Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

by Walter Isaacson
4.2 119


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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

In this authoritative and engrossing full-scale biography, Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Einstein and Steve Jobs, shows how the most fascinating of America's founders helped define our national character.

Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us, the one who seems made of flesh rather than marble. In a sweeping narrative that follows Franklin’s life from Boston to Philadelphia to London and Paris and back, Walter Isaacson chronicles the adventures of the runaway apprentice who became, over the course of his eighty-four-year life, America’s best writer, inventor, media baron, scientist, diplomat, and business strategist, as well as one of its most practical and ingenious political leaders. He explores the wit behind Poor Richard’s Almanac and the wisdom behind the Declaration of Independence, the new nation’s alliance with France, the treaty that ended the Revolution, and the compromises that created a near-perfect Constitution.

In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin’s amazing life, showing how he helped to forge the American national identity and why he has a particular resonance in the twenty-first century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743258074
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 05/04/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 55,376
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN, and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Leonardo da Vinci; The Innovators; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. Facebook: Walter Isaacson, Twitter: @WalterIsaacson

Date of Birth:

May 20, 1952

Place of Birth:

New Orleans, LA


Harvard, B.A. in History and Literature, 1974; Oxford (Rhodes Scholar), M.A. in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics

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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 119 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
ConnecticutRichard More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Mark93552 More than 1 year ago
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.
WillyTO1 More than 1 year ago
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.
Stu-in-Flag More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dragonsscape More than 1 year ago
"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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think it is so far so good it is very long but biographs are not always short so have way more Pages
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vb0 More than 1 year ago
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KB_Goldfish More than 1 year ago
Hello. Plz reply. ;)
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Andrew_of_Dunedin More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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rckrr More than 1 year ago
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.