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589 of 597 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Original American Dream
It's a little presumptuous to write a "review" of a book as historically important as this, so I'll just give a few reasons why you should read it.

It's well-written and engaging, even 200+ (nearing 300+; Franklin was born in 1706) years later. It stops in 1760, well before his involvement with the Revolution, but it covers in detail his youth, apprenticeships,...
Published on September 25, 2009 by T. S.

versus
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm glad I read it.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is well worth the time to read. The book gave me more insight into Ben Franklin's amazing contributions to the founding of our great nation. I had been soured on my admiration of Benjamin Franklin after reading Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. I was greatly disappointed by the neglect of his wife and family while he was...
Published on July 15, 2011 by Cookie in Arizona


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589 of 597 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Original American Dream, September 25, 2009
By 
T. S. (United States) - See all my reviews
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It's a little presumptuous to write a "review" of a book as historically important as this, so I'll just give a few reasons why you should read it.

It's well-written and engaging, even 200+ (nearing 300+; Franklin was born in 1706) years later. It stops in 1760, well before his involvement with the Revolution, but it covers in detail his youth, apprenticeships, the formation of his philosophy and ideals, and his path from poor roots to business and social success -- the first telling of the American Dream, the idea that a poor young man could Find His Fortune in the New World through enterprise, wisdom, and work.

There is a high degree of self-hagiography here, and it would be amusing to tally up (for example) how many times Franklin praises himself vs. how many times he advises on the virtue of humility. He smooths over controversial topics like his illegitimate son, he doesn't mention his membership in the Freemasons, etc. The construction is also a bit rambling ("Then I did this thing. Next, I did another thing. Then I did a third thing"), but Franklin simply did so many interesting things -- even in this short slice of his life -- that the book is interesting despite that. There's a great deal of discussion on his scientific and inventive accomplishments, and he talks at length about his development of his own personal moral code and how he achieved business success (along with Franklin's Personal Method You Can Use for Self-Improvement -- in some ways, this is the first self-help book!)

All in all, this is very much worth reading, and gives a compelling picture of Franklin's life and times. I particularly liked the picture Franklin draws of contemporary American society -- free, open, and small, with most people in most towns all knowing each other, and business opportunities are wide open for anyone with industry and pluck. I'm not sure how similar modern-day America still is to Franklin's Philadelphia, but it's certain that Franklin -- and this book -- helped set the image that we still *want* to believe America conforms to. And for that alone, it's worth reading.

If you like this book, you might also be interested in reading Alexis de Tocqueville's _Democracy in America_, for another view of colonial-era America, or any of Mark Twain's nonfiction (_Life on the Mississippi_, _Roughing It_, etc.), for similar accounts of America's growth and development a hundred-odd years further on. Any of those should be available as a free Kindle download.
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126 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kindle, September 9, 2009
While reading "An Incomplete Education" I read that this was the greatest autobiography ever written. Out of curiosity I purchased it and read it and the recommendation was right on. This book was very intriguing and captivating.

The only disappointing part was that the American Revolution and Benjamin Franklin's part was not detailed.

Benjamin Franklin's list of virtues and his application to his life were amazing. Oh that young men today would seek to be so virtuous!

Great read.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story of a great man., October 3, 2009
By 
S. Giuffre "SMikeG" (Downers Grove, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book is actually less an autobiography in the traditional sense we see today and more of a story told in two sections. The first is a letter to his son, while the second part he seemed to have been encouraged to write by a friend. The first letter is the story from his birth to his arrival in PA, while the send part picks up where the first leaves off and continues until just before our Revolution. But the result is the same - enlightenment about how important this man was.

The prose in this book is, as you'd expect, 18th century so you get plenty of "thee" and "thy" but not to distraction. It is a compelling read and difficult to put down but the language gets tedious. As you can tell by my rating this does not diminish the quality of the book but may affect some potential readers.

In all it's definitely worth your time and effort to understand one of the founding geniuses of our country. Really, this man is a true American hero. Where would we be without a free press, libraries and many of his other contributions? He was a skilled negotiator very much in the right place at the right time.

Still, it would be all the more satisfying to hear his side of the events of the Revolution. I wonder at the gaping hole presented by this. Perhaps he was afraid of arrest or worse? One is left imagining whether there would even be a United States were it not for BF.

