Samuel Adams: A Life

The crucial question addressed by Ira Stoll's new biography of revolutionary firebrand Sam Adams isn't put directly until the final pages: "If Adams was so instrumental in achieving American independence and so influential even afterward, why then has his fame faded so badly with time?" The answer has to do with a stark contradiction: Sam Adams was a conservative revolutionary, an activist whose radical approach to politics was based upon his indefatigable commitment to protecting the ancient rights of Englishmen. In helping to make America independent from England, Adams ceaselessly harked back to England's own history.

Whereas American founders such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison were steeped in the rationalist political philosophy of the European Enlightenment -- an 18th-century phenomenon -- Sam Adams took his political inclinations from the 17th-century struggles between England's Puritans and the English Crown. If Jefferson's inspirations were Enlightenment philosophers like Montesquieu and David Hume, Sam Adams absorbed his worldview from Puritan militant Oliver Cromwell (Adams also shared Cromwell's knee-jerk anti-Catholicism).

Like Cromwell a century before, Adams jealously guarded the rights of Englishmen against royal infringement. And, like Cromwell, Adams found a source for both fiery rhetoric and steely determination in a strict reading of the Bible. For both men, liberty and public virtue were inextricably linked. During a dark period of the Revolutionary War, Adams wrote to a friend that " general Dissolution of Principles & Manners will more surely overthrow the Liberties of America tha...

July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

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Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).