The most recommended Thomas Jefferson books

Who picked these books? Meet our 56 experts.

56 authors created a book list connected to Thomas Jefferson, and here are their favorite Thomas Jefferson books.
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Book cover of America's First Daughter

Julia Amante Author Of Let Us Begin

From my list on parent/child relationship leading to redemption.

Why am I passionate about this?

Women’s fiction is about relationships and issues that women deal with daily. I wish I could write thrillers or fantasy—those are so much fun to read, but I’m most fascinated by people and the life-changing choices they make. Being the daughter of immigrants has made me obsessed with two things, one is identity and the second is success. My books touch on the discovery of self and how that leads to success. And if we're honest, our relationships with our parents have a massive effect on who we become and our beliefs. I’ve explored parent/child relationships in all my novels, but most intimately in Let Us Begin which is based on my father’s life.

Julia's book list on parent/child relationship leading to redemption

Julia Amante Why did Julia love this book?

This is a fascinating historical novel about Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, Patsy Jefferson. Aside from learning much more about history than I ever did in high school or college, I enjoyed reading about the relationship that she had with her father. 

It’s difficult, I think, to have a relationship with a man like Jefferson who was devoted to his ideals and dreams first and to his family second. He had goals that were so immense that there was no competing with them. And yet, Patsy is completely devoted to her father and his goals. It’s a story about loving an imperfect man and making sacrifices.

It gave me a different perspective on a historical figure, but it also made me think about my own relationship with my father because I could relate to coming second or third in the life of a father you love. I know what it’s like…

By Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked America's First Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES & USA TODAY BESTSELLER

In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson's eldest daughter, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph--a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson's oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of…


Book cover of The Last Patriot

Seth Sjostrom Author Of Patriot X

From my list on thrillers that kick terrorist butt.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a fierce passion for justice. Studying political science in college, I keyed on moments in history where greed, power, and oppression marred human society. As a thriller writer myself (15 published titles and counting), I enjoy authors that understand the characters, settings, and combat sequences in their novels either through personal experience, training, or deep research. I work hard to ensure as wild as my characters’ adventures are, every detail is plausible. The books on this list are filled with raucous action and death-defying scenes while remaining possible. 

Seth's book list on thrillers that kick terrorist butt

Seth Sjostrom Why did Seth love this book?

When I select a thriller, I like to find someone who has developed a deep knowledge of the subject and settings either through experience or deep research. Brad Thor is an expert on terrorism and global politics.

His character, former Navy SEAL Scot Harvath, is brash and brutal as he operates to counter-terrorism in his role as a covert Homeland Security Officer. In The Last Patriot, he chases a militant Islamic cell that is protecting a lost revelation of the Prophet Mohammed that could change derail terror forever.

I enjoy reading Brad Thor books for the intensive research and logic he weaves into his stories. Reading The Last Patriot, and other titles in the series is like having a conversation over a pair of fingers of whiskey talking global politics with my friends.

By Brad Thor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Patriot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brad Thor, master of suspense and #1 New York Times bestselling author is back with his highest-voltage thriller to date in which Navy SEAL turned covert Homeland Security operative Scot Harvath must race to locate an ancient secret that has the power to stop militant Islam dead in its tracks.

June 632 A.D.: Deep within the Uranah Valley of Mount Arafat in Mecca, the Prophet Mohammed shares with his closest companions a final and startling revelation. Within days, he is assassinated.

September 1789: U.S. Minister to France Thomas Jefferson, who is charged with forging a truce with the violent Muslim…


Book cover of Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding

Dennis C. Rasmussen Author Of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders

From my list on American founders from a political theorist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a political theorist at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I spent the first fifteen years or so of my career working on the Scottish and French Enlightenments (Adam Smith, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire), but in recent years I’ve been drawn more and more to the American founding. In addition to Fears of a Setting Sun, I’m also the author of The Constitution’s Penman: Gouverneur Morris and the Creation of America’s Basic Charter, which explores the constitutional vision of the immensely colorful individual who—unbeknownst to most Americans—wrote the US Constitution.

Dennis' book list on American founders from a political theorist

Dennis C. Rasmussen Why did Dennis love this book?

