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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: Wolfram Kandinsky Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2008 ISBN: 9781455170708
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Few works have so firmly established their position in American literature as The Education of Henry Adams. As a man of extraordinary gifts and learning and a member of one of the greatest American families, Henry Adams wrote an insightful exploration of himself and the tumultuous age in which he lived. In the words of Van Wyck Brooks, he “revealed a phase of American history with unparalleled boldness and truth.”

In spite of his illustrious background and Harvard schooling, Henry Adams asserts that his conventional education was defective because it did not prepare him to live in a world transformed by the new science and the new technology. His intention was to write a kind of handbook to prepare “young men, in universities and elsewhere, to be men of the world, equipped for any emergency.” The result is what many consider to be one of the finest autobiographies ever written.

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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

  • “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

  • “At the time, memoirs were generally written by great men, to recount their great, public lives. But The Education of Henry Adams is the story of Henry Adams’ growing sense of his own personality, his own individual ideas about America and about history. It was one of the first times in American literature that an American had written such a subjective book about his own experiences and his own ideas. Memoirists have been following in its path ever since.”

    Writersalmanac.org

  • Winner of the 1919 Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve | 2/19/2014

    " I'd never read this before. It's a classic for good reason--funny at times (in a deadpan way) and insightful. He gives intense character sketches of numerous political figures, including several I'd never heard of. But his few pages on President Grant are quite wonderful--probably everything I'll ever know about Grant I learned from Henry Adams. His best and best-known chapter contrasts the virgin and the dynamo as inspirations and as symbols of power. Now I want to read his earlier long essay on Mont-St.-Michele and Chartres. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alfred | 2/18/2014

    " Adams' hilariously baroque ironies don't assuage the suspicion that he holds a grudge against the third-rate non-entities elected president for never asking him to serve. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 James | 2/17/2014

    " The memoir of a man and a family, Henry Adams was the son of a diplomat/ politician, grandson of a president and the great-grandson of another. The Adams family had produced leaders for the country since its founding and Henry Adams was heir to that leadership. In his Education he produced one of the best autobiographies ever written, chronicling the rapid change of the last half of the nineteenth century while sharing personal experiences with his father, at Harvard, Washington and elsewhere. I highly recommend this narrative for all readers interested in good writing and the history of the United States. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Alyssa | 2/15/2014

    " Told from a point of view that makes the reader seem very distant from the life of Henry Adams- as if everything is looked at and analyzed in each particular so the story takes FOREVER to be told-and it is told without any real vigor or character to it. I was pretty bored by the second chapter, and scanned further but found the rest to be prettymuch the same. There were some interesting comments, but not much to hold my attention and interest in the life or education of Henry Adams. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 J. Dunn | 2/15/2014

    " I'll agree with the ratings of this among the best nonfiction of the 20th century. It is another of my favorite genre, the "books about everything." It covers roughly the period from 1850 to 1905, and hits on almost every major historical and intellectual development of the time, but from a unique personal and anecdotal perspective. Adams was a man of great gifts and cultivation, but with a unique, eccentric, mugwumpishly conservative temperament that makes his collision and confrontation with the early modernist era he lived through especially instructive and relevant to our own time. The filters of what his worldview did and didn't take for granted reveal fresh insights about our country's rapid and jarring growth from an agrarian experimental republic into a modern industrial superpower. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mackenzie | 2/13/2014

    " there is no book like this anywhere else in American literature. It annoys, it fascinates, it bores, it amuses... a densely textured, thoughtful, at times exasperating story of growing up in the American 19th Century by the great-grandson of one president and the grandson of another -- who freely admits he should have lived in the 18th Century. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Caroline Flohr | 2/5/2014

    " An important piece of non-fiction in American history that gave me a good look at how brilliant minds come to terms with the dawning of a new age. Won the Pulitzer Prize! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aaron Edelson | 2/4/2014

    " dude. bobby lee, and hank adams were drinking buddies in college. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrew | 2/1/2014

    " Best autobiography I have ever read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Oliver L. | 1/27/2014

    " If you're an indecisive, defeated depressive who appreciates lapidary prose, this is the book for you. A rudimentary knowledge of nineteenth century history is essential to your enjoyment of the book, but its best passages have universal resonance. THE EDUCATION is one of the the saddest things that ever made me smile. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bri Hanson | 1/19/2014

    " Surprised this was awarded the Pulitzer. It was like reading the diary of an intriguing person- interesting to flip through but not read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dave Millard | 1/19/2014

    " 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 "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve | 1/19/2014

    " Henry Adam's lived a life in the middle of a lot of history, with two presidents as ancestors and friends in high places. I was expecting this to be a little too self-aggrandizing for my taste based on what I knew of Adams, but his writing style combined with the narration in the third person and the self-deprecation tempered that and gave the book a much more casual feel than I expected. I enjoyed the first part (before the 20 year gap) and the perspective of a young man growing up before and during the civil war more than the second part, with it's name dropping (not only that but many of them aren't as famous now as he thought they would be) and lamentation of the author's unpreparedness for the scientific and technological breakthrough going on around him. Overall I enjoyed this book and the unique look into American history from 1838 to 1905. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kate | 1/15/2014

    " Read this in English 41: American Prose taught by Professor Louis Renza. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Graeme Hinde | 1/13/2014

    " Henry Adams reviews his life from the point of view of the perpetual student, and determines the value of each episode by the education provided. The conclusion, more than frequently and despite the fact that he was perhaps the most learned man of his age, is very little. Written just after the turn of the twentieth century, as America was transitioning into an imperial super-power, Europe was sliding into anarchy, and science was unraveling centuries of wisdom, the educational power of this book, for the student of history and for the student of self, is monumental. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kent | 1/13/2014

