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Publisher's Summary

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 Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

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  • Mary Beth
  • Apopka, FL, United States
  • 12-11-12

Excellent read for political strategies

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I liked the insights into Jefferson's personal thoughts about his own life and also the insights ino his political strategies.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A Superficial Read

More of a Cliff Notes version of Jefferson. The author glosses over Jeffersons governorship and presidency. The author fails to really dig deep and try to get the reader to understand why Jefferson is a great President. He glosses over Jeffersons fight with the Federalists and his fear of a new monarchy. Reading the book you get a good broad overview of Jefferson. If you are looking for an in-depth analysis of Jefferson, this is not the book. If you were looking for a book that talks about how Jefferson viewed and used power, as the title suggests, this is not the book. Ron Chernow's book "Alexander Hamilton" did more to provide insight into Jeffersons thinking in this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Read Hamilton before or after this

You need to read both to get an accurate picture of the times. Probably washington and Adams as well.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An astonishingly good book!

If you could sum up Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power in three words, what would they be?

Powerful. Touching. Informative.

Which scene was your favorite?

l had many favorites.

Any additional comments?

I don't think these questions have anything to do with a review of a book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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So sad that it ended

Would you listen to Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power again? Why?

Absolutely... I re-listened to many passages multiple times to be certain I caught all the detail.

What did you like best about this story?

An attentive listener can develop a very personal relationship with TJ.

What does Edward Herrmann and Jon Meacham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The patience to savor the words of TJ... allow TJ's conception of human liberty to blossom in the mind of the listener.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

It is hard to imagine a film doing justice to this material.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Amazing Insights on a Brilliant yet Flawed Man

What made the experience of listening to Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power the most enjoyable?

The book is very well done. It's worth the listen

Which scene was your favorite?

Jefferson's presidency is very interesting. Devisions that we had as a country long ago are still very real today. It's interesting how the two party system back in Jefferson's day (which many look at as a golden age) was just as polarized as things are today. It gives me hope that even though things seem really screwed up right now we've obviously been in much worse positions as a country. Jefferson was a political mastermind and really quite an amazing person that transcends time,

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Proud of our Founding Fathers

I have enjoyed reading about the founding fathers, particularly because it helps me understand exactly what they had in mind as they framed the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson did not have a particularly easy life. He lost his wife when she was only in her thirties. He lost many children before they reached adulthood. He suffered from health problems himself. But through it all he was true to the cause of freedom, made possible by an inspired Declaration of Independence, and later a Constitution superior to all others, small government and non-professional politicians. I have a feeling he would wring his hands in agony if he saw what a mess we have made of it today. I hope and pray we can get back to the country Jefferson helped bring into being nearly 240 years ago.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • FWE
  • United States
  • 09-10-13

Fantastic

What did you love best about Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power?

Loved it. I love Jeffersonian history and this one was wonderful. 5 stars all the way.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Loved the Great Detail I have never read before

What made the experience of listening to Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power the most enjoyable?

I loved the way the book started with a summary of what was to come. And then I very much enjoyed the great detail about his youth, his early political years, his time as Governor - good, bad and ugly - the details about his various philosophical ideas about life and religion, his time in France, is time as Secretary of State, VP and the Prez. And then the 18 years period after he was president.

Who was your favorite character and why?

TJ himself - the book is about him. But I also enjoyed the insights into Washington and Adams.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When Jefferson was running to hide from the British during the War.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very good.... not great

Where does Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

mid pack

What was one of the most memorable moments of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power?

cna't think of one in particular.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No and Yes. I was moved to tears @ the mention of his loss of his daughter

Any additional comments?

I have read several books about Mr Jefferson. This was quite good, quite recommendable but not great, not epic. That Mr Jefferson was anti-federal anti monarchical goes without saying. This book, however, says it yet again. I am not sure it can be said too many times. I enjoyed this book and I DO recommend it. The narration was excellent. Not sure if it was Herrman or Meacham that was doing the majority of narration but I love that guys narration. Excellent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful