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The Revolutionary

A revelatory biography of arguably the most essential Founding Father—the one who stood behind the change in thinking that produced the American Revolution

A New York Times Bestseller

Best Books of 2022 — New York Times, NPR, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Oprah Daily, TIME, Barnes & Noble, BookPage and GoodReads

Thomas Jefferson asserted that if there was any leader of the Revolution, "Samuel Adams was the man." John Adams thought his cousin "the most sagacious politician" of all. With high-minded ideals and bare-knuckle tactics, Adams led what could be called the greatest campaign of civil resistance in American history.

Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Stacy Schiff returns Adams to his seat of glory, introducing us to the shrewd, eloquent, and intensely disciplined man who supplied the moral backbone of the American Revolution. A singular figure at a singular moment, Adams packaged and amplified the Boston Massacre. He helped to mastermind the Boston Tea Party. He employed every tool in an innovative arsenal to rally a town, a colony, and eventually a band of colonies behind him, creating the cause that created a country. For his efforts he became the most wanted man in America: When Paul Revere rode to Lexington in 1775, it was to warn Samuel Adams that he was about to be arrested for treason.

In The Revolutionary, Stacy Schiff brings her masterful skills to Adams's improbable life, illuminating his transformation from aimless son of a well-off family to tireless, beguiling radical who mobilized the colonies. Arresting, original, and deliriously dramatic, this is a long-overdue chapter in the history of our nation.

Reviews and Praise

"With incomparable wit, grace, and insight, Stacy Schiff narrates the birth of the American Revolution in Boston and the artful, elusive magician who made it all happen: Samuel Adams. For too long, Adams, hiding behind his many masks and stratagems, has evaded historians, but Schiff draws him from the shadows into the spotlight he so richly deserves. A glorious book that is as entertaining as it is vitally important. This is a time for Americans to meditate on the fate of their republic and no better place to start than here, at the beginning, with this book." Ron Chernow

"This enthralling biography is a persuasive exercise in rehabilitation. Through stylish prose and a close reading of Adams's career as a canny propagandist, Schiff suggests that he may have done more than any other founder to prime colonists for armed rebellion and deserves to be better known." New York Times

"A wildly entertaining exploration of the roots of American political theatre. Unreliable rumormongering, slanted news writing, misleading symbolism, even viral meme-sharing – it was all right there at the start." The New Yorker

"A tour de force...With her exquisite, fast-paced prose...Stacy Schiff has produced a delightfully enthralling and insightful account of an elusive Founding Father. Samuel Adams 'did not preen for posterity,' but we now know him much better than we did. Perhaps even better than he'd want us to." The Wall Street Journal

"Any book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Schiff is a reason for excitement. Her previous subjects, including Véra Nabokov, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Cleopatra, have established her as one of the most talented and creative biographies at work today... This brisk narrative of the outsize role that Adams played in colonial Massachusetts during the 'messy, anarchic provocative' years before the Revolution places the reader at the center of the action, while dramatic events, including the Boston Massacre and Tea party, unfold anew in the light of Adams's involvement. Schiff writes beautifully and lyrical passages provide a great deal of reading pleasure... An enthralling portrait of Samuel Adams, who perhaps more than another of America's founders, set the country on its course toward independence." The New York Times Book Review

"Schiff masterfully chronicles the myriad twists and turns of Adams's life in the decades that followed, as protests against the British grew and the streets of Boston became choked with soldiers, spies, and whispers of war... Schiff understands how to translate even the most knotty history into quick-paced narrative... There is something about Samuel Adams that seems especially compelling today. 'He set more store in ideas than institutions,' his biographer writes, 'he encouraged an allegiance to principles over individuals.' Boston readers can visit his grave at the Granary Burying Ground. We forget him and his ideas, it seems to me, at our peril." The Boston Globe

