Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Benjamin Franklin An American Life 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 he seems made of flesh rat

  • Title: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
  • Author: Walter Isaacson
  • ISBN: 9780743258074
  • Page: 301
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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, he seems made of flesh rather than of marble In bestselling author Walter Isaacson s vivid and witty full scale biography, we discover why Franklin seems to turn to us from history s stage with eyesBenjamin 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, he seems made of flesh rather than of marble In bestselling author Walter Isaacson s vivid and witty full scale biography, we discover why Franklin seems to turn to us from history s stage with eyes that twinkle from behind his new fangled spectacles By bringing Franklin to life, Isaacson shows how he helped to define both his own time and ours He was, during his 84 year life, America s best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and business strategist, and he was also one of its most practical though not most profound political thinkers He proved by flying a kite that lightning was electricity, and he invented a rod to tame it He sought practical ways to make stoves less smoky and commonwealths less corrupt He organized neighborhood constabularies and international alliances, local lending libraries and national legislatures He combined two types of lenses to create bifocals and two concepts of representation to foster the nation s federal compromise He was the only man who shaped all the founding documents of America the Albany Plan of Union, the Declaration of Independence, the treaty of alliance with France, the peace treaty with England, and the Constitution And he helped invent America s unique style of homespun humor, democratic values, and philosophical pragmatism But the most interesting thing that Franklin invented, and continually reinvented, was himself America s first great publicist, he was, in his life and in his writings, 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 Through it all, he trusted the hearts and minds of his fellow leather aprons than he did those of any inbred elite He saw middle class values as a source of social strength, not as something to be derided 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.

    One thought on “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life”

    1. If Alexander Hamilton is one of the most underappreciated of the Founders then Benjamin Franklin is one of the most misunderstood. Isaacson ends his book with a concluding chapter that details this misundestanding. Throughout history each generation has taken a new look at Benjamin Franklin. As the author points out, Thoreau mocked him, Carnegie adored him and D.H. Lawrence despised him. So who was right, and why? Isaacson, while pointing out his faults and follies, does not hide his own admirat [...]

    2. An excellent start-to-finish biography, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life begins by touching on his childhood as best as it can considering the lack of material to work with. After that, Isaacson takes the reader through a more detailed account of Franklin's early entrepreneurial life, through his many inventions, and into his later statesmen days. I was struck by the author's well-balanced hand for both time, achievements, personal and professional details, and philosophical and political ide [...]

    3. ETA: I decided to change this to four stars since I enjoyed the author's Einstein even more, and I gave that four.***********************Why do YOU want to pick up a book about Benjamin Franklin? If you want his biographical details you need not even read a book, just check out . I wanted more. I wanted to understand his soul. I wanted to get under his skin. I wanted all the historical details in and more. I got what I wanted. Benjamin was an amazing person; people have only a superficial idea [...]

    4. A so-called Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin is among the most influential figures of his time, whose scientific discoveries and philosophical and business ideas reverberate around the world. It is also a flesh and blood man who was instrumental in the development of what is now the most powerful nation in the world.Writer, scientist, inventor, diplomat and journalist.Isaacson shows how this incredible life beyond their own time, and how the collaboration of Franklin in d [...]

    5. This was a pleasure and just the kind of biography I find trustworthy. The kind that acknowledges other views and controversies and with extensive notes and sources in the back. More than that, it's the rare biography that can inspire smiles and even giggles--I'd mark this up to five stars if I could credit Isaacson for that--but the source of the humor is the frequent quotes from Benjamin Franklin himself. Isaacson said in his introduction that "Benjamin Franklin is the Founding Father who wink [...]

    6. The only time this book caught my attention was when I fell asleep reading it in bed and dropped it on my face. I stopped reading before I hurt myself further. This fascinating insight on page 82 was the last straw, "For the last 17 years of Deborah's life, Franklin would be away, including when she died. Nevertheless, their mutual affection, respect, and loyalty - and their sense of partnership - would endure."

    7. I loved this book. Isaacson did a fair and balanced job, describing the man without whitewashing over his flaws. By the end, I felt like Franklin was mine, like he somehow belonged to me. I knew he would be an interesting person, but I had no idea how much this man did with his life. Nor did I understand just how involved he was before there was any US at all. We could still be a British colony without him - or even a French one! Something else I never learned in school, France's involvement. Th [...]

