• John Quincy Adams

  • A Public Life, A Private Life
  • By: Paul C. Nagel
  • Narrated by: Jeff Riggenbach
  • Length: 18 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-08-09
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • 4 out of 5 stars 4.2 (163 ratings)

Regular price: $31.47

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Publisher's Summary

A United States minister, senator, president, and congressman in turn, John Quincy Adams was one of the most prevalent and dedicated Americans in history. Drawing from Adams' 70-year diary, author Paul Nagel probes deeply into the psyche of this cantankerous, misanthropic, erudite, hardworking son of a former president whose remarkable career spanned so many offices. We learn about his passionate marriage to Louisa Johnson, his personal tragedies, including two sons lost to alcoholism, his recurring depression, exasperating behavior, and brilliant diplomacy. We see his frustration with the political life and the pleasure he drew from being a poet, critic, translator, essayist, botanist, and professor of oratory at Harvard. Nagel's great achievement, in this first biography of America's sixth president in a quarter century, is to finally portray Adams in all his talent and complexity.
©1997 Paul C. Nagel (P)1999 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"An excellent book...Jeff Riggenbach beautifully narrates the story as interesting, vital historical biography....His inflections and vocal shadings urge you to listen further and to really appreciate this most accomplished public servant." ( AudioFile)
"With this excellent biography...Nagel focuses more on the private Adams, utilizing diary entries to provide keen insight into this extraordinary man....The result is a fascinating psychobiography. Highly recommended for all libraries." ( Library Journal)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By James on 05-16-10

Good Book, Narrow Focus

This biography by Nagel provides the reader with more of a character study of Adams than an historical biography. This is not a problem as long as you are expecting a biography focused more upon Adams' lengthy diary entries as opposed to a more objective analysis of Adams.

While this book had decent narration and production values, it is unlikely to enchant readers who do not already have an interest in John Quincey Adams.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By Michael Bellesiles on 02-24-11


This is a truly dull book. The author appears to be so excited to be using John Q. Adams’ manuscript diary that he has written more of a biography of the diary than of the man. The book sinks under the weight of trivia, as the author makes no effort to establish the significance of Adams’ daily activities and thoughts. Rather than analysis of the writings and actions of Adams, we get endless detail on what Adams ate, how much he paid for furniture, his opinion on flannel underwear, his hemorrhoids [seriously]. The author admits that Adams’ repetitious self-doubt can get tedious, and then goes ahead and quotes these passages over and over. The villain of this book is Abigail Adams, portrayed here as an early American “Mommie Dearest.” Nagel mentions books and essays by Adams, but does not quote from them, let alone unpack their significance. He states that Adams was a superb translator, but does not bother to give a single example of this skill. Here is a book on one of the finest intellects in early 19th-century America, and the reader will come away with the impression that Adams was shallow, self-involved, selfish, and rather annoying. It is little wonder that the narrator of this audio book often sounds bored.

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10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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