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Thomas Jefferson: Author of America

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,084 Ratings  ·  211 Reviews
In this unique biography of Thomas Jefferson, leading journalist and social critic Christopher Hitchens offers a startlingly new and provocative interpretation of our Founding Father. Situating Jefferson within the context of America's evolution and tracing his legacy over the past two hundred years, Hitchens brings the character of Jefferson to life as a man of his time a ...more
Hardcover, 188 pages
Published May 31st 2005 by Atlas Books/HarperCollins Publishers
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Jul 04, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"Jefferson was to emerge as the republican equivalent of a philosopher king, who was coldly willing to sacrifice all principles and all allegiances to the one great aim of making America permanent.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Jefferson: Author of America


Warning: This part of the review is primarily about Christopher Hitchens:

Christopher Hitchens was a force. He never quietly held opinions. Rather, Hitch preferred to harangue and harpoon his readers with them. He bloodied and sometimes bullie
If anyone could cram Thomas Jefferson into under 200 pages it would be Christopher Hitchens (and even for him it’s a stretch). Yet, from the Barbary Pirates to Sally Hansen, the Louisiana Purchase and TJ’s oft-times nefarious VP, he manages to fit in quite a bit. While Hitchens is often the one to lay the smack down on those whose slates appear too clean (e.g. Mother Theresa), in this work he addresses Jefferson’s shortcomings as well as the overzealous accusations thrown his way over the past f ...more
Aug 22, 2007 Ashley rated it really liked it
There are Hitchens books strewn all over my father's house. "Hitchens makes me remember how little I know," he says. He thrust this book into my hands a while ago when I was visiting. God, another Thomas Jefferson book? I tried to beg off, but it didn't work. And since I feel compelled to read every book my father recommends, I read this one. And I, too, now find Hitchens an intriguing author. This is a crisp, short biography (more of an essay, really) on Jefferson, and its focus is less on the ...more
Daniel Bastian
Dec 16, 2014 Daniel Bastian rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Far from the breadth of Merrill Peterson's and R.B. Bernstein's memoirs of this most venerated and complex of founding fathers, Hitchens' treatment is compendiary and not particularly original. He clearly draws from superior and more comprehensive sources, without adding much other than his characteristic literary gait and gift of satirical wit.

Author of America is bombastically written, with greater concern placed on gift of phrase and linguistic ingenuity than on revealing the man of Jefferso
A quick overview of the life and times of Thomas Jefferson. It's dry reading, but worthwhile in that it covers so much ground in such a short time. If nothing else, it will definitely serve to whet your appetite for more information on Jefferson: the man, the myth, the legend.
Jeremy Perron
Oct 31, 2011 Jeremy Perron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always found Christopher Hitchens to be a fascinating individual. A man who has spent time all over the political spectrum, whom I have had the pleasure to watch on Bill Maher's Real Time. Politically speaking I do not agree with him on much of anything although I do think he is one of the greatest thinkers of our time. He was once regarded by Gore Vidal to be his heir apparent, however he (Vidal) no longer feels this is the case.

In this little 188-page biography for the Eminent Lives se
Andromeda M31
Jun 03, 2012 Andromeda M31 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I was hunting around my local library looking for a decent biography on Jefferson. After trying out American Sphinx and finding myself frustrated with Ellis's constant negative interpretation, I found the thinnest Jefferson biography I could find on the shelf, and one that I hoped might have a slight sense of humor in its telling.

So Hitchens's Jefferson Biography served its purpose. It's short, to the point, and has some sarcastic humor in an otherwise dry read. It's published after the Sally H
Aug 01, 2009 A.J. rated it liked it
Shelves: history-politics
As a stylist, Christopher Hitchens is one of my favorites. His prose should be studied by all contrarians and literary warmongers as a blueprint for how to write engaging nonfiction. While he occasionally dips into thesaurus words for minimal effect, his gift with the English language is self apparent. This brief volume about the life and times of America's cornerstone author, Thomas Jefferson, serves its function as a quick and accessible bio. If you want Tolkien-like precision about the man, I ...more
Sep 22, 2013 Dionysus rated it liked it
Shelves: general-history
I was visiting Monticello recently, and finding this book in the gift shop made me feel a bit nostalgic. Hitchens wrote this biography of Jefferson during the most combative period of his life as a public intellectual. He was under fire from his former allies on the left for his ardor for the War on Terror and the coalition efforts in Iraq, while simultaneously taking on the religious right and establishing himself as one of the founders of the "New Atheism". Then in 2007, in the middle of this ...more
May 17, 2008 Shannon rated it liked it
Very enjoyable. I would not recommend this bio as your first foray into Jefferson. (The R.B. Bernstein would be a better place to start.) But I found Hitchen's discussion of Jefferson refreshing, partly because I agreed with him in so many instances.

