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
"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)
I thought I knew all there was to know about Franklin, but I discovered I knew almost nothing of his life in England, except for the period he spent as a journeyman printer. The book also provides details of the causes of the American Revolution, Franklin's struggle to reconcile his conservative tendency to remain loyal to the crown and his realization that America would never emerge prosperous as long as it was held down by elitist Great Britain.
I also enjoyed the descriptions of events leading to the settlement of the war and the treaty, as well as the stories of his amorous adventures and his relationship with the prudish John Adams.
While the folksy narrating did grow on me and I came to understand it's rationale after listening to more of the story of Franklin's persona as a folksy scientist philosopher, I found the narrating at times distracting. That being said, the importance of the full scope of Franklin's life and the fascinating course that it charted through the colonial to revolutionary period in the nascent United States and the seeds of change in Europe that he either sowed or witnessed, make his story one worth knowing. The story makes some excuses for his cold dismissal (and possible neglect) of his family and it is here, with those serious and grave topics that the folksy narration draws too stark a contrast between narration and content.
Overall, it's worth the time because this man's story is so integral to the story of the establishment of the American story. I hope another biographer will take Franklin to task (McCullough or Chernow)...
Great book, it goes in depth into his somewhat complex character. Franklin is truly one founding father that doesn't get the credit due.
This book goes beyond the facade we all know & revealing his true character.
What I didn't like was the references to other authors material. I also found the narrator a bit slow in his reading. It was an easy fix though. I speed the book up to 1.5x in Audible and it read much like normal reading with out the stereotypical New England accent or assumed slownes.
Very thorough, much more detailed than the autobiography.
It's a long and complete story of a complicated founding father of America. A truly fascinating book.
It's up there. Though because it's so long, I'll probably look into the Bio to re-read instead. The virtues of this man will live on forever.
Ben Franklin of course
I liked his performance. I don't know what the other reviews are talking about with his bad impersonations and "butter lips". He did a splendid job being a story teller and for a history/bio book,his cheesy impersonations keep it fun and indicate it's a direct quote.
Ha! 24+ hour marathon? I still have to squeeze in ear time for the wife.. so not for me in 1 sitting :)
Fantastic book. Only complaints are about instances of sudden jumps in topics without much warning. In history books that's to be expected but when covering grand topics, it's a little tough when it branches off into another persons tale with little build up. This book might be a little long for some so at minimum get the raw bio of Ben Franklin instead. His practical virtues should be red and studied by all.
One cannot believe that one person can cram so much productivity, thiughtful writing, and statesmanship into a single fascinating life. The engaging performance is worthy of this incredible life.
Reading, listening and learning everyday
Very insightful book that covered an important part of our country's history. Franklin, far from perfect, was instrumental in so many scientific discoveries and advances. Loved his practical side and his willingness to give so much away.
Highly recommend this book!
"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.
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.
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.
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