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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 23, 2017
This version of Franklin's autobiography (<i>The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Volume One: 1706-1757</i>, ISBN 9781596980303) is edited by Mark Skousen. His main work was to "compleat" the autobiography, which Regnery publishing has made a volume two to this volume (<i>The Compleated Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, Volume Two: 1757-1790</i>) by piecing together Franklin's other pieces into a similar autobiographical form. Skousen doesn't do much annotating here. Just a few footnotes explaining old terms (what's an "eleve"?) and adding a few details to Franklin's text (like, editing a date or name here and there). There is a short and interesting introduction to the project, a "cast of characters," a chronology, and an index. Unlike the Skousen-edited <i>Compleated Autobiography</i>, there are no images. Read in tandem, these two volumes provide the classic <i>Autobiography</i> and the "compleation" in the same mode, even the same font and styling, which makes for a unified experience. It is well worth buying both if you can.

As to the classic text of Franklin's <i>Autobiography</i>, what more can be said that already hasn't for a century. A story of pluck and determination. A story of hard work and humility. A story of virtue versus vice. A story of humor and wit. A story that encourages all the morals and values that made America great. You can see definitely why American children were made to read this all through the 1800s and early 1900s. It is a sort of shame that that is not the case now. Franklin's pragmatism, ecumenicism, public-mindedness, entrepreneurship, and joie de vivre is a story that should be told and emulated by all no matter their gender, age, creed, race, or color, i.e., by every American. In many ways Franklin is the quintessential American.
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on December 6, 2017
Great book, but it stops when it's just gettin' started! You should be prepared to have a biography of Big Ben ready to go because this "book" is so fascinating and literally leaves you hanging on his last words. I guess we're lucky to have this much of Ben's life written by Ben at all, apparently this started out as a letter to his son. And that's what this book reads like, one long sentence, one long run on sentence, but that's fine for me cause that's how I am. I definitely recommend the audio book, that helped me plow through this long letter. I recommend "The First American, The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin" by H. W. Brands, just a brilliant biography, I had first read Brands' "Andrew Jackson, His Life and Times" and I thought that was so well done I decided to read his Ben book which again is the perfect follow up to this letter by Ben Franklin, a true American Original.
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on February 15, 2016
This book deserves fix stars (Kindle edition).
I purchased 3 different versions of the same book and only this one is really good version.
Some of typos are corrected, text is well formatted and organized for great reading process.
I've determined to read this book a long ago. And finally I'm very satisfied with current copy of this very impressive source of food for your brain.
Why 4 stars.
I would highly appreciate to see table of contents and add navigation for all footnotes. Of course any person can use personal notes to set up own navigation. However some basic one from publisher is always expected and highly convenient addition.
Once this added this review would be updated promptly.
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on November 17, 2013
I chose this book belatedly due to my interest in American history, but found it much more valuable in terms of the advice offered in tactical negotiation principles valuable as much in the political and diplomatic as in the business arena. The book could properly be required reading in university courses on business administration, politics or diplomacy.
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on April 20, 2015
5 stars for being interesting to read and historically fascinating. Sometimes a bit slow, but gripping, funny, and always a good read.

Franklin was truly a self-made man, self-taught and hard-working, who raised himself out of poverty to become one of the most famous men in the world - then and now. He earned his reputation as an honest, creative, and valuable person for any endeavor. He kept his word, tried to help people, and never took No for an answer.

If you read between the lines, you can also discern what others have reported - Ben liked the ladies, and the ladies liked Ben. One can only imagine his years in France, young and handsome, attending the fanciest parties and balls as the representative of the anti-British soon-to-be USA. You dog, you!

Too bad he didn't continue his autobiography through the 1776 period, or talk more about his early electrical experiments. But those are in his many biographies.
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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 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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VINE VOICEon April 14, 2011
I'd always wanted to read Benjamin's Franklin autobiography as the private school where I taught, and was later headmistress, used his character-building chart for our students and staff. Every day the students checked themselves off on character-building qualities that Franklin had on his own chart. I'd hear mothers say that when they would take our students to parties with other children from other schools they could tell which were our students as they were so well-behaved and had such good character. Thanks to Benjamin!

I had also read in Stephen Covey's best-seller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that he studied Benjamin Franklin's autobiography for part of his doctoral thesis to learn what makes for successful and effective people. And Franklin was certainly one of those.

Although I'd read Walter Isaacson's biography of Franklin Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and Stacey Schiff's award-winning history of Franklin's time in France as an ambassador for our country A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America--and both were excellent and highly recommended--there's nothing like reading Franklin in his own words which this autobiography allows us to do. It was great to see his life in America through his eyes, and view the streets of Philadelphia and Boston and even London.

His good humor and intelligence sparkles in this autobiography. This book will enrich your life and create appreciation for our amazing Founding Fathers of whom Franklin may have been the most eccentric and unusual. It will make you proud to be an American. Be prepared to be dazzled by Franklin's ingenuity, wit and charm!
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