It would be interesting if other readers might share other biographical recommendations, if any, that could shed light on the latter part of Mr. Franklin's life. This book is an essential first step towards a complete understanding of one of our founding fathers.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best how-to manual to daily living, May 26, 2007
By 
TG "thg57" (Irvine, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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Ben Franklin is the most amazing figure of American revolution. The essence of American life, a hero, a political figure, a self-made man, a scientist, a diplomat - turns out to be just a guy next door, a neighbor.

I got this book on audio from a local library - and spent 6.5 wonderful hours listening to a friend, a teacher, a wise man. He is entertaining - but serious at the same time, he goes into great details of his dealings with people, business partners, politicians - but is never boring.

Anyone who wants to learn how to connect with people, to become a better person, to grow a business and wealth, to be a good friend - and more - should read this book.

I would recommend an audio format if you have choices - it really turns it into a conversation with Ben Franklin.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Incomplete American Life, August 24, 2005
By 
J. S. Kaminski "j_s_k" (Aberdeen, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Well, Ben Franklin's life was not incomplete, but his autobiography is. This is partly because Franklin never intended his book for publication.

He was writing it for the benefit of his son - partly as a guide for life, and partly as a family history. Indeed, on the first page, Franklin writes that he has always enjoyed hearing stories about his ancestors, and hopes his son will be as interested to learn of his father's life. However, after Franklin's break with his son, he continues to write, but now it is for the benefit of all of his ancestors. Franklin's disagreement with his son William is just one of many details that are missing from this book.

I was always interested in Franklin and it had long been a goal of mine to read his autobiography. Had I known that the years 1758-1790 were not covered, which were probably the most important and influential of his life, I might not have read it. And that would have been a mistake.

For although the major events of the 1770s and 1780s are missing, like the American Revolution, the Treaty of Paris, and the Constitutional Convention, there is so much material about the early years of Franklin's life here that it is still a worthwhile book. Who knew Franklin was practically a champion swimmer, for example? We often think of Franklin as the elder statesman of the Founding Fathers, as indeed he was. Franklin was born 26 years before George Washington. But in this book we see Franklin as a boy and then a young man, whole periods of his life that are forgotten when one thinks of his later, great contributions.

Thankfully, Franklin documents much of it, and it makes for terrific reading. His battles with his brother, his early struggles with established religion, his bold jump to Philadelphia, and then to London, when he was still so young. He even mentions that he was a regular patron of the local prostitutes in Philadelphia! This is not something you'd see in Poor Richard's Almanac, of that I am sure.

Even though the book is lacking the major events of Franklin's later life, it is still rich in anecdotes and instruction. There is much to be learned from Ben, whether he was founding the first fire department or library, or making monetary contributions to every religious denomination in Philadelphia, or his attempts at achieving "moral perfection" - actions that demonstrated his industriousness, his tolerance, his wisdom.

Franklin was an incredibly fascinating character and he remains one of the giants of American history. You wouldn't know it from reading this autobiography, but it doesn't matter; the historians have safely documented his legacy in other books. In these pages, in his own words, you learn what made Franklin tick, what he believed in, and why. And that's more than enough.

