Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.pdf

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.pdf


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 Franklin’s 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 here’s 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

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.

From AudioFile
Benjamin Franklin has had many biographers, but former AOL Time Warner chieftain Walter Isaacson may be the first to call this Founding Father's print shop "a successful, vertically integrated media conglomerate." As "the patron saint of self-improvement guides," Franklin spiced his high rationalism with wit, publishing aphorisms such as "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage; half-shut afterwards" and "A cat in gloves catches no mice." This master politician's accomplishments boggle the mind. He formed our first lending library and fire department, brought the catheter to America, invented the lightning rod and bifocals. The abridgment is seamless, the text runs the gamut--as did its subject--from brilliant to ordinary. Gaines reads clearly, but without flourish. B.H.C. © AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

The Washington Post Book WorldThe most readable full-length Franklin biography available.

The New YorkerEnergetic, entertaining, and worldly.

The New York TimesIn its common sense, clarity and accessibility, it is a fitting reflection of Franklin's sly pragmatism....This may be the book that most powerfully drives a new pendulum swing of the Franklin reputation.

The New York Times Book ReviewA thoroughly researched, crisply written, convincingly argued chronicle.

Walter Isaacson, the President of the Aspen Institute, has been the chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Kissinger: A Biography and the co-author of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and daughter. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us, the one who seems made of flesh rather than marble. In this authoritative and engrossing full-scale biography, Walter Isaacson shows how the most fascinating of America's founders helped define our national character.

In a sweeping narrative that follows Franklin's life from Boston to Philadelphia to London and Paris and back, Isaacson chronicles the adventures of the spunky runaway apprentice who became, during his 84-year life, America's best writer, inventor, media baron, scientist, diplomat, and business strategist, as well as one of its most practical and ingenious political leaders. He explores the wit behind Poor Richard's Almanac and the wisdom behind the Declaration of Independence, the new nation's alliance with France, the treaty that ended the Revolution, and the compromises that created a near-perfect Constitution.

Above all, Isaacson shows how Franklin's unwavering faith in the wisdom of the common citizen and his instinctive appreciation for the possibilities of democracy helped to forge an American national identity based on the virtues and values of its middle class.


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