What was it really like to live through the American Revolution? John and Abigail Adams knew. Luckily, young readers have plenty of chances to rediscover this patriot pair across the years, and over many genres. Ranging from private letters to vivid biography and exciting mystery, here are a few books to enjoy—maybe with one of John’s favorite treats, a big mug of apple cider.
My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams eds. Margaret A. Hogan and C. James Taylor (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007)
Abigail and John Adams were often pulled part due to the pressing needs of public service. Their separation is our gain as historians; the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society holds over 1,200 letters that they exchanged. My Dearest Friend takes you behind the scenes of American history, with the Adamses as tour guides. State secrets, love letters, and more: This is a great introduction to one remarkable family’s role in shaping the nation at the moment when colonists became citizens.
The Education of John Adams by Richard B. Bernstein (Oxford University Press, 2020)
What was John Adams like as a young man, and how did his early education factor into his future? This deeply researched and beautifully written biography traces Adams’ first steps to Harvard and his subsequent path into practicing law. Readers will savor the clear, crisp narrative that makes the 18th-century courtoom come alive and accurately portrays Adams’ sense of justice.
Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober (Simon Pulse, 1998)
Who was Abigail Adams, and why did she write her famed “Remember the Ladies” letter? This fascinating biography dives into Abigail’s world, spotlighting her intellectual and political contributions. Minus the right to vote and other liberties, Abigail and other early American women still carved out new forms of citizenship to make their voices heard—then and now.
A View from Abroad: The Story of John and Abigail Adams in Europe by Jeanne E. Abrams (NYU Press, 2021)
One of the perks of working in the Adams Papers is armchair travel! Abigail and John spent time in London, Paris, and the Netherlands in the 1780s. All that wanderlust led them to explore foreign cultures and encounter new friends, as this book colorfully documents. While our travel plans may be on hold, this narrative of their adventures in Europe is a fun read.
The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton (Penguin Random House, 2009):
Murder! Mystery! And…Abigail Adams?! Yes, this fictional series features Abigail Adams as a brainy sleuth who solves crimes, fights for American independence, and raises her family with John. Readers meet some very real revolutionaries along the way, and get a taste of law and order in colonial streets.
Sara Georgini, Ph.D., is the Series Editor for The Papers of John Adams, part of The Adams Papers editorial project based at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Sara is the author of Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family (Oxford Univ. Press, 2019), and she writes about early American history for Smithsonian. Follow her on Twitter: @sarageorgini