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Publisher's Summary

In this powerful, epic biography, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution. Adams thought, wrote, and spoke out for the "Great Cause" come what might; he traveled far and wide in all seasons and often at extreme risk; he rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; he was rightly celebrated for his integrity, and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and his marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the most moving love stories in American history.

Much about Adams' life will come as a surprise to many. His rocky relationship with friend and eventual archrival Thomas Jefferson, his courageous voyage on the frigate Boston in the winter of 1778 and his later trek over the Pyrenees are exploits few would have dared and that few listeners will ever forget.

McCullough's John Adams has the sweep and vitality of a great novel. This is history on a grand scale - an audiobook about politics, war, and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, it is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.

©2001 David McCullough (P)2001 Simon & Schuster, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Critic Reviews

  • Audie Award Winner, Non-Fiction (abridged), 2002
  • Pulitzer Prize Winner, Biography or Autobiography, 2002

"The portrait that emerges is altogether fascinating." ( "Brilliant...a winner." (Publishers Weekly) "McCullough writes to be heard as well as read." (AudioFile)

What members say

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  • Overall


great, book, and I loved the narration. Only qualm is I ended up buying full version, as there are huge gaps, which I you really want to understand the Adams-jefferson relationship, full length version is much better.

24 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Douglas
  • mission viejo, CA, USA
  • 09-20-03

Well Done

Listening to this book is the best encouragement to make an impulse buy from time to time. At a book store or library, I would normally avoid a biography on John Adams. But, given the ability to listen to this book, I impulsively downloaded it....and, I'm very happy I did! I was reminded of American history I had long since forgotten, and learned new and fascinating facts. The author does a wonderful job of keeping the reader/listener's ears glued to his MP3 player. I never realized how great a man John Adams was, and what a colorful life he led.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A must for US history buffs

It's a long book, but it kept my interest to the last sentence.

McCullough is a wonderful biographer/historian. Two of his previous books on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal were people-oriented histories; this is a history-oriented biography. It uses correspondence involving Adams, his wife Abigail, and several contemporaries who played a part in Adams's life to excellent effect. Both Adams and his wife were enthusiastic and thoughtful correspondents throughout their adult lives and McCullough knows how to mine this source to great effect.

The book handles all of the significant controversies in Adams's public and private life, and to this non-historian, does so quite even-handedly given that the biographer seems to truly like his subject. We are shown Adams's faults, but they are overwhelmed by his many virtues; his real self shines through the often-slanderous verbal fog created by his many enemies. In today's scholarship it sometimes appears that you have to be either for Adams or for Jefferson, but McCullough admires both and refuses to be drawn into that feckless enterprise.

It is a long book, but it could have been much longer and still held my rapt attention.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Donald
  • Arlington, VA, US
  • 04-29-08

Get the Unabridged

I started with the Unabridged, and when the incessant details of his correspondence with Abigail became tiresome, I downloaded the abridged version. Unfortunately, there were two sentences on the Brooklyn battle where Washington was defeated, whereas the Unabridged painted a much more vivid picture of this battle. I went back to the Unabridged and enjoyed it to the end.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • JT
  • 02-16-03

Impressive Work

Adams, his wife, children, and acquaintances wrote profusely giving a huge record to draw from. It is astounding how many sources McCullough, to create this work, pulls together.

The book also gives an insiders view at the negotiations of freedom and how close we came to losing it, even after barely winning the war. Adams, a very moral man, allows us another view of Jefferson, Franklin and others that proves to be very interesting.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mark
  • Scunthorpe, N/A, United Kingdom
  • 07-27-05

A wonderful and informative book

Before this I had never read a historical biography, but was drawn to the title by other's comments and the independence-related subject matter. Having now finished listening to the work, I can say that the author brings this individual and his time wonderfully to life and I would heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in the man or the period.

As one other reviewer comments, this IS the abridged version, though I am sure that when I bought it there was no unabridged version available. I do marvel at the length of the full version when I reflect back upon how complete this version sounded. I would recommend this abridged version, especially as you have to use two credits for the two volumes of the other version.

I liked the narration, apart from (and this is my sole gripe) the random generic female narrator's voice who replaces the normal male narrator at nonesensical intervals. Still, she is thankfully soon off the scene again and definitely in the minority versus her male counterpart. Nonetheless, this is certainly no reason NOT to recommend the book, it is just good to know...

More or less my entire knowledge of the revolutionary war and American history following it comes from this volume, since I am English and there is so much of our history that we unfortunately do not really get around to dealing with this episode in school. Bearing this in mind, I found the book to be an excellent resource for my purposes. Also, I have an American girlfriend, so I thought it was about time I was elevated from 'clueless' on the subject!!

To sum up - BUY IT. You won't regret it...

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

John Adams - Father of the Revolution

I listened to this book on a recommendation from a friend who read the book. I throughly enjoyed the writing style of David McCullough and his descriptions of our early history. I not only learned much about our history but also listened to the story like a novel. A must-read for anyone interested in the birth of the United States or anyone who likes a good novel.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

I wish I got the full version

Any additional comments?

I was not a fan of John Adams before reading this book. I've read biographies of Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington - and felt that Adams was an unlikable, boring character. But to my surprise, parts of this book had me balling my eyes out and by the time I finished it my opinion of JA did a complete 180. Together with Hamilton, he is now my favorite founding father. I learned much in this book that I did not know - for example, that JA tried to pass legislation in MA protecting religious freedom, that he was fiercely opposed to slavery and didn't buy into prevalent eugenics-type theories like Jefferson and others, that although he was ineffective in France (which I learned from reading Franklin's biography), he was ultimately right in his assessment that the war could only be won with naval assistance from France. I thought this audiobook was fascinating, and I regret getting this abridged version. I got the abridged version because I got the impression that JA was tedious, uptight, and boring - after reading this book I feel he was anything but!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • C. Telfair
  • Shepherdstown, WV, United States
  • 06-18-12

In this case, abridged is OK

This is about the only abridgment I would ever recommend of any book I've listened to on Audible. Edward Herrmann does a wonderful job, and the original work is so very long (even for McCollough) that a shorter version is actually preferable.
John Adams was a fascinating man with an extraordinary wife and family. He has been overshadowed by the fame of Washington and Jefferson, perhaps unfairly. This is a very informative and entertaining account of his life and his importance in American history. A great biography!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Edgar
  • Warren, NJ, USA
  • 01-09-05

You will not be disappointed

David McCullough does a tremendous job in bringing back to life such a wonderful individual who would later become the President of the United States. John Adams was much more of a pivotal figure in the founding of our great country than I have ever imagined. I particulary liked how the author delved into Adam's personal life, thoughts, letters, and relationships. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish and if anyone has the smallest of interest in history, you will certainly enjoy this book. I highly recommend it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful