Customer Reviews for

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 114 Customer Reviews
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2008

    Outstanding Book - to most

    If you are interested in history or politics, this book is a fantastic read about one of our Founding Fathers. It delves deeply into Mr. Franklin's personality and the reasons behind his behavior. It also talks about his alleged affairs in England and France. Whereas Mr. Franklin is a great thinker and wise, this books shows how he could be quite a scoundrel. Not only is a great book about Mr. Franklin, it is a great book about the the 'colonies' and the early United States. If you are not a fan of US history or politics, you may not enjoy this book as much.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2008

    A great read

    Issacson's thoroughly researched and eloquently written book about one of the most amazing figures in American history is both educational and thought-provoking. From his timeless life advice, to his many inventions, to his role in the American Revolution, the reader can't help but label Franklin a genius. The writing style appeals to those simply interested in learing more about Franklin and is not just for history buffs. Highly recommended.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent book

    Very interesting read. Isaacson uses many of Benjamin Franklin's own letters, published papers and other writings to emphasise and enhance the story. This is a must read for history buffs or students of American history. After reading more than half of the book I have a much better understanding and appreciation of Benjamin Franklin and understand how important a role he played in the creation of the U.S.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Who Knew Ben Franklin Was So Interesting

    As someone with an unusually deep background in early American history, I almost passed up this book because, of course, we all know as much as we care to know about Ben Franklin. What a surprise! This is one of the most entertaining and informative books I have ever read. I kept looking up and saying, "I never knew that!"

    The author, Walter Isaacson, pushes past the cardboard image of the fat little sage with the witty sayings and the dangerous kite. The real Franklin steps from the pages with so many dimensions and so many (often overlooked) accomplishments that it is difficult to conceive how they could all be packed into one life. He was a man of towering achievements in science, civic organization, politics and diplomacy.

    He also had his demons and he was hated and loved with passion. His family life was bizarre and his evolution to revolution was painful. The story of how England turned an ardent supporter into an implacable foe holds lessons with modern relevance.

    If you enjoyed David McCullough's "John Adams," you will love this book. The research is as deep and it is much more readable.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The First American

    First, about Franklin himself, I had NO idea how prolific he was with ideas. And how much involvement he had in forming our nation.

    Secondly, the book is well-written. 80% of the book kept me turning page after page, wanting to know what happens next. Around the start of the second half of the book, Franklin's life was more 'tame' and wasn't quite as interesting to me. It was after his early successes and before the confrontations with the British. The author could probably have condensed this section a bit, but it's a nit.

    Overall, this is a good read, very informative, and gives me a new appreciation for the First American.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    Great Work

    An incredible look at America's first Founding Father. Many histories tend to overlook Franklin's importance in the American cause,but not Isaacson, who shows us not only what Franklin did, but who he was. He provides insight into his relations with family, friends, and other founding fathers during America's most pivotal moments. After reading this book you will be left wondering why Franklin is so overlooked and under appreciated in so many history books today.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    How little I knew!

    There may be better biographies on Franklin, but this one is a great blend of entertainment and knowledge. It moves along very nicely. Isaacson has digested Franklin's life into small focused periods. With short episodic looks at each period, Franklin's image becomes clear. So complex and made so easy to understand.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2009

    Silence Dogood rides again

    This book is incredible reading, learning many things about how the United States was formed from the 13 colonies, Ben Franklin was a master printer, columnist, ambassador and politician.
    Long hours of research has gone into writing this book and the attention to detail is appreciated.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2006

    Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

    ADED 5510 Book Review Isaacson, W. (2003). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster Introduction Walter Isaacson¿s biographical work Benjamin Franklin: An American Life is conveyed as well-researched, orderly in a chronological sense, and filled with subtle insights into the life of one of nation¿s most recognized colonial and revolutionary characters. While the text presents itself well as a thoughtful and thought-provoking scholarly work replete with the sophistication in language structure one might expect, it is nonetheless easy to read and entertaining as well as enlightening. Major Themes A core ¿flavor¿ to the message being presented by the book is made apparent within the first few pages of the text, as the author extracts passages from a Franklin manuscript the displays with reflection and pride the story of person born into middle-class values and surroundings. The self-deprecating humor displayed by Benjamin Franklin from page one of the book and throughout the text provided evidence of the internal pride of the person. Even at moments when committing the indiscretions of youth, Franklin couches the scene as one that displays leadership (p.16). Thus, one theme of the text is internal pride and confidence in his inherent abilities. A second major theme of the text involves the industrious nature of his middle-class family and ancestry. The influence of his surroundings and family are carried forth throughout Franklin¿s life in his work, belief is civic involvement for social and personal betterment, and faith in the common sense and abilities of the middle class citizenry. Necessity and frugality were core fibers of the person in that circumstance. While not destitute, there was not an abundance of financial or material resources to waste and waste itself was such an unnecessary and ignorant act, contrary to the early Puritan social fabric Benjamin Franklin existed in during his formidable years. A third major theme of the text is the spirit of natural curiosity and independence displayed by Franklin from his impressive consumption of written works including major literary works of his time. This is made evident throughout his life and noted in the book from a passage describing the titles he was reading even at age twelve (p. 25). It is important to depart for a moment here from the book to consider that remarkable literacy in the colonial times of the early 1700s. The independence of this intellectual being is also put forth in the passages that point to a recurrent point that Franklin did not lack ability to work hard and apply himself, but consistently displayed a resistance to be trapped into the norm of a rout occupation. While he had the greatest respect for and faith in all of the occupations and trades, he gravitated toward those occupational outlets that permitted his own expression and tinkering. A fourth thematic consideration is displayed in Franklin¿s pragmatic ability of rationalization in terms of business or as humorously displayed when passenger he was passenger upon a becalmed boat during his early stint into vegetarianism. The only meal that presented itself was fish caught be the crew. Franklin was able to rationalize the situation he was presented and he ate the fish (p. 36). As the text points out early, the traits of the Puritan values and the Enlightenment of Locke were combined in the character of Franklin. The middle class pragmatism and lack formal higher education of Franklin would follow him throughout life as evident in his notoriety as one of the foremost scientist of his time. His importance on how nature worked versus why in work is further evidence of his internal synthesis of ideas and inventions as a scientist (p. 144). As Isaacson points out much earlier in the book, Franklin¿s scholastic deficit would condemn him to be merely the most ingenious scientist of his era rather than transcending into the p

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Colonial American

    "Benjamin Franklin" is engrossing. Franklin was a colonial innovator, publisher, writer, inventer,scientist, radical, genius. And his life was long & eventful. He was a common man who crossed the paths of the other Fouding Fathers during the momentous days of the American Revolution & played a prominent role in the creation of the American nation. He was a man of letters who entertained & was intimate with the intellectuals of Europe (Voltaire & his brethern). And, in this fascinating & brillant biography we meet the Benjamin Franklin who was perhaps the closest to a Renaissance Man as ever lived in America. It is entertaining, educational, provocative & reminds us that Franklin never lost the common touch yet walked the stage with some of the greatest men who ever lived. My favoirte story of Franklin comes upon the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention when, after being asked what form of nation the Founding Fathers had created, he replied "A Republic Madam,if you can keep it." This is a wonderful biography of a likeable, loveable rascal that rightfully belongs among the best biographies ever written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2006

    Getting to know Benfamin Franklin

    Everyone knows who Benjamin Franklin is, but do they really know who he really was? Walter Isaacson did a magnificent job of guiding the reader through Benjamin Franklin¿s life and telling the story of his life thru his eyes. The Biography was told in a romantic story-like timeline of his life and his accomplishments that engages the reader. As a young lad, Benjamin, was curious and self teaching. He observed people around him so that he could learn how to interact with them and get the responses he so desired. As he entered his teen years he fine tuned his self learning with reading books and bringing his writing to perfection. Adult hood found Benjamin continuing his self teachings to advance himself socially and economically. Growing up in Boston during the early 1700¿s seems to be easy for Benjamin he was ¿generally the leader among the boys¿. (pg16) He attended his schooling as his father wished, changing courses several times as his father wished, and each time he gained more knowledge with a bit of a rebellious nature. After voicing his distaste for working in his fathers soap shop he was placed in his brother¿s shop to be an apprentice to learn the trade of a printer. This gave him the opportunity to get his hands on books, lots of books. His love of reading never faltered, it empowered him, it gave him confidence, and most of all it gave him the knowledge of an educated man. He learned to write better by testing himself over and over again from readings that he would rewrite over and over again. He was able to secretly write stories for his brother¿s paper that captured the attention of the readers which in turn made money for his brother¿s paper. He used this later in his adult life in a different manner for his own economic benefit. One thing that Benjamin learned early was that by showing you are intelligent creates jealousy. The older he became the more it becomes prominent of others jealousy, as he begins to use his power of conversation to find himself gaining friendship from influential and powerful dignitaries, his competitors and even his friends at certain times become is foe. At one point Benjamin writes, ¿My mind, having been much more improved by reading than Keimer¿s, I suppose it was for that reason my conversation seemed more valued.¿ (pg 53) Benjamin realized the power of jealousy and uses it to his advantage by creating a jealous Keimer. Keimer¿s jealousy of Benjamin fuels the end of his own career and charges Benjamin¿s. In conclusion, I know from listening to others talk about Benjamin that he was a man who liked to party and liked the women. Isaacson has told Benjamin¿s story in a different light, the light of education. I did not know much about Benjamin Franklin until I read this book, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain an inside view of an American Inspiration. It brings to paper the reality that adults never stop learning, that there is different techniques of learning, and that one can learn from their mistakes. I found this book informative about our Nations history and the history of our educational system.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2006

