Learn: Selected Books

John and Abigail Adams

John Adams, the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by David McCullough, captured Adams’s invincible personality while also increasing public awareness of his vast contributions to American democracy.

John Adams: Party of One, by James Grant, is a multifaceted portrait examining the complex and often contradictory character of our second president.

Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, by John Ferling, chronicles a rancorous presidential election marked by partisan bitterness and political dirty tricks are as old as the Republic.

There are several excellent biographies of Abigail Adams, including titles by Lynne Withey, Natalie S. Bober, Phyllis Lee Levin, Edith B. Gelles, and John P. Kaminski.

First Family: Abigail and John Adams, by Joseph Ellis, is a biography and a love story that explores the couple’s legendary partnership. Ellis also wrote Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams.

My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail Adams and John Adams, edited by Margaret A. Hogan and C. James Taylor, provides what the New York Times called “an extraordinarily personal view of our country’s founding.”

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, by journalist Cokie Roberts, offers portraits of the women who influenced the Founding Fathers, including Abigail Adams.

John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life, by Paul C. Nagel, contrasts Adams’s many accomplishments with his difficult personality and disappointing family relationships. It draws heavily on the personal diary John Quincy kept for most of his life.

John Quincy Adams, by Lynn Hudson Parsons, recounts its subject’s long career as a diplomat and elected leader and his contributions as a scholar, poet, and patron of the sciences.

Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade, by Joseph Wheelan, and The Life and Times of Congressman John Quincy Adams, by Leonard L. Richards, focus on John Quincy’s  influential career in Congress after his one-term presidency.

Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon, by Michael O’Brien, documents the daring trek across Europe that Louisa Catherine Adams made in 1815 to join her husband in Paris.

Henry and Clover Adams

The Education of Henry Adams, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919, is still considered a masterpiece of autobiography. Click here to learn more.

A Biography of Henry Adams, by Edward Chalfant, was described by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. as “the life of Henry Adams for this generation … a first-class historical biography.”

The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends, 1880-1918, by Patricia O’Toole, recreates the glittering Washington social circle that sprang up around Henry and Clover Adams and three close friends.

The Four Generations

The Adams Chronicles: Four Generations of Greatness, by Jack Shepherd, was first published in 1975 for the 200th anniversary of America’s independence.

Descent from Glory: Four Generations of the John Adams Family
, by Paul C. Nagel, examines the extraordinary multigenerational legacy of the Adams family.