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John Adams: Party of One 1st Edition

20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0374113148
ISBN-10: 0374113149
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This new biography by Grant, who has written previously on financial history (Money of the Mind), gives us John Adams's life in vivid detail. In his New England childhood, the amorous and "bookish" Adams grew up in a four-room farmhouse, the eldest of three children—"by prevailing standards of fertility, almost an only child." The heart of the book chronicles Adams's involvement in the Revolution, from his early praise of the Boston Tea Party through his stint as postwar diplomat in France. His presidency seems almost an afterthought, with almost as much space devoted to fleshing out the details of his narrow victory . One might have liked a richer depiction of Adams's friendship, falling out, rapprochement, and brilliant correspondence with Jefferson. But if that storied friendship gets short shrift, Adams's personal thoughts about wealth, and his worries about luxury corrupting the American republic, are afforded just the sort of detail one expects from a writer with Grant's financial acumen. He ably joins the shelves of recent books on the founding fathers. For Grant's sake, one hopes that David McCullough whetted, rather than sated appetites. If this biography is not quite as grand as McCullough's, it is every bit as eloquent and deserves a wide reading. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

In the current Adams revival, the second president comes in three sizes: large (John Adams, by David McCullough, 2001); medium (Grant's volume); and small (John Adams, by John Diggins, 2003). The latter concentrated on Adams' contentious presidency, so those desiring the full Adams in half McCullough's length will choose Grant. A financial journalist, Grant astutely appraises one of Adams' unsung achievements--arranging foreign loans that financed the War of Independence; indeed, Adams' 10 years as a diplomat (1778-88) strike the author as his subject's signal contribution to the American Revolution. Grant is less admiring when it comes to Adams' personality, conditioning his praise with amusing asides about Adams' social and political gaucheries. As the book's subtitle implies, Adams was little influenced by opinions about him: he was a libertarian, not a democrat. Grant is excellent at developing Adams' devotion to liberty, honed by British policies that affronted him and turned him into a revolutionary. In Grant's fine synthesis, Adams on the page is the pious, ambitious, and loving man he was in life. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (March 16, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374113149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374113148
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,301,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Grant, financial journalist and historian, is the founder and editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, a twice-monthly journal of the investment markets. His new book, The Forgotten Depression, 1921: the Crash that Cured Itself, a history of America's last governmentally unmedicated business-cycle downturn, won the 2015 Hayek Prize of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

Among his other books on finance and financial history are Bernard M. Baruch: The Adventures of a Wall Street Legend (Simon & Schuster, 1983), Money of the Mind (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992), Minding Mr. Market (Farrar, Straus, 1993), The Trouble with Prosperity (Times Books, 1996), and Mr. Market Miscalculates (Axios Press, 2008).

He is, in addition, the author of a pair of political biographies: John Adams: Party of One, a life of the second president of the United States (Farrar, Straus, 2005) and Mr. Speaker! The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed, the Man Who Broke the Filibuster (Simon & Schuster, 2011).

Mr. Grant's television appearances include "60 Minutes," "The Charlie Rose Show," "CBS Evening News," and a 10-year stint on "Wall Street Week". His journalism has appeared in a variety of periodicals, including the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affair. He contributed an essay to the Sixth Edition of Graham and Dodd's Security Analysis (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

Mr. Grant, a former Navy gunner's mate, is a Phi Beta Kappa alumnus of Indiana University. He earned a master's degree in international relations from Columbia University and began his career in journalism in 1972, at the Baltimore Sun. He joined the staff of Barron's in 1975 where he originated the "Current Yield" column. He is a trustee of the New York Historical Society. He and his wife, Patricia Kavanagh M.D., live in Brooklyn. They are the parents of four grown children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful By David J. Gannon on March 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
John Adams is going through a bit of a revival these days-a development about which he no doubt would be both pleased and puzzled. This is the third Adams biography I have read in the past year, also taking in the recent books by John Diggins and David McCullough.

All three books give Adams his due-something largely denied him in his own time. They capture the iconoclastic nature of his personality as well as his intellectual power and accomplishments. Diggins focuses on Adam's Presidency, so his narrative is somewhat restricted, and , in fact, his style is as well. McCullough on the other hand is his devilishly detailed self, sometimes to the extent of burdening the reader with more than he cares-or needs-to really know about things incredibly trivial and marginal to the story at hand.

