Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Written by:
Walter Isaacson
Narrated by:
Boyd Gaines

Abridged Audiobook

Ratings
Book
603
Narrator
2
Release Date
July 2003
Duration
7 hours 0 minutes
Summary
In this authoritative and engrossing full-scale biography, Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Einstein and Steve Jobs, shows how the most fascinating of America's founders helped define our national character.

Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us, the one who seems made of flesh rather than marble. In a sweeping narrative that follows Franklin’s life from Boston to Philadelphia to London and Paris and back, Walter Isaacson chronicles the adventures of the runaway apprentice who became, over the course of his eighty-four-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.

In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin’s amazing life, showing how he helped to forge the American national identity and why he has a particular resonance in the twenty-first century.
Reviews
Profile Avatar
Joseph C

Awesome telling of this historical legend! Highly recommended.

Profile Avatar
William Beatty

enjoyed this telling of an iconic legand. surprising tidbits and oddities that i was unaware of. worth the listen.

Profile Avatar
ksiliven

I really enjoyed this book! It brought the history alive and made me want to listen.

Profile Avatar
Hilary

... of people I would love to have diner with. He invented the middle class and had faith in ordinary people in a way no modern American politician does -- especially the king of hope himself. The bureaucrats and serial legislators in DC and all state capitals would be well-advised to read this biography and aspire to be like Franklin.

Profile Avatar
Deb

I wish I hadn't read this book because my opinion of Benjamin Franklin would have remained high. Learning about the real man has enlightened me that in truth he really wasn't a "nice guy".

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Parts of this were really good but it failed to hold my interest after awhile

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Ben Franklin is such an amazing man that no matter who writes about his life, it is bound to be an interesting story. So I did enjoy this book. It is easy to listen to despite the fact it contains a lot of historical information. I didn't really know that much about Franklin and found him an incredibly fascinating individual.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Being a huge history buff I wanted to love it....really. I just found it a bit too scholarly and the narrator was just okay.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

I thought that this was very interesting, it kept me entertained. Ben Franklin really deserves to be on the hundred.

Profile Avatar
doc

excellent, informative and a must if you enjoy history

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Excellent book. If you have any interest in American history, you'll love this book. I learned so much about Mr. Franklin and the foundations of democracy. The author did a great job of educating and entertaining - never boring!

Profile Avatar
Derek Bergey

One cannot argue the principles of life that Ben Franklin wrote down, are direct copies of every self help book written since that time. This is a very honest account of a scandalous human being, who did everything he could to further America, all while being a... not the nicest person behind the scene's. This book will have you talking to friends to impress them about things I promise, they didn't know.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

The man is fascinating, the book is not. I read the John Adams book and found Adams to be alive and complicated. He came thru the pages. In contrast, Ben Franklin and his times felt more described, explained, and far more academic. Therefore, discusssions of the fierce debating of independence or Ben's outrageous behavior in France were never praticularly moving or exciting. The book was interesting, but it was okay if you forgot to finish it.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

I have a new found respect for the man, and I always appreciated his contribution as a politician. He was however, much more of a scientist that a politician. I was never a history buff, but this was an excellent example of writing that captivates, entertains and makes you think! I highly recommend it!

Profile Avatar
Justus89

This was recommended to me by my daughter who also found the book intriguing. It is well written, thought provoking, and provides fascinating insights into life in 18th century America. The author is able to capture the depth and complexity of Franklin the man while preserving the image of Franklin the iconic founding father. While this could have been a dry, boring tome, it was instead exhilerating and scintillating. A superb selection.

Profile Avatar
SINGMAN00

Editing was too obvious. Much info seemed to be omitted from the Abridged version. Well narrated.

Profile Avatar
Cindy

I actually liked this book. I found it most educational and learned a lot. It was a little slow at times, but I thought it was entertaining.