    8. An excellent biography of America's greatest statesman. As told in this litany by Isaacson, it was astonishing to learn that so many principles of our government and constitution are in whole or in part Franklin's ideas or were ideas that Franklin advocated for. I would say that the second half of this book, Franklin as the elder statesman, was as perfect a biography as I have read.

    9. Seeking to continue my trek to better understand the birth of America and its Founding Fathers, I tackled Walter Isaacson's biography of Benjamin Franklin. The book offers not only a great examination of the man, but also a wonderful set of vignettes related to all the activities Franklin undertook in his life. This most eclectic of men, the fifth generation of the youngest son of the youngest son, dazzled many he met and Isaacson's presentation surely will pull in many readers as well. In Isaac [...]

    10. This is a throroughly entertaining, well-researched, well-written biography of Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson. It is lengthy (over 600 pages) and one feels obligated to read the footnotes because they further the work. The first third of the book moved quickly (childhood, moving to Philadelphia, beginning life as a printer, Poor Richard's Almanac). The middle third bogs down (life in England and France, the beginning of the Revolution) and the final third picks up (back in France, negotiat [...]

    11. Went to the King Tut exhibit in 2007 and was equally impressed by the Ben Franklin museum - where the exhibit was shown in PA. Loved this book; learned so much - maybe I'm a nerd but it was a page turner that I looked forward to each day!

    12. Biographies generally bore me, and this was no exception.So pedestrian, so conventional, so obviously a poor rehashing of much better Franklin biographies that preceded this one. One wonders why Isaacson even bothered to write the book. Money, perhaps? Whatever his motivation, the result is underwhelming.One of the difficulties with biography is that you already know most of the plot, and you probably know how it ends too. To create a sense of suspense and excitement, you need to need to do two [...]

    13. An abridged audio tape. America was so lucky to have men like Benjamin Franklin to start us off. I read his Autobiography as a high school student, and it inspired me to be a better person. I may read it again now. When I look at today's "conservative" movement, I am ashamed of it. It is truly a disgrace to our country. They could do well to study the lives of men like Franklin who worked hard to better himself but also to help others. He believed in good governance, in helping the poor, and--Oh [...]

    14. I swear I didn’t know he would be Job’s biographer when I purchased this book. I purchased it after reading the Einstein biography by Mr. Isaacson several months ago. This biography is on par with that one. Insightful and complete, we get an good appreciation for this mythical patriot of American values. Now, the one misgiving I have is that Mr. Isaacson preaches to these so-called American values on nearly every other paragraph. His point, of course, is that Ben Franklin was so instrumental [...]

    15. This took a while. Not that the two have a whole lot in common, but the sheer size of it reminded me of War and Peace; it felt like it was too long until after I finished it, wherein I could appreciate that the length itself was a necessary medium for expressing the shocking length of Franklin's life. Though 85 is not altogether abnormally old, Franklin's life was subjectively twice that, full and productive as it was. The final chapter was especially important in conveying the overall takeaways [...]

    16. This book gave me a much broader perspective on Benjamin Franklin. I had read his autobiography in junior high and loved it. I determined that he was the genre of person I would have enjoyed as a friend. The man thinks like me in many respects. I adopted some of his ideas because they fit me. While I admired him, this book painted a more thorough picture of who he was, flaws and all. Now that I am an adult, it seemed appropriate to see the fuller picture of this character I thought so highly of. [...]

    17. I enjoy providing background in my reviews of how I’ve acquired or read a book, because I believe it helps to paint a picture of my tastes, desires, and it might even give you more information about me. In other words, maybe the books I read act as my own autobiography. I bought this highly anticipated book only a short time after getting a new job as a store manager with FranklinCovey. Having made good friends with the store manager of the Waldenbooks store down the hall from my old store, I [...]

    18. Ben Franklin is one of my heroes, along with Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, and a few others. As I start my march through reading books about American presidents, I figured I’d start with a famous American who was never a president but was deeply involved in creating the situation where there could be American presidents.I’m a big fan of Walter Isaacson and his biographies (I’ve read many of them.) Benjamin Franklin: An American Life didn’t disappoint. Isaacson is great at making a bi [...]

    19. Isaacson is getting a lot of attention and reading right now for his Steve Jobs biography and there is some symmetry in his biography of Franklin, surely the Steve Jobs of his day, (a comparison favorable to Jobs, for sure.)Isaacson does a great job in placing Franklin in his startling historical context. Ben Franklin is old! He is so old when he was born we even reckoned time by a different calendar - the Julian instead of the Gregorian. He was a contemporary of such old-timey Puritan giants as [...]

