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Extended Audio Sample American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, by Joseph J. Ellis Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (6,008 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Joseph J. Ellis Narrator: Susan O’Malley Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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For a man who insisted that life on the public stage was not what he had in mind, Thomas Jefferson certainly spent a great deal of time in the spotlight, even in his retirement. In his twilight years, Jefferson was already taking on the luster of a national icon, which was polished off by his auspicious death on July 4, 1826. In American Sphinx, Ellis sifts the facts from the legend to find the heart of the man who, at the grass roots, is no longer liberal or conservative, agrarian or industrialist, pro- or anti-slavery, privileged or populist. A man who sang incessantly under his breath; who spent ten hours a day during his presidency at his writing desk; and who sometimes found his political sensibilities colliding with his domestic agenda; who exhibited great depth and great shallowness, combined massive learning with extraordinary naïveté, and should neither be beatified nor forgotten.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Lively and provocative…first-rate.”

    David McCullough, New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize–winning historian

  • “[Ellis] is a remarkably clear writer, mercifully free of both the groveling and the spirit of attack that have dominated the subject in the past...American Sphinx is fresh and uncluttered but rich in historical context.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Erudite and illuminating…he writes so intelligently…that it’s impossible to read this book and not reconsider Jefferson’s role as a thinker, writer, and politician…An important and highly readable contribution.”

    New York Times

  • “This elegant book on Jefferson sets a standard—history at its best.”

    Chicago Tribune, editor’s choice

  • “Penetrating Jefferson’s placid, elegant façade, this extraordinary biography brings the Sage of Monticello down to earth without either condemning or idolizing him.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “[A] serious, rigorous analysis [of] Jefferson’s importance and meaning to contemporary society. ”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Ellis does not have an agenda to promote; he has a story to tell, and he tells it well. In a book that reads like fiction, he combines exciting plot turns with information.”

    School Library Journal

  • “The richly documented life of Jeffersonholds endless fascination…This set should be a lasting favorite in popular biography collections, especially in the South. Warmly recommended.”

    Library Journal

  • Winner of the 1997 National Book Award for Nonfiction
  • Winner of the 1998 Ambassador Book Award for Biography
  • A 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jessica | 2/20/2014

    " This book is a solid look at a man who had many facets. I appreciated seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly of a complex person. One downside to this book is 150 pages before the end Jefferson died and the author all the sudden went back...maybe more appropriate to put death at the end instead of suddenly going back. I've never been a Jefferson fan, but it's amazing how many of his flaws have been glossed over. Lately he has become the poster child of modern Republicanism and yet the man died deep in debt and several times required bail outs from friends/governments. He was a hypocrite in so many ways: against slavery, but he couldn't survive without his personal slaves and land-blasted Hamilton for the Treasury that allowed him to purchase what he considered his greatest accomplishment-Louisanna Purchase. Through out his Declaration of Independence and Constitution time he never once gave a public speech of where he stood, he only would work behind the scenes and with many pawns. The first true politician and lobbyist. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Anita Williamson | 2/3/2014

    " I like this author. Good book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Laseghi2 | 1/19/2014

    " I am a big fan of Ellis' work as an historian and I always enjoy learning of the amalgam that was Thomas Jefferson. Well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Dave | 1/12/2014

    " Great read on someone who if he were alive today would have a profound impact on presidential politics. "

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