Profile Avatar
Daryl

I'm fascinated by Ben Franklin, but I think I'll borrow this book in text form from the library. It's too scholarly and long to be a good listen.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

It was hard to listen to in 30 minute spurts while driving and glad it was abridged. The reader was very good, it was just so detailed (which a good history book is) and I learned much about that period of time. I really did not know how much his negotiating skills and personality had impacted our independence. I thought I knew his philosophy, but this book really dealt with that in detail.

Profile Avatar
Kathie

Only book that I have returned without finishing. The reader was fine - it was the pompous, braggart tone of the writing I couldn't stand. Plus, it was boring. I made it through the first two discs before I could stand no more!

Profile Avatar
Tom

I could only finish 2 out of 5 disks before I lost interest.

Profile Avatar
alex1432

The author makes the story flow very nicely. I would say there are no great historical revelations, but the author does make the relationships between Franklin and the varying people of the time known and that is definitely something you never read about in textbooks. Overall I would definitely recommend if you like historical biographies.

Profile Avatar
Robert Wheeler

Great book for anyone. Many details about a great American.

Profile Avatar
Penny Boyer

This book was enlightening and very informative about the way life was back then as well as the founding of our country. Even though I took all American History in college, I learned about the context that the facts were set in and that brought it life. The only time that the book became a bit tedious was when the narrator was explaining all the ends and outs of negotiating the end to the Revolutionary War. There is certainly much untold history and what students get is school is very abridged and whitewashed. I never dreamed that Benjamin Franklin's influence on the design of our country was so profound. This was an excellent "read".

Profile Avatar
BQ

Good book, well read, good overview of an interesting guy.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

This audiobook was a great introduction to a man that has made many contributions to the United States. A Founding Father was only a part of the overall person that Benjamin Franklin was and his ambition in life should be motivating to anyone who learns about all that he did. The reader was very good and made listening to this version very entertaining. I highly recommend.

Profile Avatar
Diana Conley

A good, easily listenable account of not only his own life, his ENTIRE life, but also how his teachings influenced others through the ages. I will "read" this again; there were too many facts for me to remember at once.

Profile Avatar
Diana Friedman

I LOVED this book. I was sad at the end, both that the book was over, and so was his life. I always thought I would have liked him if I had known him personally, and this book only confirmed what I had already thought. Thank you Walter Isaacson for taking the time to write it. My only complaint was that it was too short.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Fantastic book! The story of this man's life must be known by all citizens (as we seem to easily forget what being American is supposed to stand for). There is a good reason why Ben's face is on the C-note as he remains the most influencial man in American history that was never a president.

Profile Avatar
Lobstentia

Engaging and thorough history of one of America's true geniuses. The narrator injected enough feeling and drama to keep the dryer material from pedantry. Highly recommend this audio book.

Profile Avatar
John Hodsdon

This biography was an excellent insight into a man who is too little know by most people (including me). It was an honest portrail of his life and work, presenting both the good and the bad. It show the amazing man, but also his human side.

Profile Avatar
Joan Lindley

This was a very good book and well read. It gave me a renewed appreciation for the great man that Ben Franklin was. He really was the first American that embodied so much of what America is all about. I am very glad that I listened to this book.

Profile Avatar
DJG

I found this to be a very good book. I like the reader and I was informed about Ben Franklin. I find that reading or listening to history of historical figures is a very smart exercise.

Profile Avatar
David Martin

What a great overview of one of our true american heros! Maybe not the most complete however a great start to understanding one of our most important forefathers in the critical formative time in this country's history!

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

I read some of the negative views about this book before I received it. I believed those who thought it was boring were probably just not sophisticated enough to "get it". Well, unfortunately, either they were right, or I too am unsophisticated, because I just couldn't get through this book! I listened to 4 of the 6 CD's, and finally gave up. The content could have been really interesting, but it is my opinion that the narrator's style didn't do justice to the book. I can't find just the word to describe the problem, not exactly boring, just not very animated or lively. Someone with more character to his voice might have kept it more interesting. How about Kris Kristofferson?

