This is a truly dull book. The author appears to be so excited to be using John Q. Adams’ manuscript diary that he has written more of a biography of the diary than of the man. The book sinks under the weight of trivia, as the author makes no effort to establish the significance of Adams’ daily activities and thoughts. Rather than analysis of the writings and actions of Adams, we get endless detail on what Adams ate, how much he paid for furniture, his opinion on flannel underwear, his hemorrhoids [seriously]. The author admits that Adams’ repetitious self-doubt can get tedious, and then goes ahead and quotes these passages over and over. The villain of this book is Abigail Adams, portrayed here as an early American “Mommie Dearest.” Nagel mentions books and essays by Adams, but does not quote from them, let alone unpack their significance. He states that Adams was a superb translator, but does not bother to give a single example of this skill. Here is a book on one of the finest intellects in early 19th-century America, and the reader will come away with the impression that Adams was shallow, self-involved, selfish, and rather annoying. It is little wonder that the narrator of this audio book often sounds bored.
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