©2005 Philip Dray; (P)2006 Recorded Books
"Dray provides not only a masterful glimpse of this aspect of Franklin's work but also a captivating cultural history of Franklin's America." (Publishers Weekly)
"Tracing Franklin's beliefs through science, Dray's congenial history has information that will surprise even veteran Franklin fans." (Booklist)
This is not a traditional biography of Benjamin Franklin, but gives insights into this remarkable man which many biographies don't. The book presents an investigation of how scientific inquiry dealt with superstition and tradition in the 18th century, particulary as early investigations into electricity were discovering its power and danger. I enjoyed the introduction to Franklin's remarkably inquisitive mind, and the narrative of events leading to the several inventions which advanced understanding of electricity and other related issues (hot air balloons, the glass harmonica, Mersmer's medical treatments, etc.). There were occasional diversions which dragged a bit, but overall I found the writing excellent and the narration effective.
Oh my but I love Ben Franklin, and let me tell you generally getting me to read American history is like pulling teeth. Its not that I didnt like American history its just after years of it in high school, AP exams and college you kinda think maybe the thousands of years of history in the rest of the world need some looking into. This didnt bore me at all and made everything seem new and exciting. There are a few repetitive bits but almost all of the best reviewed books of this genre are like that (the clockwork universe for example, great read). Ben Franklin is funny and such an amazing man and this time in history is enthralling as well (if you havent overdone it). It is also always fun to laugh at the mistakes of the past (lightning rods piss off god and cause earthquakes) as long as we realize we are likely being equally stupid today. I do wish the author had gone into even more of Franklin's other scientific interests. I loved learning about Franklin's views on slavery as they evolved throughout his life. I think this is a great, quick listen that is read well and will keep most people interested.
I am a big fan of history books including long reads (Truman is one of my favorites at over 50 hours), but I was very disappointed at how this book dragged along. I must admit that I didn't even download the second part of this book and probably never will.
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