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The Best Thomas Jefferson Biographies

Even before he wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was a fascinating figure. He loved to read, adored music, and was passionate about arts, culture, food, and wine. Later, as president, he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the United States, and approved Lewis and Clark’s expedition to explore the new territory. His library, which he sold to the Library of Congress, included nearly 7,000 books – and as soon as the sale went through, he began buying more volumes, proclaiming, “I cannot live without books.” Were he alive today, his collection would surely include these essential Jefferson biographies.  
  1. 1
    Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power Book Cover Picture
    Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power Book Cover Picture

    Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

    by Jon Meacham

    In this political biography, Meacham argues that Jefferson’s genius lay in his ability to combine philosophy with strategy. His passion, Meacham writes, was to advance popular government, and he devoted his life to ensuring the new nation would prosper as a true democracy. Charting Jefferson’s rise to power and examining how he used his strengths and weaknesses to further his agenda of political progress during many wars at home and abroad, this biography shows Jefferson as embodying many of the traits of the country he shaped. Adept at marrying his ideals to the realities of the times in which he lived, Jefferson was a skilled manipulator of those around him, and had an innate understanding of the fledgling political process he helped fashion. The creator of the notion of personal liberty and one of the most successful presidents in history, Jefferson created the mold for American leaders and politicians for centuries to come.
    Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power Book Cover Picture
    Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $22.00

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  2. 2
    Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee Book Cover Picture
    Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee Book Cover Picture

    Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee

    by Thomas J. Craughwell

    French fries. Macaroni and cheese. Champagne. Crème Brulee. We have Thomas Jefferson to thank for these treats — or, rather, his slave, James Hemings. In 1784, Jefferson and Hemings travelled to Paris, where the president studied vinticulture, and his slave studied French cooking, learning techniques from master chefs and bringing home recipes to recreate in the White House. In this biography, Craughwell describes the fateful trip that eventually won Hemings his freedom, and won the country a new appreciation of the art of fine dining a la Francais.
    Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee Book Cover Picture
    Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $19.95

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  3. 3
    American Sphinx Book Cover Picture
    American Sphinx Book Cover Picture

    American Sphinx

    by Joseph J. Ellis

    It is an understatement to say that Jefferson was a man of contradictions. In this biography, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Ellis seeks to uncover the true character of the Founding Father, a man who both hated public acclaim and sought it out, who worked alongside his slaves at Monticello yet believed blacks and whites could never live together, who could be petty and selfish, and also generous and wise. According to Ellis, Jefferson’s legend hovers over the country “like one of those dirigibles cruising above a crowded football stadium, flashing words of inspiration to both teams,” making it near impossible to determine what the man was really like and what he truly believed. Though critical of Jefferson’s character, in the end Ellis decides its his contradictions, in part, that made the third president great.
    American Sphinx Book Cover Picture
    American Sphinx Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $18.95

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  4. 4
    Madison and Jefferson Book Cover Picture
    Madison and Jefferson Book Cover Picture

    Madison and Jefferson

    by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg

    The third and fourth presidents have long been considered proper gentlemen, with Thomas Jefferson’s genius overshadowing James Madison’s judgment and common sense. But in this revelatory book about their crucial partnership, both are seen as hardboiled operatives in a gritty world of primal politics where they struggled for supremacy for more than fifty years. With a thrilling and unprecedented account of early America as its backdrop, Madison and Jefferson reveals these founding fathers as privileged young men in a land marked by tribal identities rather than a united national personality. Esteemed historians Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg capture Madison’s hidden role—he acted in effect as a campaign manager—in Jefferson’s career. In riveting detail, the authors chart the courses of two very different presidencies: Jefferson’s driven by force of personality, Madison’s sustained by a militancy that history has been reluctant to ascribe to him.
    Madison and Jefferson Book Cover Picture
    Madison and Jefferson Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $24.00

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  5. 5
    Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates Book Cover Picture
    Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates Book Cover Picture

    Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

    by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

    When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, America was deeply in debt, with its economy and dignity under attack. Pirates from North Africa’s Barbary Coast routinely captured American merchant ships and held the sailors as slaves, demanding ransom and tribute payments far beyond what the new country could afford. He sent the U.S. Navy and Marines to blockade Tripoli—launching the Barbary Wars and beginning America’s journey toward future superpower status. Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates recaptures this forgotten war that changed American history with a real-life drama of intrigue, bravery, and battle on the high seas.
    Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates Book Cover Picture
    Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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