The Half Price Books Humble book club read John Adams by David McCullough this month. We discussed it together Monday night, even though I had only read the first 400 pages. The best thing about holidays, for me, though is their ability to mandate what gets read off the TBR pile next. So this week, as I researched for book club, lounged with family, watched fireworks, and read to the kiddo… this is what freedom looked like:
Title: John Adams
Author: David McCullough
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 751 pages
1001 and one things to discuss about this book, and we mostly got caught up in the assessment of the character of John Adams. Was he an ambitious man willing to run off from the family and farm at a moments notice to pursue more exciting ventures of fame? Or, was he a great man of virtue who was gifted with the sight of the big picture, willing to sacrifice personal happiness for the greater good of the establishment of our country? Before reading the book, considering my skepticism regarding ALL politicians, I probably would have said the former. But McCullough has me convinced it was the latter that held true.
Of course, I am biased, mostly by the sheer fact that Adams was a great reader. Nothing romanticizes a person more to me than their love for a good book, for the art of research, and for a passion for knowledge and action. Several times throughout the biography, Adams is quoted saying such excellent things as,
“I must judge for myself, but how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened by reading.”
Where others in the group found him willing to cast aside his wife and children for politics, I found him endearing. He wrote to his wife avidly. He and Abigail would often refer to each other as ‘dearest friend,’ and their relationship seemed to be what kept him grounded and successful. In addition to that, it also seemed that any chance he had to take his children with him, he did. Off sailing across the pond to Europe, the boys equipped with an educated father and a personal tutor, they got first hand experience seeing how nations make peace and build relationships. Sure, Adams renounced his son Charles later in life and that relationship was never rebuilt before Charles’ death, but in my opinion Charles did not deserve anymore second chances. Charles, the favorite as a child, turned out to be the bad seed in the bunch – possibly spoiled by being the favorite to so many – as he turned to alcoholism and abandoned his family. It was John and Abigail who raised his children and looked after his wife, leaving their own son to his own devices as they tried to do right by all his mistakes.
John Adams was quite the fascinating man, one I have, until now, always overlooked in history. Having shared a birthday with George Washington my whole life, he always got my ‘favorite’ vote as a child. As an adult, the Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaoron Burr phenomena fascinated me – mostly driven by that infamous ‘Got Milk’ ad as well as Joseph Ellis’ riveting storytelling in Founding Brothers. It wasn’t until reading McCullough’s version of Adams life that I really began to understand what a crucial role Adams played in the timing of the Declaration of Independence and all the aftermath of our fight for freedom. And of course, timing is everything.
With all this important political talk, I found it necessary to re-read the Declaration. With toddler in tow for nearly all my reading ventures, it’s important to find kid friendly things to read alongside all my own reading. That’s where Sam Fink comes in handy…
Illustrated & Inscribed: Sam Fink
Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction
Length: 160 pages (but only takes about 15 minutes to read aloud)
I absolutely adore this copy of the Declaration of Independence. As a homeschool mom, I love creating my own curriculum and finding unique ways to share information with my kid. Kiddos everywhere, whether homeschooled or public schooled, should find this a fun way to absorb the meaning behind the declaration and be introduced to the ideas of why it was so important for it to be made and signed.
With large print, clear illustrations, and political cartoons to accompany nearly every sentence – if not sentence fragment – Fink helps walk a kid (and even some adults) through every nuance of our founding fathers’ meaning and intention. If read often enough, you may find you have a kid who has memorized the declaration long before they are ever asked to do so for school purposes. This is just a good old fashioned fun picture book that just so happens to also be an important document to our country’s history. Sam Fink is pretty awesome and I am so glad he tackled this project.
In addition to all that,
Title: George III
Author: Christopher Hibbert
I’ve been plucking through a biography of King George III for awhile now. It’s been loitering on my TBR pile and periodically I get the bug to read a chapter or two.
I am no where near finished reading this book, Hibbert is very detailed but also very dry as a biographer, but I find it a handy reference and do look forward to the times that I decide to sit down with it.
I like having large sweeping views of history as well as the tiny details. Reading through John Adams and peeking here and there at George III this week, I was grateful to have already tackled Napoleon’s Wars recently. It helped me keep straight in my mind what was happening with the French while a few of the Adamses friends were busy getting beheaded. Another handy tool for both children and adults while reading through history is The Time Chart of History of the World. I don’t take a step into non-fiction without it.