“Thomas Paine has had many biographers, but this is the first book to recover him in his own electrical style. Nelson’s account brings Paine to life with all the flaws and foibles flaming away amidst the greatness. The story is poignant and the prose is incandescent.”
— Joseph J. Ellis, author (most recently) of His Excellency: George Washington

“With a panache worthy of Paine himself, Nelson reinstates his subject as a progressive thinker and passionate activist as relevant to our times as to his own.”
— The Times [London]

“Intriguing … fascinating … Enlightenment thinker Thomas Paine would be pleased with this brisk, intellectually sophisticated study of his life.”
— Publisher’s Weekly

“A rewarding new biography … as much a primer on the Enlightenment as it is the story of the stay-maker from Thetford—and all the better for it.”
— The New Yorker

“Paine himself lived a fascinating life, well told in Craig Nelson’s new biography … Mr. Nelson captures the arc of Paine’s life in lucid prose worthy at times of Paine himself.”
— The New York Sun

“[A] lovely new biography … What Nelson does well is capture Paine’s blunt, combative style of argument that either inspired or alienated, the sublime self-assurance that struck some as arrogance, the inability to compromise his beliefs that made him a great revolutionary and a lousy politician. How we feel about “Citizen Tom Paine” (as blacklisted Communist Howard Fast dubbed him in a book banned from libraries in the 1950s) depends on what we think the nature and extent of democracy should be.”
The Los Angeles Times

“The author’s a good storyteller, and there’s no richer subject than Paine: arguably both the greatest and most overlooked Founder. Eric Foner’s book may still be the gold standard on the subject, but there’s something special about the fact that Nelson set out to evoke Paine stylistically — and succeeded.”
— The 48er

“Nelson’s biography certainly rates as a very short long book. Long, because Paine’s fascinating life, which was both shaped by and shaping the contours of his momentous times, was epic in scope. Short, because Nelson writes with a touch of theatrical flamboyance that carries the reader on an unflagging tide of interest. He also conveys an infectious enthusiasm for his subject, ‘a central figure in the creation of the modern world.’ … Nelson paints a vivid picture, warts and all, of a man whose ideas are as relevant today as they ever were.”
— Public Affairs

“Nelson’s narrative plunges readers into the flux of a revolutionary situation, where everything is in question and everyone is making up the answers as they go along.”
— The Baltimore Sun

“Even in the slime of this year’s campaign, we can appreciate Nelson’s thought that some of the ideas Paine set down – and could have gotten him hanged in the 18th Century – are in full force in the 21st. These include: government can only be empowered by its citizens; citizens are born with natural rights; and all must be treated equally before the law. Among journalists, that’s what we call a lead that stands up.”
— The Winston-Salem Journal

“Thomas Paine is truly America’s forgotten founder, and we owe Craig Nelson a great debt for this entertaining and enlightening portrait of a man who should be remembered and honored by free people everywhere.”
— Jon Meacham, author of American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation