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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Audiobook Review: John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel
Unabridged, 18 hr. 48 min.
Blackstone Audio, Inc
Jeff Riggenbach (Narrator)
October 8, 2009
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Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography

Source: Downloaded audio from my local library
“John Quincy Adams was raised, educated, and groomed to be President, following in the footsteps of his father, John. At fourteen he was secretary to the Minister to Russia and, later, was himself Minister to the Netherlands and Prussia. He was U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and then President for one ill-fated term. His private life showed a parallel descent. He was a poet, writer, critic, and Professor of Oratory at Harvard. He married a talented and engaging Southerner, but two of his three sons were disappointments. This polymath and troubled man, caught up in both a democratic age not to his understanding and the furies of passion, was an American lion in winter.”
John Quincy Adams is one of the presidents that we learn about in school mostly under the preface of “he was the son of John Adams” and his failure of a presidency and time spent as a Congressman are sometimes highlighted. One aspect that we are almost never treated to is his private life, interactions with his parents, his wife, and his children. Paul C. Nagel sets out to provide us with an insight into Adams private life as well as feature his public life. There is a nice preface to the book where Nagel spell out exactly what he sets out to do any why – the why is the part you almost never get and it was a nice touch.

The first thing that I enjoyed about this book was the fact that the author frequently refers to John Quincy Adams as JQA – which made me feel like we were in-sync because that is what I always refer to his as too! This book also really made me feel for JQA as a person. I sort of felt bad for him – he wanted a left very different than that which he led. He wanted to be a writer and would much rather have been left to his rhetoric and learning than to be pushed into politics.

We also get to see a much more personable side to one who is always portrayed as a cold person. We see a loving relationship with his wife, Louisa, which is not common in other sources and the relationship feels more real. We see how his relationship with his mother was contentious, at best, as she was always sticking her nose into his life and pushing him to be what she wanted.

The author did a great job and portraying JQA as someone that was flawed but could still be admired and brought a personable portrayal that was long overdue.


I don’t have much to say about the narration of the audio – it was standard reading – nothing flowery etc. Not bad but not exciting either.

You can listen to a sample from the audio below (links to Audible).

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Reviews of this book by other bloggers: 

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Paul C Nagel:

the adams women
The Adams Women

descent from glory
Descent from Glory

the lees of virginia
The Lees of Virginia

this sacred trust
This Sacred Trust

one nation idivisible
One Nation Indivisible

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court  


  1. I liked this book as well (my thought: http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=88).

    I also liked the way Nagle referred to the the President as JQA and found the rest of the narrative extremely readable.

    1. It certainly was very readable and I loved getting to know him more on a personal side rather than just the cold person.

  2. I also refer to John and Abigail's eldest son as JQA and I share your opinion of Nagel's biography. I perform a solo history - John Quincy Adams: A Spirit Unconquerable! My focus is on the last decade of JQA's extraordinary life. He is one of four New England Characters I present. See: www.crankyyankees.net
    I also have a blog at that site. Thanks for your interest and devotion to our history.

    1. How cool! I will be sure to stop by the side and check it out!

  3. The subject is absolutely new to me so I'd like to read about it.

  4. I've often thought of reading this book but never got to it. I'm not very interested in politics and politicians but people like JQA do fascinate me. Be sure to stop by and sign up for the giveaway I'm hosting for Non-Fiction Non-Memoir challenge participants: http://bookretreat.blogspot.com/2012/04/non-fiction-non-memoir-reading.html

    1. I'm not all that interested in politics either, but I do love reading about the presidents and first ladies.


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