Profile Avatar
Tolan Brown

I postponed this book for a long time because of some of the negative reviews I saw here but when I finally gave it a shot I found it fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable. It took me about one CD to get into it but once pulled in I was completely hooked. What an amazing man! I put this one on par with David McCullough’s fantastic books (e.g. 1776, John Adams, etc.). If you like American History I think you’ll really enjoy this one.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Interesting insight into the life and times of a unique and uniquely American founding father.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

This book/recording did not do justice to the character or the listener. Was dull and monotonous. Did not really bring Benjamin Franklin to life.

Profile Avatar
Martha

Interesting, fast paced, focused on positive aspects of Mr. Franklin (which there are many)but seemed to steer away from any negative commentary maybe a better companion piece for Franklin scholar than a definitive biography.

Profile Avatar
Terry Banning

The material was interesting but the reader's voice was such a monotone that I almost fell asleep. This is not a good thing to do while driving! Couldn't listen to the entire book.

Profile Avatar
DK the Marine

Sorry for this negative review, but I was very disappointed with this book. I stopped after disc 1, despite all your great reviews. I had listened to "1776" prior to this Ben Franklin story and 1776 was soooooo much better that it made B. Franklin a weak listen ! Ben Franklin Disc 1 was just like listening to a history book & the narrator was very dry. I need a little more of a story line and voice inflection. If you are a history buff and can tolerate dry material & dry narrators, his may be enjoyable to you. Only 2 stars for me, and that is an inflation. Sorry, truely wish I had liked it more!

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Another example of an abridged version being tremendously disappointing. You can tell that this book is great, but it's so abridged that it's like reading a giant book review. For example, one has no sense as to the nature of Franklin's relationship with the Penn family, just that it was contentious. What's the point of reading in-depth biographies when they're abridged?

Profile Avatar
Philip Rigney

I liked this so much that I listened to it twice, and although I do not yet have the last CDs in the set, I am certain that these will be wonderful as well. I actually shared some of Franklin's techniques with my Principles of Management class that I teach.

Profile Avatar
Steve Melvin

The book is very well done. Franklin did indeed live an amazing life. He does seem to exemplify 'an American life'.

Profile Avatar
Pepper Sue O'Neill

I thought that this was an excellent set of discs. It was precise and knowlegeable. I learned a lot from it. It was well narrated. It was interesting to learn the things about this time in our history.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

I was very bored by this narrative. The reader's voice and intonations were flat and boring, and I found it very difficult to listen to, or get interested in. Not NEARLY as good a listen as "John Adams"

Profile Avatar
Michael Herb

I enjoyed listening to Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson a great deal. Our educational system gives us a general idea about who Franklin was and what he did but this book does a great deal to enhance that general knowledge. While listening to it I was struck by how his personality and character so completely manifested democratic ideals. His brilliant mind enabled him to master many complex areas of knowledge. The freedoms that living under democratic ideals allowed him enabled him to develop his abilities to the fullest. He did not squander his talents or the opportunites that they brought him. He used them first to secure the wealth and stability of his family and then to do the same for the United States. Franklin always seemed ahead of his time. This characteristic becomes evident throughout the book. His greatness however never led to complacent arrogance. He maintained his humility throughout his life. That's why he remained so productive.

Profile Avatar
Paul Scottsdale

Story line moved along well, and it was great to follow Franklin's progression from loyal to the Royal, to fiercely independent. Amazing how many balls he kept in the air, and how many inventions he is credited with!

Profile Avatar
Evelyn McAdams

Very interesting stuff! I love history and this really covered a lot I did not know. Not as interesting as 1776 but a good read.

Profile Avatar
Phil Hord

This biography does a good job presenting "Franklin the man" and ignoring (except in passing reference) "Franklin the ideal" as personified in his many pseudonymous writings and even his own autobiography. There are many failings in this hero which I, curiously, find also to be in myself. His ability to overcome them (to some extent) and to play such a key role in the formation of our country is explained very well.

