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 Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American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.
©2012 Jon Meacham (P)2012 Random House Audio
"Jon Meacham resolves the bundle of contradictions that was Thomas Jefferson by probing his love of progress and thirst for power. This is a thrilling and affecting portrait of our first philosopher-politician." (Stacy Schiff)
"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)
"Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power is a true triumph, a brilliant biography. Jon Meacham shows how Jefferson's deft ability to compromise and improvise made him a transformational leader. We think of Jefferson as the embodiment of noble ideals, as he was, but Meacham shows that he was a practical politician more than a moral theorist. The result is a fascinating look at how Jefferson wielded his driving desire for power and control." (Walter Isaacson)
If you would like to hear about Thomas Jefferson's opinions and observations about the happenings of his life without an ounce of context, this book is for you. The book basically amounts to a recitation of letters to, from, or about Mr. Jefferson and little else. The history happening in the background is either painted with extremely broad strokes or ignored all together. You learn nothing about the man, apart from his writing style and his thoughts on very vague ideas apparently unrelated to any of the immense happenings of the revolution or the formation and practice of a Democratic Republic. Just a ridiculous waste of time masquerading as history.
A must-read if you're into early American history, although Meacham is overly infatuated with his subject. Some chapters would lead you to think Jefferson was the second coming, with his many, and well-known faults and missteps seriously under reported or glossed over. Although exceptionally accurate from a historical perspective, Meacham's glowing treatment of Jefferson makes him hard to get to know as man.
Although a very long investment of time is necessary, the book is richly rewarding. It gives the listener a broad perspective not only of Jefferson's life and the early underpinnings of the American experience, but also places into context the tensions we all feel in contemporary politics and society. As a recent visitor to Monticello before listening to this book, it also made the place come alive in my memory. Mr. Meacham' writing and Mr. Hermann' narration are sublime.
I always wonder if this is a trick question and I'm just not getting the point. Is there any other answer but YES?
Edward Herrmann is one of the preeminent narrators in the business. I never tire of listening to the books he narrates. Jon Meacham should stick to writing.
The portrait painted here of Jefferson displays his frustrating personality. Immensely talented and brilliant, but also underhanded and deceptive.
I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as other presidential biographies due to the author's glossing-over of Jefferson's flaws as a man and a politician. I would have appreciated a more honest and unbiased appraisal of this particular founding father.
This biography covers his life in broad strokes. If you're looking for extreme depth and detail in the vein of unique anecdotes or fresh perspectives on his public and private life, this is not the bio for you. After listening to the incredible Andrew Jackson biography by H.W. Brands I was a little disappointed in this telling.
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.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.