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4.4 out of 5 stars
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Having first read H. W. Brand's "The First American: The Life and Time of Benjamin Franklin", I was extremely disappointed in Isaacson's effort. Quite frankly, it reads much like one would expect to find not in a good biography, but in the pages of Time magazine - simple, uncomplicated, and very light on the facts (though Isaacson freely offers his and other historians opinions throughout the book). If you want a thorough and well written biography of Franklin, you'll much prefer Brand's book to this one.
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24 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Isaacson ought to be embarrassed by the shameless hype this book got from his old cronies at Time and CNN.
It's not a bad book but it's just not in the same league with HW Brands' "The First American," which is both more scholarly and readable -- despite getting almost no notice in the general media.
Take a pass on this and pick up Brands' book if you want a thorough review of Franklin's fascinating life.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
My review is intended primarily to provide this three star (September 3, 2011 revision: two star) book with another appropriate review. The book moves s...l...o...w...l...y. Further, it provides little evidence of original research but frequently relies upon other writers. In all, it seems to be the beneficiary of considerable grade inflation, perhaps from reviewers confusing the greatness of its subject with the quality of the book. For lengthier dissections of this book, I refer the reader to previous three and two star reviews, including the thoughtful review provided by FreeAtLast on August 13, 2003.

For recommendations for better books about Franklin, please see FreeAtLast and other three and two star reviews. And for excellent works regarding other aspects of the America Revolution I highly recommend "Paul Revere's Ride" by Fischer, Flexner's four volume biography of George Washington, "The Traitor and the Spy" (about Benedict Arnold and John Andre) by Flexner, and "The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas" by Buchanan.

Update (September 3, 2011): I just posted a review of Brands's biographly of Ben Franklin ("The First American"). That book is much better than Isaacson's in terms of readibility, reseach and strength of analysis. If you can, skip Isaacson's book and read Brands's.
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16 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
After reading Joseph Ellis' excellent book "Founding Brothers" where he describes Washington and Franklin as by far the most preeminant of the founding brothers in the mind's of their countrymen, I was eager to read more about Franklin to learn how he came to such stature. I then read Isaacson's account of Franklin's life and was severely disappointed, not with the subject, but with the author.

Isaacson does a fair job in providing a reporter's account of Benjamin Franklin's life: he chronicles Franklin's exploits and works in exhaustive detail. He did this, however, without bringing those details together to create a portrait of the man - this was left up to the reader.

I enjoy history books where the author does his research, presents a thesis and then supports it through a mosaic of facts and events. Isaacson doesn't bother with these latter points, he merely regurgitates his research. If I wanted to read a collection of Poor Richard's writings or a detailed accounts of Franklin's scientific experiments I would have gotten a book on those subjects. I was expecting a portrait of the man and instead got a reporter's account of the events in Franklin's life.
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on December 25, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
could get past the first chapter. I do like other walter Isaacson books. Enjoying Steve Jobs book
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I'm halfway in this book and will probably not finish it. It is really a bore and I haven't got time to go one for another 300 pages.
Franklin was a great man who certainly wouldn`t want to be remember with trivia and repetition. There is no continuity and no `story line` in this book
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Franklin's life is so incredible that it's almost difficult not to enjoy a biography about him but this comes close.

I picked this book up to learn more about Benjamin Franklin but Isaacson is unapologetically liberal and it bleeds through in his writing. He doesn't waste an opportunity to slam the right and it becomes distracting. I'm not even a Republican but at times it's tough to tell if he has written a Franklin biography or anti-GOP Op-Ed. I'm just not interested in such heavy handed partisanship and it makes me question the author's credibility elsewhere.

I would give this book three stars if not for the politics. Franklin is fascinating but the writing is a bit clumsy and he relies too much on the subject's own autobiography. It is expected to use Franklin's own words but it's not too much of an exaggeration to call this a reprint of the autobiography with Isaacson's commentary on Franklin, Christianity, John Adams, and the Republican party mixed in. It's relied upon so heavily that you might as well go straight to the horse's mouth and read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Dover Thrift Editions) instead.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2015
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The book is boring. It is written as a 3rd person narrative that cites the works of others. The chapters are formatted to represent chunks of time, but the author frequently skips ahead of the chapter's time period to prove some novel point. Apparenlty the reader is not capable of remembering an event or detail from a past chapter that has influenced the present chapter's narrative.
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19 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
This was a reasonable chronolgy of Franklin's life and description of his character. My main objection to the book is Isaacson's negativity regarding John Adams. I believe John Adams is one of the most underappreciated of our Founding Fathers. Isaacson did not miss an opportunity to add a negative adjective when discussing anything regarding John. These slurs were uncalled for and did not add to the book, unless to justify various aspects of Franklin's actions and behaviors. With this intensely negative bias against John Adams, I wonder what other opinions Isaacson interjected that, upon hearing a different perspective, I would find inappropriate and incorrect.
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you want to learn about Ben Franklin this is a fine read. If you want to be entertained try something else. Isaacson's style is ponderorus and lacks energy and flow. Who would have thought that Franklin's wonderful life could be recounted in such boring detail.
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