Since it is near the annual 4th of July celebrations, you may want to spend some time with the founding fathers who made this day, among other great works, possible.
One excellent biography is John Adams by Dave McCullough who won the Pulitzer for his biography of President Truman, and he is twice winner of the National Book Award. According to SimonandSchuster.com, McCullough has been called a “master of the art of narrative history.” In other words, Dave paid close attention in history class while the rest of us snoozed!
John Adams is a historical figure that has been forgotten by history a lot. Did you know that Adams defended the British soldiers of the Boston Massacre? I didn’t either until this book was written. Adams has no monument in Washington, D.C., yet Adams was the one who argued for the creation of the Declaration of Independence, brokered a deal with France for their support, and secured funds for our start-up nation. However, when we think of the 4th of July and the founding fathers, we somehow often only think of Thomas Jefferson (Adams’ best friend) and Benjamin Franklin. McCullough, however, really brings life and public interest back to John Adam’s life.
This book may seem familiar to you because HBO made a mini-series of the same title based of McCullough’s book, and it brought a renewed wave of reader interest. Published in 2001, John Adams takes a look at, not just Adam’s life, but of his relationship with wife Abigail Adams, and her influence on his political life. McCullough shows how John and Abigail’s relationship was very unique during a time of arranged, and often loveless, marriages. According to McCullough, the love letters that survive between the Adamses could circle the globe. John Adams relied heavily on Abigail’s acute political knowledge, intelligence, and opinion. Interestingly, Abigail thought that a woman should hide how smart she is from the public because men were so threatened by it, but as the book tells us, she was fluent in Latin and French and well versed in literature and politics. By no means was it a perfect relationship, but McCullough gives us a realistic peek at their remarkable relationship.
I, for one, love reading biographies, but you don’t have like them in order to enjoy this book. Many readers dread the historical subject of biographies because they can be real snoozers! I know that I quit reading a biography on Gandhi after about 600 pages and wasn’t half way through it yet because it felt like each page was heavy as concrete. Not so with McCullough’s writing. His books, and John Adams is no exception, flow like novels.
Soon after reading John Adams, I visited New York City on the July 4th weekend, and as I was sailing on a boat on the Hudson River watching a fireworks display, I said a quiet thank you to John Adams. That may sound cheesy, but hey, I always cry during a fireworks display! You just might do the same after reading one of the easiest, most enjoyable historical biographies on the market, Dave McCullough’s John Adams.
Chavis is a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma. Read more about her at our Contributors page.