Saturday, April 24, 2004

John Adams in the 21st Century

I can’t recommend David McCullough’s John Adams enough. Really a wonderful vindication of popular sentiment what with 1.6 millions copies of it being sold in hardback. (This according to an article I recently read in The Wall Street Journal.) This bodes well, even if such exemplary reading on such a wide scale is an aberration. It’s a rare merging of fiercely intelligent writing that combines an understanding of its subjects particular place in the giddy history of the United States along with ample illustrations of the subjects particularities (of all the founding fathers, Adams seems the most human), familiar attachments (Abigail Adams, it should be noted, is the subtitle to any biography on John Adams, and McCullough brings her vividly to life) and friendships.

McCullough is near pitch-perfect throughout, but he really soars in the last 100 or so pages, where he details Adams’s long life after his Presidency, when he lived into his 90’s, dying on the same day as one of his closest friends, Thomas Jefferson- July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the founding of the country they both played such central roles in.

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