In Pursuit of Jefferson
Traveling through Europe with the Most Perplexing Founding Father
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A debut that combines historical nonfiction with travel books, for fans of Bill Bryson and Tony Horwitz, In Pursuit of Jefferson is the story of an American on a journey through Europe, following the epic trail of Thomas Jefferson.
A controversial founding father. A man ready for a change. And a completely unique trip through Europe.
In 1784, Thomas Jefferson was a broken man. Reeling from the loss of his wife and stung from a political scandal during the Revolutionary war, he needed to remake himself. To do that, he traveled. Wandering through Europe, Jefferson saw and learned as much as he could, ultimately bringing his knowledge home to a young America. There, he would rise to power and shape a nation.
More than two hundred years later, Derek Baxter, a devotee of American history, stumbles on an obscure travel guide written by Jefferson—Hints for Americans Traveling Through Europe—as he's going through his own personal crisis. Who better to offer advice than a founding father himself? Using Hints as his roadmap, Baxter follows Jefferson through six countries and countless lessons. But what Baxter learns isn't always what Jefferson had in mind, and as he comes to understand Jefferson better, he doesn't always like what he finds.
In Pursuit of Jefferson is at once the story of a lifechanging trip through Europe, an unflinching look at a founding father, and a moving personal journey. With rich historical detail, a sense of humor, and boundless heart, Baxter explores how we can be better moving forward only by first looking back.
Paperback available January 2023
- Size: Hardcover - 6 in x 9 in, Paperback - 5.5 in x 8.25 in
- Pages: Hardcover - 416, Paperback - 512
"This jaunty, inventive approach to an old question—who was Thomas Jefferson?—turns out to be a wise, readable, and altogether satisfying work." — Kirkus STARRED Review
"In his debut book, In Pursuit of Jefferson, Derek Baxter tells the bittersweet story of Thomas Jefferson, or should I say, Baxter's own reckoning with this most revered—and contradictory—figure from American history. In crisp language that is often conversational, Baxter weaves history with geography, food and wine, and science to tell what is ultimately a story of acceptance. It is only after following Jefferson's 'hints' through Europe—not to mention the Paris of North America—that Baxter comes to accept Jefferson for who he really was—a flawed human who might still offer some 'hints' on how best to move forward today. It confronts the uncomfortable but relevant issue of Jefferson's involvement with slavery plainly, and with heartfelt honesty. This is a fine work of historical travelogue that will appeal to anyone with an interest in history, geography, science, and self-discovery—an engaging read offering much food for thought." — Darrin Lunde, author of The Naturalist
"Baxter's humorous, warm voice is one readers will hope to hear more of in the future." — Booklist
"Baxter winningly details his experiences following Jefferson's itinerary while also grappling with his complicated legacy....At a time when cultural battles over everything from monuments to school curricula often turn ugly, Baxter provides a hopeful model for an honest reckoning with history." — Christian Science Monitor