14 Best Thomas Jefferson Books

Thomas Jefferson painting

Best Thomas Jefferson Books

 

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

 
Thomas Jefferson hated confrontation, and yet his understanding of power and of human nature enabled him to move men and to marshal ideas, to learn from his mistakes, and to prevail. Passionate about many things—women, his family, books, science, architecture, gardens, friends, Monticello, and Paris—Jefferson loved America most, and he strove over and over again, despite fierce opposition, to realize his vision: the creation, survival, and success of popular government in America. Jon Meacham lets us see Jefferson’s world as Jefferson himself saw it, and to appreciate how Jefferson found the means to endure and win in the face of rife partisan division, economic uncertainty, and external threat. Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American history.
 

Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty by John B. Boles

Not since Merrill Peterson’s Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation has a scholar attempted to write a comprehensive biography of the most complex Founding Father. In Jefferson, John B. Boles plumbs every facet of Thomas Jefferson’s life, all while situating him amid the sweeping upheaval of his times. We meet Jefferson the politician and political thinker — as well as Jefferson the architect, scientist, bibliophile, paleontologist, musician, and gourmet. We witness him drafting of the Declaration of Independence, negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, and inventing a politics that emphasized the states over the federal government — a political philosophy that shapes our national life to this day.

American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis

For a man who insisted that life on the public stage was not what he had in mind, Thomas Jefferson certainly spent a great deal of time in the spotlight–and not only during his active political career. After 1809, his longed-for retirement was compromised by a steady stream of guests and tourists who made of his estate at Monticello a virtual hotel, as well as by more than one thousand letters per year, most from strangers, which he insisted on answering personally. In his twilight years Jefferson was already taking on the luster of a national icon, which was polished off by his auspicious death (on July 4, 1826); and in the subsequent seventeen decades of his celebrity–now verging, thanks to virulent revisionists and television documentaries, on notoriety–has been inflated beyond recognition of the original person.

The Patriots: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the Making of America by Winston Groom

When the Revolutionary War ended in victory, there remained a stupendous problem: establishing a workable democratic government in the vast, newly independent country. Three key founding fathers played significant roles: John Adams, the brilliant, dour New Englander; Thomas Jefferson, the aristocratic Southern renaissance man; and Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the Caribbean island of Nevis. In this riveting narrative, best-selling author Winston Groom illuminates these men as the patriots fundamentally responsible for the ideas that shaped the emerging United States. Their lives could not have been more different, and their relationships with each other were often rife with animosity. And yet they led the charge–two of them creating and signing the Declaration of Independence, and the third establishing a national treasury and the earliest delineation of a Republican party. The time in which they lived was fraught with danger, and their achievements were strained by vast antagonisms that recall the intense political polarization of today. But through it all, they managed to shoulder the heavy mantle of creating the United States of America, putting aside their differences to make a great country.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, America was deeply in debt and needed its economy to grow quickly, but its merchant ships were under attack. Pirates from North Africa routinely captured American sailors and held them as slaves, demanding ransom and tribute far beyond what the new country could afford.
 
Jefferson found it impossible to negotiate with the leaders of the Barbary states, who believed their religion justified the plunder and enslavement of non-Muslims. These rogue states would show no mercy, so President Jefferson decided to move beyond diplomacy. He sent the U.S. Navy’s new warships and a detachment of Marines to blockade Tripoli–launching the Barbary Wars and beginning America’s journey toward future superpower status.

Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more different worlds, or been more different in temperament. Jefferson, the optimist with enough faith in the innate goodness of his fellow man to be democracy’s champion, was an aristocratic Southern slaveowner, while Adams, the overachiever from New England’s rising middling classes, painfully aware he was no aristocrat, was a skeptic about popular rule and a defender of a more elitist view of government. They worked closely in the crucible of revolution, crafting the Declaration of Independence and leading, with Franklin, the diplomatic effort that brought France into the fight. But ultimately, their profound differences would lead to a fundamental crisis, in their friendship and in the nation writ large, as they became the figureheads of two entirely new forces, the first American political parties. It was a bitter breach, lasting through the presidential administrations of both men, and beyond. 

The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Including the Autobiography, The Declaration of Independence & His Public and Private Letters (Modern Library Classics) by Thomas Jefferson , Adrienne Koch, et al.

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) left a vast literary legacy in the form of journal entries, notes, addresses, and seventy thousand letters. This extraordinary volume represents many of his most important contributions to American political thought. It features his Autobiography, which contains the original and revised versions of the Declaration of Independence; the Anas, or Notes (1791–1809); Biographical Sketches; selections from Notes on the State of Virginia, the Travel Journals, and Essay on Anglo-Saxon; a portion of his public papers, including his first and second inaugural addresses; and more than two hundred letters. Taken together, these writings offer indispensable insight into the mind of the man who was instrumental in formulating and guiding this nation’s principles.

Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson by Thomas Jefferson

In addition to being our third President, Jefferson was Minister to France during the early stages of the French Revolution, wartime Governor of Virginia, Washington’s Secretary of State and Vice President during the John Adams administration.

A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century by Oliver DeMille

Is American education preparing the future leaders our nation needs, or merely struggling to teach basic literacy and job skills? Without leadership education, are we settling for an inadequate system that delivers educational, industrial, governmental and societal mediocrity?
In A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century, Oliver DeMille presents a new educational vision based on proven methods that really work! Teachers, students, parents, educators, legislators, leaders and everyone who cares about America’s future must read this compelling book.

Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie and Annette Gordon-Reed

With a novelist’s skill and a scholar’s meticulous detail, Fawn M. Brodie portrays Thomas Jefferson as he wrestled with the great issues of his time: revolution, religion, power, race, and love―ambivalences that exerted a subtle but powerful influence on his political ideas and his presidency. Far advanced for its time, Brodie’s biography was the first to set forth a convincing case that Thomas Jefferson was the father of children by his slave Sally Hemings. In a new introduction, Annette Gordon-Reed, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Hemingses of Monticello, explores the impact of Brodie’s groundbreaking book and explains why it is still such a powerful account of one of our greatest and most elusive presidents. 16 pages of illustrations

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy by Annette Gordon-Reed

When Annette Gordon-Reed’s groundbreaking study was first published, rumors of Thomas Jefferson’s sexual involvement with his slave Sally Hemings had circulated for two centuries. Among all aspects of Jefferson’s renowned life, it was perhaps the most hotly contested topic. The publication of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings intensified this debate by identifying glaring inconsistencies in many noted scholars’ evaluations of the existing evidence. In this study, Gordon-Reed assembles a fascinating and convincing argument: not that the alleged thirty-eight-year liaison necessarily took place but rather that the evidence for its taking place has been denied a fair hearing.

Friends of Jefferson sought to debunk the Hemings story as early as 1800, and most subsequent historians and biographers followed suit, finding the affair unthinkable based upon their view of Jefferson’s life, character, and beliefs. Gordon-Reed responds to these critics by pointing out numerous errors and prejudices in their writings, ranging from inaccurate citations, to impossible time lines, to virtual exclusions of evidence―especially evidence concerning the Hemings family. She demonstrates how these scholars may have been misguided by their own biases and may even have tailored evidence to serve and preserve their opinions of Jefferson. This updated edition of the book also includes an afterword in which the author comments on the DNA study that provided further evidence of a Jefferson and Hemings liaison.

The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams by Lester J. Cappon

An intellectual dialogue of the highest plane achieved in America, the correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson spanned half a century and embraced government, philosophy, religion, quotidiana, and family griefs and joys. First meeting as delegates to the Continental Congress in 1775, they initiated correspondence in 1777, negotiated jointly as ministers in Europe in the 1780s, and served the early Republic–each, ultimately, in its highest office. At Jefferson’s defeat of Adams for the presidency in 1800, they became estranged, and the correspondence lapses from 1801 to 1812, then is renewed until the death of both in 1826, fifty years to the day after the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson's Education by Alan Taylor

By turns entertaining and tragic, this beautifully written history reveals the origins of a great university in the dilemmas of Virginia slavery. It offers an incisive portrait of Thomas Jefferson set against a social fabric of planters in decline, enslaved black families torn apart by sales, and a hair-trigger code of male honor. A man of “deft evasions” who was both courtly and withdrawn, Jefferson sought control of his family and state from his lofty perch at Monticello. Never quite the egalitarian we wish him to be, he advocated emancipation but shrank from implementing it, entrusting that reform to the next generation. Devoted to the education of his granddaughters, he nevertheless accepted their subordination in a masculine culture. During the revolution, he proposed to educate all white children in Virginia, but later in life he narrowed his goal to building an elite university.

The Story of Thomas Jefferson: A Biography Book for New Readers by Lisa Trusiani

Discover the life of Thomas Jefferson―a story about big ideas and building a nation for kids ages 6 to 9

Thomas Jefferson helped write the Declaration of Independence and became the third president of the United States. Before he helped create America, Thomas was a young boy who loved to play outside, read, and think about new ways of doing things. He studied law and came up with revolutionary ideas that helped build a new country.

Explore how Thomas went from being a curious kid growing up in Virginia to one of America’s most important founding fathers.