Benjamin FranklinPosted: 2014/01/30
Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: an American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
“Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winked at us” (p 2). What a great way to start a biography about a man whose life is such common knowledge you don’t feel like you could read yet another one and get anything new out of it. It is Isaacson’s writing style that sets him apart from all the other biographies. From the very beginning, Isaacson draws you into Franklin’s world with such ease and humor. His style of writing is charming and winsome in a myriad of ways, but I liked that he used such words as “sassy” and “spunky” to describe people. A lot of Isaacson’s information is drawn from Franklin’s own words, either from his autobiography (even correcting Mr. Franklin from time to time) or from Franklin’s personal letters. I particularly enjoyed Franklin’s tongue in cheek research about the smell of farts correlating to the type of food one eats. But, Isaacson’s playful account doesn’t mean he refrains from personal critical opinion about our founding father’s actions, especially concerning Franklin’s treatment of his immediate family. He defends Franklin as much as he can concerning the relationships Franklin has with women other than his wife, claiming they were mostly nonsexual. However, Isaacson has sympathy for Franklin’s family who spend nearly two decades without him. In addition to Franklin’s personal life, Isaacson also is extremely thorough in detailing Franklin’s civic contributions, political dealings and public life.
As an aside, Benjamin Franklin has always been one of my favorite historical figures. Why? Because in his early years he was a vegetarian in order to save money for books. Sounds like something I would do. He was also thought to be an insomniac.
Reason read: Benjamin Franklin was born in the month of January. Plain and simple.
Book trivia: Benjamin Franklin: an American Life includes a smattering of illustrations, including an unfinished painting by Benjamin West.
Author fact: Isaacson is also the co-author of The Wise Men. Another book on my list I can’t wait to read.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Founding Fathers” (p 91). Duh.