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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

Critic Reviews

"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)

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Brings Franklin to life, with all his flaws and "errata"

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A refreshing tale of individual liberty

A must read for any intellectual, philosopher, or lay person. You won't regret this purchase.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book!

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Time well spent

An Informative, entertaining and substantive book. Very well written by Isaacson and presented by Runger.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A must read on of the greatest men to exist.

What did you love best about Benjamin Franklin: An American Life?

Very thorough, much more detailed than the autobiography.

Any additional comments?

It's a long and complete story of a complicated founding father of America. A truly fascinating book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great Book about a Great Man

Where does Benjamin Franklin: An American Life rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

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.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Ben Franklin of course

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

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.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Ha! 24+ hour marathon? I still have to squeeze in ear time for the wife.. so not for me in 1 sitting :)

Any additional comments?

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • M. Snell
  • Seven Fields, PA United States
  • 11-10-15

Made it to the end

A little long, a little slow. Stuck it out. Was worth it for the unique perspective of 1 man at a critical point in the formation of the U.S.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The biography that reads like engaging fiction

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Benjamin Franklin

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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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headline

A detailed linear look at the life and influences of Ben Franklin. The story was well narrated and enjoyable to listen

1 of 1 people found this review helpful