My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies

James Traub’s “John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit” was published in 2016, about three years after I read four other biographies of the sixth president. Traub is a journalist and author who has written for The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, The New York Post and Saturday Review. He is currently a Non-Resident Fellow at New York University.

Most readers will find this widely admired 537-page biography well-organized, engaging and uncommonly thoughtful. Traub’s writing is refreshingly straightforward with just enough erudition and depth to appeal to scholars – but without discouraging a wider audience. And while it does not quite rank among the most colorful or poetic of the presidential biographies I’ve read, it is not far off the mark.

The author clearly admires his subject and he takes advantage of Adams’s intrinsically fascinating life to write an excellent biography comprised of nearly equal parts…

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