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The Autobiography and Other Writings

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  994 ratings  ·  69 reviews
"Writing has been of Great Use to me in the Course of my Life," Benjamin Franklin said in his famous Autobiography. With characteristically calculated understatement, he attributed his enormous and varied successes to "my having learnt a little to scribble."

This collection of Franklin's works begins with letters sent from London (1757-1775) describing the events and dipl...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 7th 1986 by Penguin Classics (first published January 1st 1950)
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Community Reviews

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Am I the only one who has a hard time enjoying listening to someone who clearly loves himself so dearly go on and on and on about himself? I mean, he wrote like 46 autobiographies. Sure he may have been a genius, but I'd just as soon other people tell me about it.
Kendel Christensen
Mar 08, 2011 Kendel Christensen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Kendel by: Julia Shumway
Shelves: for-posterity
This book, though obviously an unfinished work from Franklin's life, is a gem. Is so open, so unassuming, as to make one forget that we are being tutored by one of the greatest diplomats of all time. It feels like reading a neighbor's personal blog. It is full of words to live by. Such as:

“the wisest man will receive lights and improve his progress, by seeing detailed the conduct of another wise man.”
(Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, 59-60)

“I made it a Rule to forbear all direct Contradiction...more
Supposedly, I am a distant descendent of Ben Franklin so when I saw this used book, I picked it up for $1. My thinking was that the autobiographical writings might be of interest since I would be reading what Benjamin, himself, wrote. I wasn't disappointed. Being a writer (among many other things) by profession, he chronicled his life from early boyhood to old age in a letter to his son. This letter was fun and I totally enjoyed it but it only encompassed 181 pages of the book. Other writings fo...more
I don't know why but I get a real kick out of reading Ben Franklin. Not only are you getting opinions and observations straight from the horse's mouth when it comes to the 18th century, you're getting it from an oddly amusing and very pivotal figure in American history. What first appears quite stuffy is actually great entertainment...
After multiple readings of this book, I have to say that I am coming to agree with DH Lawrence's assessment of Franklin (quite possible the only thing I agree with him about). "I admire him.... I do not like him." Franklin is the quintessential American, getting on in the world, active in affairs, inventing, politicking, organizing, reading, but never really thinking all that much. Oh, he claims his library increased the thinking of Americans. Yes, he wrote many things and connected lightning an...more
It's hard to believe
he never fucked up.
This was a delightful experience. I'm amazed at how much more modern his writing seems than I'd have previously thought. Franklin turns a witty phrase, and I read with a dictionary close by, but it was in no way dense. His account of how he taught himself to be a more skillful writer by imitating admired works, shuffling & reordering passages, etc. was fascinating. Later, he dares to edit lines of a Pope poem!

The introduction by a Franklin scholar is a helpful key to interpreting the man's m...more
Michele Cacano
In short, the autobiographical writings are amazing. Benjamin Franklin has an ease of communication that allows his thoughts and emotions to flow freely from the pen into the minds of even the most modern readers. I find him to be intelligent beyond all expectation, wise beyond his time, and highly entertaining.

The other writings.... well, i am grateful for much of it, as it illuminated circumstances and peripheral information related to Benjamin Franklin's writings. But some of it trudged throu...more
Franklin was the foremost scientist on the planet in 1750. And that is just a small facet of a great man. His autobiography provides a great insight into the life and times of colonial America, in which he played a leading part. One gets a first hand look at the French and Indian [Seven Years':] War, as fought in North America on the administrative front.
What is surprising is the self-absorbtion of Franklin himself. One sees a man who is totally consumed with himself, and thinking of himself a...more
This was one of the hardest books to get through but it was pretty interesting to learn so much more about one of the great men who shaped America. I always knew Ben Franklin did a lot of things but I really had no idea how much he managed to accomplish in his lifetime. He was one of the early supporters of uniting the 13 colonies into one nation which was new info to me. I knew about bifocals and electricity, but I didn't know about the library, hospital, militia, and university he founded. I l...more
First, let me state that I have not read this entire book. I read the autobiography, and aside from possibly going back and reading his advice to a friend on choosing a mistress, it's all I intend to read.

Now, parts of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography were very interesting, particularly when he's initiating fairly new social services for Philadelphia. (i.e.: circulating libraries, volunteer fire departments, and a university). However, I was very disapointed that despite writing in the 1780s,...more
Patrick McCoy
Benjamin Franklin is a giant of American history-the only man to sign all four major documents of the founding of the United States. He figures in prominently in the John Adams miniseries on HBO, not to mention his Poor Richard and electricity fame. This led me to finally read The Autobiography and Other Writings of Benjamin Franklin. The hallmark of the Penguin Classics are the knowledgeable forwards and carefully edited edition and this one is no exception-Kenneth Silverman has done an excelle...more
The highlight was his interaction with George Whitefield, and Franklin's ability to laugh at himself as he's won over (to some degree) by the evangelist's startling preaching and oratory. As Whitefield supposed, Franklin seems a likable guy, though an apostate disguised in Christian virtue and self-betterment (along with some others of the early American heroes). In Franklin's words, "He [Whitefield] used, indeed, sometimes to pray for my conversion but never had the satisfaction of believing th...more
Linda Cowell
I stand amazed at the acomplishments of Benjamin Franklin. He was self taught, having finished only grammer school, yet he initiated the first lending libraries, fire departments, newspaper chains and militias in the "colonies". He designed and built paved streets with drainage and streetlamps. He invented the Franklin stove, an improved design over existing models. As a representative from Pennsylvania to the Assembly of the American Colonies, he introduced a plan for the unification of the col...more
This is a book that could be considered a classic "to read"; and I agree, it is worth the time. Because Franklin has had such a tremendous influence on this country, and could be considered near genius given his additions to invention and thought to society, his autobiography is an important source to not only better understand Franklin, but perhaps the United States as well. That being said, the autobiography reads like Franklin's personal journal (as parts actually are) and as such much of the...more
Matt Ambs
The account of Franklin's humble beginnings, his frugal and industrious nature, and his rise to acclaim within New England. Perhaps the most interesting section of this book lies in the personal letters of Franklin, depicting, at times, a more pious and sincere account of the man. Among these letters lie the writings of an inventor, a politician, a humanist, and a deist. The comical anecdotes and accurate accounts of the brutality of humanity, though related often with much satirical shading, de...more
Dull. Hard to believe this was written by a great man. Reads like the maunderings of someone in their dotage.
Really easy read overall. It was very interesting to see what he saw as his own personal failings. In reading it I got the impression that he didn't really see them as faults at all but wanted to portray them as such for the dumbass reader. I don't quite know the correct term to describe it but it's like self-deprecating humor that makes you look charming for poking fun at yourself. The only difference was that his mentioning of personal failing wasn't told as a joke. Anyway I found it funny and...more
I have enjoyed getting to know Benjamin Franklin. He is truly a modern Socrates.

