The best Thomas Jefferson books 📚

Browse the best books on Thomas Jefferson as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Thomas Jefferson's European Travel Diaries

Thomas Jefferson's European Travel Diaries

By Thomas Jefferson, Persephone Weene, James McGrath Morris

Why this book?

This book is based on notes made by Thomas Jefferson when he was US ambassador to France. For me, their highlight is his account of a journey south to examine the operation of the Canal du Midi which links Toulouse to the Mediterranean. Jefferson travelled down from Paris in his own carriage and when he reached the mouth of the canal near Agde he saw no reason to abandon it. He hired a barge to take him to Toulouse and loaded his carriage on deck.

During his eight-day journey, he recorded his impressions in notes and letters written while he…

From the list:

The best books about France through foreign eyes

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Book cover of Those Rebels, John & Tom

Those Rebels, John & Tom

By Barbara Kerley, Edwin Fotheringham

Why this book?

Here’s another take on America’s relationship with King George III. The story shows the differences between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson but despite their differences, they have a love of country and a hate for King George. They unite their strengths - John’s power of persuasion and Tom’s mighty pen - to formulate the Declaration of Independence. The endnotes are just as fascinating, talking about how their relationship continued - and almost ended. They both died on the same day, on July 4th.

From the list:

The best books about Founding Mothers and Fathers

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Book cover of Founding Friendships: Friendships Between Men and Women in the Early American Republic

Founding Friendships: Friendships Between Men and Women in the Early American Republic

By Cassandra A. Good

Why this book?

“I am always yours” was not George Washington’s usual signoff. It was reserved for Elizabeth Willing Powel, a dear friend who often gets short shrift in Washington biographies. Cassandra Good’s book isn’t devoted to the General, but what's there can't be found anywhere else.

From the list:

The best books about or around George Washington

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Book cover of Notes on the State of Virginia

Notes on the State of Virginia

By Thomas Jefferson

Why this book?

Notes can feel unwelcoming to modern readers. There are jarring tangents and, more troublingly, dehumanizing descriptions of black people. But if you page around, you’ll learn a lot about Jefferson and his new nation. Notes also made a stunning impact, elevating America’s international standing and becoming a big controversy during Jefferson's presidential bids (the first campaign book!). It’s still a fascinating book to browse, and as a bonus, the Library of America edition also includes Jefferson’s brief attempt at writing an autobiography.
From the list:

The best books written by American presidents

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Book cover of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy

By Annette Gordon-Reed

Why this book?

Not a biography in the strict sense, this book is an investigation into “an American controversy” by a legal scholar that demonstrates the value of historical research and analysis by showing how Jefferson’s grandchildren, and white scholars and biographers following their lead, effectively conspired to hide the truth of Jefferson’s 30+ relationship with a woman he owned. And Gordon-Reed published this book a full year before the DNA-based analysis showed that Jefferson was overwhelmingly likely to have been the only father to Hemings’s four children.
From the list:

The best biographies of American women

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Book cover of My Monticello: Fiction

My Monticello: Fiction

By Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

Why this book?

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s My Monticello is a title to be treasured. Through a series of masterfully woven stories, Johnson brings forth and highlights the deep-rooted racial inequalities in our country. Having my debut novel published later in life, I feel a special connection because Johnson’s recent release is about resilience and passion for the arts – and it proves that ageism has no place in the art world. This is another fiction title I would highly recommend. There’s a lesson to be learned from every character and every story penned in My Monticello.  

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The best books about empowerment and hope

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