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 Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American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

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
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Not even Edward Herrmann could save this.

What disappointed you about Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power?

I have learned almost nothing about the man after listening to this. Very few sources are used in the book and most of the content is anecdotal. I hear how great Jon Meacham thinks Thomas Jefferson is but I never hear why. I hear the story of an insecure, childish man who could easily be seen as a sociopath if that did not imply intelligence. He only wanted to be liked. His "political genius" seems to be whining and dining people of the era and practicing self-restraint in comments. I learned far more about Jefferson from the John Quincy Adams, George Washingon and Hamilton biographies than I did from this book.

Has Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power turned you off from other books in this genre?

No. I know there are many great writers in this field. I only now know Jon Meacham is not one of them.

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

Yes. Edward Herrmanns narration is fantastic as always but even he cannot put a shine on poor writing. I will avoid Jon Meacham's book's like Jefferson avoiding honesty, hard work, and fiscal responsibility.

What character would you cut from Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power?

Thomas Jefferson

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An unbiased mustread for All.

It is incumbent on each individual to strive for the betterment of man regardless of inheritance.

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Very good listen, extremely insightful

I would highly recommend this if you are interested in learning more about pertinent times and events related to the birth of the United States.

If you aren't fascinated by the man Thomas Jefferson, though, it will probably bore you.

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  • JLP
  • TX
  • 04-03-17

Enjoyed This Immensely!

I have just started getting into history as an adult. I found this book very enjoyable to listen to. In fact, I listened at every opportunity until it was complete and found myself sad when it was over.

As a historical novice, I will refrain from questioning the accuracy of this account. Time will tell as I listen to and read other works of history.

Oh, and the best part of the Audible version is the calming voice of Edward Herrmann. What a great narrator.

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Moves and keeps a good pace

A very in-depth look at Thomas Jefferson's amazing life and fight for a new contury

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A Nice Surprise

This book turned out to be far better, far fairer, far more informative and far better told than I had expected.

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Hermann is fantastic; the book meanders too much

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

Overall, yes. It is not bad, but it could meander a bit into some aspects of Jefferson's personal, daily life that I found less interesting. I get why Meacham is doing this: in part to show Jefferson as a complete human being, but I found it distracting. The book is at its best when focused on the more historical aspects of Jefferson's life. Edward Hermann was a fantastic reader: I could listen to him read the phone book.

Would you be willing to try another book from Jon Meacham? Why or why not?

Sure.

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Wonderful story about a very complex man.

This book covers Jefferson's complex public and private lives in a masterful way. It paints a portrait of a man who was neither hero nor villain, neither true conservative nor true liberal, and neither true believer nor athiest. This paints the portrait of a man with many complicated, almost conflicting views, but who always had the greater good for the country he loved in mind. It was very even handed and a great read.

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Good but a little disappointed

Overall this book was pretty good. Author comes across a little dogmatic on points that are not so certain. I would recommend this book along with David Barton's "The Jefferson Lies" to put things in a little better perspective.

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Balanced Portrait

This beautifully written portrait of Jefferson gives a badly needed, and yet balanced view of the man whose image and legacy pervades so much of modern American culture. He is neither made to be an unblemished hero, or left to suffer the label of the two faced hypocrite. I highly recommend this volume as a reintroduction to remarkable man that can still teach amazing things to the world today.