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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2002

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 Recorded Books, All Rights Reserved

Critic Reviews

"Brilliant...a winner." (Publishers Weekly)
"McCullough writes to be heard as well as read." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    75
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    64

Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Davis
  • San Pedro, CA, United States
  • 07-10-06

An outstanding biography

David McCullogh's biography of John Adams is an outstanding book about an outstanding man. This is one of the finest biographies I have read or listened to. By the end of the book I felt like I knew John Adams - both his outstanding strengths and his human frailties. I came away with a far better appreciation for Adams and his role in the birth of America than I had previously. The book also provides fascinating glimpses into the other strong personalities of the time, including Hamilton, Franklin and Washington, but most especially Jefferson. It is written beautifully and is so enjoyable to listen to that I was a bit sad when it ended. I strongly recommend this great work.

173 of 191 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Lip smacking good

This was an excellent book but almost ruined by the reader. Didn't anybody listen to him before they let him read? Lip smacking, gasping for breath, and swallowing are all art of the readers repertoire. I still listened to the entire book but just tried to ignore the poor quality reader.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The narrator needs a glass of water!

The story and writing were great! For the most part the narration was good too, but there were times when the narrator's mouth sounded so dry you could hear the crackling of a mouth in serious need of hydration or a break. Kind of grossed me out a couple of times!

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Story Amazing. Narrator Exasperating.

Where does John Adams rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

David McCullough is truly a gifted historian. It is absolutely refreshing how he makes these characters come so alive. Love, Love, Love anything he writes. The narration on this was more than I could handle. You can hear every breath the narrator takes and there seems to be times when he takes a sip of water...I went back and listened to other books and there is none of that. I can only assume the production of the book was not done well. Nelson Runger read well...just all those extraneous sounds were so very distracting!

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Gasping

I loved this story line! David McCullough writes history like few have ever been able. That being said, listening to the story as narrated by Nelson Runger boarders on the annoying. Unless one is driving at freeway speeds, you can hear his gasps, gulps and deep breaths. I'm sure these were to be edited out as one narrating a story must breath, but to have them present makes me cringe at every breath. Other than this oversight in editing this story is an amazing history of one of the great founding fathers of America, and does justice to a man seldom remembered by American history books

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Drinking and long pauses by narrator distract.

An outstanding tale with incredible details about the characters, places, and events that determined the story of the United States of America. I couldn't help but be annoyed by the narrators constant long pauses and audible drinking. Was there no way to edit those out?!

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Expectations on a Theme

The author has carved out his niche as an historical biographer of great skill, so it is reasonable to come to expect much from him; he does not fail to deliver in this book. Having said that, this book should be judged as a journey into the soul of the subject and not an adventure or a novel - it is not and was not intended to be an edge-of-the-seat experience.

The narrator does an excellent job of portraying the various characters with just enough inflection to make the transitions comfortable and while there may be some exposure of his breathing in the reading it is not irritating. It is obvious that the narrator was "in" to the story, and we can always appreciate that!

The book itself offers the listener an intimate perspective of the Adams in a way that you certainly will not find in a text book or in the standard biography. That John Adams was one of the individuals to place their hands upon history and influence the world is beyond question, and this book offers us the opportunity to drink deeply of the character of the man, giving a clear and unobstructed view of his motives.

In an era in which the actions of the founding fathers are often called into question or are intentionally recast with less than faithful attention to the facts it is all the more important to have works like this to set the record straight. McCullough has no axe to grind, and has held himself to the unusually high standards he adopted for his previous works.

If you are seeking knowledge and wish to understand an important man and important events from the past, this book is one you will regret not experiencing. If you are seeking to be constantly entertained and to have plot and subplot move in fluid motion, perhaps you will find Patrick O'Brian's historical fiction more to your liking.

I found the book to be engaging, easy to follow, and pleasant to listen to in small or large chunks, and I believe you will too. It earned the five stars it received from me.

69 of 85 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book. Swallowing sounds distracting

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Less swallowing between pauses.

Any additional comments?

John Adams by David McCullough is a great and thorough accounting of Adam's life and contribution to the formation of the U.S. The audiobook version is well performed, but you'd think the narrator's swallowing noises would have been edited out. They weren't great in number, but annoying nonetheless.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

More of our politicians should read this book!

What made the experience of listening to John Adams the most enjoyable?

The wonderful life experience of great man

What did you like best about this story?

The parallel established with Thomas Jefferson.

Which scene was your favorite?

The wonderful relation he shares with his wife, her support, his trust.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It is a bit long for that, but I was captivated and dedicated every free moment to hearing it!

Any additional comments?

A wonderful page of the making of the USA.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Better than fiction....

This is the rare history narrative doesn't rely on those dry-as-dust facts that were droned into our adolescent brains to ensure we never discovered the magic of history. This book is fascinating and informative.

There was no sense that McCullough took undue license as a historian in portraying the people of the time; every characterization was fleshed out with an amazing array of letters, love-notes, journals, documents and receipts.

I listened to the unabridged version but I would have enjoyed it more if it were even longer. In the end, I've untangled the screwy chronology I've had in my head regarding America's break from England and have a new admiration for the patriots of the time.

Whether a reader prefers fiction (for the love of a good story) or history this book will more than satisfy. Also, it was very well read.

54 of 68 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kirstine
  • 11-03-14

A great life that kept me listening

Having enjoyed listening to Benjamin Franklin’s biography (by Walter Isaacson) I chose this book to get a different slant on the birth of America as an independent country. John Adams wasn’t as colourful a character as the polymath Franklin, but he probably had a greater influence on the creation of the USA as one of the key men in writing the Declaration of Independence and in formulating the Constitution. An example, like Franklin, of a man from humble beginnings achieving greatness through his intelligence, hard work and courage. Adams dedicated his life to his country, but one has also to give much praise to Abigail, his devoted wife, who endured long absences by Adams as he travelled in Europe negotiating with the British, French and Dutch governments to try and bring peace and prosperity to his country.

While the book illustrates the epic history of the birth of a nation, it is enriched by the personal side of Adams’ life and his relationships with his family as well as with the famous people of his time. I’m often struck by the fact that the personalities and relationships among the main players quite often have a pivotal role in the direction of history. Much of the detail of these relationships is furnished by the copious amount of letters that have survived. I wonder will biographies of the future have this rich source of personal information with so much communication now being done by ephemeral e-mails and texts?

On tends to learn history at school from the point of view of ones own country so it it's educational to hear about the American War of Independence from the other side.

Though a long book the story is engaging and the narration excellent.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 08-01-18

Great story

The narrator took a bit of getting used to but in no time I loved how be portrayed each of the characters. Adams' story is amusing, annoying and full of colour and character.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ian
  • 02-17-16

Dayum

What made the experience of listening to John Adams the most enjoyable?

Nelson Runger has a really pleasing rustic voice. Good for colonial American history.

What did you like best about this story?

John Adams. What a great person to write a readable story about. He's unbelievably prolific in his writing and straight-forwardly opinionated on every topic.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

John and Tom's Magical English Garden Tour '86