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Benjamin Franklin

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  321 ratings  ·  19 reviews
From Benjamin Franklin's beginnings as a journalist at age sixteen to his retirement from public affairs at eighty-two, there was no break in his activity and accomplishments. As a writer, inventor, and statesman, he was--and still is--unsurpassed by anyone in the range of his natural gifts and the important uses to which he put them.

In this monumental biography, which won

Hardcover, BOMC - The American Past series, 817 pages
Published 1980 by BOMC (first published January 1st 1938)
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4.19  · 
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 ·  321 ratings  ·  19 reviews

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Carol Bakker
Among my bibliophile friends, is a subset who enjoy historical biographies. A friend loaned me this bio of Benjamin Franklin, a 1939 Pulitzer winner that occupies >800 dense pages. I flinched, but Steve loved it, so I put my head down and tucked in.

Other than facts learned in grade school, my first exposure to Franklin was from his autobiography. What a man! Then I looked at him through John and Abigail Adams' eyes: lascivious and scandalous. What a jerk! So help me, after reading this I now
Nov 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Benjamin Franklin. 1939, by Carl Van Doran. This very detailed work must surely include at least one excerpt from every documented written word that Franklin ever composed. Carl Van Doran is skilled at framing the endless supply of witty quotes giving them context and definition. The in-congruencies between Franklin's own autobiography and Van Doran's biography are numerous and sometimes humorous. Written in his mid-eighties, Franklin shares in his autobiography that one of the secrets to his su ...more
Barbara Townsend
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm a fast reader, and this book is the only book ever to make me want to slow my reading and savor the author's words. Profound sentences I would read over and over again. It's a huge undertaking, to be sure, but worth every moment to read about about on of the Greatest Americans.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the best biography I've ever read, but still a very masterful interweaving of quotations from Franklin with the narrative of his life and influence. The first half was frustrating because it seemed mostly a re-stating and quoting of Franklin's autobiography, yet it makes sense that this would be the case, as Franklin's own account is really the only one existing.

Franklin himself was a fascinating individual and I love the curious way he looked at the world. He was never content to let some c
Jeff Keehr
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the longest books on tape I have undertaken, and it was very rewarding. Franklin was a wonderful man and lived a tremendously interesting and pivotal life. He is one of the founding fathers, so the country's birth is woven into his own life story. He led an exemplary life, and I grew so attached to him during the telling that I was moved to tears at the moment of his death. His story reminded me of Alfred Sloan because both were intimately involved in the blossoming of a trade (p ...more
Marie Carmean
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an absolute masterpiece. One of the best biographies I have ever read about anyone. It is a very long book, but for good reason. There is so much detail about every aspect of Franklin's life, from his boyhood to his time as elder statesman. I learned so much about this amazing man, and came to love him dearly, as so many have done before me, because of every wonderful page of writing. I can't imagine how much work writing this incredible volume had to have taken, and how much resear ...more
Helen Azar
Mar 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really nice biography which uses lots of contemporary primary sources (like diary excerpts) as opposed to only citing the usual sources like Franklin's autobiography written much later in his life, etc.
Joseph Wycoff
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
Van Doren's biography relies heavily on long passages from the many personal letters and public writings of Benjamin Franklin. The strength of Van Doren's approach rests in the selections he offers in support of the modest narrative presented to the reader. Three aspects of Franklin's character and life become most prominent in the course of Van Doren's work. First, Franklin was an indefatigable natural philosopher who never ceased to engage in research and discussions of the most significant di ...more
Mike Hohrath
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am fascinated by the life and times of Benjamin Franklin, he was born in 1706 and left Boston in 1722 to establish himself in Philadelphia. He established himself as one of America's first men of letters and as a eminent scientist. He was the first American to get recognition from Europe for his prodigious genius and talent. Through out the story, I was blown away by the breadth and depth of his interest in almost everything.
His accomplishment are many, they are scientific, political, and lit
David Jacobson
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This biography tells the story of the remarkable life of Benjamin Franklin by closely following textual sources—during his early life mostly hewing to his own writings before expanding, during the revolutionary years, to include his extensive correspondence. In fact, I would venture that at least 50% of the text in this book is in the form of direct quotation, a much higher fraction than in any biography I have read before. For me, this approach worked well, since I went in with a strong interes ...more
May 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: may-2012
A comprehensive look at the man. NOT easy to read or follow. Once I figured out that it wasn't organized chronologically, rather by subject-each chapter starting chronologically on a different topic (loosely) it was easier to follow, but not terribly exciting reading.
Jun 10, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
More work than fun. Franklin is an amazing man, but this is not an amazing book. Truman the man was not half as interesting as Franklin the man, but Truman the book (by McCullough) is twice as interesting as this book! If you're interested in Franklin, find a different book.
extensive biography of Franklin with quotes
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Way too in depth. I don't need to know every breath he took. Also, not a good narrative.
Brian Beakley
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still my favorite biography of Franklin (other than the Autobiography). Very long, but generally a pleasure to read.
Jul 14, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
National Review recommendation.
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Carl Clinton Van Doren was a U.S. critic and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer. He was the brother of Mark Van Doren and the uncle of Charles Van Doren.