"A superb new biography of Samuel Adams... Schiff illuminates how well in advance of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin or John Adams (his more prominent cousin) Samuel Adams strategized, wrote and wrangled the American Revolution into inevitability... a thrilling, timely account of how the American Revolution happened; how the colonists were radicalized and came to think of themselves not as Bostonians or Virginians, but as "Americans." And, how Samuel Adams, through countless meetings and in countless newspaper essays written under 30-some pseudonyms, played an essential role in that transformation... The Revolutionary is informed on every page by scholarship, but Schiff, as Adams himself did, knows how to hold an audience." Maureen Corrigan, NPR

"Early on in the book, Schiff takes one of the most well-worn moments in American history – Paul Revere's famous midnight ride in 1775 – and makes it feel new again...Schiff describes it, Adams 'helped to erect the intellectual architecture of a republic but had neither gift for nor interest in its political design.' It's hard to put down Schiff's book without a newfound appreciation for just how important that role was for the nation's birth." The Associated Press

"Stacy Schiff continues to showcase her command of the genre, thoroughly researching her books and breathing new life into history. [A] robust portrait of an important patriot." TIME ("100 Must-Read Books of 2022")

"As Stacy Schiff makes clear in her masterful new biography... the man now best known for a beer brand was never far from the center of the action. Schiff has been down the Revolutionary road before... She knows the terrain, and she knows how to bring out the excitement in a subject too often viewed as dusty. Mostly, however, she is a master biographer. She has a gift for converting exhaustive research into propulsive narrative and for going deep on episodes that shed the most light on her subjects. Her chapter on the 1770 Boston Massacre, the conflicting reports and Adams' instinctive grasp of how to use the incident to further the cause reads like a great short story. These pages contain great drama and constant motion; Schiff lets the stakes build, and build, until the dam is ready to burst. To read this book is to immerse oneself in a very particular and thrilling time and place. Boston in the years leading up to 1776 was a wild and often dangerous city, with violent protests and brawls and raucous meetings of the people. This is how a democracy was born, a government by and for the people, at least in theory. With Adams as her fulcrum, Schiff vividly returns us to the streets and halls where it all began." USA Today (4 Stars)

"The inimitable Stacy Schiff, author of utterly captivating books...returns with a biography of one of the most pivotal and oddly neglected of all the U.S. Founding Fathers: Samuel Adams, cousin to the more famous politician (and second president) John. Schiff's book finds the real man behind the Revolutionary mythos." The Christian Science Monitor

"Revelatory and frequently riveting... Throughout, Schiff vividly recounts major events in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, including the Stamp Act Crisis, the Boston Massacre, and the Boston Tea Party, and draws incisive sketches of Loyalist governor Thomas Hutchinson, Patriot lawyer James Otis, and others. Fast-paced and enlightening, this is a must-read for colonial history buffs." Publishers Weekly, Starred review

"Retracing Adams's early years in Boston and his political awakening, Schiff vividly recounts major events in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, making for a fast-paced and enlightening account." Publishers Weekly, "Holiday Gift Guide"

"In her terrific new biography, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Stacy Schiff presents readers with a vivid sense of this complicated man. The Revolutionary is electrifying and Schiff writes with keen insight and wit throughout. By the end of The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams, attentive readers will vibrate with questions about the parallels between Adams' political era and our own." BookPage, Starred review

"Step aside, Thomas Jefferson; let's talk about the man whose devotion to resistance behavior makes him, for some, the most essential figure in the American Revolution. Samuel Adams comes to electrifying life through this Pulitzer Prize-winning historian's meticulous research and dynamic storytelling as a man of principle and persuasion. There was also Adams's devotion to stealth and secrecy, which may be why it's taken so long to tease out his unusual story." The Los Angeles Times

"A beautifully crafted, invaluable biography. . .Schiff ingeniously connects the past to our present and future, underscoring the lessons of Adams while reclaiming our nation’s self-evident truths at a moment when we seemed to have forgotten them." Oprah Daily

"Riveting, suspenseful, and even laugh-out-loud reading, as Adams outflanks the British at every turn...superb." Minneapolis Star Tribune