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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

4.2 (472 )
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4.3 (402 )
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4.2 (406 )
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Performance
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  •  
    H. Segal Ithaca 08-11-14
    H. Segal Ithaca 08-11-14 Member Since 2013

    Cornell Faculty

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A bit thin on details and poorly read"
    Would you try another book from Walter Isaacson and/or Nelson Runger?

    It was good to hear the magical life of Ben Franklin, and to discover his selfish as well as generous sides, but Isaacson tends to repeat his formulaic read on Franklin over and over, while clearly hiding some of Franklin's more illicit behaviors in Europe. I found Nelson Runger's reading too slow and, even more irritating, he put on a "folksy" voice any time he quotes Franklin's letters or writings. Might be better to read this volume or find a better biography altogether.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Grand Rapids, MN, United States 06-22-14
    Richard Grand Rapids, MN, United States 06-22-14 Member Since 2013

    Manager in the Wireless Industry. I like leadership and salesmanship books. I like to be inspired. I love to learn. No blood and Gore, just positive good stuff that makes me feel invincible.

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    "I genuinely Enjoyed it."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life to be better than the print version?

    Don't know. I do know that I really enjoyed the story and would certainly recommend it. I didn't have no idea the complexity of his life. I appreciate him even more now.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The variety of info. It wasn't just about this guy who impacted lives with inventions, electricity and politics. It was about family, friends and virtues.


    What does Nelson Runger bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Through voice inflection, I understood what I should pay closer attention to.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Nothing specifically but I was saddened when I realized his namesake ended and nobody carried his name.


    Any additional comments?

    Excellent book.. I'll likely listen to it a second time,

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Australia 06-10-13
    Joseph Australia 06-10-13 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Behind the Stereotype"

    This wonderful book separates Benjamin Franklin from the caricature that usually clings to him. His lived a big and imperfect life and left the world a better place when he finally departed.

    The story is well told and kept me interested throughout.

    Mr. Runger does a good job of narrating, but I found his Ben Franklin 'voice' a bit limited, as he applied the same pacing and intonation regardless of the situation.

    Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas CODY, WY, United States 02-19-13
    Thomas CODY, WY, United States 02-19-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    "Great piece of history/bio"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend to anyone who has an interest in American history and one of the great characters thereof. Isaacson is brilliant as usual,and the performance is quite good.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kelvin Echuca, Australia 02-04-13
    kelvin Echuca, Australia 02-04-13 Member Since 2012

    like a great biography.

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    "Long hard listen with average narration. Good."
    What did you love best about Benjamin Franklin: An American Life?

    The story itself is great. A life well lived. An Inspirational man.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    I would have chose a more inspired and narrator. Hard to concentrate when the book is so long and the story telling is slow and monotone. I recommend speeding it up if listening through the app.


    What three words best describe Nelson Runger’s performance?

    Slow, monotone (ish) mouth noises.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    No single moment really.


    Any additional comments?

    Great information to know about this historical figure. Wouldn't listen to it again...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Busy Reader: Get To The Point California, USA 01-31-13
    Busy Reader: Get To The Point California, USA 01-31-13 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fair Writing, Unfortunate Voice"
    Would you try another book from Walter Isaacson and/or Nelson Runger?

    I would encourage listeners to try the abridged edition for two reasons: 1. Isaacson's writing does drag on, especially at the end, when he delivers a dry bones evaluation of Franklin's character. 2. Nelson Runger has a pleasing voice, but he made a critical mistake that is funny and annoying. He speaks all the quotes from Franklin - and there are hundreds of these - in the worst, sing-song, old man voice imaginable. Ironically, the text says it's a shame to categorize Franklin as a "genial codger," while this is exactly the way Runger portrays him. I don't know who made the decision on Franklin's voice. I'm not sure this convention of changing voices works, anyway. I'm in favor of the old, "Quote," "Unquote."


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    I learned some interesting things about Franklin. He was a typical egomaniac, brilliant at communication, always holding others to standards he avoided himself. For example, he expected his family to follow his instructions and support his politics, even though he chose to spend most of his life far away from them.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Walker Paisley, Oregon 01-21-13
    Jim Walker Paisley, Oregon 01-21-13 Member Since 2011

    26 years in SAC with the B-52's during the Viet Nam War.

    ratings
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    "Althogh LONG, it kept my interest."
    What made the experience of listening to Benjamin Franklin: An American Life the most enjoyable?

    Excellent performance


    What did you like best about this story?

    The great detail about his personal life


    Have you listened to any of Nelson Runger’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Held my interest and went into great detail


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yoram Harth New York USA 10-08-12
    Yoram Harth New York USA 10-08-12

    Dermatologist

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    "Too long. Not too interesting to my taste."

    Too long. Not too interesting to my taste. Maybe the abridged version is better.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-18 of 18 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    12/29/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    6 of 6 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
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