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Publisher's Summary

Fred Kaplan, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Lincoln, returns with John Quincy Adams, an illuminating biography of one of the most overlooked presidents in American history - a leader of sweeping perspective whose progressive values helped shape the course of the nation. In this fresh and lively biography rich in literary analysis and new historical detail, Fred Kaplan brings into focus the dramatic life of John Quincy Adams - the little known and much misunderstood sixth president of the United States and the first son of John and Abigail Adams - and persuasively demonstrates how Adams's inspiring, progressive vision guided his life and helped shape the course of America.

Kaplan draws on a trove of unpublished archival material to trace Adams's evolution from his childhood during the Revolutionary War to his brilliant years as Secretary of State to his time in the White House and beyond. He examines Adams's myriad sides: the public and private man, the statesman and writer, the wise thinker and passionate advocate, the leading abolitionist and fervent federalist who believed strongly in both individual liberty and the government's role as an engine of progress and prosperity. In these ways - and in his energy, empathy, sharp intellect, and powerful gift with words both spoken and written - he was a predecessor of Lincoln and, later, FDR and Obama. Indeed, this sweeping biography makes clear how Adams's forward-thinking values, his definition of leadership, and his vision for the nation's future is as much about 21st-century America as it is about Adams's own time.

Meticulously researched and masterfully written, John Quincy Adams paints a rich portrait of this brilliant leader and his significance to the nation and our own lives.

©2014 Fred Kaplan (P)2014 Audible Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Destined by birth, mentored by greats...

I've been thoroughly enjoying my series on the founding fathers and although JQA isn't necessarily one of the founders, I found it necessary and natural to follow up David McCullough's book on JQA's father (Previously reading: Washington A Life, and Alexander Hamilton (both by Ron Chernow), Jefferson's War (Wheelan), Washington's Spies (Rose)). What I learned is that despite not technically being a founder, he was in the midst of it all and probably received more diverse mentorship from the founders than anyone else could have based solely off his father bringing him along to Europe.

JQA's experience begins in Europe during the revolution and culminates as a primary catalyst of the inevitable and long foreseen civil war; his was an inimitable place and presence in history.

This book only receives 4 stars because it seemed the author took too much liberty in the introduction with his analysis of JQA. Although he knows far more than me, he set a stage of political partisanship that is resolutely contradicted by his own writing in the book. I only felt this way with the introduction, but again, that set an undesired expectation. Also it seemed as if the author rushed through JQA's presidency preferring to focus on his upbringing (which is vitally important to understanding JQA) and his post presidency (which really cements his legacy). This may be do to the paucity of JQA's own writings at this time as he was extremely busy and also debilitated by old and new injuries to his writing hand.

Highly recommended!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Freshly retired 71 yr old lawyer

Fabulous review of the struggles of my nation, most relevant to the current struggles of our Republics decline. What a "stud" he was and what he sacrificed for his country is unsurpassed by the current thieves, cowards and semiliterates in Wash DC today. Doug

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Will be looking for a better John Quincy bio

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

This is a serviceable entry-level biography for John Quincy Adams, but I found myself constantly wishing for more context, more sophisticated political analysis, and some help placing John Quincy among his peers. Better insight into this man's relationship with the many, many other famous men and women with whom he worked and socialized could have given this biography depth and passion. Passion is a trait lacking in John Quincy's personality. His biographer, poor guy, must look elsewhere for it. Biography becomes merely a timeline unless someone -- if not the subject, then certainly the author -- provides passion and interest. Once I became convinced that the narrator was as bored as I was, I abandoned the audiobook. I will finish the biography, however. Then it's off to read another one. Kaplan's is wanting.

Would you be willing to try another book from Fred Kaplan? Why or why not?

No, I think I'm done with Kaplan. His style is a bit turgid for my taste. His sentence structure (which becomes something you notice when you listen to the audiobook) is repetitive and unimaginative. When there are presidential biographers like Jon Meacham working now, there's no need to suffer through these second-rate accounts.

What didn’t you like about Eric Martin’s performance?

As others have noted, he insists on pronouncing Adams' name "Quinzee." Mispronunciations abound, but when "Alien and Sedition" came out sounding like "Eelian and Sedition," I turned it off and returned it to audible. Thank goodness they have that option. I'm pretty tolerant, but this narrator drove me to distraction.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from John Quincy Adams?

One or two references to his sense of duty and a compulsion to perform whatever public job was next offered to him would have been enough. The insistence that John Quincy was compelled into public service makes him sound more robotic than he was. I also think there was not enough of an effort made to read between the lines in John Quincy's diary (kept daily for many decades). Surely John Quincy is not as opaque as he appeared to be under Kaplan's lens.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Excellent presidential biography

I loved everything. First: the material. An amazing man whose life story is presented in an interesting way. Second: the narrator's voice is mellifluous - not irritating.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great Book

I knew very little about John Quincy Adams and was delighted to find him a principled man who fought valiantly for democratic ideals. It seems he had the best interests of our nation and our ideals as his guiding philosophy. I was impressed by the many historically important people he met from the United States and Europe during his life.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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prepare for a stern zap brannigan to monologue

meh. the writers efforts are marked by a noted slant towards an atheistic/liberal rewriting of history. several words and phrases are used that had not been developed or used in that period of time that show a subversive bias through innuendo and creative labeling. but on the whole, history can be picked out as the bones are solid though the flesh is marred. worth the read, but less of the author for the inserted opinions without contrary opinions on interpretations of some historical facts and views, as some characters could not have held views that are expressed in this book without a broad interpretation. I would listen agian, but I've had enough of Zappa branigans voice.

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Stab my ears

I am struggling through this book purely because of the narrator. I listened to the John Adams biography by McCullough and wanted to follow up with John Q Adams since he spent so much time with his father and I wanted to hear about John A from his sons perspective. this narrator though! He sounds like a poor sad attempt at trying to emulate Mr. Smith from the Matrix. Some books can be made to sound good, this guy is not that guy. Not only should I get a refund, but audible should pay me for listening.

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The last of a great era, wonderful tribute

A great tribute to a great American. He needs to be remembered as one of the founding fathers.

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Interesting story of a lesser known president

Kaplan does a wonderful job of telling the story of one of America's lesser-known presidents. John Quincy Adams' life spans the period from the American revolution through the pre-Civil War period. In a world of rough and tumble politics Adams maintains a life of unflinching integrity, scholarship, and patriotism.

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An epic tale of an amazing life

Beautifully written history/biography of an extraordinary American and human being. Taylor cements John Quincy Adams into the pantheon of greatness that marked the early years of our country's founding Great read.