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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life | [Walter Isaacson]

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

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 twenty-first century.
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Publisher's Summary

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 twenty-first century.

©2003 Walter Isaacson; (P)2003 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Benjamin Franklin catalogs the extraordinary range of its subject's accomplishments, which remain unrivaled in their variety and utility." (The New York Times)
"Isaacson has crafted a wonderfully written biography, and his treatment of Franklin's youth and rise to prominence is insightful and imaginative" (The Washington Post)
"The abridgment is seamless, the text runs the gamut...from brilliant to ordinary."(AudioFile)
"Blessed with one of the most polished and easy-to-absorb voices in the audio business, reader Boyd Gaines does an outstanding job with Walter Isaacson's excellent biography of perhaps the most appealing of the Founding Fathers..." (USA Today)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (611 )
5 star
 (214)
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4.2 (135 )
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (137 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Theresa USA 02-09-04
    Theresa USA 02-09-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    208
    ratings
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    "Entertaining but a bit thin"

    Although I gave this four stars, it really probably doesn't deserve quite so many. Perhaps 3 and a half would be more on the mark. The author is a bit sophomoric in places, though his story development is fine. If you're a fan of Benjamin Franklin and you already know something about him, you might want to give this a miss. For a beginner, it should be fine. The narration is adequate.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brett Lehi, UT, USA 08-23-03
    Brett Lehi, UT, USA 08-23-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
    31
    ratings
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    11
    9
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    "Worth a listen"

    This was not easy to listen to. I found myself tuning out frequently and had to rewind many times to grasp what was being said. The writing style is a far cry from John Adams which really draws you in. I was very interested to find out more about Ben Franklin which made the book enjoyable. However if you don't have some true determination to lean about Benjamin, you'll find this book less than satisfying. The 3 stars are for the content and research. Writing style gets about 1 1/2 stars.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 02-28-09
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 02-28-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1700
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    273
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    "The Abridged Version"

    I made a mistake by choosing the abridgement of this book. My rule has been "no abstracted volumes from Audible." I broke my own rule to my disappointment. It just isn't worth it. Having said that, if a listener just wants a Readers' Digest summary of a book, this may be a good choice. Abstracting an audio book does not seem to work. It reads as though the full audio book was cut rather than thoughtfullly abridging the written volume and then rereading what was left. It is just - to date - not satisfying.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melanie Alexandria, VA, USA 11-24-04
    Melanie Alexandria, VA, USA 11-24-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    2
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    "Fascinating"

    At times this tale drags, but for the most part it's a fascinating account of the life of one of our most influential founding fathers.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nash Norfolk, VA, USA 09-04-04
    Nash Norfolk, VA, USA 09-04-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    3
    3
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    "Too Abridged"

    I have read a bit on Franklin and this is just too abridged. His life was intricate and woven around events, places and people all at once and it makes it very difficult to narrow it down. The narration is very good, however, and if just want a primer on Franklin's life, this is for you.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher COARSEGOLD, CA, United States 07-19-04
    Christopher COARSEGOLD, CA, United States 07-19-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    3
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    "So that's why I have always loved Franklin"

    I have loved Benjamin Franklin since I was a young child. But as a young hispanic boy growing up in the barrio, I never understood the connection. This book explained to the adult me why Franklin's life and contributions were so instrumental to the country's founding, as well as why I had such an immediate connection to his life. The wit and wisdom of Benjamin Frankling has always resonnated with me and now I understand why.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Virginia A Pelham, AL, USA 06-09-04
    Virginia A Pelham, AL, USA 06-09-04 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    33
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    46
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    "Boring. Left me wanting more"

    After reading "John Adams" and "Founding Brothers" this book was very disappointing. However, it does give a glimpse of the importance of Benjamin Franklin and it left me wanting to read a better book on the subject.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    URIEL MESHOULAM CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts United States 01-16-04
    URIEL MESHOULAM CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts United States 01-16-04 Member Since 2003

    Usually happy customer

    HELPFUL VOTES
    35
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    20
    7
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    1
    1
    Overall
    "Never listen to an abridged book"

    By comparison to other historical biographies, this book sounds superficial and skimpy. This is quite inconsistent with the reviewed and acclaim it has received - which makes me conclude that it suffered from crued abbreviation. If this is a representative example of what abridged books are like - I would never listen to an abridged book again.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hans Media, PA, USA 03-18-04
    Hans Media, PA, USA 03-18-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    1
    1
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    Overall
    "Exiting Story"

    I was more than pleased with this purchase. I am still stunned by the energy this man had. A true idol, even for nowadays. The only drawback on the audiobook was the mediocre reading, this needs more "spice". Highly recommended for anyone who loves colorfull biographies.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arnold South Freeport, ME, United States 12-06-03
    Arnold South Freeport, ME, United States 12-06-03 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    46
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    "slightly disappointed"

    Franklin's fascinating life is portrayed well and in depth in this book. I found the reading to be flat, however, and it did not hold my attention well.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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