This book is not as acclaimed as the others on this list, but it is a hidden gem. Staloff deftly weaves together the lives and ideas of three of the most notable founders, and the ways in which they were influenced by their Enlightenment forebears. Precisely because the book is relatively little-known, I recommend it all the time to colleagues and students.

By Darren Staloff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Where The Ideas for which We Stand came from.

In this incisively drawn book, Darren Staloff forcefully reminds us that America owes its guiding political traditions to three Founding Fathers whose lives embodied the collision of Europe's grand Enlightenment project with the birth of the nation.

Alexander Hamilton, the worldly New Yorker; John Adams, the curmudgeonly Yankee; Thomas Jefferson, the visionary Virginia squire—each governed their public lives by Enlightenment principles, and for each their relationship to the politics of Enlightenment was transformed by the struggle for American independence. Repeated humiliation on America's battlefields banished Hamilton's youthful idealism, leaving him a…


Book cover of Thomas Jefferson's Education

Seth Mallios Author Of Hail Montezuma! The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State

From my list on the surprising histories of college campuses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find the archaeology of here to be just as interesting and enlightening as any faraway land. For those of us at universities, that means that the campus itself is worthy of historical, archaeological, and anthropological study. I have been San Diego State’s University History Curator for decades and never tire of uncovering new insights into an institution with a 125-year history, nearly 500,000 alumni, and a bevy of bizarre tales. Whether it be hidden student murals, supernatural claims from the gridiron, or disputed dinosaur footprints, the immediate landscape of our workplace is often full of historical treasures.

Seth's book list on the surprising histories of college campuses

Seth Mallios Why did Seth love this book?

Whereas many books research the history of higher education are full of lofty ideals and collegiate high jinks, Alan Taylor’s book Thomas Jefferson’s Education is an insightful yet sobering look at the historical context and inception of the University of Virginia. This text is no hagiography and details how Jefferson’s university was deeply intertwined with slavery and many of the elitist vices common to Virginia gentry.

By Alan Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thomas Jefferson's Education as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By turns entertaining and tragic, this beautifully crafted history reveals the origins of a great university in the dilemmas of Virginia slavery. Thomas Jefferson shares centre stage with his family and fellow planters, all dependent on the labour of enslaved black families. With a declining Virginia yielding to commercially vibrant northern states, in 1819 Jefferson proposed to build a university to educate and improve the sons of the planter elite. He hoped they might one day lead a revitalised Virginia free of slavery-and free of the former slaves.

Jefferson's campaign was a contest for the future of a state and…


Book cover of Jefferson's Empire: The Language of American Nationhood

Francis D. Cogliano Author Of Emperor of Liberty: Thomas Jefferson's Foreign Policy

From my list on Thomas Jefferson from a historian's view.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've spent three decades teaching the history of the United States, especially the American Revolution, to students in the UK. Invariably some students are attracted by the ideals they identify with the United States while others stress the times that the US has failed to uphold those ideals. Thomas Jefferson helped to articulate those ideals and often came up short when it came to realizing them. This has fascinated me as well as my students. I'm the author or editor of eight books on Jefferson and the American Revolution including, Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy and The Blackwell Companion to Thomas Jefferson. I'm currently completing a book about the relationship between Jefferson and George Washington.

Francis' book list on Thomas Jefferson from a historian's view

Francis D. Cogliano Why did Francis love this book?

Onuf, who held the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Chair at the University of Virginia, is the most accomplished student of Jefferson’s thought. In Jefferson’s Empire, Onuf interrogates Jefferson’s thinking about the meaning of the American Revolution. He places Jefferson’s thinking in the context of the Enlightenment showing that his vision of the American future arose from his idealized notions of nationhood and empire. Rather than see the US as the antithesis of empire, Onuf shows that Jefferson believed that Americans should craft a new form of republican empire that he believed would be a model for the rest of the world. Onuf recognizes, as Jefferson didn’t, that this vision depended on enslaved labor and the displacement of Indigenous people and he explores these contradictions. Onuf’s reading of the Declaration of Independence transformed my own thinking about that foundational document.   

