A well-balanced remarkable presentation of a unique human experience. Jefferson is portrayed without excuse for his many flaws but with a compelling appreciation of the remarkable capacity of the human mind to inquire, to learn and to make use of what is known. Jefferson is presented as a Renaissance scholar who advocated the use of reasoning to address the reoccurring problems of humanity when seeking to make rules people will live by.
His life demonstrates a remarkable ability to tolerate the ambiguity of his reality. The ownership of slaves while advocating equality of all humans is an oxymoron at best.
In crafting maxims are for the ages, Jefferson's ability to write in elegant style that has transcendency overtime was one of the most remarkable achievements that any human being has ever made.
This book brings out the strengths and weaknesses found in a single human being which was require to make this remarkable synergy of thought and action possible.
Thinking people will enjoy this book; Statesmen should embrace the lessons it contains.
Interesting, Fair, Insightful
I really liked that Meacham was fair to Jefferson's rivals and didn't trash their reputations to make Jefferson look better. Nor did he make Jefferson out to be a glowing hero. Jefferson had flaws and was human, and Meacham helped highlight his greatness without glossing over his mistakes.
This might sound macabre, but it was the scene he lost his wife. It evoked the most emotion and helped to show that in spite of this horrible heartbreak, he went on to do these great things. Rather than grow bitter, he healed and went on to live a long full life.
I rarely cry at books, so no crying, but I laughed several times.
I hope HBO makes a TV show like they did on John Adams with this biography. It was wonderful and thorough without being dry. I felt Jon Meacham fairly represented all the men whose lives were interwoven with Jefferson's, which I've found is pretty rare in a biography. Most people write a biography with a clear bias towards their subject, and their rivals are presented as the villain of the story. I read this after studying Alexander Hamilton and I wanted a better understanding of Thomas Jefferson, who hadn't been painted in the most flattering light. I cringed coming onto the chapters about Hamilton, expected he'd be portrayed pretty harshly, but was pleasantly surprised to find that Jefferson's biographer not only presented him fairly and explained his positions as I'd learned them, but was careful to point out Jefferson's actions/political positions that led to their falling out.I got a much better understanding of Thomas Jefferson, and, while I still find some of his actions hypocritical regarding his views on liberty and slave owning, Meacham reminds readers that Jefferson was a human being who did what he could in the time he lived.
Interested in geneaology, history and writing
Knowing that I would visit Monticello in the near future, I chose this book to refresh my memory about our third President and was not disappointed. My understanding of the genius of this man and America's history was so much clearer and very personal after reading the book. The tour guide seemed to be quoting passage after passage (though I am sure she was not) about his beloved home. I enjoyed it so much that, from time to time, I will relisten to parts of this book. Edward Herrmann was brilliant in his narration.
I would absolutely recommend this book. Jon Meacham and Edward Hermann are a superb combination!
"Washington: A Life" by Ron Chernow. This is also a vividly told story full of historical facts that goes deeper into the man's character (not only his role as our 1st President and leader of our armed forces) more than any other I have come across.
I have not 'listened' to either. I was not aware that Ed Hermann was a narrator, let alone a Master Narrator. In my mind, he is the only person who should ever be privileged to narrate Jon Meacham's work. His sonorous tones are truly masterful, especially when provided with such smart work as we have come to expect from this Author.
I could envision the scenes described, literally unfolding before my eyes. The pictures of the Virginia countryside, the first meetings of the Continental Congress; I was thrilled and drawn in by the drama of the more notable moments before I realized. This is an inspiring and candid portal into one of the most significant periods of not only American, but world history. Jon Meacham has outdone even himself with this one... and that is no small feat
I thoroughly enjoyed every moment in this story. Artfully crafted, full of vivid and resplendent detail. Sublimely narrated by the venerable Edward Hermann.
No matter how you feel about Thomas Jefferson, this book does an excellent job of giving those who read it a chance to really understand who he was and what he did for America. His flaws are discussed without trying to hide or minimize them. He had flaws as does everyone, but the work he did for America is without a doubt so very important to the world we know today. Without Thomas Jefferson America would be far different today. For me, he was the single most important President we ever were lucky enough to have. This book, although definitely favorable, demonstrates how the admiration for Jefferson is deserved. Meacham does a great job of letting the facts and stories of the time demonstrate just how great of a man he was in such a crucial moment in US history. Mix a great story about a great man with the superb narration of Edward Hermann, this book delivers. This will be a multi-read book for me for many years.