For my money, this biography by Grant is the best produced so far. I believe it does the best job of truly capturing the essence of Adams-his powers, his struggles, his insecurities, as well as capturing the total picture of both his personal and professional lives.

At 530 pages, the book is expansive enough for the true historical aficionado without becoming tedious to the more casual historical reader. Moreover, grant is more oft able to put forward a fresher, more energetic view than is the more plodding and cumbersome McCullough.

In the end, once one has finished the book, it's truly hard not to admire Adams for his accomplishments and his truly unique story. At the same time, it's also hard not to admire Mr. grant for finally putting out such a spectacular biography for a man who truly deserved one.

An excellent book through and through.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Phillips on May 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Over the last decade or so there has been a great revival of interest in John Adams and a corresponding positive reevaluation of his accomplishments. Much of this renewed popular interest in our second president has been due to David McCullough's best selling biography and it is therefore hard not to compare this work to Mr. McCullough's excellent tome. Doing so would reveal that the McCullough book is more folksy, easier to read and gives the reader a much more warm feeling toward Mr. Adams while Mr. Grant is much more to the point, academic and does not hesitate to point out his subject's flaws.

John Adams' most notable fault, besides his well-known ego and stubbornness is his virulent anti-Catholicism which is notably absent from other biographies. The loathing he feels for all things Catholic is by no means an attractive feature of Adams' personality and Mr. Grant is to be commended for not glossing over this blot on the Adams legacy. While this kind of bigotry was by no means unusual for those times, especially in Puritan New England, a man of Adams' stature and intelligence should have risen above such sentiments.

Otherwise, Grant paints a very engaging picture of Adams, a man who in most respects I can relate to in many ways. Like Adams, I am most happy at home surrounded by my books and this love of books is a distinguishing trait of Adams' personality. As is his love for the simple life of a farmer, a trait that Grant brings to life with a story from London. It seems that during Adams' time as Minister to the Court of St. James someone noticed the diplomat walking along with his head down in what the observer took to be a state of deep thought.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By R. B. Bernstein on April 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
One might not expect a veteran economic journalist to produce one of the best biographies of John Adams ever written. But JOHN ADAMS: PARTY OF ONE defies expectations again and again, just as John Adams did. Written with clarity and grace, with respect for the primary sources and the existing historical and biographical scholarship on Adams and his time, JOHN ADAMS: PARTY OF ONE is an excellent study of its subject. Grant is particularly astute in his analysis of a focus of Adams's diplomatic activities during the 1780s -- his negotiations and renegotiations of the many loans that helped finance the new nation's quest for independence and its struggles to survive in the community of nations. Grant's dubbing of Adams as "America's premier junk bond salesman" is both funny and precise. The main advantages that Grant's book has over that by McCullough are that Grant's book is shorter, clearer, not at all filled with its own importance, and willing to take John Adams seriously both as a politician and a political thinker. Grant is willing to do the hard intellectual and writing work to convey to general readers the context of Adams's thought, the substance of his ideas, and the differences between his political philosophy and those of his contemporaries, including Jefferson and Paine. Even if you invested in McCullough's tome, buy and read this book. It is one of the best books on its subject ever written, having a great deal to say to general readers and to scholars alike.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Samuel B. White on September 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
James Grant has written one of the most readable biographies I have ever come across. I was never interested in John Adams before (why I'm not sure) and even tended to make light of him in my own novel (if in no other way than that he only slightly appears), but a friend of mine is a big fan of Adams and when I saw this book, it seemed a good chance to spark conversation with him.

Rather than rehash what has been said by other reviewers, I want to commend Grant for placing his historical comments in context. Rather than trying to explain Adams from a 21st century perspective while pretending not to, when Grant injects a 21st century persective (i.e. Adams' stand on slavery or his "progression of faith") he says so within the text. This, I thought, was a more honest way for him to make such comparisons than is found in so many modern writings.

Grant is also an expert on finances and he made the fiscal problems of the Revolutionary era interesting in a way it never had been for me before. An excellent book!
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