Friday, July 4, 2014
Book Review: Ben Franklin: America's Original Entrepreneur, Franklin's Autobiography Adapted for Modern Times
You are holding the only modern adaptation of Benjamin Franklin's 18th century autobiography. It is at its heart one of the greatest business stories ever told. The most versatile Founding Father was a husband, a father, a writer, an inventor, a statesman, a fundraiser and a military leader. But in his mind, he was first and foremost a businessman.
Franklin's captivating adventures include his almost single-handed responsibility for establishing the first media empire, the first public library, the first fire brigade, the University of Pennsylvania, the first book club and the first franchise--all of which are detailed within these pages with Franklin's characteristic mix of humility and pride.
Franklin chronicles his own story, from his early days growing up in colonial Boston to his retirement from printing and growing involvement in national politics. It was during these years that he honed his management and leadership skills, acquired a fervent distaste for tyranny of all types, embraced a strong set of morals, and developed an uncompromising work ethic.
From the moment he fled his tyrannical master and set himself up as a printer in Philadelphia, all who came into contact with Franklin recognized his destiny. His wisdom transcends the ages--and his life lessons and insights are as compelling today as ever.
In honor of Independence Day I thought it would be good to review something very American. And what's more American than Ben Franklin's adapted autobiography? He was definitely one of our most well-rounded Founding Fathers. And did you know he started the very first book club? And the very first library?!? I'm convinced he would have heartily approved of our humble book blog and our efforts to introduce more books to people.
Since this was an adaptation of Franklin's original autobiography I really don't know how much was left out. I didn't actually learn much about his childhood or personal life--which are things I would find interesting--but this was still fascinating to read. The adaptation to modern language was helpful for me and I'm curious about how much of the syntax and language is Franklin's and how much was changed. There was even a little bit of dry wit (extremely dry--like old-man humor). I would actually like to go back and read the original now. But reading this first was a great intro for me since I'm betting it will make the original easier to understand. We'll see, though.
I really enjoyed reading this. And it was an easy read with short chapters that I could pick up whenever I wanted and put down quickly. Ok, so Franklin did skim over some questionable parts of his life (like the fact that he regularly visited prostitutes and had multiple illegitimate children) but, for the most part, the whole thing felt very honest. He briefly mentioned his vices and the fact that it did affect other aspects of his life and even sort of cautioned against following him in that way.
I love Franklin's theories. He seriously embodied what I want to be in life. Minus the "low women" and all that. But I loved his ideas for self-improvement. So inspiring. Admittedly, his voice did come across a bit self-important. But he wasn't nearly as self-important as a man who was that successful in life could have been. Actually, you might say he was humble. There were many instances mentioned where he stated a problem, worked hard to fix that problem and then immeasurably improved whatever it was. This man practically had a formulaic method for working hard. And he wrote it down so that people could follow it! If you want to learn how to get better at anything, go read this book. Franklin will tell you what to do, step by step. In fact, most of this book read like a business manual. I'm sure some of his methods are a bit outdated--since, you know, he invented them--but it would be a great resource for aspiring entrepreneurs. And authors. Once again, Franklin has a formulaic method for getting better at writing.
So not only was this autobiography intelligent and informative (and it made me feel a little smarter for reading it) but it was engaging and interesting. I suggest it to anyone and everyone.
Sexual Content: Mild (vague mentions of extra marital affairs and visiting prostitutes)
Violence: Mild (vague mentions of physical abuse)