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John Adams: A Life

4.9 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0945707141
ISBN-10: 0945707142
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historian Ferling presents the highly eventful life and times of the second president.

Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

John Adams will always fascinate historians, if only because he left so many introspective ruminations. Ferling, the biographer of George Washington ( The First of Men , LJ 8/88) masterfully reinterprets these and other writings. Ferling relies heavily on outstanding recent investigations of Adams's family, especially his wife Abigail. His solid, comprehensive, moving biography sees Adams as a "one-dimensional man" who sacrificed his family to a relentless pursuit of recognition and fame. "America's first great nationalist," the self-styled "John Yankee" could be petty, vain, self-centered, acerbic, and his social skills were extremely limited. He was not a military leader. But he drove himself with intellect and ambition to the front of the Revolution. Ferling emphasizes Adams's compuslive need for personal sacrifice as a substitute for military service. This is an outstanding biography; Adams will not have to be redone for this generation.
- Harry W. Fritz, Univ. of Montana, Missoula
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 535 pages
  • Publisher: American Political Biography Press (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0945707142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0945707141
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,096,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have been reading biographies of the founding fathers from Washington to Madison. I picked up this book knowing that Adams was the one that I, and most people, know the least about. Ferling brings this man to life to the point that I felt that I knew him personally more than any of the other bios I've read so far. I was amazed at how attached I became to this intense and profoundly intelligent person who is regrettably most remembered as a vain and awkward curmudgeon. Ferling's story is complete, covering the varied facets of Adams as farmer, lawyer, philosopher, negotiator, statesman, friend, husband and father. If John Adams is more of a mystery to you than the much celebrated likes of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Madison, then this is the book for you.
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Format: Paperback
Before reading this magnificent book, the only Adams biography I had read was Page Smith's two volume book and that is now quite dated. This book must now stand as the definitive Adams biography. Ferling paints a riveting portrait of this complex and misunderstood American hero. Adams is unfairly tossed off by the uninformed as a peripheral figure in the American Revolution, but this book shows clearly that Adams was an integral force throughout.
Ferling also takes great pains in illuminating Adams' amazing breadth of intellect and this a trait sometimes not associated with him. When one thinks about the intellectual titans among the Founding Fathers, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton generally come to mind. Add Adams to that list and the Father of the Constitution should remain on this lofty list for all time.
Many American Revolution buffs eschew Adams and toss him off as not as interesting, flamboyant or "essential" as the other leading players. I challenge them to read this biography, which shows Adams was not only extremely intelligent, but likable and thoroughly human. This is biography at its finest.
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Format: Paperback
As Richard Brookshire put it in his biography of Alexander Hamilton, it's really hard not to like John Adams. Ferling paints a great picture of why it's so hard not to like him. Adams was arrogant, brash, hot headed, aristocratic, etc. These are traits of our second president Ferling doesn't dance around. But on the other hand, Adams was also what we should all be, brutally honest, outgoing in spirit, unwavering in his beliefs,and probably the biggest thing I didn't know about Adams, madly and hopelessly in love with his wife and completely devoted to his family until his very last breath. Ferling doesn't kill us with unnecessary detail as is so common in historical biographies of the founding fathers. As Adams did, Ferling lays it out, and lets us be the judge. He states Adams' position on countless issues, right or wrong, and then allows the reader to pass the judgement. A fine work. Thank you Mr. Ferling.
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Format: Paperback
Several years ago, I was given "Truman", the award-winning biography about one of our most beloved presidents. I was fascinated by all of the behind the scenes details about some of the most important events in our history. It reminded me why I always loved history so much in the first place. I've since set out to read a biography of each of our U.S. presidents, from Washington to Clinton.
Of the half dozen I have read so far, Ferling's John Adams: A Life, may be the best. While Washington was revered, then and now, for his exploits in the Revolutionary War, it was Adams who had a hand in most of the behind the scenes events that made independence for the young country a reality. Adams is portrayed as he really was, warts and all. In addition, Ferling's detailed descriptions of some of the other Founding Fathers such as Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton and others help put John Adams in perspective, helping to explain why Adams has often been one of our most misunderstood presidents. Along with "Truman", simply the best biography I have ever read.
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By A Customer on September 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I read Ferling's biography of Adams after reading McCullough's John Adams. I was a bit disappointed with a few aspects, and thought reading Ferling would round out my knowledge of our second president. I wasn't disappointed. Ferling's masterly and scholarly work provides an outstanding insight into Adams, his activities, his motivations, and his relationship with his wife Abigail. In particular, Ferling pulls no punches in describing some of Adams' rather significant character flaws, particularly his burning ambition (and his subsequent abandonment of his family in pursuit of it). Richly footnoted, the work still remains THE biography of Adams, despite McCullough's recent work and its NY Times bestseller status.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a biography of John Adam's life from his birth in 1735 until his death on July 4th 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The date of John Adams death coincided almost to the hour with the death of Thomas Jefferson, a coincidence that is itself remarkable. This and numerous other events in his life are depicted in a clear, and interesting manner. The book is organized chronologically from Mr. Adam's early childhood thru the day of his death and is organized into the following five parts: Love of Fame, An Epocha in History, Safe and Glorious in the Harbour of Peace, One Man of Inflexible Integrity and I Still Live and Enjoy Life. The book contains a Preface, an Introduction, an Afterword, an Abbreviations Section, Notes, a Selected Biography Reference and an Index.
I found this book very interesting not only for the story of John Adam's life but also the historical period that is discussed in the telling of that story. The five-page introduction paints a concise picture of Early America and what life was like for men and women of that time. John Adams was the son of Puritan farmers and as the first son of the family was chosen as the only child to be provided an education due to the family's meager resources. Rather than being kept on the farm he was sent to local schools and then to college to become a Lawyer after his graduation from Harvard College. This opportunity gave him the ability to escape the more common lifelong rigor and manual labor of farming although he did own a farm with slaves and maintained a working farm for most of his life. He became quite successful as a Boston lawyer and this opportunity and his education provided us with one of the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution.
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