Biographies covering only a specific aspect of a person’s life can be very hit or miss. The central question is whether the aspect being explored is central to our understanding of the subject. I have read books about everything Theodore Roosevelt wrote and Al Capone’s family life that were unbelievably boring, because TR’s literary life and Al’s family life are not central pillars of their character.

I am glad to have finally found one worth recommending, and that is Thomas Kidd’s “Thomas Jefferson: A Biography of Flesh and Spirit.” Unlike the previously mentioned examples, Jefferson’s religious and ethical life are very live debates on whose outcome our ultimate judgment can hang.

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