Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

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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 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" more 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.

Title:Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
Edition Language:English
ISBN:074325807X
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:493 pages

    Benjamin Franklin: An American Life Reviews

  • Dylan
    Aug 27, 2007

    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 mi...

  • Jason Koivu
    Nov 22, 2008

    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 ta...

  • Chrissie
    Dec 01, 2010

    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 y...

  • Luís C.
    Aug 20, 2014

    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 ar...

  • Lisa (Harmonybites)
    Oct 15, 2012

    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 t...

  • Laura
    Jan 01, 2009

    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 wo...

  • T-bone
    Dec 17, 2012

    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 ...

  • Matt
    Jul 08, 2015

    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...

  • Suzanne
    Apr 20, 2008

    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 becaus...

  • Margaretann
    Aug 13, 2008

    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 tur...