Thomas Jefferson: Author of America
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Thomas Jefferson: Author of America

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,435 ratings  ·  172 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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Killer Rabbit
Jefferson wasn't Hitchens' favorite person
Reading this bio on Jefferson by Hitchens was like sipping a glass of lemonade with no sugar added: It was mighty refreshing, and perhaps a bit challenging to my palate.

If you can grin at Hitchens' wish that Ben Franklin had actually penned a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, then this book is probably a good fit for you.
Mara
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
Ashley
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
Nathan
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...more
John
Very good for what it is: a quick overview of the life and times of Thomas Jefferson. Hitchens comes across as being totally objective for a change, and he seems to do a great job of placing Jefferson's actions in their proper context. 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.
Daniel Bastian
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...more
Jeremy Perron
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...more
Andromeda M31
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...more
A.J.
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
Columbus
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
Shannon
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...more
Paul 'Pezski' 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...more
Mike W
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...more
Erez Davidi
I have always enjoyed Hitchens’ wit and writing, and I have a keen interest in Jefferson. So Hitchens’ writing about Jefferson’s life should have been ideal. Yet, unfortunately this match didn't work so well. Don’t get me wrong, Hitchens’ writing is very enjoyable and the prose is lucid. However, “Thomas Jefferson: Author of America” is not the best introduction to start reading about Jefferson. Firstly, Hitchens tends to focus too much on how Jefferson’s acts are perceived (the “political corre...more
Jason
Jul 07, 2011 Jason rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Kerrie
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
Desiree
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
Zena Ryder
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...more
Omar
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...more
Pito Salas
A pretty good book. Quite interesting as I had never read a biography about Jefferson. Nice that the book is on the short side.
Diane
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...more
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...more
Jarrod Jenkins
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...more
Steven Peterson
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
Gail
Christopher Hitchens' biography of Jefferson is short, erudite, and fascinating. The man, his many contradictions, his brilliance, and his times come alive in often amusing and enlightening details. In many ways Thomas Jefferson was a rebel, a full-throated supporter of the French revolution and of "the people", against John Adams and even George Washington, whom Jefferson believed to be supporters of England's political system with the aim of importing it to the new America. Jefferson had allie...more
Ivana
This is not your usual biography of a former President. Christopher Hitchens was not your usual writer, either. I truly believe the genius that is Hitchens is unprecedented; I have not come across another writer who can relate a story as Hitchens could. His investigative journalistic nature comes through every single page, in every book. This book is no different.
For a biography, this book was really short. However, this book will tell you more about who Jefferson truly was than many other books...more
Brian C Albrecht
After Hitchens' death, I promised myself I would read something by him. I'd heard how eloquent he was and I've always been fascinated with his outlook on life. Even though I disagree with much of his politics (he's a communist and atheist), I figured a portrait on a Jefferson would be a safe read. This tiny book is well worth the time. Hitchens, always unique, sometimes loquacious (I'm picking up his big words), provides unique insights into the life and thought of Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson was...more
Jennie
When I started reading this biography I knew that Thomas Jefferson was involved in the US Revolution, but this book brought more detailed information about how deeply involved he was. We all know how he had his hand in writing many of the founding documents, but he was also very involved in penning similar documents in his home state of Virginia.

His own personal life has been a hot topic since the time his wife died. It was suspected even while he was alive that he had a relationship with one (o...more
Deborah
I've been a fan of Christopher Hitchens for a while. His writing style is deceptively simple but every line oozes the kind of knowledge I yearn to possess. That was one of the main reasons I was drawn initially to his short biography of Jefferson. As an immigrant to the US I like to try and update my US history but a lot of the presidential biographies are just too overfacing. This book is also in the same series as the Shakespeare bio by Bill Bryson and I really enjoyed that too.

If I expected s...more
Stephanie Marie
"It would be truer to say, of Thomas Jefferson, that he designed America, or that he authored it."

As both a student at Mr. Jefferson's University and an avid reader of Vanity Fair, I was the ideal reader for this bio. I have actually never read a book on Jefferson before and this one, while a bit more casual than other traditional TJ bios probably are, was right up my ally. I fell in love with the line above and the rest of the book stayed true to that point. Of the three things listed on TJ's g...more
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3956
"Christopher Eric Hitchens (April 13, 1949 – December 15, 2011) 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 ta...more
More about Christopher Hitchens...
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