Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin

I took a break from the incredibly short Economics in One Lesson to read Walter Isaacson’s epic biography Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, and it was well worth it. I’m not done talking about Economics in One Lesson, not by any means, but for some reason I had the urge to finally read the Benjamin Franklin biography, and since it has been sitting idle on my bookshelf for the better part of 3 years, I figured it was time.

I had read Isaacson’s work on Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein, and since I enjoyed those I always knew I would likely enjoy his take on the life of Benjamin Franklin, I just never knew I would enjoy as much as I did. I’m not a particularly fast reader, and since his other biographies had taken me multiple weeks to get through, I was never ready to commit myself to the Franklin edition. Well, I was hooked and plowed through it in about 1 week.

For anyone interested in modern day politics, particularly those in the United States, it is a great idea to go back and read about the founding fathers of America. Often times, when zealots and pundits are trying to make a point, they will often quote a founding father as if it is the gospel in which this country was formed, and therefore cannot be argued with. The reality, however, is that America’s founding fathers were equally divisive as politicians are today. It’s almost a miracle that America, post-Revolutionary War, was able to draw up our most sacred Constitution.

For me, my knowledge of Franklin was limited to what I learned early in my school days; the kite and his discovery of electricity in the clouds, the first public library, and later his work on creating the country’s founding documents. What I did not know about was his earlier days as a printer, author, and newspaper editor and the influence he was able to wield from this work. I also did not fully understand or appreciate Franklin’s involvement prior to the Revolutionary War as America’s first diplomat in London, spending most of his time trying to prevent a conflict. Then making a short trip back to Philadelphia to assist Thomas Jefferson in writing the Declaration of Independence, only to head back to Europe, France, to continue his work as a diplomat in securing America’s first alliance. After the war, and the icing on the cake, Franklin’s work during the Constitutional Convention is nothing short of brilliance that has likely not been seen since.

If you like American history, or if you just like interesting people who, against extraordinary odds are able to succeed at so much, read this book.

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