The Founding Fathers were group of remarkable, intelligent men that ultimately changed
the course of American Constitutional History. Many of them were authors and orators,
some even founded libraries, most importantly, they loved to read. Among the favorites
were the Bible, the classics (i.e. Cicero, Tacitus, Livy, Plutarch, etc.), and works written by
Enlightenment Thinkers (John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Baron de Montesquieu, Immanuel
Here is a list of popular books written by the Founding Fathers, loved by them, or written
1. The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker - Tobias Smollett
This comedy, written from the variant perspectives of six different
characters, was Tobias Smollet's best work and a favorite of Washington's.
The novel is a satire aimed against British imperialism, and makes many
observations on 18th century British life and behaviors.
2. The Law of Nations - Emerich de Vattel
This particular work has a story which makes it remarkable.
When Washington was President, he borrowed a book from the New York
Society library, and never returned it. The staff of Mount Vernon returned a
copy of the work, although notably not the original, in 2010 You can read
the full story from the New York Daily News Website.
3. Rules of Civility - Richard Brookhiser
George Washington first copied Brookhiser's Rules of Civility as a schoolboy
exercise, and the words would continue to have an impact on the future
President throughout his lifetime.
4. George Washington: The Indispensable Man, by James T. Flexner
Considered the eminent biography, James T. Flexner originally wrote a four
volume biography of America's First President, one volume of which won
the a Pulitzer Prize citation in 1972. George Washington: The Indispensable
Man is the condensed version, and an invaluable addition to any Founders'
5. Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow
The award winning author Ron Chernow - also the biographer of Alexander
Hamilton and J.P. Morgan - presents a very down-to-earth image of George
Washington in this exceptional biography.
1. Beauty and the Beast - Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont
The first English translation of this rich fairy tale appeared in America in the
late 1750s, and interestingly enough, amidst the thousands of books that
Adams would read during his lifetime, this little gem became his favorite.
2. John Adams - David McCullough
Written by esteemed historian and author, David McCullough, John Adams
is a gripping tale of John Adams' life. The work won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize
for biography, and was adapted in an HBO miniseries with the same name,
starring Paul Giannini as John Adams.
3. Novanglus: A History of the Dispute with America - John Adams
This work is a compilation of essays written by Adams refuting Daniel
Leonard's essays concerning Parliaments "absolute authority" over the
American colonies. Adams argued that the American colonies had a right to
sovereignty and self-government.
4. John Winthrop: America's Forgotten Founding Father - Francis J.
Published in 2005, this work chronicling the life of Massachusetts Bay
Colony Govenor John Winthrop was never read by John Adams. However,
during his lifetime, Winthrop's words greatly affected John Adams in his life
5. The Revolutionary John Adams - Cheryl Harness
Sponsored by National Geographic, this critically acclaimed picture
biography of America's first president is one of the best ways to introduce
John Adams to young readers.
1. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Benjamin Franklin
An essential part of every American history book collection, Benjamin
Franklin's autobiography is a wealth of anecdotes, advice, and common sense
that has been thrilling readers for more than two centuries.
2. The Way to Wealth - Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin's timeless work is collection of essays teaching readers
how to make money, start a business, invest money, and save for the future.
He reminds us that, "A penny saved is a penny earned," and other such useful
3. Poor Richard's Almanac - Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard)
This yearly almanac published by "Poor Richard," one of Benjamin Franklin's
various pseudonyms, was a mixture of weather, poems, sayings, and
astrological findings. Extremely popular in its time, the almanac was known
for its humor and good sense.
4. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life - Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson paints a real-life picture of the Founding Father everyone
seemed to love. He discusses Franklin's role in the shaping of American
political system, focusing on the great man's faith in the common people.
5. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin - Gordon S. Wood
This Pulitzer and Bancroft prize winning biography of the great Founding Father
from Pennsylvania, tells the truth behind the author, inventor, delegate,
diplomat, and legend known as Benjamin Franklin.
1. Tristram Shandy - Laurence Sterne
Tristram Shandy was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and his wife Martha
Jefferson, and throughout their marriage the two would read the story aloud to
each other. It would remain a source of comfort to him during his lifetime.
2. Notes on the State of Virginia - Thomas Jefferson
The only book that Thomas Jefferson would publish during his lifetime, Notes
on the State of Virginia are his views on the major socioeconomic issues of the
region he considered "his country."
3. Two Treatises of Government - John Locke
This work by predominant Enlightenment thinker John Locke were one of the
major influences on Jefferson in his writing of the Declaration of Independence.
4. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power - Jon Meacham
Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham's biography of Thomas Jefferson
describes the complex, intriguing character of the third President of the United
5. Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation - Merrill D. Peterson
Recommended by Jeffersonian scholar Clay Jenkinson, Peterson's stunning
biography of Thomas Jefferson tells the sweeping tale of his life as it intertwines
with the new life of the American nation.
1. The Federalist Papers - James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay
The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 essays arguing in support of the United
States Constitution. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay were
the authors behind the pieces, and the three men wrote collectively under the
name of Publius.
2. James Madison - Irving Brant
This six volume set written by Irving Brant is the most comprehensive
biography ever produced on the author, Secretary of State, and Fourth
President of the United States, James Madison.
3. James Madison (The American Presidents Series) - Garry Wills
Noted historian Garry Wills, in his notable Presidents Series, offers a fresh
perspective on the life and contributions of James Madison, father of the
4. The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Republican Legacy - Drew
Remarkably enough, James Madison was the oldest surviving Founding
Father. Drew McCoy tells about the life of this great man in the midst of a
rapidly changing United States.
5. The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Jefferson and
Edited by James Morton Smith, this compilation tracks the long lasting
correspondence between Federalist James Madison and Republican Thomas
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