Inside The Look Book

For the Benjamin

Republished Franklin biography a real page turner.

If the green-toned, wallet-sized ones are any indication, many people appreciate a good portrait of Ben Franklin. And while there are plenty from which to choose (including the Founding Father’s formidable autobiography and books by….), the recently republished rendition by historian Thomas Fleming is a good introduction not only to the man himself but also to the world in which he lived (and, many would say, helped shape).

Ben Franklin: Inventing America (Quarto) is a relatively slim tome that takes readers not only through the life of Founder Franklin, but also through the lives of and interactions with the people who impacted his path (and vice versa). From his own son William and grandson William Temple Franklin to other notable colleagues such as General-turned-President George Washington, eponymous heir to a Colonial bounty Thomas Penn, Pennsylvania Governor William Keith, and some of Franklin’s many female friends and acquaintances (many of whom are depicted in a helpful character gallery at book’s end, which comes just before an equally helpful timeline that follows and guides the book), Fleming’s well-researched volume reveals the drama that followed Franklin both internally and externally. As such, the book reads as much as a soap opera as a history, with wives and lovers, double-crossing children, and danger at every turn. Along the way, however, Franklin is still able to invent bifocals, found the first university in the New World, and- oh yes- help forge a new nation.

Other than somewhat odd illustrations at the head of each chapter (which divide the book into easy to digest pieces such as “The Apprentice,” “The Postmaster,” “The Revolutionary” and “The Joker”), the images that fill the book are informative and clearly sought after as well, making it clear that Fleming’s diligent homework may very well make yours easier.

So, even if you have ne’er a picture of the great statesman and scholar in your wallet or on your wall, adding this book to your bookshelf is a fine start indeed!

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