I enjoy Walter Isaacson's works. His portrayal of Benjamin Franklin was a good overview of the man. However it was not an indepth character assessment like I would of preferred.
Isaacson tells the actions of Franklin as well as his influence on the world he left behind but, Isaacson's does not go into detail about the motives and shaping of Benjamin Franklin's character like he did with Steve Jobs.
However to be fair he had no direct access to the same personal resources as he did for Job seeing as how most of them died 200 years ago.
Great if you want to know more about Benjamin Franklin.
Bad if you want to know who Benjamin Franklin really was.
I wasn't at the edge of my seat or anything but a biography of this nature could have been 100x more boring without the talent and skills of an author like Walter Isaacson. He used old timey quotes but took care to not overdo it and explained what they meant as needed.
The narrator did cluck his mouth from time to time between chapters but it was only really noticeable with ear buds and certainly not a deal breaker. He also did a nice Ben Franklin voice.
I love good historical biographies for people I'm interested in from eighteenth to twentienth centuries, like, Washington, Bertie, Turman, Wilson, the Life of John Hay, No Ordinary Time and Morris’s trilogy of Teddy Roosevelt. There are a few that really didn’t engage me and this is one. Others that I couldn’t get into were Thomas Jefferson, the Art of Power, and Alexander Hamilton.
I found this book very dry, not detailed in the narrative. It may be due to the lack of actual details available, but Washington was a contemporary and Washington, A Life was profoundly good and engrossing. Bertie (future King Edward VII) was even earlier and is fascinating (but also was read by the unbelievably talented Carole Boyd).
The narrator doesn’t help. I’ve listened to him on other books where his narration didn’t detract from the book (didn’t help either), so I want to be fair to him here. Even if I don’t care for the narrator, I ask myself why I don’t like this book about an amazing man. What I come up with is that I feel like I’m being lectured to in a history class.
Yes, fascinating how complex a person Franklin was
The fact that so much of the story drew upon letters from the time
Good at distinguishing characters with their voice
Mostly good, but there were some editing problems, I think at one point you can hear the narrator drinking water. The book is well written and interesting throughout. I learned a lot about Franklin, not all of it to be celebrated.
As a biography, this is one of the better ones I've read
The inclusion of many of B Franklin's writings and quotations as opposed to just telling his story really gives the reader a better window into his thoughts and viewpoints.
The narrator was one of the poorest of the dozens of audible books I've experienced. He made nearly continuous sounds that distracted me from the story. It wasn't clearing his throat or other loud noises but rather small sounds during pauses that I haven't experienced with other narrators. I would say that when I was in an active environment, like running and listening, they didn't bother me. But in a quite environment they were noticeable, constant and distracting.
I was surprised to find out both how amiable and agreeable Benjamin Franklin was with his many peers and historical contacts and yet so cold and uncompromising with his own family.
Well-researched and written, with a fascinating subject.
I'm a big fan of good historical biographies and of Isaacson's books so I knew from the start that I would like this book. And I did, very much. But what really surprised me was the reaction of my beau when he listened with me: he loved it! He is a 20th century American history and technology guy. Period. But he consented to listening to one "1700s" history, and was captivated by this one.
Franklin deserves his place beside the other founding fathers for sure, but this book makes it clear that his contributions were entirely unique and not without controversy. This book would be my choice to begin exploring the biographies of the other founding fathers--Franklin’s relationship with each is tantalizingly touched on here. In my opinion, it’s also a good starter book for people who don’t think they are interested in historical biographies. It hooked my guy, and that’s no small feat.
Franklin's life unfolded as one of the most complex of the founding fathers and so much of it was a surprise to both of us. I suppose if I'd ever thought about it, I would have realized that he was older than most of those whose names are on all (all!) the key documents of the Revolution. But the significance to me was that he actually had been a long-time pro-Colony resident and civil servant in the latter days of British rule, so his conversion to revolutionary activism was more about the logic of independence than about fervor (although he came to have that, too).
He is portrayed as folksy yet shrewd--a person who usually knew the impact of every word he wrote or uttered (BTW, the narrator does impersonate the folksy side when he's quoting Franklin--may be annoying for some but that was somehow comforting for me). That Franklin edited Jefferson's work for posterity says a lot! His scientific work was also impressive for someone who didn't have a degree, let alone a science one. We know about the stove, the lightning rod, and bifocals, but there was so much more.
We were blown away by how much time he resided in Europe in his adult life--decades in England and France, all of it without his wife. His attempts to get her to join him were half-hearted, at best, and his failure to return when his wife was ailing and then died highlighted his general indifference to his family. He apparently was a big womanizer--something that appears to be rather common in that era and especially in Europe (where he was free of Puritanical influences). I do believe that the author somewhat soft-pedaled his actual sexual and perhaps lecherous exploits, but then again, there apparently wasn’t enough documented evidence of what really went on. There was a lot of Franklin's wishful thinking, though!
All that time in Europe before and during the war had a big influence on his understanding of the need for independence, a perspective that no other founding father possessed. This book really helped me understand what went on “behind the scenes” during those important years. His brothers in arms back home did not always fully appreciate his contributions to their successes. As America's first ambassador, he defined the role that continues today. Lucky for us that France revered and trusted him: his singular ability to win them over and get them to cough up the money and resources to support the cause may have been the most important action of the war.