The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Eclectic English Classics)

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  23,024 ratings  ·  1,435 reviews
This new edition of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is built around J.A. Leo Lemay and P.R. Zall's text. Louis Masur's introduction sets the work in its historical context. Masur also discusses America after Franklin and why the autobiography has had such a tremendous impact on 19th- and 20th-century society and culture.
Paperback, 175 pages
Published January 1st 1993 by Bedford Books (first published 1791)
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Isis
May 08, 2009 Isis rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of early-mid 18th century
The charm and pleasure of this book, for me, is that it is not about the famous Benjamin Franklin, the inventor and one of the fathers of the American Revolution, but that it is about the young Franklin; about his education and apprenticeship as a printer to his brother, about his love of books and his determination to improve his writing skills, about how he uprooted himself from his birthplace and family and moved to Philadelphia, and began a business there. He meets rogues and swindlers, has...more
Ilyn Ross
Aug 01, 2009 Ilyn Ross rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Dr. Benjamin Franklin is the embodiment of Thomas Edison’s “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” He came from a poor family. His sensible father was of good character. Dr. Franklin was a deist. What God has given man, he purposefully, methodically, and continually used to improve himself. A self-driven independent thinker, he endeavored to improve, not only mentally and financially, but morally. He did it for his own sake, and the fruits became the glory of mankind.

Dr. Franklin resol...more
Shannon
Man oh man, that dude had some mad skills. This book is written somewhat sloppily - changing narrative styles throughout, carrying on from time to time, and not even finishing it - but the content is truly amazing. Why didn't I learn in school about how awesome Ben Franklin was? In addition to his kite flying escapade, he invented a better type of wood burning furnace, and a better street lamp. He created the first public university in America (U. Penn), helped create one of the first public hos...more
Trevor
This is a curious little book. As an autobiography it suffers from the fact that it leaves out nearly all of the most interesting parts of Franklin’s life. This is a bit like reading an autobiography of John Lennon that ends a few years before he meets Paul McCartney. I’m not saying there is no interest in what is here, but any sort of version of such a man’s life that ends well short of the American Revolution is more than a little heart breaking.

There are very amusing parts of this – particula...more
Bruce
I read this book as a teenager and was so captivated that I tried Franklin’s scheme of cultivating the virtues, probably with only marginal success. It was fun to reacquaint myself with the work.

Franklin first of all affirms that he would live his life over again unchanged, were he given the opportunity. Compare this with Nietzsche’s assertion that such would be repugnant to most men. Thus one can see that Franklin was essentially a content and optimistic man. This book is a candid and non-flor...more
James
In the summer of 1771, while he was living in a country home in England, Benjamin Franklin began an autobiography that he was destined to never finish. He prepared an outline of a final section that he did not complete, but the four parts that he did finish represent one of the seminal documents of the enlightenment.
He was a statesman, an author, an inventor, a scientist, a printer, and the list goes on and on when describing Benjamin Franklin. As an autobiographer he also demonstrated his geni...more
Holly
This is a wonderfully inspiring Read. It's a small book packed with great insights into virtuous living. His curiosity and observation of the world around him lead him to live an amazingly full life in which he accomplished much for the good of mankind. All this combined with his wit and writing style make it enjoyable to read and truly encourages the reader towards self improvement. I'm actually reading it again right now. It's great for new year's resolutions.
Jan Rice
This was exciting, once I found out it really was his autobiography! I couldn't believe it at 1st. Turned out to be divided roughly into two parts, the 1st starting with his family history and younger years, and the second coming later after a break. He was in his 80s, and his public had encouraged him to continue. The 2nd part is a little slower but still informative. The book is not very long, not a huge tome. It stops all of a sudden, before the revolutionary years. Maybe he just couldn't fin...more
Cheryl in CC NV
Pretty interesting. Not what I expected. Ends in 1757. Could be called 'Lessons from my Life: every young man should follow my example.'

I liked his observation that youngsters who are taught the art of debate grow to be "disputing, contradicting, and confuting people [who] are generally unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory sometimes, but they never get goodwill, which would be of more use to them."

