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Publisher's Summary

What are the roots of creativity? What makes for great leadership? How do influential people end up rippling the surface of history?

In this collection of essays, Walter Isaacson reflects on the lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and various other interesting characters he has chronicled as a biographer and journalist.

The people he writes about have an awesome intelligence, in most cases, but that is not the secret of their success. They had qualities that were even more rare, such as imagination and true curiosity.

Isaacson reflects on how he became a writer, the lessons he learned from various people he met, and the challenges he sees for journalism in the digital age.

He also offers loving tributes to his hometown of New Orleans, which both before and after Hurricane Katrina offered many of the ingredients for a creative culture, and to the Louisiana novelist Walker Percy, who was an early mentor. In an anecdotal and personal way, Isaacson describes the joys of the "so-called writing life" and the way that tales about the lives of fascinating people can enlighten our own lives.

©2009 Walter Isaacson (P)2009 Simon & Schuster, Inc.

What listeners say about American Sketches

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Enjoyable and Insightful - Get it

After enjoying each of Isaacson's Einstein, Jobs and Franklin biographies, I decided to get this audiobook. I was concerned there would be a lot of repeat material, but there is not much really.

This is an enjoyable book. It is told as a story, you don't feel like you are listening to chapters of discrete information. The stories are interesting, relevant and educational.

The last third of the book includes a random interview with Woody Allen about his affair with his stepdaughter and then a section on the future of publishing. Both chapters feel out of place completely, I have no idea why the author or the published would include them here. But, since the first two thirds were excellent, I will give them this one chance.

4 people found this helpful

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Very interesting read and phenomenal narration

The narrator, Cotter Smith, keeps you engaged throughout the entire book. He could make the iTunes user agreement sound interesting.

I am a big fan of Walter Isaacson and this book is a great way to dive into more of his writing and learn about many subjects in a short amount of time per subject. Each individual explored in the book is approx. 45 minutes and very interesting.

I will be recommending this book to friends.

2 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

Largely a rehash of published written work. Not really cohesive. Really did not draw insites.

1 person found this helpful

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Isaac son

This book is more about Isaacson’s life then sketches of other people. Yes, New Orleans is a wonderful city

1 person found this helpful

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Predictable Political Hackery

I gave Isaacson the benefit of the doubt when purchasing this title. It is not a book with an honest view of leaders. It is what you would expect from Isaacson, a book fawning over leaders he agrees with while slyly smearing ones who don’t agree with his biased political bent.

1 person found this helpful

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Great Overview of Different Interesting People

What did you love best about American Sketches?

Short reviews of many interesting people.

What did you like best about this story?

He weaves the stories in coherent way.

Any additional comments?

It is a compilation of Isaacson writings in TIME Magazine. He does a good job linking them and is honest about the source of the stories. You end the book learning few things about many people.

1 person found this helpful

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Not Really Sketches

This book would be more honestly titled "Walter Isaacson's political opinions about everything". There are sketches in the book but only as context for Walter to opine about current events and how he would have done things had he been king of the world. You won't be surprised to learn that he thinks George Bush is really evil and Obama might be the Messiah. Maybe that is the intended slant for sales purposes. Well read, however.

17 people found this helpful

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A Better Title: Isaacson's Opinions

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

It was doomed from the start.

What was most disappointing about Walter Isaacson’s story?

Title was very misleading.

What aspect of Cotter Smith’s performance would you have changed?

The material he had to read.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Too few to mention.

Any additional comments?

Enjoyed the Jobs bio, but Sketches was a waste.

8 people found this helpful

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Not the best

I’m a huge Walter Isaacson fan, and enjoy all his biographies. This one just fell flat for me. This book felt very rambling - like a stirred up stew of his previous works. There are beautiful parts discussing who and why these individuals are so important to our culture and mankind as a whole, but then it leans into a section about getting paid for intellectual property and self relevance.

Again. Normally I love Isaacson’s books and will continue to read & listen, but this one was a miss for me.

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Worth a listen.

Catered to an audience who has never read a biography by Isaacson. Emphasizing the narrative that there is good in the world and all people can unite upon coming ground and make the world a better place. that it is the individuality of people great and small who strive to do good that in turn cultivate us all.

informative without going to in depth. not too wordy and delved deeper into those great individuals who needed a little more coverage- those including Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein to name a few.

Refreshing, inspiring and not too boring. If you are looking to gain a better insight into a handful of great men and women who helped make this world a better place, take the time to listen.

if you have already read any of Isaacson's other books, just know he will cover a lot of the same material, so maybe skip the chapter/chapters that reference that individual whom you have already read up on.