Ben Franklin is the model of a Renaissance Man, and he had an astute understanding of Human nature.

I enjoyed his sense of humor, and his wisdom is just as applicable today it was over 300 years ago.

As I'm reading more biographies than I have in the past, I'm beginning to notice patterns in the lives of the great men in the world. Their vision is never disconnected into one subject of life, but their genius spills ov...more
Steve Arntz
The book is a must read for anyone interested in American History. It was really interesting to read first hand accounts someone who was so involved in the founding of our nation and its culture. I was bored, however, through the first 65 pages and towards the end it got fairly dry as well. I was fascinated by the portion of the book that talks about his industry, inventions, and other endeavors as one of our first great citizens. Half the book was a five star and the other half was a two star,...more
Franklin is a fascinating man and his writings tell you much about the way he developed into the legend we all know.

I especially love the portions about how he devoted himself to learning - especially writing - and how he tried to make himself a better person.

He isn't perfect, though, and his treatment of his wife at the end of her life is particularly troubling. Still, there's a lot to gain from reading his thoughts on education and religion and life in general. And, if nothing else, it's a fas...more
Tom Darrow
This version of the book has several things to offer for hardcore and softcore American readers. For both, it has the "biography" which many kids used to read (at least parts of)in grade school . I still remember the story of young Ben arriving in Philly with the bread under his arms as he met his future wife...

Anyway... for those who are more historical... this book is a good all around view into Franklin's life. The editors have chosen a couple of works from each stage of his life which are, h...more
Garrett Nelson
I really enjoyed a few parts of the book like Ben Franklin's virtues, and his thoughts on being frugal and hard work. It is always interesting to read about history and this being a very important figure in American history made it more fascinating but it still was very hard to bare with. The author did a good job at bringing the text a little bit up to date but it was still hard to understand. If I had to read this again I would defiantly pick up a lot more, but I also learned a great deal abou...more
Jul 30, 2014 Readerbug marked it as to-read
Mary Lou
I think I learned more about Franklin from the "Other Writings" than maybe his actual autobiography. A powerful man. Known as very personable and likable by people all over the world of America and Europe. But the one relationship that should have been paramount above all else he seemed to fail miserably. I wonder that poor Deborah was so lonely. Even after her having a stroke, Franklin did very less than even attempt to write to her. Kind of sad considering all else he accomplished in his life.
I find some things about Ben Frank to be very inspiring. Other things -- like the blatant racism and sexist portions of this book -- I wasn't so into. I know he lived in his times and all of that good b.s., but I still don't have to like it when someone writes something fucked up, be it last year or 300 years ago. I think the best part of Mr. Franklin is his 13 Virtues (which I want to paint on my wall) and the fact that he describes my city in very good detail. Philly is a wonder!
At his hand, this book reads quickly and ends aburptly at a point in his life I would have liked to know more about. He speaks little of his family life and inventions and humbly hints at his civic roles. I found his methods of persuasion quite genius and his determination to aquire perfection extremely compelling. I'm not sure in the form of autobiography he can catalog his true successes and achievements especially after learning something of his quest for humility.
Jul 01, 2012 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: class-text
I actually finished this on 19 May but was hoping to write a serious review. That is clearly not going to happen anytime soon.

This was an amazing book, not simply for the autobiography, but for all of the additional materials. Franklin was amazing and a master of personas. He really was the quintessential American--before there even was such a thing. I would love to sit for an hour or two over some coffee or a few beers but I'm not sure he ever really had time for such.
Brennan Beck
Had to read it for school so I pretty much skimmed through it. It was alright. A little dry for my tastes in an autobiography. Autobiographies are a rare opportunity to express your thoughts and feels involved in your actions, but all we basically got from Ben was "I did this... then I did this..." But I guess the lack of passion and expression goes pretty well with his philosophy for a virtuous life.
Dec 28, 2008 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: The entire world
Recommended to David by: Christian Smith III
"Write something worth reading, or do something worth writing." This Benjamin Franklin Quote has stuck with me since I've heard it. After reading his autobiography you can understand the philosophy behind this quote because everything he wrote about was meant to inform or educate, and the life he lived has been an influence on an entire nation or two. His words are life lessons for success.
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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 of Benjamin Franklin 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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