Cannot oversell it!
From start to finish one is entranced by Jefferson's ability to maneuver and see things play out before they actually occur.
Jefferson of course.
Mind of Machiavelli, Heart of David
I know that I have much more time to listen than I do to sit & read
His letter to J.Adams where he stated that he preferred newspapers to government assuming an informed populace to keep the politicians feet to the fire. For without that scrutiny politicians become like wolves.
It was heart warming to hear what a great gentleman Jefferson was. He behaved with grace & character under trying circumstances
An excellent listen for those interested in our history so that we can shape the most productive future possible
This is a pretty good biography of Jefferson, but while the author assures us repeatedly that Jefferson was a shrewd politician, he doesn't show us what he means.
Given his successes, it makes sense that Jefferson was a shrewd politician, but either he hid his machinations or it will take another author to reveal them.
Herrmann wasn't given much to work with. The writing is not compelling or memorable.
No. I gave up about a third of the way through.
Closet librarian with diminishing space & time.
Examining the pragmatic brilliance of Jefferson, I enjoyed the examination of his ideals & the compromises he made in order to achieve the foundation of our democracy. Protecting the country from the recurring pressure of monarchists, he had to maneuver at the expense of what he believed. But his confidence that ours is a country in which we can & always will improve gives me hope. He did not deliver the ideal; he expected us to keep working toward it. This work can't possibly address every detail. It offers perspective.
Engaging writing, well read. (Caveat: I listen at 1.25 speed.)
Examination of the contradictions that recurred throughout his life.
Too long for that, although I found myself listening at every opportunity until finished.
Jon Meacham has penned an enjoyable biography of the third president, who also (save, possibly, for Benjamin Franklin) was the most talented man of his day -- and perhaps who ever lived. It starts with Jefferson's birth in Shadwell, Virginia, and ends 83 years later not far away at Monticello, which among all of the homes of the Founders most completely reflects its occupant. Of course, Jefferson also designed the structure, and as Meacham notes, spent most of the years until his retirement tinkering with it -- at one point demolishing much of the original building to (eventually) more than double its size.
In between, we have Jefferson the young student; the young lawyer; the delegate to the Continental Congress where he became the primary author of the Declaration of Independence; the Governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War (one of his least noteworthy roles); a representative to the Confederation Congress; minister to France in the 1780s; Secretary of State during Washington's first term; then leader of the opposition to the Federalists, including his old friend John Adams; and, finally, President. And then he became the Sage of Monticello for his last two decades, managing to found (and design many of the buildings for) the University of Virginia.
Just listing those posts that Jefferson held is itself somewhat exhausting . . . and in addition to his vibrant political contributions to his country, Jefferson was a lawyer, surveyor, naturalist, author, inventor, and architect. Yet his reputation has diminished somewhat in recent years, as popular biographies have exalted his rival John Adams at Jefferson's expense -- and as revelations about his relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, have become newsworthy, with DNA tests confirming that he indeed fathered many of her children. Meacham does not gloss over this relationship, and instead presents a kind of warts-and-all portrait: a man who thought slavery should be abolished, yet owned as many as 600 slaves himself; who thought there was nothing wrong with evicting Native tribes to make way for white settlement; who served one Federalist president yet came to resist him and his successor; and who opposed the concentration of power in the national government, yet was sanguine about its use when he became chief executive himself.
The Jefferson that emerges here, then, is a complex and contradictory figure -- very much a man of his time, with prejudices that would make him politically incorrect today. Yet he was also one of the most pivotal of the Founders, probably their most eloquent writer, and a man who learned how to use power to achieve what he thought best for his nation -- perpetuating his views through four of the next five presidential administrations.
He is also perhaps the most accessible of the Founders. As Meacham says, while it's hard to imagine having a glass of wine and dinner conversation at Mount Vernon with George Washington, it's easy to imagine doing so at Monticello with Jefferson. Meacham's biography reminds us that, for all his flaws, Jefferson's extraordinary talents, his political contributions to the young republic, and his unceasing opposition to monarchy, lift Jefferson far above his human failings. The book is brought enjoyably to life by Edward Herrmann, who though nearly 70 has a voice that is still strong and clear, and one of the best narrators working today.