By Peter S. Onuf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jefferson's Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thomas Jefferson believed that the American revolution was a transformative moment in the history of political civilization. He hoped that his own efforts as a founding statesman and theorist would help construct a progressive and enlightened order for the new American nation that would be a model and inspiration for the world. Peter S. Onuf's new book traces Jefferson's vision of the American future to its roots in his idealized notions of nationhood and empire. Onuf's unsettling recognition that Jefferson's famed egalitarianism was elaborated in an imperial context yields strikingly original interpretations of our national identity and our ideas of…


Book cover of The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine

Aaron Goldfarb Author Of Dusty Booze: In Search of Vintage Spirits

From my list on books on booze from a booze expert.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a journalist for over a decade, most frequently writing on the subjects of spirits, cocktails, and drinking culture for such publications as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Esquire, Playboy, and VinePair. I have written 12 books—6 of them on booze—my latest of which is Dusty Booze: In Search of Vintage Spirits.

Aaron's book list on books on booze from a booze expert

Aaron Goldfarb Why did Aaron love this book?

A booze book fit for the big screen, it follows eccentric wine collectors pursuing their unicorn of unicorns, a 1787 Château Lafite Bordeaux supposedly once owned by Thomas Jefferson. It eventually sells for $156,000 at auction, and then things get even stranger as mysteries unravel and con men enter the scene.

A page-turner like no other.

By Benjamin Wallace,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Billionaire's Vinegar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The rivetingly strange story of the world's most expensive bottle of wine, and the even stranger characters whose lives have intersected with it.

The New York Times bestseller, updated with a new epilogue, that tells the true story of a 1787 Château Lafite Bordeaux—supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson—that sold for $156,000 at auction and of the eccentrics whose lives intersected with it.

Was it truly entombed in a Paris cellar for two hundred years? Or did it come from a secret Nazi bunker? Or from the moldy basement of a devilishly brilliant con artist? As Benjamin Wallace unravels the mystery,…


Book cover of Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Beth Anderson Author Of Cloaked in Courage: Uncovering Deborah Sampson, Patriot Soldier

From my list on children’s stories on the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an educator, I’ve experienced the power of true stories to engage readers, widen their world, spur thinking, and support content areas. I’ve learned plenty from these books, too! As an author, I’m fascinated with many aspects of the American Revolution that I never learned about as a student. Researching this time period has revealed much more than men at war. The revolution affected every aspect of life—a “world turned upside-down.” Today, we’re fortunate to have a range of stories that help kids understand that history is about people much like them facing the challenges of their time and place. 

Beth's book list on children’s stories on the American Revolution

Beth Anderson Why did Beth love this book?

I’m a fan of this book for several reasons. Like all of us, the founders of the United States were complicated people, and I love books that reveal the person inside.

As an author who writes about American history, I am constantly grateful for the immense resources of the Library of Congress, the institution that preserves our history. And thirdly, I’m a fan of author Barb Rosenstock—everything she writes is special!

This story shares Jefferson’s love of books and reading, his interest in absolutely every subject, and how his massive book collection helped build the Library of Congress. 

By Barb Rosenstock, John O'Brien (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Young readers of all ages will love this story about President Thomas Jefferson, who found his passion as soon as he learned to read: books, books, and more books!

Before, during, and after the American Revolution, Jefferson collected thousands of books on hundreds of subjects. In fact, his massive collection eventually helped rebuild the Library of Congress—now the largest library in the world.

Author Barb Rosenstock's rhythmic words and illustrator John O'Brien's whimsical illustrations capture Jefferson's zeal for the written word as well as little-known details about book collecting. An author's note, bibliography, and source notes for quotations are also…


Book cover of A History of the American People

David Hanna Author Of History Nation: A Citizen's Guide to the History of the United States

From my list on read if you love Howard Zinn's A People's History Of the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

As both an author and a teacher, I’ve been using Howard Zinn’s iconic book for over 20 years. I have found it to be an effective counterweight to more orthodox texts, as well as a credible platform for stimulating discussion. In writing my own “guide” to U.S. history, I always kept Zinn in mind. While we may not always agree, the dissonance is something I’m certain Howard Zinn would appreciate. He was unafraid to "engage" with his subject matter and his readers. This is an inspiration.