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

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kent | 1/10/2014

    " 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 David Cowhig | 1/2/2014

    " A great guided tour of America's 19th century with especially interesting inside insights of US diplomacy in the UK during the Civil War and personal views of some leading personalities of the 19th century. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marcel | 12/31/2013

    " Generally considered as one of the best books of the Twentieth Century. After five chapters, I am enjoying the style of the author very much. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 12/30/2013

    " 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. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ike | 12/29/2013

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

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sarah | 12/29/2013

    " A view from the eyes of a man who lived history. Told in the 3rd person. Brilliant. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 12/27/2013

    " This was mostly over my head. I hope to re-read it someday when I can grasp more of it. I sensed there was some good stuff that I just didn't comprehend. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 12/26/2013

    " A difficult read, but interesting. Definitely had to read The Five of Hearts after reading this. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carrie | 12/21/2013

    " 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. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Craig | 12/20/2013

    " A very difficult read written by Henry Adams, grandson of John Quincy Adams, who basically spent his life 1838-1918 trying to educate himself. Offers some unique historical insights even though he purposely tries to stay away from making the book a historical account of his life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Molly Boegel | 12/19/2013

    " If you want a taste of Adams, read an excerpt from this book: The Dynamo and the Virgin. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bradley | 12/16/2013

    " Wonderful book. Changes character rather sharply near the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Diane | 12/16/2013

    " It was very easy to read and remained interesting through out the long narrative even when the subject matter dragged. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aaron Edelson | 12/4/2013

    " dude. bobby lee, and hank adams were drinking buddies in college. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Richard | 11/23/2013

    " I loved this book. Educational and enlightening about the Adams family. Well written and honest. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kate | 11/19/2013

    " Read this in English 41: American Prose taught by Professor Louis Renza. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Beth | 11/4/2013

    " Three stars = cause I'm not done yet. Henry Adams was the great-grandson of John Adams and the grandson of John Quincy Adams, and his auto-biography is interesting to anyone who enjoys history. Stay tuned... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Caterina | 10/30/2013

    " Has anyone else read this book and not found it confusing? I've really liked parts, but... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 9/16/2013

    " This was mostly over my head. I hope to re-read it someday when I can grasp more of it. I sensed there was some good stuff that I just didn't comprehend. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John Yelverton | 8/21/2013

    " It is an absolutely fantastic autobiography about someone you could care absolutely nothing about. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brett Byron | 6/1/2013

    " The classic 19th Century autobiography - in third person, long before Norman Mailer employed that point of view for himself in "Armies of the Night" - that pairs dense, elegant prose with original and even radical sensibilities. And he had a better sense of humor than most self-chroniclers. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeff Wills | 6/1/2013

    " The Modern Library Association voted this book the best non-fiction book of the 20th century. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth | 5/31/2013

    " Tough book to get started with but so worth it once you hit your stride in reading. I'm so glad that I persevered. Henry Adams' life may seem distant to some, but I felt as though I knew him once I was done. His story comes across as oddly, and touchingly, contemporary. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bradley | 5/16/2013

    " Wonderful book. Changes character rather sharply near the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kyle Swiggum | 4/28/2013

    " I very well written and thought provoking book. At times the most wise, but more often the student as the title indicates, Adams provides a rare look into the mind of politics, diplomacy and history in a way that is personal, candid and all-encompassing in its scope. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lkohn | 4/6/2013

    " I can see why this is on the classics lists. It was a unique style at the time. But unless you are extremely interested in politics, I doubt you'll enjoy the reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sweatherford | 3/18/2013

    " my favorite non-fiction book. disclaimer: must love history, and be prepared to look up some things to get the context of what he is talking about. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kim | 2/3/2013

    " 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 Kyle Swiggum | 1/25/2013

    " I very well written and thought provoking book. At times the most wise, but more often the student as the title indicates, Adams provides a rare look into the mind of politics, diplomacy and history in a way that is personal, candid and all-encompassing in its scope. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lee | 9/4/2012

    " Read this in an American Intellectual History class in college and should probably read it again 'cause I don't remember much other than the importance of the turbine engine. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christina | 8/23/2012

    " Cumbersome at first, but one of my all-time favorites. Terrific for the history, even better for its larger themes of being out of place/searching for your place in the world. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lexy | 5/25/2012

    " i just wish he would just get a damn job. and keep it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dave Millard | 3/29/2012

    " 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 "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Caterina | 3/14/2012

    " Has anyone else read this book and not found it confusing? I've really liked parts, but... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 2/25/2012

    " A difficult read, but interesting. Definitely had to read The Five of Hearts after reading this. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bri Hanson | 1/24/2012

    " Surprised this was awarded the Pulitzer. It was like reading the diary of an intriguing person- interesting to flip through but not read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lexy | 11/4/2011

    " i just wish he would just get a damn job. and keep it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lauri | 11/2/2011

    " I confess. I could not finish this book primarily because I could not understand it. I never was able to grasp his theories on education, history, science and society. I tried reading outside sources but that did not help. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cvillejon | 9/11/2011

    " Henry Adams, grandson of John Quincy Adams, was arguably the most brilliant man of his age (late 19th century) but he, in effect, could never quite manage to get a job; no wonder this book is so popular among graduate students. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rick | 6/19/2011

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

  • 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. His greatest literary accomplishments were his ambitious nine-volume History of the United States during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and his acclaimed autobiography.

About the Narrator

Wolfram Kandinsky (1940–1993) was a popular audiobook narrator whose career spanned the earliest days of commercial audiobooks. He was a familiar voice of the classics for millions of audiobook fans, and his résumé encorporated the greats of American literature, from Mark Twain to Saul Bellow.