page. You often hear that question, “If you could talk to one person in all of history, who would it be?” answered with a fairly consistent set of people. But if I gave it some careful thought, I think being able to converse with John Adams would be a highlight of my life.

Of course, I can’t read this book without steeping myself in the American Revolution. Plans are already afoot to read a biography of Washington (I’ve never read one). But I also love how reading takes you on expected journeys. In Adams day, a lot of information was passed through the mail, often across on ocean. A letter written in Christmas might not be received until the following summer. And yet, it would find its way to its recipient. It’s made me curious about the history of mail, and I’m looking for books on that subject as well.

John Adams is one of those books that I find very difficult to put down, even for a few minutes. I’m very busy these days, so I am delighting in the time I spend reading the book. It’s one I highly recommend.


  1. You have probably already read it, but I highly recommend 1776. While not exactly a biography of George Washington, McCullough certainly delivers tremendous insight into his daring, and strength of character. Until listening to this book on audible I had no idea how close the colonies actually came to losing that thing. It couldn’t have been done without Washington, and, incidentally, John Adams. Thanks for all your great posts.

    1. Actually, I haven’t read 1776 yet, but I own it. I started it years ago and got side-tracked. I have to do some reading for my book review column when I finish my re-read of John Adams, but after that, I’m planning on reading Chernow’s biography of George Washington. And eventually, I’ll get back to 1776.


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