Profile Avatar
Hugh Wilson

Very good book on a novel individual who was the grandfather of America and the conscious soul of the early founders. Franklin lead an extraordinarily modern life emboding the scientific, romantic and humanistic elements of post WWII leaders.

Profile Avatar
Robert Weir

Although this book was abridged, it didn't seem so. Well written, interesting and very revealing. While our presidents get top billing when it comes to their importance, it was Franklin who actually did the major part of winning the revolution using his relationship with France. Very well written and highly recommended.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Thought this was an interesting portrayal of Ben Franklin's life as he was an amazing man. It's a shame it's abridged.

Profile Avatar
Vince Fister

Most details were good but too many of author's own opinions. Rambles on and on.

Profile Avatar
Charles Holland

A wonderful autobiography that reads like a story. The author did an awesome job describing all aspects of Franklin's long life. Most folks probably know Franklin as a dead politician on a $100 bill - but he was so much more. His pride in simplicity and humbleness is a model for all to follow. Great book and I learned something!

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Good but presented from a particular view and I wonder how accurate a picture it presents.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Fantastic!! One of the best biographies I have read.

Profile Avatar
Nathan Huynh

BF is quite a character. The author seemed to portray Franklin in a mostly positive light and seemed to be more forgiving of his blemishes -- especially his encounters with women. The book is fast and furious up to Franklin's middle-age (which I would have liked to learn more about) then crawled thru the peace treaty after the Revolutionary War. Maybe the author is into political science and wanted to extol Franklin's prowess in that arena. I definitely developed a stronger appreciation for the man after this book.

Profile Avatar
Gavin

Wonderful! The narration was perfect, and Franklin was a truly fascinating person that I'd like to learn even more about.

Profile Avatar
Debbie Moffitt

I really enjoyed this book. To say Benjamin Franklin was multifaceted would be to vastly understate this amazing man. Although viewed as profligate by many of his generation, he was a man of common sense principles. I had been unaware of his considerable contribution to the world of science, agriculture and the arts. I highly recommend getting to know Benjamin Franklin through this well written account of his life.

Profile Avatar
Steve Ballou

Good and long, with just enough analysis to be interesting.

Profile Avatar
Glenna

Fascinating biography that paints quite a different picture of the historical man than the one I remember from American history. He made Franklin come to life. The narration was well done too.

Profile Avatar
Trina Fleming

Historical biography full of surprises. I loved the book, but it was very long. Toward the end found myself wishing it was over soon.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

I loved this book about Franklin. I wish it had not been abridged. It was rich with details and information about a man that I only knew through history books in school. There was so much more to his life and his interests and most importantly, his contributions. Great insight and thorough analysis of Franklin.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

I found the first 3 discs of this book to be dry and boring and difficult to stay focused on. The last 3 were slightly more interesting when they discussed Franklin's role in Europe.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

This book is an excellent look at the life and contributions of one of our founding fathers. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical look and stories of his life.

Profile Avatar
Val

If you enjoy biographies, you'll enjoy this one. It is a balanced view of one of our nation's heros. Benjamin Franklin was an interesting character, well traveled and highly intelligent as well as a very practical man. He believed in service to mankind and lived his life that way. But he wasn't the chubby, jovial character we've seen advertised so much. There was much more to him than that. Enjoy!

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

This series of audio was very well done. In order to really capture knowledge about Ben it must be listened to multiple times. It is jammed packed with information about his life. It gives both the mundane details of his life and also information about the historical events he took part in. Being a history buff but not having a lot of time to read, I would highly recommend this set for anyone interested in general early colonial history or the varied contributions that Franklin made to the world in his time.

Profile Avatar
Glenn Kennedy

I really enjoyed this book, although in fairness I may be reacting to my interest in the subject more than an objective review of the writing. I've gone through a period where I just read John Adams biography and now this series on Franklin, and I find the subject fascinating. I feel we owe a lot to a handful of men and women who forged the beginnings of this country, and it's enlightening to see their foibles as well as their strengths.

