Thomas Jefferson by Jon Meacham
The Art of Power

76%

22 Critic Reviews

An outstanding biography that reveals an overlooked steeliness at Jefferson’s core that accounts for so much of his political success.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • Entertainment Weekly • The Seattle Times • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Bloomberg Businessweek

In this magnificent biography, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power gives us Jefferson the politician and president, a great and complex human being forever engaged in the wars of his era. Philosophers think; politicians maneuver. Jefferson’s genius was that he was both and could do both, often simultaneously. Such is the art of power.
 
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 Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American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.
 
The father of the ideal of individual liberty, of the Louisiana Purchase, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and of the settling of the West, Jefferson recognized that the genius of humanity—and the genius of the new nation—lay in the possibility of progress, of discovering the undiscovered and seeking the unknown. From the writing of the Declaration of Independence to elegant dinners in Paris and in the President’s House; from political maneuverings in the boardinghouses and legislative halls of Philadelphia and New York to the infant capital on the Potomac; from his complicated life at Monticello, his breathtaking house and plantation in Virginia, to the creation of the University of Virginia, Jefferson was central to the age. Here too is the personal Jefferson, a man of appetite, sensuality, and passion.
 
The Jefferson story resonates today not least because he led his nation through ferocious partisanship and cultural warfare amid economic change and external threats, and also because he embodies an eternal drama, the struggle of the leadership of a nation to achieve greatness in a difficult and confounding world.

Praise for Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
 
“This is probably the best single-volume biography of Jefferson ever written.”—Gordon S. Wood
 
“A big, grand, absorbing exploration of not just Jefferson and his role in history but also Jefferson the man, humanized as never before.”—Entertainment Weekly

“[Meacham] captures who Jefferson was, not just as a statesman but as a man. . . . By the end of the book . . . the reader is likely to feel as if he is losing a dear friend. . . . [An] absorbing tale.”—The Christian Science Monitor

“This terrific book allows us to see the political genius of Thomas Jefferson better than we have ever seen it before. In these endlessly fascinating pages, Jefferson emerges with such vitality that it seems as if he might still be alive today.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Jon Meacham

See more books from this Author
Jon Meacham is the editor of Newsweek and author of American Lion and the New York Times bestsellers Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship and American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. He lives in New York City with his wife and children.
 
Published November 13, 2012 by Random House. 800 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, War. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Critic reviews for Thomas Jefferson
All: 22 | Positive: 15 | Negative: 7

Kirkus

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Aug 15 2012

An outstanding biography that reveals an overlooked steeliness at Jefferson’s core that accounts for so much of his political success.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Nov 20 2012

Much of what Mr. Meacham has to say about Jefferson is too self-evident to be very illuminating. His strongest point, repeated frequently, is that Jefferson was both philosopher and politician...

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by JILL ABRAMSON on Nov 02 2012

As an Establishment man, Meacham ultimately celebrates the art of political compromise in service of moving the nation forward. It is an argument unlikely to meet with disapproval.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Amanda Urban on Jul 16 2012

As fine a rendering of the nation’s third president as this book may be, it comes too close to idolization. Jefferson’s critics still have something valid to say, even if their voices here are stilled.

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Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by Jack Goodstein on Jan 01 2013

Thomas Jefferson's practice of the art of power is nothing less than an object lesson for anyone who would aspire to affect the course of events in a democratic society.

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NY Journal of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Stephen Roulac on Nov 13 2012

Biography at its best. . . . deserves the widest readership.

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Entertainment Weekly

Below average
Reviewed by Tina Jordan on Nov 14 2012

His is a big, grand, absorbing exploration of not just Jefferson and his role in history but also Jefferson the man, humanized as never before...

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The Seattle Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Kevin J. Hamilton on Nov 25 2012

Meacham's writing is captivating; indeed, the book unfolds like a novel, with events cascading one after the other.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Excellent
Reviewed by MAX BYRD on Nov 12 2012

It is a solemn, steadily admiring portrait of a hero.

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Denver Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Joyce Appleby on Nov 18 2012

Meacham, despite his subtitle, accomplishes something more impressive than dissecting Jefferson's political skills by explaining his greatness, a different task from chronicling a life, though he does that, too — and handsomely.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Joyce Appleby on Nov 09 2012

...Meacham, despite his subtitle, accomplishes something more impressive than dissecting Jefferson’s political skills by explaining his greatness, a different task from chronicling a life, though he does that too — and handsomely.

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Tampa Bay Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Joyce Appleby on Dec 02 2012

Even though I know quite a lot about Jefferson, I was repeatedly surprised by the fresh information Meacham brings to his work.

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The New Republic

Below average
Reviewed by Henry Wiencek on Dec 04 2012

One regrets that a writer with his skills is so risk-averse, and does not wade into the fray; but Meacham merely shrugs that Jefferson has too many sides.

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The New Republic

Below average
Reviewed by Henry Wiencek on Dec 04 2012

But Meacham has chosen storytelling over analysis, offering up a genial but meandering narrative. There is some meat in the book, but finding it requires dexterity and doggedness...

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The Atlantic

Below average
Reviewed by Eric Herschthal on Nov 01 2012

Meacham seems unwilling to acknowledge that Jefferson exacerbated the slavery problem. He paints him as a noble leader who tried but failed to change the people's minds.

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Baltimore City Paper

Above average
Reviewed by Damien Ober on Jan 02 2013

...Meacham fails his subtitle because the book fails to engage Jefferson as a nuts-and-bolts powerbroker...If the title of Meacham’s book had been “Thomas Jefferson: A Biography,” it would have been an unquestioned success.

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Las Vegas Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Chuck Twardy on Nov 21 2012

Meacham, former editor of Newsweek and now a contributing editor for Time, writes with a journalist’s ease, and the way he works the Hemings narrative into Jefferson’s both complicates and humanizes the man.

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City View

Excellent
Reviewed by City View on Dec 26 2012

Jon Meacham has written an authoritative, detailed biography of Jefferson, illuminating the politics and concerns of that time and the abilities of Mr. Jefferson to bend his personal ideals to gain power in the political realm.

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Uloop

Excellent
Reviewed by James Barasch on Dec 08 2012

Jon Meacham has successfully and bravely tackled the immense challenge of de-mythologizing a figure that has entered the ‘American Pantheon’ of civic demi-gods along with Washington and Lincoln.

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Daily South

Excellent
Reviewed by Kim Cross on Nov 13 2012

Meacham’s Jefferson so relatable, instead of unreachable. The credit goes to Meacham’s serious chops.

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ChesCo Reader Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Jack on Nov 27 2012

I’ll just say that I enjoyed it and feel that I understand Jefferson much better than before.

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Library of Law and Liberty

Below average
Reviewed by Jeremy Bailey on Dec 30 2012

Meacham’s biography fails, however, as a study of Jefferson and the art of power.

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Reader Rating for Thomas Jefferson
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MICHELLE RUST 5 Sep 2013

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