Best biography of Jefferson?
March 26, 2012 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Biography recommendations for Thomas Jefferson?

I've just finished Walter Isaacson's biography of Benjamin Franklin, which I loved. Is there an equivalently readable yet detailed book about Jefferson? What I particularly loved about Isaacson's book was the way it made his interpretation of the character of Franklin come alive, so looking for something similar for Jefferson.
posted by StephenF to Education (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Going back many years to my days in Charlottesville, Dumas Malone wrote the definitive academic biographies of Mr. Jefferson, but they are not very entertaining readable types.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:17 PM on March 26, 2012

I enjoyed Twilight at Monticello, which focuses solely on his life post-retirement, but is very detailed. (He invented things, was bad with finances, donated 6,000 of his books to rebuild the Library of Congress, etc.)
posted by Melismata at 1:19 PM on March 26, 2012

This isn't quite what you're asking for, but Jefferson features heavily in Stephen Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage," a book primarily about Meriwhether Lewis and the Lewis & Clark expedition. Lewis and Jefferson were family acquaintances and Jefferson took an interest in Lewis' upbringing. It's a wonderful read.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:00 PM on March 26, 2012

Melismata reminds me that, after reading Undaunted Courage, and seeing more info about Jefferson, I checked out the Books section of Monticello's online gift shop.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:04 PM on March 26, 2012

Clay Jenkinson has written a ton about Jefferson (and others of the era). Also, as one of the founders of the Chatauqua, he has portrayed Jefferson inumerable times as part of The Jefferson Hour. Might get a more humanities version of him there. I've not read Jenkinson much, but he's a regular around my neck of the woods and I've seen him as Jefferson many many times, and he certainly befits himself as a scholar.
posted by elendil71 at 2:44 PM on March 26, 2012

American Spinx by Joseph J. Ellis. This book picks out the highlight of Jefferson's life and really goes into his unique intellectual mindset. It's also quite entertaining. It's one of those biography books where you want to read again after finishing.
posted by Thisispiggy at 3:31 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

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