Wednesday, January 20, 2010

McCullough, David (John Adams)

At 651 pages, plus notes, references, reading group guide and interview with the author, there was no way I was going to read this book on my own. Thank heavens for book club and deadlines. I feel as if I ate and slept Mr. John Adams-- and it was a great meal and a restful sleep.

A Pulitzer prize-winning biography should be descriptive, factually correct, entertaining, illuminating and, as often as possible, surprising. (I just made up those criteria, you can make up your own.) Boy, does this one have all those in spades. My favorite parts...

Descriptive: The love affair between John and Abigail was stupendous in its quantity and quality. McCullough gives you more than a flavor for it and leaves you wanting more.
Factually correct: This one, of them all, I have to take on faith. Still, if I were an author and I listed 100 pages of notes and references, I think I'm saying "c'mon, try me, I dare ya."
Entertaining: Time! When Adams was overseas and asking to be discharged from his role as plenipotentiary to France (or the Netherlands or England), it took months and months and months for him to learn what Congress thought of that idea. Not to get an answer! Just to know if they were listening. I am counting my blessings this very second.
Illuminating: Party politics suck. Not that we're not well aware of that in this day and age, but from the moment Washington took office and while fledgling America was warding off both Britain and France, we took time to play the "I'm right, you're wrong, because you're a Federalist/Republican" game.
Surprising: Jefferson, Franklin and Hamilton were douches (in the words of one of my book club members)! Adams' bedrock character was far and away the one I personally want to emulate. The other three are pathetic.

As if you can't tell, I think this is one of the best non-fiction books I've read. You will too.

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