I was interested to learn that John Bunyan, in The Pilgrim's Progress, "was the first tha...more
Michael
Oct 13, 2010 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
People do not fall into the category of 'great' by chance or triviality. Ben Franklin worked to improve himself, his community, and the lives of those with whom he shared his existence. He set an example of honesty, hard work, sobriety, fair dealing, and generosity that has been a light on the path of millions. His example seems to me exactly what is needed today.

Reading this book was a joy. It's cool too to note the differences in writing style and spelling he used. Just two examples..."musik"...more
Kim
I really enjoyed this book far more than I anticipated. I've read a lot about Benjamin Franklin but to read his story in his own words makes it really come to life.

He had a very down-to-earth writing style. I know that some of the words would have been modernised a little at some point in the publication history but you still get a very 18th century style without it bogging down with a lot of needless filler.

My problem with this book though is that there was quite a lot not included. He writes...more
Niesha
Jan 25, 2008 Niesha rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Niesha by: Heidi Shetka
There is so much to learn from Benjamin Franklin and his autobiography and other writings. Please read it yourself. It is well worth your time. I was inspired by his genius, curiosity in all subjects and in people.
Josh
I liked this, and found it a surprising page-turner.

I really enjoyed the old fashioned language after getting used to it. Normally, I resist using puffed-up language and always try to find mundane equivalents for words I might naturally use or words that might be slightly more precise. So I thought it wd annoy me that Franklin’s language was unnecessarily elevated and abstract. But it didn't mess with me, I really enjoyed the diction and syntax, reminded me of reading _Cloud Atlas_, where a fict...more
Hadeel
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin was written for his son as a guide for him to lead a righteous life and became a book where he recollected all his memories. The book opened up with a letter to William Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s son, Royal Governor of New Jersey. He spoke about his ancestry, childhood experiences and education. He was self-educated and had a strong work ethic because Benjamin and his nine brothers began working early. He went to England Briefly and worked as a printer w...more
Izumen
Тази книга е чисто злато! Ако зависеше от мен, бих я включил в задължителната учебна програма. Всеки млад мъж трябва да я прочете. Б. Франклин разказва с много тънко чувство за хумор, покривайки основните етапи от своето развитие до 50 г. възраст. Може би най-ценните страници са тези за неговата младост, защото именно тогава се изгражда бъдещия гений и как мислите става това? Здрава работа, постоянство, железни принципи и много, много четене на книги. Франклин е един от най-съвършените примери з...more
Kressel Housman
Because of the movie "American Treasure" and the plot sequence involving Benjamin Franklin's Silence Dogood letters (a series of letters he published under a pseudonym at age 16), my youngest son became interested in him and picked out a biography for me to read aloud at night. That biography, written for kids, cites its main source as Ben Franklin's autobiography, so I figured it was high time I read that American classic.

I'll admit it: the old-fashioned language of the original is daunting and...more
Lauren
Benjamin Franklin as a person was a scientist, diplomat, legislator, inventor, and a proficient statesman. In his eighty-two years, he lived a very full life and accomplished many great achievements, probably his greatest triumph being that of discovering the phenomenon of electricity and how to control it. Franklin was also a skilled politician and pretty much gained accomplishments in whatever he strove to do. In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Franklin has a very pompous attitude towa...more
Laura
The first half was terrific, and the second half fell (for the most part) flat for me. I think it's because Franklin started writing to his son about his life and wound up being persuaded to continue the book as an autobiography for public consumption. Unfortunately, that sucked all the life out of it.

If you're a fan of Ben, definitely read it. I loved the first half. The second half, for me, became too bogged down in military discussions (and he died prior to covering the Revolutionary War), w...more
Matt
Worst. Book. Ever.
Henry Avila
Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is perfect except for one thing, its only half finished!Franklin was prevented from completing it, by becoming involved in the American Revolution.Later going as a diplomat to Paris, to get French help.Born in Boston in 1706, to Josiah Franklin and his wife Abiah. A good student in his youth but the family lacked the money to send him to college. His father was a candle maker and Benjamin after many false starts became an apprentice to his brother James in the p...more
Joe
I have always been very skeptical of self-help books. I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey on the recommendation of a friend. Covey openly admitted that Benjamin Franklin's autobiography guided his ideas. So, I decided to go right to the source.

There is no better life book, and it is so effective because it does not seek to be a self-help book. This autobiography is really just a look into the life of a person who sought only improvement in his own person and enga...more
Jessica
Benjamin Franklin invented the American Fire Department, wood stoves, and the American system of government. You would think, then, that he'd invent some way of writing an autobiography that wasn't boring as hell. But no. Franklin loves his books, and he also loves self-improvement (the best parts of this are his bizarre charts where he rates himself on a 13-point scale of morality). But despite all of his attention to rhetoric this book does not, in my opinion, rise to the occasion of chronicli...more
Nicholas Maulucci
now this was interesting although I expected it to be a little more extensive. an American classic from one of the first Americans. not an easy read, but if one concentrates he will find gold nuggets throughout this book. of course reading and listening to something are two distinct functions (Gordon), and you may find yourself again and again stopping and wondering about a word and its meaning. Franklin recounts his youth, his love for books, his start in business, and some of his experiments....more
Donna
I was impressed at his thoughts on a book “Memorable Things of Socrates”. He figured by “expressing himself in terms of modest diffidence” so never to firmly state his opinion with words like certainly, or undoubtedly. He’d use a softer approach, “I should not think it, so and so, for such reasons, or I imagine it to be so; if I am not mistaken. The beginnings of the ultimate diplomat! And he was all of 16.


I found this a bit rambling on topics. But all in all…a fascinating man.


I almost forgot....more
A
It's been a very long time since I read this book, but it's a classic and worth the read. It's interesting to consider what a diverse person Franklin was. I also recall that, while he was full of good advice, it appeared that he was very imperfect in taking the advice himself!
Megan
To be perfectly honest, I chose to read this book because at the end of 2013 - after overlooking all the books I'd read - I was totally embarrassed. All smut! Nothing intellectual. Nothing for self-improvement. So to break that trend, and already for some reason unbeknownst to me already having this book on my Kindle, I decided to give this a try. And what a good pick! For several reasons:

1) Readability - Compared to other texts written in the 18th century, Franklin's mode of conveyance is almos...more
Kathryn
It is utterly amazing all of the things Benjamin Franklin founded. I knew many of them, but did not know the fire department. His virtues that he tried to live by were ones we all should take note of.
Cody Meek
Benjamin Franklin was a special person, even as a child, but this first hand account of his life only deepens one's appreciation for just how great, talented and earnest he was. Before reading this book I was completely unaware of how talented he was with a pen. This autobiography is however incomplete and his account ends shortly before the start of the American Revolution (this being the only frustration of the book; Leaving the reader only to ponder the rest of this excellence). One would be...more
Trice
Feb 29, 2012 Trice rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: certainly to include (but not limited to) all Americans; I think Dad would enjoy it
Recommended to Trice by: K&C's bookshelf
I wish there was more!

He is all over the place, with some really interesting ponderings and meditations on a variety of subjects. Very smooth reading as well and, yeah, I have to say it, he makes me proud to be an American... and that is not always a sentiment to which I would ascribe... and even this feeling is complicated, because I have some issues with some of his actions, some of the events we see in this book, and some of his attitudes.

There are some problematic things that you could almos...more
Hayes
The thing I have always loved about Benjamin Franklin is that he refuses to take himself too seriously:

From Franklin's "introduction" to his son:
And, lastly (I may as well confess it, since my denial of it will be believed by nobody), perhaps I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity. Indeed, I scarce ever heard or saw the introductory words, "Without vanity I may say," &c., but some vain thing immediately followed. Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themsel
...more
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289513
Benjamin Franklin was a writer, a philosopher, a scientist, a politician, a patriot, a Founding Father, an inventor, and publisher. He helped with the founding of the United States of America and changed the world with his discoveries about electricity. His writings such as Poor Richards' Almanac have provided wisdom for 17 years to the colonies.
More about Benjamin Franklin...
The Autobiography and Other Writings Poor Richard's Almanack The Way to Wealth Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School A Benjamin Franklin Reader

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“Never confuse Motion with Action.” 217 likes
“My Parents had early given me religious Impressions, and brought me through my Childhood piously in the Dissenting Way. But I was scarce 15 when, after doubting by turns of several Points as I found them disputed in the different Books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some Books against Deism fell into my Hands; they were said to be the Substance of Sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an Effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them: For the Arguments of the Deists which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much Stronger than the Refutations. In short I soon became a thorough Deist.

[Part I, p. 45 of autobiography]”
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