Of the bios on Jefferson that I have read (or have attempted to read), all mention that his and his wife's favorite book was TRISTRAM SHANDY by Lawrence Sterne. A few of them go into great discussion of the book and Jefferson's relation to it. So I
Paul  Perry
Hitchens' well-written, lucid biography of the US statesman is certainly no whitewash; the portrait he paints shows Jefferson as a flawed figure who shaped the United States both through his drive and enlightenment principles but also through his willingness to sometimes ignore those principles to achieve his goals, occasionally goals that were pure self interest.

Most interestingly, Hitchens successfully places the man and his beliefs in the context of his era. In almost every respect Jefferson
Mike W
Feb 24, 2013 Mike W rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
Like other titles I've read in this series, Hitchens' biography of Thomas Jefferson admirably and concisely tells the story of the life of America's 3rd President.

Before Jefferson became President, he seemed almost certain to be a disaster. He lacked Washington's calm pragmatism, and instead seemed hellbent on a rigid adherence to a "Republican" ideology. He was blind to the force of Hamilton's arguments in favor of industrialization and the need for a more advanced banking system. He sided infl
Jul 14, 2011 Nathan rated it it was ok
A brief overview and surprisingly dense analysis of Jefferson's Presidency. Hitchens being Hitchens, I expected the critical yet approving look at Jefferson's contrarian view of Christianity. I didn't expect such asubstantive treatment of foreign policy in such a short book. Hitchens covers the major events of American international relations quickly and adequately, though relatively little context is given.

This is not a narrative history. There is no flow or sense of story, no memorable charact
Jul 07, 2011 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hitch and Democracy fans
Mr. Hitchens, you never cease to challenge me. Quite often, the "founding fathers" are held in such reverence that it is sometimes hard to believe that they were actual and fallible human beings. In 'Author of America' what I found most revealing was the possibility to strip away some of this veneer and reveal some of the back-biting pettiness that befalls today's politicians. Make no mistake, Hitchens gives immense credit to this man, and those around him, for conducting the wonderful 'experime ...more
Feb 15, 2011 Kerrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-library
A very brief overview of Jefferson, but as usual with Hitchens, plenty of asides and tantalizing bits that will send you to the Wiki or more detailed sources to get the complete scoop. He doesn't fall into the trap of being overly pro or con Jefferson, although his admiration for the man's numerous accomplishments is clear. He does take Jefferson to task several times for his hypocrisy regarding black slavery. Little did I know that Jefferson regarded Native Americans as nearly the equal of the ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Desiree rated it liked it
3.5- This book gives some clear introductions into the contradictions that plagued much/all of Jefferson's life. It allows the reader to place these contradictions in a historical context and see how a select amount of Jefferson's relationships contributed to his sometimes see-saw like opinions and actions. However, Hitchens assumes that the reader has at least a bachelors degree in political science and has had extensive learning in American History. BE WARNED this is NOT an introduction to Tho ...more
Aug 03, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
If you remember that this is an essay and not a more traditional biography you'll have a better experience. The reader is expected to be well-acquainted with early American history, at least in the broad strokes. Also this is Hitchens so I was looking up words and references on a regular basis. That might just be me.

I went back and watched Hitch's interviews when he was promoting the book and I think he oversold it a bit. He claimed he spoke of Jefferson as though he had a penis, which (Hitchens
Jun 13, 2015 Anne rated it really liked it
Having just visited Monticello and gone on the "extended tour", I was again intrigued by TJ. Picking up Hitchens (short, though compact) review of Jefferson's political career and his driving philosophies (as well as his personal deviances from these), was an interesting though incomplete and opinionated view of an incredible and flawed man. It primarily focuses on his (reluctant) political career from the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, his representation in France as the American ...more
Aug 30, 2015 CaldoHendo rated it really liked it
When researching biographies writers are often struck by how little of their subject's life is really worth talking about. Christopher Hitchens himself acknowledged this point, but noted that in the case of Jefferson the situation was the exact reverse: the life of Thomas Jefferson was almost too full to be condensed into a short profile. Not only was he the third President of the United States and the author of the American Declaration of Independence, but he also led the state of Virginia thro ...more
Zena Ryder
Jun 01, 2014 Zena Ryder rated it liked it
I was expecting to enjoy this book more. I've enjoyed some of Hitchens' writing in the past (although not God Is Not Great, which I thought was basically a bit of a rant even though I'm inclined to agree with probably everything I read in it) and I was expecting more of Hitchens to shine through. It did from time to time, but mostly he just wrote it "straight", which probably makes the book good for a broader audience.

