The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
3 words: literary, straightforward, ambitious
Before listening to his autobiography, here’s what I could’ve told you about Benjamin Franklin:
- That electricity thing with a kite
- That quest for self-perfection
- Philadelphia boy
- Dude went to France
- Poor Richard’s Almanack
- That really bad hair
As I listened, though, I remembered what I’d known and forgotten:
- Founded one of the first lending libraries in America
- Worked as a printer
- Known for his writing (oh, thank goodness!)
- Self-made man
And I learned things I never knew:
- Dude was a wise, wily politician
- Not into church-going
- Founded a fire department in Philadelphia
I found his autobiography a rather uplifting reading experience. Granted, his life could be considered a success, but he describes his mistakes with honesty and humility. He owns that crap.
And his writing is clean and surprisingly straightforward for its day. I was prepared for all kinds of flowery speech, but he preserved us from that fate. (This might be one of the reasons this book is still so widely read.)
My favorite section was the part where he describes his plan to become a better person by observing the 13 virtues he identified and worked on, one by one: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility.
Oh, I liked this part a lot.
I had all kinds of happy little flashbacks to reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Her formula for happiness is “being happier requires you to thinking about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.”
It appeals to me so strongly, that “atmosphere of growth” stuff. And Franklin’s life embodied that concept.
So hanging out with him while he told his life story was pretty darn inspiring. While I scrambled eggs, he described figuring out how to set up a fire department and save lives, all while living a life of frugal, tranquil sincerity.
So yeah, inspiring and enjoyable. Glad I read it.