Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Autobiography and Other Writings” as Want to Read:
The Autobiography and Other Writings
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Autobiography and Other Writings

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,756 Ratings  ·  128 Reviews
This new edition of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is built around J. A. Leo Lemay and P. M. Zall's definitive text. Louis P. 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 nineteenth and twentieth century society and culture. He prompts students ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 7th 1986 by Penguin Classics (first published January 1st 1791)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Autobiography and Other Writings, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Autobiography and Other Writings

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
One of the stories that I like from his autobiography is when he decides not to drink beer while working as a printer in London and all the other printers in the workshop are mystified why he doesn't make any type setting mistakes in the afternoon like they do.

Sadly Franklin's own life story dries up long before the interesting stuff of revolutionary politics, swanning about in Paris pretending to be some-kind of sage from the forest as opposed to coming from one of North Americas largest urban
Kendel Christensen
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jose Gaona
Nov 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-ficción

(...) "Se trata de un relato que va de más a menos en intensidad y cuyo interés se diluye como un azucarillo. Además, no incluye los momentos más interesantes de la vida del protagonista, como son los relacionados con la declaración de independencia. Y porque, con todo, uno no puede dejar de tener la sensación de que el personaje ha sido glorificado, enaltecido e hinchado como modelo de conducta a raíz de su importancia como figura mítica en la constitució
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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...
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Although I frequently read non-fiction books, this would not be normally be one in which I was interested, but as a book club choice, I gave it a try. The writing is clear and, even with the 18th century spelling and sentence construction, easy to read. Ben Franklin clearly intended to write a full autobiography, since he gives a great deal of detail to his early life including his thoughts on character, religion, and economy. Though he was not schooled for more than 2 years, he read widely, tau ...more
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read. The autobiography benefits tremendously from being written as a letter to his son, as the conversational tone makes it easy to read and gives you a sense of Ben Franklin as a person. The back half of the book is selected writings of Franklin's on a variety of topics from family life to science to diplomacy.
I'd heartily recommend this.
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
"Y, dada la posición de los Estados Unidos, como punto de referencia económico, político y cultural, el influjo sobre los Estados Unidos se convierte pronto en el influjo de los Estados Unidos sobre otros países y culturas. No puede comprenderse el mundo occidental de hoy sin una referencia a los Estados Unidos; y no puede comprenderse gran parte de la 'mentalidad norteamericana' sin hacer referencia a Franklin". (4).

"Sin embargo, sus escritos más difundidos han dado lugar a que sea hoy conside
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
Ashutosh Kumar
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the finest autobiographies I have read. If one needs a peek into what American literature sounded actually was in the eighteenth century, this book is a must.
Additionally, reading this biography would strike a fine difference between narrative style of a politician and a philosopher. One realizes upon reading this piece of art that the American English language has undergone innate changes in its composition and that flexibility of placing verbs and nouns has been formalized greatly in En
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to believe
he never fucked up.
Miguel Morales
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Para mi persona, uno de los mejores libros que he leído. Si bien carece de forma, pues son unas series de cartas que, al final, no concluyen con la vida de Franklin, no deja de ser una experiencia maravillosa que enseña mucho sobre el fundador del espíritu capitalista, el que se basa en la laboriosidad, la frugalidad, y la multiplicación del capital.

Franklin, tan regido por sus virtudes, comete durante su vida muchas contrariedades que no intentó ocultar. A cambio, documenta estos hechos.