Profile Avatar
Lee Werley

This was fun to hear and informative. Great background info while I was painting.

Profile Avatar
Shane Nixon

Really good listen. Narrator does a good job mixing in dialects and accents that bring a couple of the characters to life. Story is so compelling, it is hard not to listen. Really good audo book!

Profile Avatar
Tonytoga

Before you listen to this book, PLEASE toss away your preconceived notions about a bald little old man with a kite string in his hand standing in a downpour. That IS NOT Benjamin Franklin. In his 500 page biography of Franklin, Walter Isaacson redefines Mr. Franklin for who he was, one of the foremost political leaders of 18th century. But then again, he was one of the foremost scientists of that century as well. AND he was one of the most innovative businessmen of his day. He was America's first foriegn minister. The rebel colonies would not have won the war without his work in France and the peace treaty which ended the war was almost single handedly his doing. Ben Franklin's achievements could easily have been the pride of five men but they were all fit into one extraordinary life. And that doesn't even begin to consider his work to the Constitutional Convention at which he made pivotal contributions offering compromises which probably saved the convention from failure after his 80th birthday. However, beyond all that, his outlook, his determination to always be improving himself, his ethics and his drive to succeed perhaps did more to shape the image America and Americans had of themselves in the 19th century than any other inspiration. Ben Franklin was the living embodiment of Manifest Destiny. In short, America BECAME Benjamin Franklin and we are world leaders today as a direct result. Walter Isaacson brings Franklin to life and what an amazing life it was. This was an outstanding book, one every high school student in America should read and understand. P.S. If you liked this book, Gordon S. Wood's Pulitzer Prize winning "The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin" is a great companion to this biography.

Profile Avatar
Gary Kuhlken

I feel like my formal education was wasted on a kid less than 20-years old. As an adult, I'm amazed at the wisdom and foresight shown by the fabricators of our incredibly resillient constitution. The vastness of his common-sense knowledge educated and entertained me for hours.

Profile Avatar
Bob Stewart

Very informative, if just a little dry (I would find my mind wandering occasionally while listening in the car). I'd pretty much thought of Franklin as the Howard DaSilva character in "1776." This fleshed him out and portrayed both his positives and negatives. His family dynamic was fascinating. The book was extremely well-read, also.

Profile Avatar
Pat Fish

I learned a lot of things about Ben Franklin that I did not know by listening to this, but I wouldn't say it was engaging or fascinating. It would have benefited greatly by having selections of his own writing interspersed with the narrative of events in his life.

Profile Avatar
Warren Boroson

Ben. Franklin never ceases to astonish me. We should make his birthday a national holiday. A great politician, a great scientist, a great human being. If you haven't read any other biography of Franklin, this is a wonderful one to start with.

Profile Avatar
Colleen

I was born and raised in Philadelphia. Franklin is an icon there, but more for his folksy wit and inventions. I had no idea he was so instrumental in drafting our Constitution. I also had no idea that the Colonies tried to persuade England to secede Canada to the US! And, in school I loved history! After listening to such informative books such as this, I feel like l was educationally deprived! I enjoyed this book. It gave me real insight into the developement of the US. One interesting fact--Franklin founded what is now known as the Univ. of Penn as an institution that, unlike Yale, was an equal opportunity educator. If he realized how elitist Penn is and how little it serves the people of Philadelphia (something like 45% of its student body is foreign !), he'd be rolling in his grave!

Profile Avatar
Laura Miller

Very enlightening. Especially when compared to other biographies of the founding fathers. John Adams biography portrays Franklin in a very different light. It was nice to understand more of Franklin's history.

Profile Avatar
Anonymous

Interesting and informative, not much fun.

Profile Avatar
Sanjay Singhal

Being Canadian, I knew next to nothing about Ben Franklin or that time in the history of the US. Listening to this made me want to learn more. And I had no idea Franklin was such a political figure. Not quite gripping, but quite entertaining and informative.

1 book added to cart
Subtotal
$17.95
View Cart