10 of the Best Books on Thomas Jefferson

Want to read more about Thomas Jefferson? Our list of 10 books offers you an inside look at one of the most famous Founding Fathers of the United States.

We've included reads about his time in France, why many considered his life as a contradiction, and his presidency. 

Read on to learn even more about one of the most powerful men in the history of the US.

Must Read Books About Thomas Jefferson

1. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Written by: Jon Meacham

Published: 2012

Pages: 759

Thomas Jefferson is one of the most influential figures in American history. Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and longtime editor at Newsweek, has written an insightful biography on this Founding Father that captures his life from birth to death. This book covers how he became a revolutionary leader during the Revolutionary War, drafted the Declaration of Independence, served as Vice President under John Adams before becoming President himself, and much more.

He also knew how to work with allies and enemies alike to build a consensus while keeping his moral stances. There are many fascinating details about Jefferson's personal life in the book, such as his relationship with Sally Hemmings.

NOTE: This book was adapted into a documentary of the same name.

>> More books on the Founding Fathers

2. Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson

Twilight at Monticello

Written by: Alan Pell Crawford

Published: 2008

Pages: 352

Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson by Alan Crawford is a biography that explores the last years of Thomas Jefferson’s life. In this book, he shows how difficult it was for Jefferson as his political party disbanded and his family began to leave him one by one due to death or illness. Even after his presidency ended, many things were going on in America that caused stress and made his retirement extremely difficult.

This book will help readers understand what a great man like Jefferson experienced during some tough times in American history. As both a historian and an author, Crawford has given insight into these final days from multiple perspectives. He achieves this by using personal letters from family and friends, people who lived near Monticello, and more.

3. Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Written by: R.B. Bernstein

Published: 2003

Pages: 253

Thomas Jefferson is one of the most famous Presidents in American history, but he was also a man who was full of contradictions. He owned slaves yet worked for their freedom. He espoused democracy yet took advantage of his power to an affair with his slave Sally Hemings.

His views on religion were not always orthodox or accepting, which earned him criticism from many quarters at the time.

All this makes it particularly interesting that when you open up this book and see what it says about our third President and all-around celebrity Founding Fathers even today.

You will find yourself drawn into precisely those kinds of contradictions that make him such an intriguing figure in American history. This book includes 60 images to give you a feel for his life, and it is also one of the quickest reads at just under 300 pages.

4. The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine

The Billionaire's Vinegar

Written by: Benjamin Wallace

Published: 2008

Pages: 319

We put this book on our list because it is one of the weirder books about Jefferson that we’ve ever read at any time. Why? Because it isn’t as much about him as it is the legacy that comes from his love of wine.

Luxury wines are a hot commodity in today's market. Billionaires and collectors alike spend thousands on bottles of wine for their collections. The most expensive bottle ever sold was a 1787 Château Lafite that went for $156,000 at auction to an anonymous buyer. However, questions arose about if this was one of Jefferson's wines or a scam?

This shows a man whose quest to obtain the rarest and most coveted wines in the world led him down the path of deception and scandal involving some of America's wealthiest families-and became a cautionary tale with worldwide implications.

5. Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America

Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee

Written by: Thomas J. Craughwell

Published: 2012

Pages: 234

This is one of our favorite books about Thomas Jefferson since it is unlike any others anywhere. James Hemings was a slave owned by Thomas Jefferson. When Jefferson went to Paris, he brought Hemings since he wanted him to master French cooking.

The exciting part here is that they made a deal that Hemings would be freed later. When they returned to the USA, they had mastered both French food and French wine. He served as personal chef and cook staff to the President during his eight years in office and at Monticello. Hemings was given his freedom in 1796.

6. The Hemingses of Monticello

The Hemingses of Monticello

Written By: Annette Gordon-Reed

Published: 2008

Pages: 798

This book explores the true story of Thomas Jefferson's slave family. The Hemingses of Monticello is a book that explains how Sally Hemings, one of his slaves, was not just an ordinary slave but also had children with him. It tells us about their lives and how they were treated in comparison to other slaves at Monticello.

Annette Gordon-Reed does this by looking at all the evidence available and documents written about them during that period.

She even discusses what life would have been like for them if they had never ended up living at Monticello or if slavery hadn't existed. Since this part of Jefferson’s and Sally Hemings' story is rarely told, we would highly suggest reading this one.

7. Thomas Jefferson: Author of America

Thomas Jefferson: Author of America

Written by: Christopher Hitchens

Published: 2005

Pages: 188

Thomas Jefferson is a man who has been celebrated as one of the founding fathers of America. He served as Vice President, Secretary of State, and President before his death in 1826 at age 83. His accomplishments were numerous and included drafting the Declaration of Independence, establishing a system for public education in Virginia, and being responsible for the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of America.

His legacy lives on today, with many schools, counties, and towns bearing his name.

Hitchens also interprets how Thomas Jefferson was not an honorable man but instead a hypocrite who had moral failings that should be noted by history to prevent future leaders from making similar mistakes. With everything that happened during his lifetime, Hitchens shows everything between the good and bad of his life.

>> More books about the American Revolution

8. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

Undaunted Courage

Written by: Stephen E. Ambrose

Published: February 15th, 1996

Pages: 521

Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose is a historical account of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, an essential factor in America's westward expansion. During the 18th century, it chronicles how Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore lands that had not been seen before by colonial men.

Their mission was to find a waterway from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean to explore further those who would come after them, which they found on their epic journey across the land.

>> More books by Stephen E. Ambrose

>> More books about Lewis and Clark

9. The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams

The Adams-Jefferson Letters

Written by: Thomas Jefferson

Published:  January 1st, 1959

Pages: 690

The Adams-Jefferson Letters are a collection of letters written between two close contemporaries, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. This book contains over 1,000 letters that span across fifty years of correspondence. The authors share their opinions on politics and government with each other while also exchanging personal anecdotes about life at home. The topics range from the Revolution to slavery to education for women but mainly focus on issues relating to America's new democracy.

An example of this is when Adams lost to Jefferson while running for President, and they refused to speak to each other for over ten years. However, once they started writing again, it showed how close they were and their respect for each other.

The book also includes letters from Abigail Adams and Jefferson, and it is truly amazing to read their letters, word for word, in this book.

10. American Sphinx

Written By: Joseph J. Ellis

Published: 365

Pages: January 31st, 1997

In this biography of Jefferson's life and presidency, he explores how his personality shaped his legacy as one of America's founding fathers.  He examines many facets of Jefferson's character, such as his passions for science, architecture, winemaking, and gardening; his love affairs with Sally Hemmings and Maria Cosway; and discusses some of the more controversial aspects, including slavery.

He uses these parts to paint a complete picture that is rich in detail about who Thomas Jefferson was as a person.  Ellis does a great job of not using today's judgment to influence what Jefferson accomplished and failed at during his lifetime.

>> More books about US History