I wanted a short biography of Jefferson and this certainly fit the bill, but
Jul 08, 2015 Alan rated it it was amazing
Hitchens wrote a terrific biography of Thomas Jefferson that highlighted and explained his many accomplishments but also showed his racism and stubborn refusal to champion emancipation for the slaves. Throughout the book Jefferson's thinking and decisions are put into the context of international affairs - the greater populations of England (10 million) and France (23 million) compared to the colonies (5 million), the wars between France and England, the necessity of international trade for econ ...more
Carol Dobson
Aug 31, 2014 Carol Dobson rated it it was amazing
This biography of Thomas Jefferson reveals the man and the era in which he lived, with a clarity of critical analysis typical of Christopher Hitchens.
The tall, reddish-haired, freckle-faced, Thomas Jefferson, blessed with intelligence, as well as property and good family connections, is shown as a man of liberal inclinations, with the courage and vision to help direct the path of the fledgling Republic, the United States of America.
He wrote the Declaration of Independence, whose most radical pro
Feb 28, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it
What a wonderful coming together of elements: Thomas Jefferson, Christopher Hitchens, and brevity.
Hitchens is a vigorous writer and he takes his complicated subject and zeroes in on what matters. He is never timid and is unafraid to render judgments pro and con.
Jefferson is one of the most fascinating men in American history, and Hitchens captures him pithily and memorably. Many books about Jefferson have come out in the past decade or so, and I think this one is the best starting place. It will
Dec 31, 2013 Omar rated it liked it
This book was more interesting to me for what it revealed about Hitchens' agenda and world view than for what it revealed about Jefferson. I've long viewed 'Hitch' as a wonderfully flawed, beautifully horrible man - the sort of passionate person I'd love to go drinking with, could probably never invite to a dinner party, would love to share a fire with; and would hate to find myself having to rely on.
This book did nothing to disabuse me of that view. Hitchens is quick to highlight Jefferson's br
Pito Salas
Mar 31, 2013 Pito Salas rated it really liked it
A pretty good book. Quite interesting as I had never read a biography about Jefferson. Nice that the book is on the short side.
Jan 04, 2016 Drew added it
This was a really interesting account of Thomas Jefferson that is graced Hitchens typical political spin, making the already interesting story of Thomas Jefferson more engaging. The book is not a biography as much as it is a politically focused account of Jefferson's role in the forming and maintaining of the United States of America (covering from about 1776-1815)- this includes in depth analysis of his diplomatic endeavors in France as well as his domestic actions as president and as Virginias ...more
Jan 21, 2014 Diane rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I admit, I only wanted to read this because Hitchens wrote it. While I've always understood Thomas Jefferson had a great impact on the founding and development of our country, I didn't really know very much about his contributions. At least, not his specific contributions or political beliefs.

Honestly, most of the information I had about him came from the movie musical 1776.

The book is informative. It mentions all the important aspects of Jefferson's life and presidency, with added focus on the
Tim Patrick
Sometimes you just want to read a casual biography of a historical figure, and that's what Hitchens provides. Well researched to the point where you think he sweats portions of the Encyclopedia Britannica during vigorous exercise, the relatively short book covers a surprisingly wide set of events from Jefferson's adult life.

Beyond this core content, the book contains much more; that is, much more of Hitchens. I'm used to biographies that print page after page of historical research, eventually s
Jarrod Jenkins
Feb 22, 2011 Jarrod Jenkins rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Christopher Hitchens is the intellectual equivalent of a personal trainer. If you meet him on his terms, you might be better off for it. At the same time, I still despise him.

My main complaint is the difficulty in following Hitchens. Comprehending single sentences is a challenge given that the vocabulary he uses is impenetrable. Here is a random sample of words, the meanings of which I do not know and had difficulty discerning from the context, pulled from no more than two short pages of this bo
Steven Peterson
Jul 02, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
Christopher Hitchens has authored a well written, literate, and even witty biography of Thomas Jefferson. This work is a part of the "Eminent Lives" series, published by HarperCollins. Early on, the book is described as a part of a series: "Pairing great subjects with writers known for their strong sensibilities and sharp, lively points of view, the Eminent Lives are ideal introductions designed to appeal to the general reader, the student, and the scholar. As to the latter, the scholar, I am no ...more
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Christopher Eric Hitchens was an English-born American author, journalist and literary critic. He was a contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, World Affairs, The Nation, Slate, Free Inquiry and a variety of other media outlets. Hitchens was also a political observer, whose best-selling books — the most famous being God Is Not Great — made him a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits. He was ...more
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“This surrender, by a man of the Enlightenment and a man of truly revolutionary and democratic temperament, is another reminder that history is a tragedy and not a morality tale” 2 likes
“because their lack of conscience prevents them from blushing—” 2 likes
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