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Benjamin Franklin Paperback – June 1, 1991

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140152601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140152609
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,041,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Mike Powers TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Benjamin Franklin" is a wonderfully written biography of perhaps the greatest American who ever lived. Author Carl Van Doren presents a rich and detailed portrait of Franklin - printer, writer, philosopher, scientist, inventor, politician, statesman, and one of the founding fathers of the United States of America.

By tracing the major influences on Franklin, and the key events of his life, Van Doren presents this self-educated genius as the apotheosis of the 18th century "Enlightened" man. Imbued with an insatiable intellectual appetite, a keen scientific mind, a high sense of morality, and a fervent patriotism, he was shrewd, wise, witty, and always confident in his own limitless abilities. The author describes in detail the great events of Franklin's life - his youth and young adulthood as a printer and writer of Poor Richard's Almamack; the philosopher, scientist and inventor of note; Postmaster General for Pennsylvania, and later for all the colonies; representative of the American colonies to Great Britain at the time of the American Revolution; signer of the Declaration of Independence; U.S. Ambassador to France after the Revolution; and signer of the U.S. Constitution.

As good a biography as this is, "Benjamin Franklin" is also outstanding history. Van Doren skillfully "paints" Franklin's portrait against the backdrop of the tremendous social ferment, scientific awakening, and tumultuous political events which occurred during the second half of the 18th century. I gained not only a fuller understanding of Franklin's life and great genius, but also a greater appreciation of the times in which he lived.

"Benjamin Franklin" is written with grace, clarity and obviously great scholarship. Winner of the 1959 Pulitzer Prize for biography, it is a brilliant masterpiece - one of the best biographies of any person I've ever read!
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By James O. Redman on May 13, 1998
Format: Audio Cassette
Van Doren's biography of Franklin is nothing short of remarkable. While the author may be faulted for the near veneration of his subject, Franklin's continuing reputation supports the author's obvious admiration of Franklin. Franklin's life is reviewed from start to finish almost as a metaphor for the 18th Century enlightenment, the early colonlial life in America, the beginnings of the industrial revolution, the decadence and decline of British Imperialism, as well as the making and maturation of a true genius and renaissance man. Parallel with the swiftly changing account of the myriad activities of Franklin is the story of a truly fine human being; a man whose essentially humble and self deprecating nature belied his strength of character and integrity. Anyone who reads this book will come away awed by this unique individual and the question: Where are the Franklins of our time?
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
My summer project was to read biographies of our Founding Fathers. I was not looking forward to this rather daunting book and have never been so completely turned around on a subject. Van Doren masterfully handles an immense amount of factual information in such a way that makes this biography read like a novel. I love Ben Franklin! Thank you Carl Van Doren.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Barrett on February 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
1991 Penguin Books reissue of 1st edition (1938), 862 pages (of which 782 pages form the main body of the book).

I read this book because of Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett's partner). Benjamin Franklin is the man Charlie Munger admires and has attempted to emulate most. Franklin's autobiography was one of the twenty books Munger recommended at the back of the second edition of Poor Charlie's Almanack (the most useful book I have read). After reading Franklin's autobiography I was very interested to learn more about him - which I'm sure was Munger's intention. Thus I was led to this biography (one of two on Franklin that Munger has recommended), which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939. I chose to read Van Doren's before Walter Issacson's newer `Benjamin Franklin: An American Life,' as I liked the idea of being able to see what new material might have been discovered since 1938.

With each of the large biographies I have read over the last year, I have found it has taken quite a lot of reading before I really got into the book. This one was no different. It was only when I was about half way through, reading about Franklin's activities dealing with the appalling British government/monarchy in the run up to the American War of Independence, that I found myself gripped. That may have something to do with me having already read Franklin's autobiography, which was the main source for the early part of Van Doren's book (as the author said: `Plenty of other men could find materials for the story of his latest years. Only he had known about his obscure youth...').
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Steven K. Szmutko VINE VOICE on January 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Van Doren's biography, long the definitive biography of Franklin, is rich in detail (sometimes exhaustingly so), yet accurately portrays the life of this fascinating multi-faceted man. From the statesman's humble beginnings in Boston, to his journeys to Philadelphia and ultimately abroad, Franklin is seen in very human terms, yet within the rich tapestry of the historical period.
The author's style is typical of many historians of the 1930's, very linear, precise and detailed with a wealth of background information on every facet of Franklin's life. This may be a difficulty for many readers; the book is so comprehensive that many will be put off by its sheer volume. I found myself reading the book in starts and stops, only because of my personal time limitations. After the first 400+ pages, I found myself skipping over sections to get to portions of Franklin's life I found more fascinating. Fortunately, Van Doren's writing is such that one can do this without any significant loss of continuity.
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