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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,171 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Henry Adams Narrator: David Colacci Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2007 ISBN: 9781482977110
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As a journalist, historian, and novelist born into a family that included two past presidents of the United States, Henry Adams was constantly focused on the American experiment. An immediate bestseller awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1919, The Education of Henry Adams recounts his own and the country’s education from 1838, the year of his birth, to 1905, incorporating the Civil War, capitalist expansion and the growth of the United States as a world power. Exploring America as both a success and a failure, contradiction was the very impetus that compelled Adams to write Education, in which he was also able to voice his deep skepticism about mankind’s power to control the direction of history. Written with immense wit and irony, reassembling the past while glimpsing the future, Adams’ vision expresses what Henry James declared the “complex fate” to be an American, and remains one of the most compelling works of American autobiography today.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “There are sentences, paragraphs, whole pages that the reviewer is deeply tempted to quote. Suffice it again to recommend the public to read the book as a whole.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “David Colacci gracefully takes listeners through the education… an over-the-top writing style, and thought-provoking tours through history—all well narrated.”


  • “Among the oddest and most enlightening books in American literature…Contains thousands of memorable one-liners about politics, morality, culture, and transatlantic relations…Most of all, Adams’ book is a brilliant account of how his own sensibility came to be.”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dennis | 2/20/2014

    " This started out fascinating -- son of a famous political family growing up in mid-19th Century New England. Henry Adams has the insider's view of the who's who of America at the time, and his family, social, educational, and professional life is a series of name dropping. Adams has a quirky sense of humor, but about a third of the way in the journal turned increasingly tedious and sometimes downright boring. It's never a good thing when the book seems it will never end. But end it did, and I do not look back. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Erin | 2/20/2014

    " I am having a lot of trouble plowing through this one. I've been reading it for almost nine weeks (I know because it's due back at the library after 2 renewals!) and though it is not wholly unenjoyable, it is slow going. The problem is that Adams simply did not write this book for future generations. He writes assuming you have every idea of what he is talking about. I have only a fair grasp of history and have very very very often had to look up people and events that he has mentioned. The name-dropping is incredible. He mentions so many people and places only in passing, almost as an inside joke, "wink wink" type of a thing, I get really frustrated and put the book down and walk away from it for a week at a time. I think the worst part is actually the thing the publishers have done to combat this effect. My edition (not the one pictured here) has a cast of characters, a list of important people mentioned in the book and why they were important. But the frustrating part is that probably only 1/16th of the people Adams casually drops into conversation are listed. And there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to WHO is listed. People who are written about for 20 pages are not annotated, while someone mentioned only briefly has a prominent entry. My research into the book itself has told me that Adams did not write this weighty tome for the public, but meant it only for family and friends after his death. So perhaps my beef is not actually with Adams at all, but with the publishers for not providing enough background information. All that said, there are some passages that are beautifully descriptive and wonderfully written, particularly about his childhood in Boston and Quincy and what life was like here in the mid-1800s. And I always think it's cool when I can get up from my chair, hop on the subway, and check out a particular building or street for myself. Another plus: It made me want to go back and listen to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill! In summary: Read if you're really interested, but bring a good encyclopedia along for the journey. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ellen | 2/19/2014

    " Adams' sense, in 1899, that we were moving from a universe to a multiverse was prophetic. A harsh self-critic, he ends each chapter with the denouement, as yet I was not educated. An excellent autobiography. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nick | 2/18/2014

    " Still an important book in understanding the American mind. Mr. Adams' observations of various 19th century historical figures careens between insightful and amusingly ironic. This is an "education" because all historians are educated by life rather than being an agent in the creation of events. His narrative, both self-effacing and fatalistic, is most interesting in regard to his attendance at the Court of St. James during the Civil War as private secretary to his father, and during his travels and observations at the dawning of the 20th century. The book also provides an interesting perspective on the manner in which a learned individual is forced to view a changing world. Having been part of a great American and New England family, Mr. Adams was educated in the manner expected by both his legacy and his time. In retrospect he finds that the world changes at its own pace and that the individual is forced to embrace this acceleration of "progress" or be consumed by it--a message that is still as essential in our time as it was in his as his generation grappled with the challenges of civic corruption and the Robber Barons. In the end he found that his thinking, which was rooted in the 18th century poorly prepared him for the world of the late 19th and early 20th century. This observation is especially prescient and close to home for Adams, being a member of one of the first of the great American political families, which continued its slow decline into obscurity and irrelevancy. I first read this book as a young man in college and was largely mystified and bored by it. I have come back to it over time. Now, as an older man I can understand better the insights Mr. Adams was conveying. I am also impressed with his modernism, though speaking to us from almost a hundred years in the past. I guess the old boy has gotten wittier and smarter with time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elphaba | 2/17/2014

    " First 2/3rds of book was fantastic. Last 3rd was extremely difficult to read. I may pick this up again and try to re-read the last part when I have more time to study. I read this for a book club and don't think it worked well in a book club setting. First part yet, but last part, definitely no (unless you want to run some of your members off). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hannah | 2/12/2014