David's book list on read if you love Howard Zinn's A People's History Of the United States

David Hanna Why did David love this book?

Essentially a conservative response to Zinn’s wildly successful book.

Paul Johnson, who started out on the political left in England and shifted to the right with works such as Modern Times, writes in a style that is superior in its command of the material than Zinn but also a bit cranky at times or just simply odd.

His loathing of Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson is palpable, just as his veneration of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge is puzzling. Yet his passages on jazz, the eclectic architecture of Southern California, or the origins of the Coca-Cola x Pepsi rivalry are unforgettable.

Johnson’s book could be viewed as a necessary corrective to Zinn - or simply as a contrarian companion volume. I actually use both when teaching U.S. history.

Book cover of Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic

David S. Parker Author Of The Pen, the Sword, and the Law: Dueling and Democracy in Uruguay

From my list on dueling that explain why people fought duels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social and legal historian of late 19th and early 20th Century Latin America, and the majority of my work is about the emergence of the middle class. I first got interested in researching dueling because I had the idea that the duel probably played a role in creating and enforcing a social dividing line between the upper elite and the middle class. But once I got immersed in the historical documents I realized how wrong my initial hypothesis had been, how little dueling had to do with social class, and how much it was about maintaining—or sometimes gaming for advantage—the norms of decorum in politics and the press.

David's book list on dueling that explain why people fought duels

David S. Parker Why did David love this book?

This is one of the books that inspired and provided source material for the musical Hamilton. Freeman is a Pulitzer prize-winning historian of post-1776 United States. This masterful history of the early American republic shows how dueling needs to be understood as politics by other means, as part of the mad scramble for power and prestige in the context of never-ending “paper wars” in the partisan press. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I’ll never forget how much the cover art captured my imagination, and how brilliantly it reflects what you will find inside.

This book is not just about duels; it also covers political alliances, gossip, insults, and elections.  But that is Freeman’s whole point, that they are all interconnected, and dueling is just one piece of a larger picture.

By Joanne B. Freeman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Affairs of Honor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A major reassessment of American political culture in the days of Jefferson, Hamilton, and Burr

"[A] landmark study of Hamilton and the founders."-Jeff Sharlet, Chronicle of Higher Education

"Demands the attention of everyone with a serious interest in the history of American politics."-Pauline Maier, Washington Post

In this extraordinary book, Joanne Freeman offers a major reassessment of political culture in the early years of the American republic. By exploring both the public actions and private papers of key figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and Alexander Hamilton, Freeman reveals an alien and profoundly unstable political world grounded on the…


Book cover of Haunted Virginia: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Old Dominion

Pamela K. Kinney Author Of Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths, and True Tales

From my list on paranormal to scare up myths and legends.

Why am I passionate about this?

Long before I began writing my first fictional story and way before I researched for my first nonfiction paranormal book, I gave up ignoring the voices in my head and began writing horror, fantasy, and six nonfiction books on the paranormal in Virginia. Besides learning a new piece of history or legend I never knew before, the research for my nonfiction books and articles inspired me to incorporate it into my horror or fantasy fiction. I enjoy writing fiction, but I believe I learn as much as my readers when I write nonfiction. 

Pamela's book list on paranormal to scare up myths and legends

Pamela K. Kinney Why did Pamela love this book?

Before other authors (including me) published books on Virginia’s ghosts and legends, it was L. B. Taylor who’d written many spooky tales that haunted the Old Dominion in a long span of books, including this one. Not just Virginians, but as someone who moved here in 1985, I learned about the state’s many ghosts, monsters, and legends that taught me a new view of the state. No one needs to live in Virginia to enjoy reading this book.

By Jr. Taylor, L. B.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Haunted Virginia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Old Dominion has been one of the nation's most embattled states. Serving as center stage for both the American Revolution and the Civil War, it is also one of the most haunted. In addition to the sagas of the tragic spirits from these wars, this volume includes stories on the female stranger of Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, the mysterious stone showers in Newport, the ghost hound of the Blue Ridge, Mad Lucy of Williamsburg, and the spirits of native sons Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, and Edgar Allan Poe.