“Jefferson’s advice on how to win friends and influence people did not have much appeal for a pugnacious John Adams.”

friendsdividedIt was an interesting and thoughtful discussion when the Brown Baggers met on Thursday, January 17 to discuss Gordon S. Wood’s book Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Friends Divided delves into the complicated friendship of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The dual biography examines the decades-long relationship between these two men who came from different upbringings and had contrasting personalities and political views. The book explores the falling out and then the reconciliation of the frenemies and how that helped shape our new nation.

Even though the book was lengthy, readers enjoyed learning about the two presidents. Some readers especially enjoyed the how the characters were described. More than one person mentioned that they learned a lot more about John Adams after reading the book- especially since many Brown Baggers grew up in Virginia and already knew the history and legacy of Thomas Jefferson.

Readers also discussed Abigail Adams and how she seemed to be ahead of her time, mainly by championing women’s rights and advising her husband, something that Martha Jefferson did not do. Some would have liked to have read more about the numerous letters written between Abigail and John Adams.

Most Brown Baggers liked Wood’s writing style, but felt that he became a bit repetitive, especially toward the end of the book, and readers would have appreciated a little more editing. Others said that the book was a little tedious to read, but upon reflection, benefited from reading about the similarities and differences between the men.

Brown Baggers also discussed how different Adams and Jefferson were politically- Adams favored a strong central government, while Jefferson was in favor of robust state rights. At the end of the discussion, one member wondered: how would Jefferson and Adams feel about today’s government, especially with the shutdown?

Books and Authors Mentioned
America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray
John Adams by David McCullough
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams, Margaret A. Hogan, editor (available at UVa)

Reviews, Articles, and Other Mentions
Interview with Gordon Wood on “Good Will Hunting”
Poggio A Caiano, Charlottesville’s Sister City
Kirkus Review
History of Currency in America
Adams Family Papers– includes full color digital images of the manuscripts and letters

The Brown Baggers will meet again on Thursday, February 21 at noon to discuss Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney.

About JMRL Central Reference

Librarians in the reference department at the Central Library of JMRL.

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