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During his 84-year life Benjamin Franklin was America's best scientist, inventor, publisher, business strategist, diplomat, and writer. He was also one of its most practical political thinkers. America's first great publicist, he carefully crafted his own persona, portrayed it in public and polished it for posterity. In this riveting new biography Walter Isaacson provides readers with a full portrait of Franklin's public and private life - his loyal but neglected wife, his bastard son with whom he broke over going to war with England, his endless replacement families and his many amorous, but probably unconsummated, liaisons. But this is not just a biography of Benjamin Franklin but rather a fascinating look at American and European political history at that time. Isaacson examines the run up to the Revolutionary War, the intimate relations between Britain, France and the colonies and the decisive events that led to America's independence. Just as David McCullough brought life to the historic figure of John Adams, Isaacson portrays Franklin in the flesh, showing readers how this radical man helped define America's national character and personality.
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Table of Contents

CONTENTSCHAPTER ONEBenjamin Franklin and the Invention of AmericaCHAPTER TWOPilgrim's Progress: Boston, 1706-1723CHAPTER THREEJourneyman: Philadelphia and London, 1723-1726CHAPTER FOURPrinter: Philadelphia, 1726-1732CHAPTER FIVEPublic Citizen: Philadelphia, 1731-1748CHAPTER SIXScientist and Inventor: Philadelphia, 1744-1751CHAPTER SEVENPolitician: Philadelphia, 1749-1756CHAPTER EIGHTTroubled Waters: London, 1757-1762CHAPTER NINEHome Leave: Philadelphia, 1763-1764CHAPTER TENAgent Provocateur: London, 1765-1770CHAPTER ELEVENRebel: London, 1771-1775CHAPTER TWELVEIndependence: Philadelphia, 1775-1776CHAPTER THIRTEENCourtier: Paris, 1776-1778CHAPTER FOURTEENBon Vivant: Paris, 1778-1785CHAPTER FIFTEENPeacemaker: Paris, 1778-1785CHAPTER SIXTEENSage: Philadelphia, 1785-1790CHAPTER SEVENTEENEpilogueCHAPTER EIGHTEENConclusionsCast of CharactersChronologyCurrency ConversionsAcknowledgmentsSources and AbbreviationsNotesIndex


About the Author

Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN, and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Leonardo da Vinci; The Innovators; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and the co-author of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He and his wife live in New Orleans. Facebook: Walter Isaacson, Twitter: @WalterIsaacson


Most Americans know a bit about Franklin, therefore it's fascinating to get Isaacson's take on our eccentric forefather. The best biographies include less-than-flattering traits, and Isaacson does that to perfection. Franklin was a womanizer, had an illegitimate son, was disliked by Abigail Adams, and did electrical experiments during lightning storms. In his youth, he favored slavery, yet by the end of his life he was elected president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. He loved socializing and lively conversation, preferring the company of friends rather than family (he lived away from his common-law wife for 15 years). Narrator Nelson Runger splendidly re-creates early American accents; he adeptly handles the diverse quotes within the vast text, helping keep listeners on track. Both Isaacson and Runger should be lauded; a required purchase for all libraries.-Susan G. Baird, Chicago Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

The New York Times Book Review A thoroughly researched, crisply written, convincingly argued chronicle. The New York Times In its common sense, clarity and accessibility, it is a fitting reflection of Franklin's sly pragmatism....This may be the book that most powerfully drives a new pendulum swing of the Franklin reputation. The New Yorker Energetic, entertaining, and worldly. The Washington Post Book World The most readable full-length Franklin biography available.

Following closely on the heels of Edmund Morgan's justly acclaimed Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson's longer biography easily holds its own. How do the two books differ? Isaacson's is more detailed; it lingers over such matters as the nature of Franklin's complex family circumstances and his relations with others, and it pays closer attention to each of his extraordinary achievements. Morgan's is more subtle and reflective. Each in its different way is superb. Isaacson (now president of the Aspen Institute, he is the former chairman of CNN and a Henry Kissinger biographer) has a keen eye for the genius of a man whose fingerprints lie everywhere in our history. The oldest, most distinctive and multifaceted of the founders, Franklin remains as mysterious as Jefferson. After examining the large body of existing Franklin scholarship as skillfully and critically as any scholar, Isaacson admits that his subject always "winks at us" to keep us at bay-which of course is one reason why he's so fascinating. Unlike, say, David McCullough's John Adams, which seeks to restore Adams to public affection, this book has no overriding agenda except to present the story of Franklin's life. Unfortunately, for all its length, it's a book of connected short segments without artful, easy transitions So whether this fresh and lively work will replace Carl Van Doren's beloved 1938 Benjamin Franklin in readers' esteem remains to be seen. Agent, Amanda Urban. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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