- 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 (21 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Benjamin Franklin Paperback – June 1, 1991
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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...').Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
nicely written book although a bias shows through but who doesn't have some bias. worth readingPublished 1 month ago by Daymon W. Nicholas
Ben Franklin was awesome
Carl Van Doren was a great uncle of mine
Need I say more?
I was truly sorry when the book when I finished this book. I wish Amazon would put this book out on Kindle.Published 7 months ago by L. Topper
I haven't finished this book yet but everything done by Carl Van Doren I have liked.Published 9 months ago by Sandra Cohen
I really do love this book. It was passed on to me at my brother's death. However, I lost that copy over the years (70 or so), and was delighted to find it again on Amazon. Read morePublished on December 4, 2013 by joyce29
The reviews on the original dust cover are right on par. The Author does a fantastic job keeping his filthy opinion from the pages of this book. Read morePublished on September 18, 2012 by Randy
I'm a big Van Doren Bio fan, and a bigger Ben Franklin fan. Carl captures the essence of the scoundrel Franklin. This is a bigger than life, juicy life. Read morePublished on February 14, 2007 by Mountainside
With this hefty tome, Carl Van Doren succeeds in authoring a compelling biography equal to the intellectual scope and achievement of his subject, Benjamin Franklin. Read morePublished on March 4, 2005 by SKB Greystone
I have not read Cabel's bio from 1918 on Franklin but this one by Carl van Doren might be the best. I tend to discount autobiographies as they tend to be highly partisan & even... Read morePublished on January 26, 2005 by JOHN GODFREY