• Benjamin Franklin

  • An American Life
  • By: Walter Isaacson
  • Narrated by: Boyd Gaines
  • Length: 7 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (1,234 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In best selling author Walter Isaacson's vivid and witty full-scale biography, we discover why Franklin turns to us from history's stage with eyes that twinkle from behind his new-fangled spectacles. In Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson shows how Franklin defines both his own time and ours.

The most interesting thing that Franklin invented, and continually reinvented, was himself. America's first great publicist, he was consciously trying to create a new American archetype. In the process, he carefully crafted his own persona, portrayed it in public, and polished it for posterity. His guiding principle was a "dislike of everything that tended to debase the spirit of the common people." Few of his fellow founders felt this comfort with democracy so fully, and none so intuitively.

In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin's amazing life, from his days as a runaway printer to his triumphs as a statesman, scientist, and Founding Father. He chronicles Franklin's tumultuous relationship with his illegitimate son and grandson, his practical marriage, and his flirtations with the ladies of Paris. He also shows how Franklin helped to create the American character and why he has a particular resonance in the twenty-first century.

©2003 Walter Isaacson (P)2003 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Benjamin Franklin catalogs the extraordinary range of its subject's accomplishments, which remain unrivaled in their variety and utility." (The New York Times)
"Isaacson has crafted a wonderfully written biography, and his treatment of Franklin's youth and rise to prominence is insightful and imaginative" (The Washington Post)
"The abridgment is seamless, the text runs the gamut...from brilliant to ordinary."(AudioFile)
"Blessed with one of the most polished and easy-to-absorb voices in the audio business, reader Boyd Gaines does an outstanding job with Walter Isaacson's excellent biography of perhaps the most appealing of the Founding Fathers..." (USA Today)

What listeners say about Benjamin Franklin

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Literary Bilge

A blantant attempt on the part of a connected CEO to take advantage of the current day interest in the founding of the country. Reads like a Cliff Notes written by a competent college junior. No comparison to John Adams or Founding Brothers.

48 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting info - enjoyable listening

I am disappointed that others didn't value this as highly as I did. After listening to the Adams biography, the counterpoint offered in Franklin, allows the reader to understand both points of view. It is providential that Franklin was around whenever the topic or future of the United States was discussed. I truly enjoyed the listening and would recommend it to all who have read "John Adams" or "Founding Brothers."

45 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Painful

Ben Franklin is a very interesting man but the reading pace of this book put me to sleep several times. I give it three stars only because I think the content merited it, although it was hard to tell. The author's Conclusions at the end offered a nice analysis of Ben's life and how he has been percieved since his death but getting to that point was painful.

36 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

suffers from abridgement

this 6hr audiobook is devoid of the necessary detail to bring it to life. it would have probably been 20+ hours unabridged. better to enjoy 6hrs of any other unabridged book to settle for this.

22 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Autobiography is Better

There is no substitute for listening to Franklin's original Autobiography. This book pulls too much info directly from that original work. Listen to or read the original Autobiography and just skip this book. Franklin is a masterful writer about his own life.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Leaves a lot to be desired

The reading of this book leads me to believe that we could have done without Mr. Franklin. There is no passion, there is no cohesiveness as to what is happening around Mr. Franklin as we are pulled through a very superficial story. If one good thing comes of this book, it will be that I must read another one on Benjamin Franklin because he HAD to be more important than this book would have you come to understand. I didn't give it just one star only because I have read worse.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Not a great biography

Sorry that I agree with the others giving this a poor review. My problem with the book is that if you've read other biographies of the period and other biographies of Franklin, this book lacks historical context. Yes, there's lots of detail--and maybe that's what history has become these days. But the lists of details don't add up to give a true picture of the man or the issues he dealt with. To me, you can't read this book and come away with the sense of why Franklin was such a great man.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Never listen to an abridged book

By comparison to other historical biographies, this book sounds superficial and skimpy. This is quite inconsistent with the reviewed and acclaim it has received - which makes me conclude that it suffered from crued abbreviation. If this is a representative example of what abridged books are like - I would never listen to an abridged book again.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed it!

I've always been interested in the life of Franklin and thought this was a great general biography. I learned a lot listening to it. The reader was very easy and enjoyable to listen to.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Wow!

I had no idea what a fascinating man Ben Franklin was. Do yourself a favor and download this fabulous book. You won't be bored for a moment and you will learn so much about Ben, early America and the founding of our country.

5 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • C
  • 08-02-22

For US folklore fans only

Abridged but nevertheless nothing except a gushing US-centric hagiography that starts from the point of view that the Constitution is an “almost perfect” document etc. You can learn more about Franklin from Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time radio episode on him.

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