Thomas Jefferson’s Recommended Reading List…

Thomas Jefferson supplied lists of recommended books in letters to Robert Skipwith in 1771 and Bernard Moore about the same time, to his nephew, Peter Carr, in 1785 and 1787, to John Minor in 1814, and to several others. The following is a distillation and synthesis of his recommendations in classical studies — history, philosophy, religion, and literature. Items in each section are in a rough suggested reading order based by Jefferson’s comments. Clearly more works could be added; as Jefferson wrote to Moore:

“These by no means constitute the whole of what might be
usefully read in each of these branches of science. The mass of
excellent works going more into detail is great indeed. But
those here noted will enable the student to select for himself
such others of detail as may suit his particular views and
dispositions. They will give him a respectable, an useful and
satisfactory degree of knowledge in these branches.”


Ancient History

Herodotus – c. 450 BC, ‘Father of History’  The Histories – wealth of information about the ancient world
Thucydides – c. 395 BC, History of the Peloponnesian War – Athens vs. Sparta
Xenophon – c. 400 BC, philosopher, student of Socrates, general
Anabasis – incredible saga of a Greek army lost in the Persian Empire, Hellenica – Greek history 411-362 BC
Polybius – c. 150 BC, The Histories – rise of the Roman Republic
Julius Caesar – c. 50 BC, The Gallic War – Caesar describes Gaul and its conquest. The Civil War – wars of 49–45 BC,      ending with Julius as first Roman Emperor.