Length: Approx 6.2 hrs
Reader: Andrew Julow
The book: Benjamin Franklin was the 18th century's picture of the potential of the New World: a great scientist, inventor, diplomat and writer, he was self-educated, practical, witty, and wise. This autobiography, written intermittently during Franklin's later life, was never finished; the narrative ends shortly after the French and Indian War. Therefore, there's no descriptions of some of Franklin's most famous accomplishments during the Revolutionary War, such as his contributions to the Declaration of Independence, his diplomatic mission to France, or his signing of the peace treaty with Britain. We also don't get any insight into Franklin's experiences during the formation of the U.S. Constitution, an account which have been a great historical document.
Despite these omissions, Franklin's story of his life is fascinating. His civic projects in Philadelphia introduced many of the urban conveniences we take for granted: street lighting, fire departments and lending libraries. Toward the end, he mentions some of his famous scientific experiments on electricity, which made him known throughout Europe.
Franklin writes his memoirs addressing his son, and so a good deal of fatherly advice comes through in the telling. The writing is not always riveting. Franklin tends to ramble about financial transactions and trivial matters. At other times, though, Franklin's famous wit enlivens the story and makes it clear why this is considered one of the greatest American autobiographies.
The reader: Andrew Julow reads with a clear, steady voice that conveys Franklin's homespun wisdom. Unfortunately, he does not make it clear when Franklin is being witty, something that is hard to pick out when the reader voices a sarcastic comment with a straight tone. As I've mentioned before, one of the most difficult things to read is another person's jokes, so I'll cut Julow a large amount of slack in this regard. The recording is beautifully quiet and Julow's voice comes through cleanly.