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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life Hardcover – Jul 1 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (July 1 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684807610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684807614
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.6 x 4.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 930 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #175,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
His arrival in Philadelphia is one of the most famous scenes in autobiographical literature: the bedraggled 17-year-old runaway, cheeky yet with a pretense of humility, straggling off the boat and buying three puffy rolls as he wanders up Market Street. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Bachman on July 5 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm giving Walter Isaacson's biography five stars for its fairness, its comprehensiveness, accuracy, the incisiveness of its insights, but most of all, for its readability. I think this is what puts it above other Franklin biographies I've read - it somehow manages the feat of being a very engaging, pleasant read, from the first page to the last, while plumbing each interesting depth of Franklin's life.
In particular, I admired how Isaacson explored the nature of Franklin's religious belief, letting Franklin speak for himself on what he felt man's duty to God and his neighbor consisted of. I also appreciated the seriousness with which Isaacson dealt with Franklin's often underappreciated scientific achievements, clarifying just how beneficial the effects of his experiments with lightning and electricity were almost immediately (within a very short time, many lives were saved around the world just because of Franklin's lightning rod, etc.). Lastly, as readers of Franklin's autobiography know, he was very funny, and I was glad that Isaacson allowed that charm and humor to be displayed.
Edmund S. Morgan's recent biography of Franklin, for all its strengths, has to take second place to Isaacson's outstanding book. I know this review probably sounds like it was written by Walter Isaacson himself under a pseudonym or something, but the truth is, I can't really think of a single criticism to make of this one.
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By bitchass on March 11 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Incredible book,incredible man and incredible writer.
It reads so fast and interesting.
During reading I became so much more productive myself as
Franklin would make any one feel lazy.
Walter Isaacson is the best author in America today for my money.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sheila Tillman on July 18 2004
Format: Hardcover
Let me first start off by saying that I have read few biographies. But Isaacson made a biography that is both readable and balanced between Franklin's personal and professional life. Franklin was the true founding father that believed in the common man. Franklin was not perfect but he believed in fair treatment for all. America would have advanced much slower if it was not for Ben. Probably his greatest contribution to our society was the feeling of helping one another. He helped form the first fire station, post office, police force (much less his inventions) - his work had community written all over it. All of his work was done with the premise of helping mankind. Maybe other founders fought the wars and wrote the documents. But we survived all these years because we formed a community; the idea that as Americans we have to all work together. That is Franklin's legacy to our nation. I will read biographies on the other founders (Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams and Washington) to gain a more complete perspective on how this country started. This book lays an excellent foundation and is a must read for those interested in the origins of America through the eyes of one of its greatest citizens.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Mullin on July 15 2004
Format: Hardcover
Walter Isaacson, former chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time Magazine, has written an immensely readable and informative biography of Benjamin Franklin that never gets too stuffy or bogged down in meaningless minutae. Instead, we are treated to a fascinating glimpse at a man who was early America's greatest publisher, scientist, politician, inventor and diplomat.
We all have our pre-conceived notions of Franklin, including him out flying his kite to try and link electricity with lightning, or him dozing off during the lengthy and tedious deliberations at the Constitutional Convention. Isaacson peels back the layers of the story a bit, reminding us how often our vision of Franklin derives from Franklin's own pen, such as the vision of the young teen arriving in Philadelphia with loaves of bread, looking ridiculous as he passed by the window of his future wife (a scene written by Franklin at age 65 when he penned his autobiography).
The book does a very good job not only of recounting the many accomplishments of Franklin, but also of exploring his middle class ideals and values. For example, Isaacson's book reminds us that while Franklin was never terribly pious or religious throughout his life, he favored organized religion because churches encouraged citizens to behave well, and to do good things. There was always a sense of pragmatism and public service in everything Franklin did and believed in. As a publisher, if he thought a public policy or official was wrong and needed to be criticized publicly, he would invent characters (to avoid libel suits) to write humorous and sometimes scathing attacks that were basically anonymous.
The book also dwells repeatedly on the Franklin's love and admiration of the middle class as the real core of American society.
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Format: Hardcover
During his 84 year life, Benjamin was his country's best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, business strategist, and perhaps, its most practical political thinker.
Walter Isaacson, formerly CNN Chairman and Time Magazine Editor, provides us with a 590 page portrait of the Founding Father who winks at us. This revolutionary leader prized pragmatics, religious tolerance and social mobility. Isaacson pictures a man with a vision for his new country that was based on middle class virtues and values. He pictures a man instinctively comfortable with the strength and wisdom of the country's shopkeepers.
He pictures a man who based his morality on leading a "good" life, serving his country and on the belief that salvation would be achieved by good works.
Franklin was a complex person. And Isaacson succeeds in drawing lessons from his life that are more complex that those usual drawn by founding father's foes and fans. I, for one, am grateful author had the time to thoughtfully explore them. These lessons are as vital today as they were during the revolutionary time in which Benjamin Franklin lived.
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