Modern readers will find much here that sounds familiar, from absurd lies spread by both sides (Federalists charged that if elected, Jefferson would seize and burn Bibles) to political chicanery (Alexander Hamilton attempted to manipulate the electoral outcome so that a vice presidential candidate would come out ahead). Had word arrived more quickly that the increasingly unpopular war with France had ended, Adams might well have won. The story is especially sad since the two men were old friends and revolutionary comrades who worked together on the Declaration of Independence. The contest was so bitter that Adams left Washington rather than watch Jefferson be sworn in. They would not speak again for more than a decade. Ferling has an elegant and clear prose style, so this is one academic book that all readers will enjoy.