    " While acknowledging that this book is Important, I respectfully submit that it won't stay that way for much longer. The most interesting aspect of the book - its commitment to something like psychic catastrophism - is also, from a formal perspective, what makes it a tedious read, and the sheer volume of petty political sniping (about slights and missteps that occurred in, like, 1872) is enough to make one almost embarrassed for the aging Adams. Add to that the author's by now pretty untenable conviction that in 1900 THE ENTIRE FABRIC OF HUMAN EXISTENCE WAS PERMANENTLY TRANSFORMED, supported by a very confused version of physics and biology, and you get a book many times the worse for historical perspective - as Adams, to his credit, probably would've predicted. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tisha | 2/5/2014

    " Henry Adams was definitely a genius, and frankly, so much of what I read went over my head. I needed a political and world history companion to completely follow along with the reading. I do love the Adams family. But with this fourth generation, of which he was apart, I am impressed and disappointed at the same time. I couldn't help but feel that he was insincere in his "education"- his character seemed lukewarm, spoiled, and arrogant, with a false sense of humility or sincerity in seeking knowledge. I gave it 3 stars because the guy is so dang smart, has intriguing things to say and as a history, its interesting, but I think if I hung out with the dude I'd seriously wanna punch him in the face. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Steve Glassner | 1/27/2014

    " This book is considered a classic of American historical nonfiction. To this I simply ask "why"? With the exception of some historical name-dropping, "The Education of Henry Adams" is simply a soap box for Adams to complain about receiving a lack of education in his life experiences, and him trying to come up with a scientific theory that can track and predict the course of human history. This latter part takes the book from being a little confusing to downright tiresome. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dave Millard | 1/12/2014

    " Pretty good - some of it can get a bit obtuse, so you have to read carefully, but a fascinating look through the eyes of someone who was so close to the big history makers of the 19th century "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ike | 11/27/2013

    " I have never been so surprised to love a book. I picked it off of a college reading list (not my college). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rick | 11/23/2013

    " Wonderfully snide. My favorite - "The young man read us what he said was poetry. Whatever it was, it was certainly not prose." "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kent | 4/23/2013

    " Read it to your child. It could put them to sleep. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Emily | 8/23/2012

    " This is a long, hard read. But there are valuable lessons to be learned if you can make it through. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kris | 8/22/2012

    " Long winded... boring... pompous Mother and I had to read it for a history class. At the end, Mother asked "Did he ever DO anything?" I could only shrug. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Patrick Riazi | 3/26/2012

    " Very tedious and I didn't find it very interesting at all. Was happy when I finally finished it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe Johnston | 1/27/2012

    " I read this for a college course in "Great Autobiographies." A good read. Ends powerfully. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mark Desrosiers | 9/28/2011

    " Do you despise academia? Do you love learning? This is the book for you. Inspiring, humane, and acidic all in one big dose. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carrie | 8/28/2011

    " I have only read book 1 of this two-volume set but so far I found it very good. He had observations about politicians that I think are absolutely accurate. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kim | 7/2/2011

    " Struggled in vain to complete at least one chapter for book club. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 5/15/2011

    " Incisive thoughts from a man who partook of practically every privilege of modern civilization. This autobiography hails from a bygone era, but it remains timeless. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ke | 4/7/2011

    " I liked the fact that he encouraged women to be capable. Maybe he didn't become a president, but his life was still interesting.

    He seemed to have been a nice person. Although there were parts that were a bit classicist. Maybe he wouldn't take different points of view well. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kent | 4/1/2011

    " Read it to your child. It could put them to sleep. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Megan | 9/20/2010

    " Henry Adams is such a weird guy. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 P. | 8/4/2010

    " To confess I did not get very far into this book. Adams did not want this book published. How very right he was, too. I marked it read so I don't have to think about it and as a warning. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kim | 7/5/2010

    " Struggled in vain to complete at least one chapter for book club. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 John | 5/31/2010

    " As I read this book, I could never find an answer to one central question: Why do I care? "

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About the Author
Author Henry Adams

Henry Brooks Adams (1838–1918), American man of letters, was grandson and great-grandson of presidents of the United States. He taught history at Harvard, edited the North American Review, and published two novels. His ambitious History of the United States during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison appeared in nine volumes from 1889-91. His Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, an interpretation of the spiritual unity of the 13th century mind, led to his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, which describes the multiplicity of the 20th century mind.

About the Narrator

David Colacci is an actor and director who has directed and performed in prominent theaters nationwide. His credits include roles from Shakespeare to Albee, as well as extensive work on new plays. As a narrator, he has won numerous Earphones Awards, earned Audie Award nominations, and been included in Best Audio of the Year lists by such publications as Publishers Weekly, AudioFile magazine, and Library Journal. He was a resident actor and director with the Cleveland Play House for eight years and has been artistic director of the Hope Summer Rep Theater since 1992.