Five stars.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chuckles, Wisdom, and Talent, January 4, 2002
By 
M. J. Martin (Sacramento, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I was surpris'd to find myself so much fuller of Faults than I had imagined . . . " says Ben Franklin, upon entering a quest for moral perfection. True and yet somewhat humorous. This book constantly "surpris'd" and amused, particularly with its pithy observations delivered in a mildly humorous good natured tone.
Included are his candid confessions of "errata" in which he tells how he propositioned his best friend's wife and was rightly rebuffed by her. When she told her husband, he refused to pay debts he owed Ben Franklin. (BF decided to forget about the money and move on, sans former friend.) He also recounts his chagrin and dishonor at spending money entrusted to him.
For me, the most interesting part was the quest for moral perfection in which he listed 13 virtues: Temperance; Silence; Order; Resolution; Frugality; Industry; Sincerity; Justice; Moderation; Cleanliness; Tranquillity; Chastity; and Humility. He worked on one of these per week, and gave himself a black mark in his book each time he became aware he committed a violation. While this sounds grim, BF's approach was so laden with humor and acceptance of human frailties, it was delightful. For example, he says regarding Pride: "For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my Humility."
There are so many good points in this writing I can only list a few:
Want of Modesty is Want of Sense: Early, BF was fond of argument and disputation, but he observed that men of good sense rarely engaged in it. He struck the words "certainly", "undoubtedly", etc., and used words such as "I should think it so" or "I imagine it so" or "If I am not mistaken". He retained the habit of speaking with "modest Diffidence". He says this has been of great advantage to him in persuading men. He says "I wish well-meaning sensible men would not lessen their Power of doing good by a Positive assuming Manner that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create Opposition, and to defeat everyone of those Purposes for which Speech was given us, to wit, giving or receiving Information or Pleasure.
Croakers: "There are Croakers in every Country always boding its ruin." BF's point was that one should not listen to unfounded pessimism which seems to be rampant and discourages constructive activities.
How to Solicit: When BF was soliciting donations for his library, he first said he had the idea for a library, but met with resistance from potential donors. He then switched to leaving himself out of the picture as much as possible, and said others had this the idea for a library. Solicitations then went much better. He said "The present little Sacrifice of your Vanity will afterwards be amply repaid. If it remains a while uncertain to whom the Merit belongs, some one more vain than yourself will be encouraged to claim it, and then even envy will be dispos'd to do you Justice, by plucking those assum'd Feathers, and restoring them to their right Owner."
Morale: BF was assigned to build a fort in hostile country, and observed that while the men were working hard to build the fort, which they did very quickly, they were happy. However, once it was done and they were idle, they quickly became discontented and mutinous. He said this is why sea captains keep the crew busy, even if it is only to polish the anchor.
Much of the book's charm comes from it's very clear use of language and subtle humor, which is difficult to capture without a great deal of direct quotation. A case in point is the speckled ax anecdote - which is wonderful, but needs to be read directly from BF.
I see some of the other reviewers noted it was boring - which is true in places, particularly at the start. I urge everyone to read this book, but skim the first ten or twenty pages dealing with family history, and also skim or skip other places that may bog down. I still find things of interest that I skipped over previously, even after reading this several times.
I give this my highest five-star rating but for reasons other than one might think. The historical significance is substantial, recounting and communicating of feel of the times of the formation of America is outstanding, and the political significance of BF is undeniable. However, I gave it its highest rating because the book speaks to me on a very personal basis, I loved reading it, and delighted in its humor and wisdom.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Autobiography Written by a Great American!, January 5, 2005
Benjamin Franklin, no matter which way you look at him, was a great American. I love the stories and folktales about him, his life and his wonderful words and sayings. This autobiography of his life was written by Ben Franklin when he was sixty-five. It was written in letter format to his son, and it he reminiscences about his eventfull early life. Throughout we see Benjamin's powerful literary style and his great humour. This autobiography is well worth a visit if only to get a first-hand look at a very colourful historical American.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life Lessons for All, February 12, 2007
By 
Well, it has been nearly 30 years since I first read Benjamin Franklin's autobiography and one can still gain some insights after a good second reading. Both the American Icon's wisdom and insights are time honored and worth repeating no matter what your age. As one must chose their heroes and mentors well, Benjamin Franklin serves all well in both roles.

This edition has copious footnotes on every page unlike traditionally at the end of the book. The authors may have felt that the reader would be interested in the quick reference aspect versus paging to the back. Though this can be a little strange at first, I get their point and maybe it was better this way.

One aspect that I would have liked; however, would have been if they had added some of his other selected writings like "The Way to Wealth" and others. Irrespective, this is a good book and recommended as one of the more authoritative editions.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Solomon, April 22, 2005
I thought this book was much more than a humorous or adventerous account. I am reminded of the book of Solomon and the wise adages endowed by God therein. Bejamin Franklin's memoirs cover an array of wise maxims that all men should learn. Franklin especially concentrates his philosophy in the way of frugality and financial responsibility. Too many young men waste their lives in ignorance. If more men sought out wisdom, the world would be a better place.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!, December 20, 2009
Virginia Britt. U.S.A
I have read some of this book and so far it is pritty good.I am in six grade. This book I would think a lot of kids from a little under my age and older would like this book.I hope more kids would read this book it is super good.I bet more people will read the book after I put my review.
PLEASE READ! A VERY GOOD BOOK.
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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (Paperback - December 4, 2010)
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