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American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  719 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
By the author of the bestselling biographies of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, a reflection on: What are the roots of creativity? What makes for great leadership?

In this collection of essays, Walter Isaacson reflects on the lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary Clinton,
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published November 24th 2009 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 2009)
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Jay Connor
Mar 17, 2010 Jay Connor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the last chapter ... which made the whole effort truly rewarding.

Now I am not a usual fan of the "cut-n-paste" nonfiction genre where we get a journalist's "best" articles or columns repurposed as a stand alone book. This dislike has its roots in my disappointment at "Boss," Mike Royko's Pulitzer Prize winning 1972 book on Mayor Richard J. Daley (the father of the present hizzonor). Not only had I read most of the columns, but viewed together -- rather than over a significant span of tim
Gil Bradshaw
Jul 17, 2015 Gil Bradshaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are like me, and your idea of a good Friday night is googling old Walter Isaacson columns from Time Magazine then this book is a dream come true.

This is his greatest hits. There must be plenty of people like me or this book would not have been published. This book saves so much time by compiling his greatest biographical narratives (which is what he is truly good at) into one succinct place.

The part that surprised me the most about my own reaction to this book was that the most difficult
Travis of NNY
It actually pains me to have to give this 2 stars. I guess essays aren't my cup of tea. I don't know why I even bothered to finish it.
Aug 01, 2013 sunspot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of these pieces were written while Isaacson was an editor with Time magazine. I found most of the pieces well written and was left wanting to know more. I have read his book on Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin. Isaacson writes in a clear and precise fashion. I can see that he works very hard to write in the idiom of the day and is not far from his natural oral presentation. I highly recommend hime for a quick sense for any topic - he seems to be well balanced and attempts to present the fac ...more
Nov 03, 2014 R.C. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Walter Isaacson is a great writer. I enjoy his books, when they are books. Had this book been a collection of original essays--in the sense they were written for this book--this would have been great. Instead, we get his curated collection of previous written articles, mostly dated, from highly respected news publications (Time, NYT, Wired, etc). Taken individually, they are great. But collectively?

Every article about Einstein had the same quips and anecdotes. Didn't know Einstein had a problem
Mar 09, 2010 Emily added it
Shelves: nonfiction, audio
Little disappointed in this. I know it's common to reuse pieces in books like this, but *all* of them are old. This wasn't so bothersome in the pieces on, say, Gandhi, Franklin and Einstein. But the Bill Gates and Woody Allen bits were hilariously out of date. The Bill Gates piece made me LOL by referencing Netscape. OH GEE I WONDER WHAT WILL HAPPEN THAR. Could at least add an update at the end. Ha.
Kevin Eikenberry
Walter Issacson is an accomplished biographer – he’s written bestselling and acclaimed books about Einstein, Kissinger, Ben Franklin and Steve Jobs. His most recent book, The Innovators, has been on the best seller list his year. He’s also been the CEO of CNN and the Editor of Time Magazine. Knowing all of this when I saw this book on a used bookstore shelf, I was intrigued (this book published in 2010).

I picked it up based on his skill and experience and the subtitle’s promise: Great Leaders, C
James Kenly
Oct 21, 2014 James Kenly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm probably late to the party in celebration of Walter Isaacson as an American writer. In fact, I'm definitely late to the party. I'd read his Steve Jobs biography as soon as it came out and his work on Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein are both "on my list" -- but this work has converted me from a casual fan to a devoted reader. "American Sketches" spans nearly his entire career, which includes a celebrated tenure at the helm of Time Magazine. Serving as a survey of his work across topics and, ...more
Jan 06, 2014 Greg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am typically not a fan of collections of journalistic pieces. While interesting on the one hand as a window into the commentary on current events juxtaposed by the hindsight of history, these pieces are generally not as well written as a work of history with the same goal in mind. That being said, Isaacson is a fantastic journalist and accomplished author of long form non-fiction. Therefore, this collection is worth the read. Organized into major topics, Isaacson is generally insightful and on ...more
Mar 04, 2015 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Walter Isaacson is an exemplary writer of biography and, in general, I have enjoyed several his works. This book is an excellent example.of his work. These are short, biograpical selection of some notable Americans. The subjects include long ones about Bill Gates, Benjamin Franklin, and a fascinating descriptionof the selection of te Man of the Century. Others include John Adams, Ronalld Reagan, Henry Luce, Woody Allen, and, of course, Albert Einstein. Several others are also included. A few of ...more
Nov 06, 2011 Julianabadescu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
so well written...and what an array of fascinating people this man has had the good fortune to be able to study and interview...
Bimal Patel
Mar 06, 2016 Bimal Patel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kinda late to put in a review considering the book was published in 2010 and even more irrelevant my review would be considering the fact that the author is Walter Isaacson, who is well known in literary world. That being said I am glad that I came across this book which browsing Isaacson's other books and was an impulse buy but the one that was on the mark. Basically this book is a collection of articles written on various celebrities, movie stars not included except Kennedy, for mostly Time Ma ...more
Aug 12, 2010 Kent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I had previously enjoyed Walter Isaacson's biography of Ben Franklin, so I was looking forward to reading this one. The format was less biographical and much more of a commentary as Isaacson compiled here a number of past editorials, essays and introductions written about presidents, cabinet secretaries, business executives, scientists, authors and Woody Allen. The Allen piece doesn't really fit in with the rest of he book, and was rather lame.

