Saturday, January 9, 2010

John Adams by David McCullough (Finally!)

From the Amazon product description: In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot -- "the colossus of independence," as Thomas Jefferson called him -- who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history. that product description one really long sentence? The book kind of had the same feel for me. It took me a year to read it. It was interesting enough and pleasing enough but it also kind of melted together into one long sentence. Whenever I put the book aside (which I did many times!) I had to go back and reread for awhile to get my bearings back in the story. And I could open to any page from almost the beginning and feel like I had never laid eyes on it even knowing I had read it before. I'm certain that is the result of my lack of knowledge of history - I don't have enough pegs to hang these thoughts on - my schema is incomplete. Hence I am persevering through the U.S President's Reading Project - to learn about America's history.

I liked what I learned about Adams; McCullough painted him in a very favorable light. One lesson that stuck out for me was to choose the right person for the job. Adams had a hand in choosing George Washington as general and Thomas Jefferson to draft the Constitution. Those two have gone on to eclipse Adams in fame but they got their opportunities with John Adams' help.

Another memorable part of the story was John Adams' unbelievable "to do" list. He probably wrote the list as he was en route to the Continental Congress in early 1776. It includes amazing items like form alliance with France and Spain, establish coin and currency, and "Declaration of Independency". Makes my "buy stamps, wash uniforms" look beyond mundane! But it highlights that knowing what needs to be done is a key to success whether you are forming a nation or managing a home. I'll be implementing this presidential skill in the Round File household.

I was also struck by the beauty of Adam's letters to others. It makes me regret that we rarely correspond any more outside of e-mail or Facebook. Our generations to come won't have those tidbits to reveal us to them. A passage from a letter to Thomas Jefferson late in life was especially appealing..

The little strength of mind and the considerable strength of body that I once possessed appear to be all gone, but while I breathe I shall be your friend.

Finally, a piece of trivia...Adams and Jefferson died on the same day, the 4th of July that was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. This was viewed by the people of that era as a sign from God that he supported their nation.

This is my third book for the U.S. President's Reading Project


bermudaonion said...

Wow, you've got more stick-to-it-ness than I do! I would never have stuck with a book that long. I don't think I'll pick this one up.

hokgardner said...

I have read everything McCullough has written, and I had trouble with this book, too. It was interesting, but definitely a long slog at times.

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

This has been on my personal "must read a biography of a famous person" for two years -- one of these days, one of these days!