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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson” by Joseph J. Ellis was published in 1996 and won the 1997 National Book Award in Nonfiction.  Ellis is a well-known author and history professor focusing on the revolutionary era. He is probably best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning book “Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation” and has written about Presidents Washington and Adams as well.

“American Sphinx” has been described by some as a “psychological history” of Jefferson, but it is really much more than that: it is part character analysis, part personality profile and part history book.  What it is not is a traditional biography or even an abbreviated narrative of Jefferson’s entire life – but as I have discovered by now, this is par for the course for a Joseph Ellis book on a revolutionary-era president.

Instead of following the story of Jefferson’s life in a single, continuous arc “American Sphinx” focuses on five significant periods in his life, observing his thoughts and actions during each of these periods and considering what can be learned about this enigmatic man.  In this manner Ellis reflects on the many contradictions Jefferson presents as well as the difficulty he offers…

– Click here for the full review at BestPresidentialBios.com –

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