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Thomas Jefferson: Author of America

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,735 ratings  ·  263 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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Richard Lawrence Hitchens covers her in detail in the book as well as her brother and the relationship Jefferson had with each. Hitchens also addresses the rumors that…moreHitchens covers her in detail in the book as well as her brother and the relationship Jefferson had with each. Hitchens also addresses the rumors that were flying about throughout Jefferson's life concerning them.(less)

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Jun 30, 2016 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
Jul 20, 2007 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
Jul 11, 2012 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
Gavin Leech
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short critical portrait of a grand hypocrite.
where Locke had spoken of "life, liberty, and property" as natural rights, Jefferson famously wrote "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"... given the advantageous social position occupied by the delegates at Philadelphia, it is very striking indeed that [this] should have taken precedence over property.

I was worried that Hitchens might have gone soft over his adopted land but it's full of this kind of thing:
A bad conscience, evidenced by s
Vishakh Thomas
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rather a quick read, this is neither a magisterial piece of work nor one that can be dismissed as a trifle. The theme, as its title suggests, is to enunciate the role of Jefferson in shaping the United States (and indeed the continent of America to an extent) as we know it today.
The other book I’ve read on the man is Jon Meacham’s Jefferson: The Art of Power, which is quite magisterial, in my opinion. While Meachum’s treatment is rather dry, he still appears to be rather kind to Jefferson on his
Mike W
Feb 24, 2013 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
Jeremy Perron
Oct 31, 2011 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
David Manley
Apr 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Reading Hitchens is an invariably humbling experience for me. His facility with the written word, the breadth of his knowledge and the thoroughness of his opinions consistently dazzles.

This book will not be seen by many as his finest; I suspect he hammered it out in his spare time one weekend, using his preexisting knowledge and opinions as the basis.

I was afraid it would be a hagiography, based on his evident admiration for Jefferson, but it is not. This is not a magisterial biography, but it
Jun 29, 2011 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
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.
Jul 03, 2010 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
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hitchens does it again. Gives Jefferson credit where it's due but isn't afraid to poke holes in the frequently infallible political figure. Slavery being the one topic that is most widely criticized in present times, Hitchens provides a frame of reference as to why people should be both slow yet critical of a man who owned slaves yet condemned slavery and hoped to bring about its end.
Jul 19, 2009 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
Scriptor Ignotus
Sep 22, 2013 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
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 11, 2011 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 a  substantive 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 chara
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
May 09, 2008 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
Andromeda M31
Jun 03, 2012 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
Feb 02, 2011 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 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
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
With every passing year I miss Hitchens a little more. Thankfully there are still a number of his books I am yet to read. Prophetic. Erudite. Anhilliating honesty. Whenever the chips are down, and these days they are often down, Hitchens restores a thinking man's faith in a world of barbaric dogmatics unto intellectual genocide.
Pito Salas
Mar 31, 2013 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.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
"May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government." p.2 Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826.

"If one plays the parlor game - "If he were to be an animal, which animal would he be?" - we are almost compelled to think of a large
Jakub Ferencik
Jefferson is a complicated figure and this short summary by Christopher Hitchens leaves more concepts unanswered than answered. That is where I'll start this review. If you decide to read this book, I recommend first having some sort of background in American history, as many of the issues discussed (the politics of the age, social issues, etc.) are often discussed without explaining much context, as if Hitchens assumes that his readers are aware of the literature (in writing a brief synopsis of ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hitchens offers an account of Jefferson appropriate for the Eminent Lives series: concise, based largely on secondary sources, and offering a good balance between conventional historical narrative and personal reaction and criticism.

Hitchens quickly dismisses any doubts about Sally Hemings (less of an issue now than it still would have been when he wrote the book), and he takes time to give context to topics such as the naval war against the Barbary states and the Shays' and Whiskey Rebellions.
Jerry Smith
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I've long been a fan of Hitchens work both as a debater and high profile anti-theist as he would self identify and I have admired his immense literary knowledge and indeed, knowledge about a myriad subjects. I have read a number of his books that equally illustrate this huge store of information and opinion and this is a short bio of Jefferson whom he clearly admires.

There is a lot to admire about the man clearly, and he lived through and greatly influenced the early days of the republic and th
Matthew Hullinger
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've read several biographies of Thomas Jefferson and this was unlike any of the others. It moves along at a very fast pace and feels more like a novel than a biography. This is both good and bad. It's good because it makes for an easy read and there is enough information to give readers a good glimpse into the life of Thomas Jefferson. It's bad because a glimpse is all you will get. The book does not go into great depth about the mindset and motives of Jefferson, as other biographies do, and so ...more
Maurice Rubino
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Jefferson, More Than Just the Third President of the United States

Until reading this book, I simply looked at Thomas Jefferson as the Third President of the United States. What I now understand is his impact on:

1) Creating the expansion of the country through the Louisiana Purchase and ultimately the impetus to include the lands from the East to the West coast.

2) Creating the force behind a strong Navy and ultimately the Marine core moving the country from isolationism to active involveme
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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
“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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