Monday, June 1, 2009

McCullough's Adams

I just finished David McCullough's John Adams, and it was an awesome read. I've been a book nerd my whole life and this was one of the best reads of my life. Despite the fact that it was huge and its sheer mass will turn some readers away, it more than repays those who are willing to invest the time in reading it.

Now I am personally convinced (after only reading this and 1776) that McCullough is one of our greatest living writers and I intend to real all of his books and I wish that he could live to three hundred and write a biography of every president and a history of every American war.

I want to point to two strengths of this book and McCullough in general. After reading this book I feel like I really know Adams. This is incredibly difficult for a writer to pull off. I have only really experienced this a few times and I read a lot of biographies, the only book comparable off the top of my head is George Marsden's biography of Jonathan Edwards. And I think that this is because McCullough is such a keen student of human nature and has the rare ability to communicate that understanding.

Second I loved that I was able to see Adams in all his human glory and shame. Unlike the presidential bio's I adored as a kid that presented the presidents as flawless heroes, here we see Adams as both vain and ambitious and simultaneously heroically sacrificial and loving and kind. This is something that we must always remember even our heroes are flawed fallen humans. This is very much in line with the Bible's presentation of man as both made in the image of God and as fallen sinner. Thank you Mr. McCullough.

PS - if there is a David McCullough fan club I would join it.

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