Books: The Great Lackluster

JOHN ADAMS AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (699 pp.) — Catherine Drinker Bowen—Little, Brown ($5).

Little Johnny Adams turned to page 16 of the New England Primer. There it was, the picture of 16th Century John Rogers, the Dissenting martyr, burning gruesomely at the stake while his nine children looked on, their tears making a puddle at their feet. Eagerly Johnny took up his pen and in a moment a fine crop of cabbages sprouted on the well-irrigated spot.

That, from grammar school to the day he died, was John Adams, the steady, sturdy New...

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