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Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power Hardcover – Deckle Edge


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067669
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067664
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 3.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (884 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: As multifaceted a character as has ever been seen in American history (not to mention politics), Thomas Jefferson was perhaps the ideal leader for the young nation still struggling with external threats and its own identity: a to-the-core individualist and visionary who both embodied and reconciled the contradictions of individualism and a shared nationality. It’s no mean feat to render the life and times of such a figure (much less make it compulsively readable), but as with his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Andrew Jackson (American Lion), Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power vividly illustrates the world and impact of our third president, deftly weaving the threads of Jefferson’s personality into a complete portrait of a singularly complex politician and thinker--a philosopher president. --Jon Foro

Review

Praise for Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
 
Fascinating and insightful … Many books have been written about Jefferson’s life, but few have created such a vivid portrait … Meacham immerses the reader in that period of history to explain Jefferson’s behavior during an era when the nation was as contradictory as he was … extraordinary … essential.”—The Associated Press

“[A]ccomplishes something more impressive than dissecting Jefferson’s political skills by explaining his greatness, a different task from chronicling a life, though he does that too — and handsomely. Even though I know quite a lot about Jefferson, I was repeatedly surprised by the fresh information Meacham brings to his work. Surely there is not a significant detail out there, in any pertinent archive, that he has missed.”—Joyce Appleby, Washington Post

“[Meacham] argues persuasively that for Jefferson the ideal of liberty was not incompatible with a strong federal government, and also that Jefferson’s service in the Congress in 1776 left him thoroughly versed in the ways and means of politics … Meacham wisely has chosen to look at Jefferson through a political lens, assessing how he balanced his ideals with pragmatism while also bending others to his will. And just as he scolded Jackson, another slaveholder and champion of individual liberty, for being a hypocrite, so Meacham gives a tough-minded account of Jefferson’s slippery recalibrations on race … Where other historians have found hypocrisy in Jefferson’s use of executive power to complete the Louisiana Purchase, Meacham is nuanced and persuasive..”—Jill Abramson, The New York Times Book Review

“[Meacham] does an excellent job getting inside Jefferson's head and his world … Meacham presents Jefferson's life in a textured narrative that weaves together Jefferson's well-traveled career.”—USA Today

“A big, grand, absorbing exploration of not just Jefferson and his role in history but also Jefferson the man, humanized as never before. [Grade:] A-.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Impeccably researched and footnoted … a model of clarity and explanation.”—Bloomberg

 “[Meacham] captures who Jefferson was, not just as a statesman but as a man … By the end of the book, as the 83-year-old Founding Father struggles to survive until the Fourth of July, 1826, the 50th anniversary of his masterful Declaration, the reader is likely to feel as if he is losing a dear friend … [an] absorbing tale.”—Christian Science Monitor

“Absorbing . . . Jefferson emerges in the book not merely as a lofty thinker but as the ultimate political operator, a master pragmatist who got things done in times nearly as fractious as our own.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“[Jefferson’s] life is a riveting story of our nation’s founding—an improbable turn of events that seems only in retrospect inevitable. Few are better suited to the telling than Jon Meacham. . . . Captivating.”—The Seattle Times

 “[Meacham] brings to bear his focused and sensitive scholarship, rich prose style … The Jefferson that emerges from these astute, dramatic pages is a figure worthy of continued study and appreciation … [a] very impressive book.”—Booklist (Starred Review)

“An outstanding biography that reveals an overlooked steeliness at Jefferson’s core that accounts for so much of his political success.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Jon Meacham understands Thomas Jefferson. With thorough and up-to-date research, elegant writing, deep insight, and an open mind, he brings Jefferson, the most talented politician of his generation—and one of the most talented in our nation’s history—into full view. It is no small task to capture so capacious a life in one volume. Meacham has succeeded, giving us a rich presentation of our third president’s life and times. This is an extraordinary work.”—Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello
 
 “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, author of Team of Rivals
 
“Jon Meacham resolves the bundle of contradictions that was Thomas Jefferson by probing his love of progress and thirst for power. Here was a man endlessly, artfully intent on making the world something it had not been before. A thrilling and affecting portrait of our first philosopher-politician.”—Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra: A Life

"A true triumph. In addition to being a brilliant biography, this book is a guide to the use of power. 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, author of Steve Jobs
 
"This is probably the best single-volume biography of Jefferson ever written; it is certainly the most readable."—Gordon Wood, author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution
 
“This is Jon Meacham's best book yet.  Evocatively written and deeply researched, it sheds brilliant light on facets of Thomas Jefferson we haven't seen before, gives us original and unexpected new insights into his identity and character, and uses the irresistible story of this talented, manipulative, complicated man to bring us life lessons on universal subjects from family and friendship to politics and leadership.  The Sage of Monticello made a considerable effort to turn his life into a mystery, but in a splendid match of biographer with subject, Meacham has cracked the Jefferson code."—Michael Beschloss

More About the Author

Jon Meacham is the author, most recently, of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, a No. 1 New York Times bestseller that has been named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, The Seattle Times, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Meacham received the Pulitzer Prize for American Lion, his bestselling 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson. He is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Franklin and Winston and American Gospel. Executive editor and executive vice president of Random House, Meacham is a contributing editor to Time magazine, a former editor of Newsweek, and has written for The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other publications. He is a regular contributor on Meet the Press, Morning Joe, and Charlie Rose. A Fellow of the Society of American Historians, Meacham serves on the boards of the New-York Historical Society; the Churchill Centre; and of The McCallie School. He is a former trustee and Regent of The University of the South and has served on the vestries of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and Trinity Church Wall Street. Born in Chattanooga in 1969, Meacham was educated at McCallie and at The University of the South, where he was salutatorian and Phi Beta Kappa. He began his career as a reporter at The Chattanooga Times. He and his wife live with their three children in Nashville and in Sewanee.

Customer Reviews

This book is extremely well written and very enjoyable to read.
Tom McBride
Though a flawed man as most humans are, Mr. Jefferson's vision for his (our) beloved country lifts us out of apathy and inspires us to better achievements.
Bunny
Mr. Meacham has written a very informative book on the life and times of Mr. Jefferson.
John Homrig

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

522 of 559 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on September 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've read a couple books on Thomas Jefferson in the past. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History to name a couple. Up until this newest book by Jon Meacham, I though that the essential character of Jefferson was essentially unknowable, a man of contradictions and hiddenness. Yet, Meacham manages, in his large but fascinating and quick read, to illuminate Jefferson through a new pair of eyes: that of his leadership. In doing so, we meet a new Jefferson, sometimes wily, always intelligent, always forward thinking.

Jon Meacham wrote one of my favorite books, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, which I've read at least twice and listened to on my iPod while running each summer. Meacham has a way of writing his history that manages to avoid the endless onslaught of names and trivial facts, and truly centers on the person. By doing so, he creates a momentum in his writing that's compelling and hard to put down.

Meacham's unique spin on Jefferson (if spin is the right word .... more of a focus) is how he developed his leadership and vision for America. This focus causes Meacham to rush in his writing through Jefferson's early years (before you know it, he's attending the second Continental Congress) and getting him to the national stage as quickly as possible, which was refreshening and never abrupt.
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305 of 335 people found the following review helpful By dcreader VINE VOICE on October 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Throughout our history Presidents as politically diverse as Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, Kennedy and Reagan have enthusiastically embraced the legacy of their predecessor, Thomas Jefferson. Recent scholarship on the Founding generation, however, has unfairly diminished Jefferson in Jon Meacham's view. Biographies of Washington, Adams and Hamilton have all tended to reduce Jefferson to the role of an intriguer lurking in the background, a foil for Hamilton and Adams in particular. In Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Meacham reclaims Jefferson's prominence in setting America on her course, asserting that most of the Presidents who served between 1800 and 1840 were Jeffersonians, and holds Jefferson up as a role model for today's politicians struggling to reconcile political idealism with the realism needed to traverse the rough waters of democratic politics.

The Art of Power is a very well written narrative and moves at a fast paced with chapters generally ranging from 10-15 pages. While Meacham clearly admires Jefferson, though, he is able to acknowledge Jefferson's failures and contradictions as well. However, there are several shortcomings that detracted from my enjoyment of the Art of Power.

First, while The Art of Power covers Jefferson's personal and political lives thoroughly, Meacham appears to have been poorly served by certain curious editorial choices. His summation of Jefferson's legacy appears in the Author's Note, and much of the detail necessary to inform the reader of vital details is contained in the nearly 200 pages of end notes. For example the text makes it appear as if there is no question whatsoever regarding Jefferson's paternity of his slave's children.
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156 of 175 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Phillips VINE VOICE on October 12, 2012
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I'll admit to being a Jefferson fan. His vision is what led me to UVa, and his depth and breadth of knowledge and experience still astounds me. Truly a renaissance man who seemed to master most of what he attempted - languages, science, music, politics, and a man of stark contradictions. A man who owned slaves and yet campaigned to free them. A man who enjoyed political power but despised face to face confrontations. This book captures this man, and I think does an excellent job developing a focal point to use to understand Jefferson, his contributions and his flaws.

Meacham uses one "prism" to evaluate Jefferson's life - the acquisition and use of power to achieve Jefferson's vision and aims. While this is nominally a biography, the depth of the book lies in examining how and when Jefferson acquired and used power to achieve his aims. While I had hoped to read more about the University of Virginia, I knew the book wouldn't spend much time on it, and it didn't. The vast majority of the book is spent examining the unfolding disagreement between the Federalists, primarily in New England, who sought closer relationship with England and rule by the privileged and the few, and the Democrats, primarily in the Mid-Atlantic and South, who worked for individual democracy. It came as a surprise to me to learn that several times the Northeastern states contemplated secession over the style of government. This is little reported in US history.

Jefferson felt that the Revolution was fought to free the Americans to pursue individual freedoms, individual liberty which could only result from participative democracy. Many of the Federalists believed that the average citizen could not participate in government effectively and wanted a privileged ruling class.
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