    An American Rediscovered

    Walter Isaacson¿s book, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, is an insightful and impeccably researched piece of scholarly work. This biography transports the reader right into the world of one of America¿s best-known and loved founding fathers. Isaacson¿s writing is clear, concise soundly documented, and readable. The book overflows with interesting facts previously unknown or forgotten. The reader will learn of Franklin and a young America the struggle for independence from England. Franklin¿s life was a very intricate one, but Isaacson successfully unravels and separates fact from fiction to show the reader Franklin¿s impressive successes and poignant failures. Franklin is rightfully given credit for his participation in the political and philosophical ideas that shaped America. His resolve helped create an accord with France that was crucial to America¿s negotiations with England. Walter Isaacson¿s 493 page book is a heavy read that takes getting into, but it is very much worth the effort. It covers Franklin, the inventor, philosopher, entrepreneur, philanthropist, diplomat, husband, father, friend and rebel. The book is brimming with important insights into a beloved American. Benjamin Franklin is at times called our ¿first American¿, and Walter Isaacson¿s biography demonstrates why. Isaacson¿s book is the definitive account of Benjamin Franklin¿s life and should be read by all red, white and blue Americans.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2005

    Benny was very important indeed!

    I knew that Franklin was an integral part of the American Revolution and I knew that there were some shady things regarding his personality. But when it comes to sheer enjoyment aka entertainment, this book is the best. It will give you knowledge you never thought possible of Ben Franklin. On top of being one of my favorite biographies of anybody, this book cements in place Ben Franklin as my favorite person to study. There is none better!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2004

    Death and Taxes

    We all have a 'saying' or two, Benjamin Franklin had many. He was much more complex then I once realized. I knew Ben was(sometimes)the originator of many popular maxims, flew a kite with a key attached to one end and has appeared on the 100 dollar bill. In my opinion Ben was and still is the quentessential 'American'. Ben Franklin played a very important role in the forming of our nation. We should learn from his ideals as they are the ideals which every American should espouse. Ok, enough rhetoric, I have not read a book I liked this much since I read David McCulloughs biography of John Adams.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2014

    It's taken me approximately 10 years since my visit to Independe

    It's taken me approximately 10 years since my visit to Independence Hall to dive into my souvenir from the trip -  Walter Isaacson's excellent biography of Philadelphia's favorite son (albeit adopted from his native Boston, I learned), Benjamin Franklin.  I was a fool to have waited so long!  (I confess: I didn't read the actual book I bought, but instead borrowed the Audio version from the library and listened to the book being read to me on 21 CDs.)

    We all know that Ben Franklin was a multifaceted individual, and this book devotes time and space to all of those interests and expertises.  Printer (which is how Franklin referred to himself).  Author / Philosopher.  Scientist / Inventor.  Revolutionary / Politician / Diplomat.  Incorrigible flirt.  And, most importantly, image consultant – Franklin was well aware of who he wanted to be perceived as in order to gain the most advantage for himself and his causes.

    This is not a short book – but it is definitely a worthwhile investment of the time it'll take you to read (or listen to) it.
     
    RATING: 5 stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2013

    This may not be Isaacson's best book (too long), but it is infor

    This may not be Isaacson's best book (too long), but it is informative and interesting. Franklin seemed to have been everywhere in this country's early days and he was amazingly prolific. The book is well researched.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    I picked up this book at a Barnes and Noble with the idea that h

    I picked up this book at a Barnes and Noble with the idea that having never read a book about Ben Franklin this might be a good place to start. When I think of Franklin, I immediately think of an old man flying a kite and discovering electricity. This book has really enlightened me. Benjamin Franklin was a genius. Franklin was a fascinating man and well ahead of his time. The more I read the book the book I became involved with the story of Benjamin Franklin. Mr. Isaacson wrote a biography that was not boring and very entertaining. He brought the great man to life. Highly recommend if you are a history buff. Now when I see a picture of Franklin, I will smile and think "another great American" to add to my list. Is there anyone like him today? Not that I can think of.

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  • Posted February 28, 2013

    I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone int

    I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in the early history of the United States. Benjamin Franklin had an amazing life and I will spare you his long list of achievements, but suffice it to say that he did a lot more than become one of the most influential founders of the United States. I fell in love with BF while reading this book. I was disappointed that he did not spend more time with his wife Deborah in the last years of her life, but as amazing as he was he was human.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    As witty and ingenious as its subject

    Readable and interesting; in command if shifting perspectives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    Splendid!

    I loved this book. It was very delightful.. i have always thought of franklin as an american hereo and this book gave me way more information about him that i was glad to here. It is worth every penny!!

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