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Editorial Reviews

This expansive work follows the rich and varied life of America’s first Renaissance man, from his humble beginnings as a newspaper apprentice, to his command of a colonial militia, to his eventual audience with King George III. Renowned radio host Adrian Cronauer oversees the proceedings in his rich, fluid baritone. Having authored his own autobiography - the award-winning screenplay for Good Morning, Vietnam - Cronauer demonstrates his knack for adroit storytelling, well matched with Franklin’s manifold exploits. Over his lifetime, Franklin watches the colonies grow from wayward outposts to modern metropolises. The author’s pioneering contributions to public welfare are documented here, as Franklin funds libraries, hospitals, and infrastructure. Likewise, Franklin recalls his famous experiments with electricity and the formation, at his behest, of revolutionary militias.

Publisher's Summary

A great inventor, journalist, satirist, politician - a true Renaissance man - Benjamin Franklin perfectly embodied the traits we now treasure as "American." One of the prime movers and shakers in our nation's history, Franklin was known for his common sense, practicality, and frugality. Here, Franklin describes his rags-to-riches journey with candor, optimism, and boundless humor. The voice is that of a young, vigorous Franklin, focused on action and eager to explore and learn from life.
(P)1986 by Recorded Books, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"...a landmark in world literature." (Masterpiece Library)
"Adrian Cronauer's rich voice is ideally suited to Franklin's autobiography. A skilled and smooth reader, Cronauer never intrudes on the material." (The Washington Post)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

I wish high school history was this interesting!

Simply outstanding! Never read a history book? Try this one and you'll be hooked. We need a few more Ben Franklin's today!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 07-25-15

there will be sleeping enough in the grave

Even in death, I can't imagine Franklin resting. There is always just too much to do, too many questions to ask, too many books to read, too much to explore.

My brother recommended this book to me about 30 years ago. I'm not sure why I never read it until now. Part of it must be the feeling that Benjamin Franklin would always just be there. He wasn't going anywhere. He seems to permeate so much of what it means to be an American and our historical narrative. His autobiography, which is divided into two parts, ends in 1757. So all of the Revolutionary War Franklin and Continental Congress Franklin is obviously missing. These are his early years. It is a portrait of a polymath as a young man. It shows his curiosity, his work ethic, his creativity, his risk-taking, his bridge-building. All the things that would later be used as part of the myth-making around Franklin.

After reading this autobiography, I kinda agree with Christopher Hitchen's take about the role of Benjamin Franklin as the Socrates of his day:

"Franklin was also the main man. He was drafted onto the committee that drew up the Declaration (and may well have been the one who imposed the ringing term "self-evident," as against the more pompous "sacred and undeniable" in its crucial opening stave.) When George Washington's horse bore him into Philadelphia for the grueling meeting that would eventually evolve the United States Constitution, it was at Franklin's front door that the president necessarily made his first stop.... -

The thing about reading Franklin is you are never quite sure when he is pulling one over on the reader. His humor was dry and sharp. He could adapt the language of his foes and flail them with it. He was happy to guide and get things done, rather than glory and stay stationary. He was an American original and we are all better for his curiosity, his humor, his readiness to take risks, his ability to learn and adapt. When people talk about standing on the backs of giants, I imagine we all have climbed a bit on the back of Franklin.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Chamblee, GA, United States
  • 01-02-12

Good, But Unfinished

Benjamin Franklin was one of the great minds that our country produced. He excelled in business, publishing, science, inventions (the lightning rod, Franklin stove, bifocals), politics and diplomacy. He also founded the first public library, the first volunteer fire department, and the University of Pennsylvania. His life in any one area would have been distinguished, but his life in totality is almost unbelievable. He was a great and prolific writer, and his straight-forward writing style is eminently readable today. Franklin not only lived a long life for his time (84 years), he began working when he was 10 and continued working until the month before his death. His autobiography is a great book, but is unfinished. It covers only about the first 50 years of his life. Although Franklin had achieved a lot by that time, there was a lot more ahead including the most important and interesting parts of his life. If you want to read a more complete treatment, I suggest Walter Isaccson's biography.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sean
  • Auburn, AL, USA
  • 06-19-05

Great American Lit

Franklin's Autobiography is an important work of American literature. He is witty and gives and interesting glimpse into early America. I think the reader does a fine job. I appreciate the unabridged format: great for studying.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic and inspiring.

Loved this audiobook. Ben Franklin was a BAMF. He was such a pioneer and I think everyone can learn from him.

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Spoken in Old English Style

Would you try another book from Benjamin Franklin and/or Adrian Cronauer?

Yes, the narrator was very well spoken but I found the story to be a bit dry. I liked some of the verbiage used in the story Old World English.

What was most disappointing about Benjamin Franklin’s story?

Lacked depth other than his relationship with a few characters.

What does Adrian Cronauer bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His cadence was easy to follow, his pronunciation excellent, and his inflections made the story more interesting.

Do you think The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

Yes to fill in the gaps. Perhaps I would be more interested in a Biography instead. My first experience reading an autobiography so I am not an experienced critic.

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  • Jim
  • Beaufort, NC
  • 05-19-13

The performance kills it.

What disappointed you about The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin?

This is a fine book but is read like it is your most boring high school history teacher!<br/>The performance is so deadpan and dead I cannot rate the book well at all.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Needs a new performance

How did the narrator detract from the book?

He just killed it with boredom

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment

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What an Amazing Man!

I knew some of the personal characteristics of Benjamin Franklin from other books, but learned much more from this book. He was truly an amazing man.

If you read no other book this month, read this one. History will come alive for you.

  • Overall
  • Michael
  • Suwanee, GA, USA
  • 05-11-07

Good Listen

Nice to hear about the other aspects of Frankiln's life I was not aware of.
Recommended.

  • Overall

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Not really what I expected, it was somewhat interesting, but I am no history buff. I didn't really remember much about him & was interested as I hear a lot of his quotes used. The book opens you up to where the man is coming from but does little to talk about any of what most consider his major acomplishments.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful