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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 Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American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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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Doug
  • Glenwood, IA, United States
  • 06-07-13

Wonderful!

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

An excellent historical biography that underscored the central theme--Jefferson as one masterful in marshaling and using power.

What did you like best about this story?

I liked the intricate details that highlighted the biography as told through letters and anecdotes.

Any additional comments?

Herrman's craft in telling the story is exemplary--very easy to listen to and very entertaining!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Paul
  • Sandy Ridge, NC, United States
  • 02-19-13

Great story... Great Narration

"All men are created equal"... Mr Jefferson maybe the exception to his own rule. This book should be on the top of anyones reading list for the life and times of Thomas Jefferson, the founding fathers and the fledgling years of these United States of America.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Our Greatest Founding Father

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

Skilled, Brilliance Honesty

What did you like best about this story?

How impassioned he was.

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

A richness of details.

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

His integrity was the cornerstone of the republic.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Entertaining listen--excellent story

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

The story of the Jefferson--a very interesting person, politician and more

What other book might you compare Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power to and why?

The story of Thomas Jefferson and the writing of Meacham compare to the best fiction I have read. The story of Jefferson is as interesting as the best fiction. I have not read another non-fiction that can compare to Thomas Jefferson

Have you listened to any of Edward Herrmann and Jon Meacham ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

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

Too many to list.

Any additional comments?

Should be required reading for high school US history students.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Philip
  • Mendham, NJ, United States
  • 12-25-12

Fantastic book on Jefferson

This was a very balanced and enjoyable. The book was of those that make you feel part of the time, yet give you the distanced perspective. The readers style was very enjoyable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • Denver, CO, United States
  • 12-14-12

A somewhat sympathetic treatment and very thorough

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

Ranked in the top quarter of my audio books this year.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I don't recall a variety of voices in this performance, Thomas was the focus.

Which character – as performed by Edward Herrmann and Jon Meacham – was your favorite?

I came for the knowledge of Jefferson and felt I received a great deal of that here.

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

Perhaps undeserving of the reverence heretofore granted this founding father.

Any additional comments?

This book, combined with a recent article in "Smithsonian," has dethroned this former hero of mine. Jefferson is revealed as a duplicitious schemer, rabid partisan and bigot. His performance as president seems lackluster, with his crowning achievement, the Lousiana Purchase, having fallen in his lap.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Wayne
  • Matthews, NC
  • 12-08-16

Historian Jon Meacham disappoints. Again!

Let's start with narration. Edward Hermann is an outstanding narrator of both biographies and fiction. Like all narrators, he is best when the content of the book is interesting. I did not down rate his narration due to the awful writing of the book.

I really must stop purchasing books written by second-rate historian Jon Meacham. My issue is much more with his dry and boring writing style than with the contents of his biographies of historical figures. His Andrew Jackson biography was even worse than this boring tome. A great biography reads like a great story rather than a dry tome. Meacham would do well to hire a ghost writer to at least clean up the boring style of his transcripts. Or he could read and attempt to emulate David McCullough biographies of Samuel Adams, Harry Truman, and the young Theodore Roosevelt. Several months ago I read Ron Chernow's brilliant Hamilton. Chernow's biographies of historical figures, like McCullough's, are consistently great biographies told as wonderful stories.

My other issue with this book is that based on the title, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, I was expecting it to deal more fully with Jefferson's use of power as president. Instead this book is a biography of Jefferson's full life with no special attention paid to his use of the power of his offices. Frankly, I learned more about Jefferson the politician from McCullough's Samuel Adams and Chernow's Hamilton than from Meacham's book.

The bottom like on Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power is that Meacham does not do justice to one of the great founders of our country by writing a dry, boring biography.

7 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

One-sided view of Jefferson

This biography covers the breath of Jefferson's life in detail, as long as you gloss the Hemming assault and slavery as the time he lived, his cowardice as a governor as simply leaving the city, and his extreme insensitivity to the French citizens as they revolted while he ate cake in their midst as statesmanship. He was renowned for his insatiable pursuit of married women and his arrogance around the battles for independence (he never fought in any battle, preferring Louis XIV). He ran on the stance of less government intervention and yet his presidency moved to empower central government and the executive branch further than any other president. Yet he maintained a hatred for the Federalist. He never acknowledged his children, keeping them slaves with a brutal overseer, yet this biography glosses over this as part of his greatness as a statesman, speaking of his love for his gardens, enormous home and building of the University of Virginia, all accomplished on the backs of slave labor. The last two chapters were laughable in their worship of a very flawed, arrogant, elitist. Narration was very good and clear, however.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark
  • Toney, AL United States
  • 01-27-13

Fascinating

This is a fascinating and informative book on one of the most complicated and complex individuals of the founding fathers of the United States. You get a real picture of the immense talents and shortcomings of not only Jefferson but many of the other founding fathers such as Adams, Madison and Hamilton – they seemed to be the perfect counterbalance to each other at a time when had either the Federalist or the Anti-Federalist factions been exclusively in power this country might never had survived to become the country that it is today. Washington must have truly been an amazing leader to have been able to marshal the talents of Jefferson, Hamilton and Adams in one cabinet during the most critical time in the fledgling countries development, especially since they all were fundamentally opposed to each other’s vision and philosophy of Government. Jefferson’s steadfast opposition to Monarchy certainly was a factor in ensuring that this country did not eventually drift back towards the British model during some of the challenging periods of the post revolutionary period. Mr Meacham does an excellent job in presenting a realistic portrait of Jefferson, flaws and strengths. Ed Herman is one of the better narrators for bios and he does an outstanding job in this one. I would strongly recommend this book if you enjoy American History.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Franklin
  • Danbury, CT, United States
  • 12-14-12

Excellent Book

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Fantastic biography. When I finished the book I became emotional as it was like I was loosing a close friend.

Who was your favorite character and why?

N/A

5 of 8 people found this review helpful