Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life Paperback – June 1, 2004
|New from||Used from|
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Benjamin Franklin, writes journalist and biographer Walter Isaacson, was that rare Founding Father who would sooner wink at a passer-by than sit still for a formal portrait. What's more, Isaacson relates in this fluent and entertaining biography, the revolutionary leader represents a political tradition that has been all but forgotten today, one that prizes pragmatism over moralism, religious tolerance over fundamentalist rigidity, and social mobility over class privilege. That broadly democratic sensibility allowed Franklin his contradictions, as Isaacson shows. Though a man of lofty principles, Franklin wasn't shy of using sex to sell the newspapers he edited and published; though far from frivolous, he liked his toys and his mortal pleasures; and though he sometimes gave off a simpleton image, he was a shrewd and even crafty politician. Isaacson doesn't shy from enumerating Franklins occasional peccadilloes and shortcomings, in keeping with the iconoclastic nature of our time--none of which, however, stops him from considering Benjamin Franklin "the most accomplished American of his age," and one of the most admirable of any era. And heres one bit of proof: as a young man, Ben Franklin regularly went without food in order to buy books. His example, as always, is a good one--and this is just the book to buy with the proceeds from the grocery budget. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Following closely on the heels of Edmund Morgan's justly acclaimed Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson's longer biography easily holds its own. How do the two books differ? Isaacson's is more detailed; it lingers over such matters as the nature of Franklin's complex family circumstances and his relations with others, and it pays closer attention to each of his extraordinary achievements. Morgan's is more subtle and reflective. Each in its different way is superb. Isaacson (now president of the Aspen Institute, he is the former chairman of CNN and a Henry Kissinger biographer) has a keen eye for the genius of a man whose fingerprints lie everywhere in our history. The oldest, most distinctive and multifaceted of the founders, Franklin remains as mysterious as Jefferson. After examining the large body of existing Franklin scholarship as skillfully and critically as any scholar, Isaacson admits that his subject always "winks at us" to keep us at bay-which of course is one reason why he's so fascinating. Unlike, say, David McCullough's John Adams, which seeks to restore Adams to public affection, this book has no overriding agenda except to present the story of Franklin's life. Unfortunately, for all its length, it's a book of connected short segments without artful, easy transitions So whether this fresh and lively work will replace Carl Van Doren's beloved 1938 Benjamin Franklin in readers' esteem remains to be seen.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
So that's why a biography of Franklin is worth reading.
Isaacson is a skilled writer, but most of the people in my book club didn't finish it. And we work in the largest library in the country so we are all used to reading.
Buy it and enjoy it, but don't feel guilty skipping over some slow places.
Benjamin Franklin was a printer, and he made such a good living that he was able to retire from it when he was 40 years old. He published "Poor Richard's Almanac" which included so many aphorisms and popular sayings that a great many of them are still in use today. He started volunteer fire departments and lending libraries and service clubs, and pushed for improvements such as paved streets. He was the postmaster for the colonies and greatly improved the system of mail delivery. He served in many government positions and argued for preserving the freedoms of the citizens. He was an old man by the time war was declared but influenced Thomas Jefferson's writing of the Declaration of Independence and signed it. In fact, he was the only one to sign (and profoundly influence) the four most important documents that began this nation: the Declaration of Independence, the treaty with France for their support of the colonies (while he served as ambassador there), the treaty with England to end the war, and the Constitution. In addition, his scientific contributions over his lifetime made him the foremost American thinker and earned the admiration and friendship of the greatest European minds of the time.
I used to work for the Franklin Day Planner company (long before the merger with Stephen Covey) and they practically idolized his philosophies for self-improvement, turning them into a successful business to help people gain better control over their time and lives (I still consider it one of the best companies I've ever worked for). But as Walter Isaacson points out so well, Franklin was so much more than just one character trait. He consciously worked on improving himself in many ways. He may not have had much success with humility (he couldn't help but take pride in his accomplishments) and he certainly wasn't a decent husband and father to his own family (preferring the surrogate families he surrounded himself with in England and France on his excessively long stays there) but his other accomplishments were many. Although initially reluctant to break ties with England, once he made up his mind there was no turning back and he was as essential to independence as any of the founding fathers.
Isaacson numbers his shortcomings along with his successes and presents a fairly well-balanced portrait of this giant of a man, and makes it all very readable and even entertaining. He addresses the critics of Franklin through the years, such as the "Romantics" of the early 19th century who complained about his folksy image and championship of middle class values (Herman Melville grudgingly called Franklin "everything but a poet"), and since his day Franklin and his thinking has drifted in and out of style. We may not always recognize the pervasive ways he's influenced society today, but he's always there.