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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

Currently reading

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking
Mike Rohde
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Jean H. Baker, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

First Family: Abigail and John Adams

First Family: Abigail and John Adams - Joseph J. Ellis

Before Bill and Hillary took to the White House, or Al and Tipper inspired Love Story, in a pre-Brangelina world (if one can imagine it), there was another power couple, John and Abigail Adams. 

This book is a portrait painted primarily through the letters between John and Abigail, with careful attention paid to the irony that we know the least about the times during which they were together. Luckily for us (not so much for the wife and kids), John's time was often dominated by his political duties and featured a lengthy (we're talking years) stint as a diplomat abroad. Thus, what Joseph J. Ellis calls the "paradox of proximity," isn't too much of a handicap. 


John and Abigail Adams

The tone and topics of their correspondence range from gag-worthy lovey-dovey lines during their courtship, to diatribes on the behind the scenes political dealings in France, and the occasional chastising word from Abigail re. John's shortcomings as a parent. Abigail's political and intellectual astuteness are of particular importance given John's resistance to party politics, and the tricky dynamics of internal governmental dealings when the position of vice president went to whoever came in second, and the appropriateness of the use of executive power to pick and choose and oust cabinet members was not yet clear. 

The trying melée and scandals of the young republic are all there. A line from Jim Butcher's Storm Front I came across seemed to fit well, "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face." Maybe there weren't any face-eating demons, but there was more than enough paranoia and betrayal to go around. In his twilight years, it seemed all too appropriate that John envisioned debating Franklin in the hereafter. However, the one who he most hoped to encounter once more was, of course, Abigail. 
Ben Franklin and John Adams

Despite the abundance of good material out there, I am not all that familiar with the other Adams-centric works. What I can say, is that this told what felt like a reasonably full story of the American Revolution (the Spirit of '76 and whatnot) and of the life and times of one of the nation's founding families.