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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.

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings


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  • Overall

Leaves a lot to be desired

The reading of this book leads me to believe that we could have done without Mr. Franklin. There is no passion, there is no cohesiveness as to what is happening around Mr. Franklin as we are pulled through a very superficial story. If one good thing comes of this book, it will be that I must read another one on Benjamin Franklin because he HAD to be more important than this book would have you come to understand. I didn't give it just one star only because I have read worse.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Interesting info - enjoyable listening

I am disappointed that others didn't value this as highly as I did. After listening to the Adams biography, the counterpoint offered in Franklin, allows the reader to understand both points of view. It is providential that Franklin was around whenever the topic or future of the United States was discussed. I truly enjoyed the listening and would recommend it to all who have read "John Adams" or "Founding Brothers."

44 of 48 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

suffers from abridgement

this 6hr audiobook is devoid of the necessary detail to bring it to life. it would have probably been 20+ hours unabridged. better to enjoy 6hrs of any other unabridged book to settle for this.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Ben Franklin is a very interesting man but the reading pace of this book put me to sleep several times. I give it three stars only because I think the content merited it, although it was hard to tell. The author's Conclusions at the end offered a nice analysis of Ben's life and how he has been percieved since his death but getting to that point was painful.

35 of 39 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not a great biography

Sorry that I agree with the others giving this a poor review. My problem with the book is that if you've read other biographies of the period and other biographies of Franklin, this book lacks historical context. Yes, there's lots of detail--and maybe that's what history has become these days. But the lists of details don't add up to give a true picture of the man or the issues he dealt with. To me, you can't read this book and come away with the sense of why Franklin was such a great man.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

I really enjoyed it!

I've always been interested in the life of Franklin and thought this was a great general biography. I learned a lot listening to it. The reader was very easy and enjoyable to listen to.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Roger
  • Orlando, Florida United States
  • 08-19-07

Autobiography is Better

There is no substitute for listening to Franklin's original Autobiography. This book pulls too much info directly from that original work. Listen to or read the original Autobiography and just skip this book. Franklin is a masterful writer about his own life.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jackie
  • Burlington, NC, USA
  • 05-21-05

A great listen, but nothing new here

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook, and the narrator was a pleasure to listen to, but I was disappointed that there was nothing here that I hadn't read before. Even so, I'll probably listen to it again in hopes of finding a tantalizing tidbit or fresh perspective that I missed the first time through.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Charles
  • Atlanta, GA, USA
  • 10-21-04

Good - but not over whelming

I enjoyed the reading and the material. The book really focuses (as the title suggests) on Franklin as the American, and how he shaped that definition. The book is pro-Franklin but still manages to discuss his faults/shortcomings. Looking forward to reading about Adams and the other "Founding Fathers". Franklin is directly responsible for much of the American identity -7

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful