John Adams Books


Michael Benton, Contributor

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book john adamsIn 2001, historian David McCullough produced the most acclaimed modern John Adams book. This Adams book is the one that HBO converted into a highly successful TV miniseries in 2008. David McCullough's biography of John Adams was also made into a John Adams audiobook for listening. Books on John Adams go all the way back to 1850 when his grandson, Charles Francis Adams, began to publish a John Adams biography book called The Works of John Adams, Esq., Second President of the United States. Seven chapters of this book about John Adams were written by John Quincy Adams, his son and the sixth president of the United States. The rest of the chapters were completed by Charles Francis Adams who continued the political ambition of the family as a member of the House of Representatives and a failed candidate for the Vice Presidency of the United States. Seeing that Charles published so many books about John Adams, it is apparent that he depended on the political legacy of his grandfather, as well as his father, John Quincy Adams, to validate his own ambitions.

One of the few books written by John Adams was his work titled Novanglus; or, A History of the Dispute with America, From Its Origin, in 1754, to the Present Time. In this book, John Adams argued voraciously for the ability of the colonies to govern themselves and attacked the arguments of Daniel Leonard that the Parliament of Great Britain should have absolute control of the colonies. He also wrote and recorded such a large number of letters that many of these were compiled into John Adams books after his death. These include decades of letters between John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams as well as between him and Thomas Jefferson. There are also Abigail Adams books, the most famous of which was published by Woody Holton in 2010. The letters between Abigail and John were put together as a book titled Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail by their grandson, Charles Francis Adams. This Abigail Adams book demonstrated the influence and intelligence of the First Lady throughout the period of her husband's political ascendancy.

It is unknown which was John Adams favorite book, but we do know that he was an avid reader of the Enlightenment philosophers as well as his favorite Harvard science professor, John Winthrop. An earlier John Winthrop, one of the Puritan founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was also an influential writer of some of John Adams favorite books including an essay on liberty. As an attorney, a book John Adams read would certainly include legal decisions and arguments. He wrote many accounts of important events as well as impressions of significant people he encountered. He also recorded many cases and arguments in his diary so that he might consult them for ideas in future cases of his own. John Adams often placed reading among his favorite pleasures along with a tobacco pipe, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine and time with his family.