This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse the book matches here.
John Adams by David McCullough: "In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot -- 'the colossus of independence,' as Thomas Jefferson called him -- who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as 'out of his senses'; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history."
Books similar to John Adams by David McCullough include other biographies of famous people, or perhaps books set in that time/place. Here is a selection of possibilities:
1776 by David McCullough
Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known. But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost -- Washington, who had never before led an army in battle. (Catalog summary)
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller
Fuller's memoir of a childhood dominated by the Rhodesian civil war of 1971-1979 captures the fascinating life of a white family living in one of the most remote regions of Africa.
Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts
What the "Revolutionary" women accomplished both on their own and through their husbands is truly remarkable. An excellent writer, Cokie Roberts brings them to life and makes them real and most interesting.
His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
Drawing from the newly catalogued Washington papers at the University of Virginia, the author paints a full portrait of Washington's life and career in the context of eighteenth-century America, richly detailing his private life and illustrating the ways in which it influenced his public persona.
Other recommended histories of America:
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
"...eloquent, fully documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century...Using council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions, Brown allows the great chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes to tell us in their own words of the battles, massacres, and broken treaties that finally left them demoralized and defeated. A unique and disturbing narrative told with force and clarity..." (catalog summary)
The First World War by John Keegan
"In a riveting narrative that puts diaries, letters and action reports to good use, British military historian Keegan...delivers a stunningly vivid history of the Great War. He is equally at ease--and equally generous and sympathetic--probing the hearts and minds of lowly soldiers in the trenches or examining the thoughts and motivations of leaders (such as Joffre, Haig and Hindenburg) who directed the maelstrom. In the end, Keegan leaves us with a brilliant, panoramic portrait of an epic struggle that was at once noble and futile, world-shaking and pathetic."
Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis
"...contains six chapters on unconnected events in the formation of the American republic, featuring Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and George Washington as principal characters. Ellis is deeply steeped in the literature, and his style is crisp and full of subtle ironies. He brings fresh insights into such well-worn topics as the Hamilton-Burr duel and Jefferson's feelings about slavery. If there is a central theme that runs through the chapters, it concerns the fragility of the early years of the republic." (T.J. Schaeper, Library Journal)
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin
"...a monumental work, a brilliantly conceived chronicle of one of the most vibrant and revolutionary periods in the history of the United States. With an extraordinary collection of details, Goodwin masterfully weaves together a striking number of story lines--Eleanor and Franklin's marriage and remarkable partnership, Eleanor's life as First Lady, and FDR's White House and its impact on America as well as on a world at war. Goodwin effectively melds these details and stories into an unforgettable and intimate portrait of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and of the time during which a new, modern America was born." (catalog summary)
A Stillness at Appomattox: The Army of the Potomac by Bruce Catton
(Pulitzer and National Book prizes)
"As for this monumental Civil War trilogy, first published in the 1960s, historian Henry Steel Commager appraised: 'better than any other history of our Civil War it combines narrative vigor, literary grace, freshness of view and independence of judgment, and a kind of catholic spirit which embraces the whole vast tumultuous scene.'" (Book description) "If every historian wrote like Bruce Catton, no one would read fiction." (John Miller, Amazon.com)
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose
"Though principally a biography of Meriwether Lewis, this narrative also provides fascinating portraits of Thomas Jefferson and William Clark, Sacagawea, and other members of the group of explorers who journeyed from the Ohio River to the Pacific Ocean in the years 1803-1806. While scholarly and well documented, this account is at the same time a great adventure story, and Ambrose generates a sense of excitement and anticipation that mirrors, at least to some degree, the feelings Lewis and Clark must have had as they began their journey." (School Library Journal)
Other authors to try: