Thomas Jefferson: A Life
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Thomas Jefferson: A Life

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  450 ratings  ·  29 reviews
youth in colonial Virginia to his tragic final days at Monticello. Throughout the narrative, Randall shows Jefferson to be a dynamic and thoroughly modern man, who committed himself to a search for a meaningful, authentic way of life.
Hardcover, 736 pages
Published August 15th 1993 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 1993)
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James
Long before William Jefferson Clinton, another child prodigy Southern Democratic/republican President lead his country to prosperity and expansion amidst sex ridden scandal and recriminations. Bubba Bill even duplicated his name-sake's penchant for financial scandal. But I don't want to belabor the this comparison. After all, before Jefferson, we had another cash poor expansion minded patrician named Julius Caesar who founded another similar kind of republican empire.

The thing is, so much has b...more
Mark
There are dozens of books on Jefferson, and while this volume is comprehensive, fairly objective, and mostly readable, I do offer a few opinions for the potential reader:

This biography dwells in extreme detail on the legal and philosophical history of Jefferson's development as one of our founding fathers, mostly in his early years in Virginia. Of 590 pages, we don't get to his time as president until page 550! This is not the book to read if you want an in depth study of his two presidential te...more
Jerry Schollian
For any history buff who wants to know how the United States was made, this is a must read. Thomas Jefferson:A Life details the life of Thomas Jefferson, from his birth in the Virginia Commonwealth, his education, his brief marriage, his children,his exploits in France, his participation in the creation of the Declaration of Independence, his interactions with men such as John Adams, James Madison, George Washington, Benjiman Franklin and others. His facination with science, exploration and agar...more
Rudy
In my opinion, this book should be rated right up there with the top Thomas Jefferson Bio’s out on the market today. The author wrote the biography of Thomas Jefferson in such a way that made reading interesting and comprehensible. The book covers the span of Jefferson’s life and pays close attention to Jefferson’s contributions to the founding of our country during his stay in Paris. If you haven’t read any books on Jefferson I would eagerly recommend this book by Mr. Randall.
Carrie
Very insightful. I feel like I've forgotten a lot of the history I learned in high school and this taught me a lot about not only Jefferson, but also the Revolution, the beginning of politics in this nation, and what the world was like at that time.
JJ
If you're only going to read one book on Jefferson, I recommend this one.
Jeremy Perron
Willard Randall's take on the life of Thomas Jefferson is worth reading. The strength of the book comes from his coverage of Jefferson's developmental years. The later part of his life is glossed over rather quickly. For example there is only one chapter covering his two-term, and rather eventful, presidency. So this book is good for what drove President Jefferson and what events contributed to his personality but not very useful when covering his presidency. That is not necessarily a bad thing...more
Omar Masood
Randall's biography of Thomas Jefferson is billed as the "best" and "authoritative" one volume Jefferson biography. Regrettably, it does not live up to the hype. Nonetheless it is still an excellent book.

The book is superb with respect to covering Jefferson's life prior to the presidency. During this portion of the book it indeed does live up to the hype. You get to know the facts of Jefferson's pre-presidential life and the experiences and intellectual influences that shaped his world view. Unf...more
Jennifer
The John Adams miniseries has inspired me to start this up (I already read McCullough's bio of Adams, which was great).

Though Sterne sometimes repeats the same information (giving you a sense of deja vu a few chapters later), it's clear how much admiration he has for Jefferson. Not that this makes him unobjective; it's a fair portrait. But his enthusiasm sweeps you up and it's hard not to be a fan of Jefferson, for all complexities and faults, by the book's end.

It is a bit lopsided. There must...more
Peter Sprunger
This biography is my least favorite Presidential biography that I've read. It is good if you are interested in the events of Thomas Jefferson's life before he became Secretary of State; it is poor if you are interested in what happened while he served in the federal government. The first couple hundred pages are devoted to his law career in Virginia and the next couple hundred to his time in France. It is not until page 493 of 595 that the book gets to the year 1790 when he became Secretary of S...more
Al Gritten
Very good overview of Jefferson's life with abundant material from old papers and letters from Jefferson and his family as well as people like Franklin, Adams and others. Randall does a good job of offering an objective analysis of Jefferson and who he was as well as his philosophies around nature, reason, God, and humanity. But in order to do all of that the book is very LONG. Randall's writing style is good, but there is so much information, you really have to want to know about Jefferson in o...more
Thomas
I thought that this was a good if a little short biography of Thomas Jefferson. It starts off going into great detail about his early days as a lawyer/planter in Virginia and continues to give good information through the American Revolution and his times in Europe. However when it comes to his role of Secretary of State/President there wasn't as much information as I would have wished. Overall I thought it was pretty well interesting and wasn't extremely difficult to read so if someone is looki...more
C.m. Moore
A little long winded but good.
David Nichols
Jefferson may be one of those historical figures who defies attempts at a one-volume biography. Randall takes 500 pages to cover the first 46 years of Jefferson's life - important years, to be sure, including his drafting of the Declaration of Independence, his governorship of Virginia, and his ministry to France - and then tries to pack the remaining 37 years of Jefferson's life (including his two-term presidency!) into the last 100 pages of his narrative. Something tells me the author got too...more
Cynthia Karl
A good biography of Thomas Jefferson - there was a lot of information about him that I had never read both regarding his personal life as well as his professional life. A complex, interesting enlightened man. The author gives little credence to Thomas Jefferson as being the Jefferson involved with Sally Hemmings and presents some convincing evidence.
Scott
Very interestring biography that not only taught me things about Thomas Jefferson, but about the times he in which he lived. Some complain because very little space is devoted to his actual presidency, which is understandable. But if you want a book tht extensively covers everything else, you will be rewarded with a fascinating story.
Frances Bonardi
This is an excellent biography of Jefferson, it reads like a novel for those of you who don't like non fiction. Very complete treatment of his extraordinary life. If you have not read about Jefferson, you really should, it is because of him, and men like him that we enjoy living I the worlds very best country
Wendy
A richly descriptive account of Jefferson's life, although published before 2000, when DNA analysis strongly indicated Jefferson's paternity of Sally Hemings' four children. Apart from Randall's position on this issue, "Thomas Jefferson: A Life," remains my favorite Jefferson biography.
Ruth
It may have been my mood at the time I started it, but it really took some dedication to keep reading and get into this book. It got more interesting as I read on, but...I am willing to bet there are other books out there about TJ that would be more interesting to get through.
Chris
This was the first time I read a book about a U. S. President that is not a current politcal figure. After the disaster of George Bush's administration, I became interested in what other men have done in that office. Jefferson was a really interesting guy.
Richard
Randall probably does not get the public acclaim he deserves because his writing style is not as creative however the book is full of important background information often left out of lesser books. And, it is easy to read as well.
Kim
Oct 13, 2009 Kim is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Great book! Long, full of details about our founding fathers and how they fought to have our country become a REPUBLIC, not a monarchy or even a democracy as many believe today.
Nikie Elwood
Thomas Jefferson was my hero in school, but as I've learned what the history books don't tell you, he was a lot more "stained" than he looks on Mt. Rushmore!
Kevin Johnson
Too defensive and apologetic of Jefferson. Also, out of 600 pages, only 30 are devoted to the presidency and 10 to his life after the presidency.
Melanie Mcdaniel
I wanted to know more about Thomas Jefferson the person than this book provided. There were some good parts but a lot of it was very dry.
Paula Martino
Should be required reading for all American citizens. Explains in great detail how the US came about.
Sherrie Gingery
Fabulously written and engrossing. Brings historical characters alive.
Craig J.
Thomas Jefferson: A Life by Willard Sterne Randall (1994)
Evan Brandt
Good foundation for future reading on the third president
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Jefferson 1 7 Jul 21, 2009 09:01AM  
  • John Adams: A Life
  • John Tyler: The Accidental President
  • James Madison
  • Jefferson and the Rights of Man
  • Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson
  • James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity
  • Mr. Adams's Last Crusade: The Extraordinary Post-presidential Life of John Quincy Adams
  • Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson
  • James Madison
  • The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness
  • Zachary Taylor (The American Presidents, #12)
  • Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy
  • Martin Van Buren (American Presidents, #8)
  • William Henry Harrison (The American Presidents, #9)
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan
  • Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full
  • John Marshall: Definer of a Nation
George Washington Alexander Hamilton Ethan Allen: His Life and Times Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor A Little Revenge: Benjamin Franklin and His Son

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