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Benjamin Franklin An American Life (Hardcover)

Author:  Walter Isaacson
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Learn more about Benjamin Franklin:

Format: Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0684807610
ISBN-13: 9780684807614
Sku: 33780501
Publish Date: 7/1/2003
Dimensions:  (in Inches) 9H x 6.25L x 1.75T
Pages:  608
Age Range:  NA
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Rescuing Benjamin Franklin from the clich of genial codger, this book celebrates the most interesting, advanced, and earthy of the founding fathers. 16-page four-color insert.

From the Publisher:
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, he seems made of flesh rather than of marble. In bestselling author Walter Isaacson's vivid and witty full-scale biography, we discover why Franklin seems to turn to us from history's stage with eyes that twinkle from behind his new-fangled spectacles. By bringing Franklin to life, Isaacson shows how he helped to define both his own time and ours.

He was, during his 84-year life, America's best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and business strategist, and he was also one of its most practical -- though not most profound -- political thinkers. He proved by flying a kite that lightning was electricity, and he invented a rod to tame it. He sought practical ways to make stoves less smoky and commonwealths less corrupt. He organized neighborhood constabularies and international alliances, local lending libraries and national legislatures. He combined two types of lenses to create bifocals and two 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, and the Constitution. And he helped invent America's unique style of homespun humor, democratic values, and philosophical pragmatism.

But the most interesting thing that Franklin invented, and continually reinvented, was himself. America's first great publicist, he was, in his life and in his writings, 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.

Through it all, he trusted the hearts and 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 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.

About the Author:
Walter Isaacson, the president of the Aspen Institute, has been the chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Kissinger: A Biography and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and daughter.

Annotation:
In this biography, former CNN chairman Isaacson shows the many facets and incredibly prodigious activity of the Founding Father who was also an inventor, printer, diplomat, businessman, community organizer, and author of an important autobiography. He portrays Franklin as a practical man who championed and embodied middle class values, and who was himself the model for a new kind of American. A New York Times Notable Book for 2003.
Author Bio
Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson has won critical acclaim for his biographies of such figures as Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. "The best way to convey ideas and values is through the tales of people. That's been true since the Bible," he has told interviewers. Isaacson, who holds degrees from Harvard College and Oxford University, began his professional career as a newspaper reporter, and in 1978 he joined the staff of Time magazine, ultimately working his way up from political correspondent to managing editor. He has also held leadership posts at CNN and the Aspen Institute. Despite the demands of those high-profile positions, Isaacson, who lives in Washington, D.C., finds time to regularly publish well-regarded and comprehensive biographies. His 2007 book on Einstein was a favorite of Apple founder Steve Jobs, who handpicked Isaacson to be his biographer. (Although Isaacson initially refused, believing that Jobs was too young and had too many accomplishments ahead of him to warrant a book-length biography, he relented when he realized that the tech entrepreneur, then ill with cancer, might not have long to live.) Jobs was, Isaacson realized, exactly the type of subject he found fascinating. "Sometimes we divide people, the people who are the science geeks and the people who are the humanities geeks," he has explained. "[But] in some ways it's the combination of the humanities and the science that leads to great creativity. You see that in Ben Franklin, you see it in Albert Einstein, and you see it, of course, in Steve Jobs." The Jobs biography, published in 2011, sold almost 400,000 copies in its first week alone and was among the top-selling books of the year.

Praise

New York Observer
"In truth, Mr. Isaacson's book does not add enormously to the sum of our knowledge. But his clear prose and media savvy may bring in readers who have not ventured into the 18th century before....Mr. Isaacson has done plenty of research....He has also brought back the humor missing from the more academic tomes....[This] ambitious new study signals an important effort to bring Franklin back into focus. A new generation of readers needs to know more about the Founder who most appealingly embodies our great resourcefulness as a people--and more than a few of our weaknesses, too." - Ted Widmer 06/30/2003

New York Times Book Review
"[A] thoroughly researched, crisply written, convincingly argued chronicle that is also studded with little nuggets of fresh information." - Joseph J. Ellis 07/06/2003

Nation
"Transcends the limits of conventional hagiography....Isaacson has written a book whose research and writing would do credit to a professional historian. Isaacson's vivid and readable narrative gives a clear account of Franklin's scientific work, his extraordinary career as a social innovator, of his labors as a diplomat and statesman, and of the vagaries of his love life." - Robin Blackburn 07/14/2003

Product Attributes

Product attributeBook Format:   Hardcover
Product attributeNumber of Pages:   0608
Product attributePublisher:   Simon & Schuster
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