Lo únic
Andrew Corrie
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
The volume includes the Autobiography (the part I have read, as per my intention) and a collection of essays, journal entries, newspaper articles, and one scientific paper. It's actually hard to imagine a more complete and wonderful human being than Benjamin Franklin: craftsman, writer, inventor, philosopher, politician, statesman, &c., &c. His is a pragmatic world: he boils down religion into the parts which are useful in promoting virtue and being kind to others and then the stuff peop ...more
Linda Wagner
The earlier part of Franklin's autobiography is filled with anecdotal material from his life that is very interesting. For instance, did you know he is credited as the first American swimming coach? Initially, he started to write his story in the form of a letter to his son and he includes more personal stories. Later, someone suggested to Franklin that his life might be of interest to the public, so the last part of the book got very dry, with more factual information about his role in public a ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I ran across the autobiography of Franklin in a couple of places independently recently, which I took as a sign I should probably read it. Very interesting contemporaneous take on life in colonial America. Of course, his plan for self-improvement through the pursuit of his 13 virtues is important and makes me want to be a better person. It is a tough read, though, given that it's written in the language of the time. I'm glad I read it, but I'm equally glad that I'm not facing the prospect of rea ...more
Benjamin Franklin was quite possibly America's greatest citizen. The sum of his inventions, political influence and writings are incomparable. This autobiography and other writings gives a snapshot into his life, part self-help book, part history book, part philosophical, religious, and political treatise. He doesn't dwell on any subject to long but is still able to elucidate on a number of topics. So much knowledge packed into so few pages. Simply brilliant.
When reading and learning about the Autobiography I not only came to appreciate its influence, but also fall for Franklin's homespun advice and carefully crafted image. His discussion of virtues I found particularly interesting, but also reminiscent of Aristotle. I would very much encourage my fellow Americans to at least learn about the Autobiography to appreciate its social and artistic influence (warts and all by the way).
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
A must read for anyone fascinated in a life as a Polymath.
Michael Murphy
I think I'll skip Autobiographies in the future... stories told by others about a person seem to be more interesting.
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book can be divided into two parts, the first part contains the autobiography part which is filled with inventions he made during his scientific career. He had mentioned more about the people that he met. In the second part he has talked about his experiments, his various letter to people (one letter which has been written in the form of constitution portrays the relationship between husband and wife is on the lighter note). Overall this book can be termed as the right mix of description of ...more
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
Sadie Stone
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Sadie Stone
Book Review #5
In Benjamin Franklins "Autobiography and other Writings" book, I was captured back in time to when Benjamin Franklin lived. Benjamin Franklin was a very accomplished man, and had many accomplishments in his life. Franklin was one of the founding fathers of our nation, and contributed to the development of our nation.
One thing that I really liked throughout Benjamin Franklins writing, is his use of vocabulary. There are many examples of this in his autobiography. "Its
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think we all learned a little about Benjamin Franklin in our history classes, such as his experiments with lightning, his inventions, and some of his public service achievements, as well as his involvement with the Continental Congress. But I was especially interested in his Plan of Conduct as well as his list of Virtues which he tried to follow. According to his autobiography, he was a great believer in industry, frugality, prudence, knowledge. He believed that in order to succeed, you needed ...more
Mar 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
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
Hanna Numbers
Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is a VERY uninteresting book.

As you may know, Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod and signed the Declaration of Independence. This book goes more into detail about his life and his opinion of things, although some of this is written in the form of letters which I find incredibly boring and could not stay interested. Included in this book is part of his journal in which he writes about his sea travels. This is not interesting at all though. He mostly tal
May 08, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jan 09, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Any book that is only 335 pages and takes me two months to read is probably not one I enjoyed much. I have struggled through though and now I can cross it off the list as being complete!

Mr. Franklin, despite being so lauded and such a revered public figure of American history, failed to endear himself to me through either his own autobiography or through the selected readings of his printings and personal letters. The fact that, by his own admission, he wrote not what was true but what he thoug
Oct 07, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Few individuals have obtained the legendary status of Benjamin Franklin. As such, one can only imagine what sort of charming stories are contained in his Autobiography: one of the most widely read books of its time.

Unfortunately, there is not really much delight in reading Franklin’s Autobiography. Though it starts with an interesting account of his childhood, Autobiography mostly reads like Franklin’s life advice. Doubly unfortunate, his advice is so obvious and tedious that it borders on what
Tim Owens
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The concept of an autobiography wasn’t around in Franklin’s time so the book is an accumulation of texts he sent to friends. His story begins with his birth in Boston in 1706 and ends in 1771. He died in 1790 so the last 20 years of his life are not accounted for in the so-called autobiography, so he has no account of the Revolution, his time living in France and what else I may not know about his life.

The account is irritating to read because Ben liberally uses capital letters in the middle of
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Autobiographies
  • The Portable Thomas Jefferson
  • Selected Speeches and Writings
  • Women's Indian Captivity Narratives
  • All Rivers Run to the Sea
  • The Portable Voltaire
  • The Proper Role of Government
  • The Mainspring of Human Progress
  • Writings
  • Reagan: A Life in Letters
  • The Life of Saint Teresa of Ávila by Herself
  • Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings
  • Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth
  • Rights of Man, Common Sense and Other Political Writings
  • The Four Voyages: Being His Own Log-Book, Letters and Dispatches with Connecting Narratives
  • Epitome of Copernican Astronomy and Harmonies of the World
  • The Wealth of Nations, Books 1-3
  • The Classic Slum: Salford Life in the First Quarter of the Century
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...
“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do. Keimer” 1 likes
“He agreed with the captain of a New York sloop for my passage, under the notion of my being a young acquaintance of his that had got a naughty girl with child, whose friends would compel me to marry her, and therefore I could not appear or come away publicly.” 1 likes
More quotes…