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)
Isaacson does a great job defining and realizing the character of Benjamin Franklin. You know him. You know him to the point where the last few chapters become predictive. Not the writing. But the last few chapters of Franklin's life.
Perhaps most astonishing is the way sheer mass of Franklin's legacy. It's written on the parchment of America's story in so many ways defining culture, government, philosophy, arts, finance, and even the sense of a self-deprecating comedic undertones to American Life.
Runger's reading was spot on. Especially the "character" voices he would use to go in and out of quoted text.
Walter Isaacson is a master of biography. Whether an historic subject or contemporary, he makes the individual come alive with all the traits and foibles of the subject. I have read biographies of Franklin but this one is so enjoyable that it was a delight to learn about this founding father again--and maybe even remember it this time since it was so well done. I not only learned the facts about Franklin, I got a real feel of the man. I would recommend the book to anyone interested in history and the life of a great man.
Husband, father, building contractor, inventor and audio book lover.
Ben Franklin left an indelible mark on our country. That much is taken for granted. Few, however, know just how much he did. This book should be required reading for diplomats in training and anybody else that wants to learn the art of the deal. Franklin was the first in so many categories that one cannot even begin to list them in a short review like this. Maybe though, one of his most important and enduring legacies would be religious tolerance, a new invention in the colonies at that time. I think that Mr. Isaacson did an impeccable job of bringing Franklin's legacy to life and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
The narrator must really love his peanut butter. If you are sensitive to disgusting mouth sounds, this book is not for you. The Audible-page sample audio is pretty clean and not so ??representative of the mind-numbing 24-plus hours. If you listen in the car or another noisy environment, you will be fine. Otherwise, be warned.??
Great story about an American hero that changed the course of America. This performance drags at times with old English phrases and many side bars that confuse the story.
I'm a keen, if eclectic, reader.
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.
This was a very good biography, which is something I've come to pleasingly expect when I start a Walter Isaacson work. My knowledge of Benjamin Franklin was limited to the near caricature of him taught in school back in my day, along with little bits and pieces from various documentaries I've watched during my adult life. I had no feeling for who the real person was behind the historical figure. Now, I believe I do, somewhat. Which, in itself reflects a good review of this book. Without going into too much of a summary of Benjamin Franklin himself, I think it's worth noting the light that the book shines on him. Ben Franklin was a practical man. A man who, when he saw a need, tried to find a practical solution to address that need. Whether it be protecting a house from bolts of lightning with his lightning rod, to helping design a constitution for a fledgling country whose states were in dire need of it. He believed in the middle class, and believed that excessive wealth, luxury, idleness and inheritable elitism was the root of much of the corruption in England at the time. He was a man who believed in religious tolerance, like many of the founding fathers, because religious dogma could be divisive, and not conducive democratic public discourse. He was a man who understood compromise and the need for it in a true democracy. Personally, he had vices like anyone else. He tended to enjoy spending time with his friends abroad better than his family back home. He often enjoyed the company various women throughout his life, to the dismay of some of his more puritanical political opponents. Contrary to many of his "Poor Richard" aphorisms, in his later years Franklin enjoyed late evenings with friends, wine, and chess. In the end, the book leaves you with the feeling that you may have known person behind the image a bit. He was a remarkable person, and this book is an excellent read for anyone interested in Benjamin Franklin, the man, and the historical figure.
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.
like a great biography.
The story itself is great. A life well lived. An Inspirational man.
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.
Slow, monotone (ish) mouth noises.
No single moment really.
Great information to know about this historical figure. Wouldn't listen to it again...
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."
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.
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