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VINE VOICEon September 25, 2009
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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on August 21, 2017
****
Benjamin Franklin was a self-made man, engendering the qualities of a gentleman he espoused in his published works, including Poor Richard’s Almanac. This is a recounting of his early life, giving the reader insight into the man that became a larger than life figure in American history.
Sadly, the memoir was never completed, ending abruptly prior to his introductions to the founding fathers, including Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Although couched in the vernacular of the eighteenth century, the volume is extremely readable, informative, and entertaining.
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on November 30, 2017
Though it glosses over some aspects of Franklin's less illustrious moments, it's worth the read simply for the author's system of developing a good character. Old fashioned language aside, it's a wonderful look at the power of focusing on character and decency.
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on June 8, 2015
To read Ben Franklin's own account of himself.... wonderful! Should be required reading for every 11-13 year old American. Possibly 1 sentence in the whole book that is not "politically correct" in today's times, but was correct for his times. Franklin paints himself as a person who started out controlled by his (young) self-interests (based on his emotional feeling of right from wrong) and grows into a great success as a result of his effort to greatly improve himself in 13 specific virtues along with Very hard work, continuous learning, and constant integrity (with just a little business-savvy mixed in). He was charitable and the founder of many public services in Philadelphia... the library and the fire protection system come to mind immediately. His private groups were utilized to exchange and fine-tune ideas within a 'safe' environment. Later, these same ideas were introduced as ways to improve the budding city of Philadelphia and the new nation. He mentions that someone called him 'prideful' - - it appears he was rather sure of himself, but not arrogant (at least not based on his viewpoint). :) Excellent.
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on April 6, 2015
This version of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is apparently taken straight from Franklin's own version, which is fine as a record for the original printing. However, there are several different edited, annotated and expanded editions available from various publishers. These expanded versions undoubtedly cast more light on Franklin's story through the building of context and the inclusion of relevant supplemental information. Should anyone every have a need to carry Franklin's autobiography, in all of its original glory, this version should work just fine. But one wonders when such a need would ever arise.
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on July 31, 2017
Such a great read! The script is inspiring and insightful. It can take a bit of effort to understand all of the old style writing, but I have really come to enjoy it. I have and will recommend this book to many more people. On top of all of this, the book is bound nicely and has a great look to it. Well done.
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on April 26, 2014
I downloaded recently two autobiographies of great Americans, Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt.

Both of them great men with one thing in common: their love for books.

Actually, during the first half of 18th century many (most?) people were illiterate. Only 'better people' (not rich but not poor) could read and some of them read a lot.

A few observation. Alcoholism was, apparently, more common in the colonial America than it is now. Not the kind depicted in the 'Lost Weekend' movie (hard liquor) but less serious beer alcoholism. Even that eliminated lot of otherwise smart people from contributing much to the society.

That is related to Franklin personal religion. He puts temperance as the first of his personal 13 commandments - temperance including not only avoidance of alcohol but also overeating. That may explain Franklin's longevity - he died at the age of 84.

Unfortunately, Franklin did not have time (or the inclination) to finish his autobiography.

His role as the founding father of our country was not even hinted in the book. The editor put a list of the most important events of his life at the end of the book but I had to read an excellent (brief) biography of Franklin on Wikipedia to get a more complete idea.

As someone born in Czechoslovakia, I learned almost nothing about Franklin in my younger years. Fortunately, I still have the time to do so now.

Just like Mozart (actually, his contemporary) Franklin became a Free Mason. a fashionable movement for many smart people of his era.

With 5 stars highly recommended for everyone.

I think it is important to get familiar with these great men from their own words.
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on May 30, 2015
If you reflect for a minute that these are the thoughts about himself of
possibly the greatest American within our relative short history - it's overwhelming and a good read. However , if your purpose is to study this great man, this autobiography is just a start. First of all, it ends in 1760 - pre revolution and pre some of the greatest contributions this man made. He also underplays many of his contributions because he did not realize the impact he made. Such as starting libraries in the U.S.; such as electricity. He also speaks very little about his personal life which could be a book in itself!! This autobiography is only a start to studying this man.
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on July 21, 2015
Benjamin Franklin is a fascinating man with an incredible story to tell but it takes some patience to plow through his own autobiography. Some good historical tidbits in here (did you know he was a vegetarian?) but it includes a good number of letters from friends that are equally dry reading. If you are doing research of course this book is a must, just don't pick it up for light reading or a quick read.
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on August 21, 2013
What a delight to read! This little work includes a number of fascinating vignettes. From harrowing sea voyages to private discussions with the rich and famous, from details of 16th century life to practical insights and advice for living, from picturesque descriptions of cities and landscapes to vivid details on Indian ambushes, this book has it all. Perhaps one of the most helpful comments from the book which is helping me shape the way I interact with others is as follows: "If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a temporary victory - sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent's good will." I learned a lot from the work due to remarks like this. It does suffer, even by the author's own admission, from seemingly self-aggrandizing accounts and some of Franklin's more opinionated positions on a few issues. But overall, these issues don't affect the quality of the work very much.
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