    20. Probably the best biographical source on Benjamin Franklin is straight fron the horses mouth . . . his Autobiography. However, Isaacson's book is definitely an engaging read and fairly exhaustive. My initial impression is that the author is careful in not falling into the a trap that so many biographers often do, in that they deify their protagonist. Isaacson takes an objective approach to Franklin and enumerates his many flaws (or at least what most would perceive as flaws when attributed to on [...]

    21. Comprehensively researched and well balanced biography, in very similar territory as McCullough's highly recommended treatise on John Adams. Isaacson's 'Benjamin Franklin-An American Life', published 2003, captures the extraordinary and many faceted eighty four year life of this founding father. A caricature that would be instantly recognisable in The Simpsons, this biography paints a vivid portrait of the man, his times, family, morals, scientific enquiry and political journey.I have long wishe [...]

    22. I absolutely loved this book. I picked this book up in an antique store in Virginia, of all places, and it sat on my shelf for a year and a half before I got around to reading it. But once I opened it I couldn't get enough of Dr. Franklin.Benjamin Franklin is the MAN. I was continually amazed to learn about his life and accomplishments. Did you know that Ben Franklin invented the lightening rod, bifocals, and catheters? That he discovered the Gulf Stream? That he was America's first postmaster, [...]

    23. Readers searching for a readable, engaging, and page turning account of the least patrician of the Founding Fathers can search here for a very fun read through the life of Franklin. Filled with his aphorisms and wisdom, but never glossing past his failings (his family life was very complicated to say the least), this book covers all of the great accomplishments: his publications, his entrepreneurship, his innovations, his diplomacy, his statesmanship, and finally his hidden hand behind many of t [...]

    24. I learned so many interesting things about Franklin from reading this book, and about the early days of our country. For example, for a long time, Franklin didn't want America to declare independence. He tried very diligently to get England to change its behavior toward the colonies, and only when all those efforts failed did he become a revolutionary. What an incredible thing, to declare independence and create a country from scratch! Really enjoyed the book and the insights.

    25. Walter Isaacson’s 2003 Ben Franklin An American Life makes a wonderful complement to the 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning Benjamin Franklin by Carl Van Doren. Van Doren’s book is dense and exhaustive and admiring of both the man and his work. Isaacson is thorough as well, but more readable, and more critical, especially of Franklin’s personal life. It’s been several years since I read the Van Doren book, and I don’t plan to go back for a point-by-point analysis, but if you want to read just [...]

    26. Franklin was way ahead of his time both in thought and in action. From building a media conglomerate to retiring at 42 and becoming a scientist to seeing what the British did to the Irish and not wanting that same fate for America to traveling to France in his 70's with gout to convince France to fund the American Revolution to fighting against his own son in that war --- it was quite a life. Highlights:In a witty newspaper piece called “On Conversation,” which he wrote shortly after forming [...]

    27. I had a problem paying attention to history in high school, and even in college. I did passably well and forgot 90% of what I learned. I was way more focused on biology and astronomy and thought history was boring. As a result, whenever history comes up in conversation I feel way out of the loop and it's a tad embarrassing. I've been trying to rectify this by reading biographies and I thought it would be like pulling teeth, but it's been delightfully entertaining - I was not expecting that. This [...]

    28. To say that Benjamin Franklin led an interesting life would be the understatement of the century. Dr. Franklin was the first American to be world famous. He was an American Revolutionary, a theorist on government, a scientist in nearly all fields, and a printer being his first profession. In the end, one can say that there is nothing that the man did not do in his lifetime. Walter Isaacson brings this extraordinary American to life, allowing the reader to explore the world that was with this inc [...]

    29. A great biography of probably the most interesting founding father of the United States. I loved how Walter Isaacson paints the whole picture of a person, giving both the positive and negative attributes (or at least what his detractors claim). A nice anecdote that stuck with me is the story of how Franklin borrowed a book from someone he wasn't getting along with, and returned it without reading it. The man then started getting along with him better. The rationale of which was that when someone [...]

    30. A passionately written biography of a brilliant man, bogged down only by a bit too much subjectivity in parts but elevated by its heartfelt depiction of one of America's true founders. This book dispels many of the popular notions about Franklin, such as his reputation as a womanizer (partly true, but he was never actually unfaithful to his wife) and his "simple-minded" ideals.U.S. history cannot be understood without an understanding of the country's founding fathers, and this is a fantastic pl [...]

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