Isaacson is obviously enamored with Einstein's life,
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Jun 19, 2012 Labmom rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I guess Isaacson had to call this book "American" sketches because "Fawning Portraits of Rich White Men" wouldn't sell as well. Oh, there's a review of Hilary Clinton's autobiography thrown in for diversity, but as with most things written about her, it's mostly about her husband. Even the day-in-the-life sketch of Madeline Albright is mostly about Bill Clinton. The intro is 20 pages of Isaacson trying to convince us that, despite being a Harvard white man and a Rhodes Scholar who wrote for the ...more
Oct 29, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the fans of Walter Isaacson who may wish to delve into some of his essays and articles when he also worked for TIME! It has some great articles and brief biographical "sketches" on some of the more significant figures--mostly from the 20th Century--though Ben Franklin and John Adams are tossed in because of his interest in those subjects and his best selling biographies. If you remember the TIME magazine Top 100 people of the 20th Century, he wrote some of the sketches then too.

There is als
Apr 05, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When he is not being punctilious and condescending, Isaacson can also be revealing and even poetic. This collection of his essays (many from his tenure at TIME magazine) goes from the banal to the glorious, but such is typically the nature of journalism. Well worth your time, but don't be afraid to roam forward when Isaacson's topics seem either canned, or preachy.
It's funny: until listening to this audiobook, I didn't realize I'd read Isaacson's work from Time. I actually still have that copy of Time with Einstein on the cover, proclaiming him to be the Man of the Century. In any case, this is a collection of mostly previously-published pieces culled from the likes of Time and Wired. Isaacson has a tendency to insert himself in the story, and to keep from chasing or pushing the harder stories, so these are pretty much fluff pieces, but they're worth list ...more
Mar 22, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is composed of various op-eds, book reviews, essays, commentaries, and introductions to larger articles by the author, who was for many years the editor of TIME magazine. The first three quarters of the book is excellent, when he focuses on people. Some of the last quarter loses focus, but all are well-written.
Matthew Combs
Mar 01, 2010 Matthew Combs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the first half of the book, I kept saying that I wish the book went into greater detail about the "sketches." The book, a collection of forwards, reviews, articles, and short write-ups on some of the most influential faces of our time turned ended up being a great mix for those - like me - who tend to get bored by too many details. Although I might have preferred to have a few more details at the beginning, the depth explored for Gates and Einstein made up for it for the preliminary deficien ...more
Rosemary Farnsworth
These sketches are not as timely as they were when they were written.
They are well done. I read them because I had been very impressed with the biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Einstein written by this author.
Apr 23, 2015 Jeffrey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Some parts of the book were good, but it really turned me off with his liberal bias
especially at the beginning of the book praising our current president for comparing him to
Benjamin Franklin.
Brad Mclaws
This is a collection of short essays on a wide swath of americans from Benjamin Franklin to Woody Allen. Well written. Issacson is a a great biographer.
Nov 17, 2015 Serena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really insightful biographical sketches of amazing leaders. Felt like I really got to know them and how they are.
A good collection which could have used a bit more cleaning up to avoid repetition between the pieces.
Gig Gilligan
May 14, 2015 Gig Gilligan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2015
Informative, enjoyable, outdated.
I'm glad to have read this book and reviewed some past events and personalities. I did learn new details but the overall book was more of a review.
May 14, 2013 George rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
I was all ready to give this book five stars. Discussions about the author's choice individuals who influenced history in the 20th century: I learned a lot about Albert Einstein, for example. That's the reason that I got the book in the first place.

However....during the last 20% of the book; the author, a journalist, reverted to his favorite causes. One was how customers should pay for the content in the changing news business--a self licking ice cream cone; in my opinion. I thought that irrele
Sep 16, 2012 Janice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a collection of columns, book chapters, and other short pieces by Isaacson. Very interesting to learn more about what goes on with people and events. ESP enjoyed parts about Einstein and Bill Gates. Many interesting insights about the important influences in American society and culture and implications for the future. A little disconcerting that some parts were written quite a while ago. Would have appreciated more updated introductions. I've also read his bio of Ben Franklin which ...more
Stu Morgan
Jul 06, 2010 Stu Morgan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isaacson offers brief essays on leaders who greatly influenced history in very diverse ways. He wisely limits his efforts to meaningful moments starting with our founders and moving forward to our heavily technology driven present. Everyone should always have a book sitting around in case someone has just a few minutes to fill and this is the perfect book for that. Open to any ten page essay that interests you and you'll learn something meaningful. Put it in your waiting room, living room or eve ...more
Aug 19, 2012 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually was better than I expected for a collection of previously publshed articles. A collection on some of the most history changing Americans in time. The earliest "sketches" of Franklin and Adams were the weakest as I read those I could imagine a 3 star rating. But has the collection moves on the author provides better illustrations of the people, their personalities, their quirks and their contributions to the American way as it is today.
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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 Jobs"; "Einstein: His Life and Universe"; "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life"; and "Kissinger: A Biography," and the coauthor of "The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made." He lives in Washington, DC.
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“Kissinger would probably be outraged even if he reread his own memoirs, on the grounds that they are not favorable enough.” 0 likes
“As much as Henry Kissinger wanted to attribute historical movement to impersonal forces, he too conceded to "the difference personalities make".” 0 likes
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