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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life Audiobook, by Walter Isaacson Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Walter Isaacson Narrator: Nelson Runger Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2011 ISBN: 9781442342170
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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, written by Walter Isaacson, gives us the portrait of a great American figure, known for climbing from obscurity up the social ladder, to eventually dine with politicians and principalities.

Through the full scope of Franklin's journey as a printer, a scientist, and statesmen, we see the charming Benjamin Franklin whose greatest legacy could be his ability to reinvent himself. The knack for public relations, for creating and maintaining and polishing a persona to be remembered for all posterity--this skill could be his most relevant to contemporary culture.

Indeed, Franklin's mark of the sly wit, his love of democracy, and his pragmatic sometimes puritanical ideals of productivity have all shaped the American archetypal image of itself. Some of the colorful details which Isaacson also brings to life are Franklin's turbulent relationship with his illegitimate stepson, his marriage (a practical one), and his dalliance with the females of Paris. Most vividly, however, Isaacson shows us how this commoner turned Founding Father shaped and still resonates with American cultural values today.

Walter Isaacson is a writer and biographer born in 1952 in New Orleans, Louisiana. First a journalist, later a political correspondent, managing editor of Time and eventual a chairman and CEO of CNN, he is currently president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies organization. He is chairman emeritus for Teach for America, and was selected as Time's 100 most influential people of the world for 2012. He has also contributed biographies on Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Henry Kissinger.

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 with kings.

In bestselling 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This is a book I’ve looked forward to for a long time and that I’ve found wholly enthralling from beginning to end.”

    David McCullough

  • “A thoroughly researched, crisply written, convincingly argued chronicle.” 

    New York Times Book Review

  • “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.”, editorial review

  • “Tony winner Gaines has an obvious interest and affinity for the material. His delivery of Isaacson’s factual yet fascinating biography is informative and friendly with an instructional yet casual tone, like that of a gregarious narrator of an educational film.” 

    Publishers Weekly audio review

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Reviews

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  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Debbie | 5/24/2011

    " My idol. Loved this book. It read like a novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David | 4/16/2011

    " I thought Mr. Isaacson wrote a remarkable account of the life of Benjamini Franklin. If you are a bit unsure of Franklin's contribution to the founding of our nation, I'm sure this book will enlighten you knowledge of this great patriot..


  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Darlene | 4/13/2011

    " Statesman, genius, and old rake. That says it all. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shelby | 3/21/2011

    " No other way to understand American History "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jack | 3/10/2011

    " One of the Greatest Americans .
    I love biographical history and this book was really easy to read .
    Be looking for more by this author. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Emmy | 2/9/2011

    " I have read other books by Isaacson and thought they were great but it just kind of felt like he phoned this one in. I didn't feel a real passion from him for this topic; it felt like he was going through the motions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heidi | 1/18/2011

    " I had no idea of the numerous things we must thank this man for, nor the extensive role he played in the American Revolution. This was easily read and fascinating. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bob | 1/10/2011

    " Old Ben rose considerably in my estimation, not just as a statesman, but for his scientific contributions as well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Donna | 1/9/2011

    " Surprised by how much I enjoyed and how engaged I became with this book. It had everything. Wonderful job by Walter Isaacson. This is a great vehicle for learning, not only about Benjamin Franklin, but about the times in which he lived. Totally recommend it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Louise | 12/29/2010

    " Read this book in 2004. Very good bio on Franklin. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Greg | 12/23/2010

    " Excellent book, one of the most readable and enjoyable biographies I have ever read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Charlene | 12/21/2010

    " Read this book when I visited Philadelphia. It was fun to read about something and then go to the actual site. "

About the Author

Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Steve JobsEinstein: His Life and UniverseBenjamin Franklin: An American Life, and Kissinger: A Biography.

About the Narrator

Nelson Runger’s voice has been recorded in dozens of audio productions and won him two AudioFile Earphones Awards. His ability to convey difficult, scholarly material with eloquence and ease has earned him critical acclaim, including an AudioFile Best Voice in Biography & History for his reading of Nixon and Kissinger.