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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life | [Walter Isaacson]

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us - an ambitious urban entrepreneur who rose up the social ladder, from leather-aproned shopkeeper to dining with kings. In best-selling author Walter Isaacson's vivid and witty full-scale biography, we discover why Franklin turns to us from history's stage with eyes that twinkle from behind his new-fangled spectacles. In Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson shows how Franklin defines both his own time and ours. The most interesting thing that Franklin invented, and continually reinvented, was himself.
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Publisher's Summary

Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us - an ambitious urban entrepreneur who rose up the social ladder, from leather-aproned shopkeeper to dining with kings.

In best-selling author Walter Isaacson's vivid and witty full-scale biography, we discover why Franklin turns to us from history's stage with eyes that twinkle from behind his new-fangled spectacles. In Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson shows how Franklin defines both his own time and ours.

The most interesting thing that Franklin invented, and continually reinvented, was himself. America's first great publicist, he was consciously trying to create a new American archetype. In the process, he carefully crafted his own persona, portrayed it in public, and polished it for posterity. His guiding principle was a "dislike of everything that tended to debase the spirit of the common people". Few of his fellow founders felt this comfort with democracy so fully, and none so intuitively.

In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin's amazing life, from his days as a runaway printer to his triumphs as a statesman, scientist, and Founding Father. He chronicles Franklin's tumultuous relationship with his illegitimate son and grandson, his practical marriage, and his flirtations with the ladies of Paris. He also shows how Franklin helped to create the American character and why he has a particular resonance in the 21st century.

©2003 Walter Isaacson (P)2011 Simon & Schuster

What the Critics Say

"The most readable full-length Franklin biography available." (The Washington Post Book World)

"Energetic, entertaining, and worldly." (The New Yorker)

"In its common sense, clarity and accessibility, it is a fitting reflection of Franklin's sly pragmatism.... This may be the book that most powerfully drives a new pendulum swing of the Franklin reputation." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (776 )
5 star
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4.3 (661 )
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4.2 (665 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Joe 04-13-15
    Joe 04-13-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    3
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    "An example of how a biography should be written"

    Isaacson has written a very enjoyable biography of Franklin. Never boring or too laden with detail, this volume really engages its listener-reader. From a historian's point of view, the only criticism might be that Isaacsom loves his subject too much.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Hardesty 04-10-15
    M. Hardesty 04-10-15 Member Since 2011
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    19
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    "Excellent book and narration."

    Despite contrary reviews, I found the narrators voice to be pleasant and fitting for a Benjamin Franklin biography. The author provided a balanced perspective of Franklin's positive and negative qualities. Franklin was not the best family man, but his contributions to the United States and the world are unprecedented. Kudos!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MarySue S. 04-02-15
    MarySue S. 04-02-15
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    1
    1
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    "History comes alive"

    Well done... This book makes history come alive. Enjoyed the pace and the details from Ben Franklin's writing. Amazing man.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cotharyus Nashville, TN 03-12-15
    Cotharyus Nashville, TN 03-12-15 Member Since 2014
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    5
    4
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    "A brilliant perspective on an American Essential"

    If you think Franklin just flew kites it's time to get in touch with a man who helped shape America. If you think you knew Franklin before, get ready to hear an old friend reminiscing about himself in an intimacy you've never known before.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer K. 03-05-15
    Jennifer K. 03-05-15 Member Since 2014
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    7
    1
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    "Fascinating! Wealth of research yet Ben F lives!"

    Really liked it. I wouldn't want to take a quiz after listening because it was so heavy with history and facts. However, Ben Franklin was alive in story and letter.
    I'm looking forward to reading the autobiography now and am glad to have the perspective of Isaacson's book. I read/listened to his book on Steve Job and am going to start Einstein now. I recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    susan 02-17-15
    susan 02-17-15 Member Since 2014
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    1
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    "Reader had sinus problems"

    Some poor production values compared to Chernow bios on the Founders. The life of Franklin is fascinating and even inspiring,

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jared 02-11-15
    jared 02-11-15 Member Since 2014
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    8
    8
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    "Good summary"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Krishnamoorthy Subramanian 02-11-15
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    3
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    "Narration is not good."

    Very difficult to listen to this style of narration. Can't get past the first few chapters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yon 02-02-15
    Yon 02-02-15 Member Since 2012
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    12
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    "Not gripping or anything but worth a listen."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    s healey 01-29-15
    s healey 01-29-15 Member Since 2014
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    8
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    "Great audiobook"

    I loved the story and the author's balance between his public image and true self.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 37 results PREVIOUS1234NEXT
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  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    12/29/13
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    "An inspiring story of a polymath"

    I knew that Franklin was important in the formulation of the American Constitution and that he played a part in the understanding of electricity, but had not realized how impressive were his other scientific investigations nor how influential he was in international negotiations over independence from Britain. His life from humble beginnings to world fame is an inspiring story of self-education and hard work coupled with an admirable tolerance to all religious creeds and a playful sense of humour. The book is an engaging listen as his far from perfect personal life and extraordinary public one are interwoven with the domestic concerns and important moments in history.
    The reader has just the right amount of folksy charm to narrate this fascinating biography.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Madeline
    York, United Kingdom
    3/26/13
    Overall
    "Highly recommended"

    This was recommended by a friend who read the book, and I was not disappointed by the audio version. I knew next to nothing about Franklin and little about the American process of independence and I found this biography really interesting about both the man and his time. It was a compelling listen and fascinating. Now I'd like to find a biography of his wife, who must have been an extraordinary woman in her own right! Highly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    Wirral, United Kingdom
    11/19/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Stopped listening"

    This book just didn't interest me and I stopped listening with 8 hours left, I found the narrators voice to bore me a little and the content just seemed a little dull.

    I have read Isaacson's books before and found them to be great, this one missed the mark for me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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