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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Isaacson, Walter

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9780743258074: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

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.

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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.

Review:

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 Franklinís 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 hereís 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

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Book Description Simon & Schuster, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney & Auckland, 2003. Soft cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. SPLENDID: NEW First Trade Paperback Edition (orig. 2003) w/ no. line showing 3rd printing (c. 2005), handsome matte-gloss-laminated full-color card-stock cover w/ sharp new edges & corners showing $16.95 price at bottom right back cover, immaculate smooth-cut text-block exterior, uncreased new binding, pristine interior handsomely printed on excellent unblemished paper * 9.24" x 6.12" x 1.48", 0.81 kg, xii+586 (598) pp. * Benjamin Franklin is the Founding Father who winks at us. An ambitious urban entrepreneur who rose up the social ladder, from leather-aproned shopkeeper to dining w/ kings, he seems made of flesh rather than of marble. In bestselling author Walter Isaacson's marvelously vivid & witty full-scale biography, we discover why Franklin seems to turn to us from history's stage w eyes that twinkle from behind his new-fangled spectacles. Bringing Franklin to life, Isaacson shows how he helped to define both his own time & ours. During his 84-year life, he was America's best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, & business strategist, & he was also among its most practical (though not its most profound) political thinkers. He proved by flying a kite that lightning was electricity, & he invented a rod to tame it. He sought practical ways to make stoves less smoky & commonwealths less corrupt. He organized neighborhood constabularies & international alliances, local lending libraries & national legislatures. He combined 2 types of lenses to create bifocals & 2 concepts of representation to foster the nation's federal compromise. He was the only man who shaped all the founding documents of America: the Albany Plan of Union, the Declaration of Independence, the treaty of alliance with France, the peace treaty with England, & the Constitution; & he helped invent America's unique style of homespun humor, democratic values, & philosophical pragmatism. But the most interesting thing that Franklin invented, & continually reinvented, was himself. America's first great publicist, he consciously tried through his life & his writings to create a new American archetype, in the process carefully crafting his own persona, publicly portraying it & polishing it for posterity. Through it all he trusted the hearts & minds of his fellow "leather-aprons" more than he did those of any inbred elite. He saw middle-class values as a source of social strength, not as something to be derided. His guiding principle was a "dislike of everything that tended to debase the spirit of the common people." Few of his fellow founders so fully felt this comfort w/ democracy, & none so intuitively. In this colorful & 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 & Founding Father. He chronicles Franklin's tumultuous relationship w/ his illegitimate son & grandson, his practical marriage, & his flirtations w/ the ladies of Paris. He also shows how Franklin helped create the American character & why he has a particular resonance in the 21st century. Bookseller Inventory # 007287

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