Brief Book Review: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

He drank on, however, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his wages every Saturday night for that muddling liquor; an expense I was free from. And thus these poor devils keep themselves always under.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is the perfect book to fall asleep to. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but Franklin’s undulating narrative succeeded in easing my brain away from the events of the day and into a restful slumber. Written by the man himself between 1771 to 1790, he spends the majority of the book recounting happenings from his life, and making observations about himself and those around him. For such a prominent figure of history, it’s refreshing to experience the man in pure form, not clouded or shaped by the legacy he would go on to create.

Franklin’s writing lacks drama, and instead projects a sense of balance and perspective which contributes to the man’s relevancy even today. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is helped greatly by being displaced out of time, and is a space of serenity insulated from today’s modern toils. Unfinished, Franklin’s biography doesn’t follow a consistent narrative thread, and feels more like a collection of anecdotes that encourages one to dive in and out.

I’ll need to read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin a second time if I want to experience everything the book has to offer. Yet I always looked forward to spending some twilight time with Benjamin Franklin, asking myself as I picked up the book: ‘I wonder what Franklin’s up to today?’ I don’t think even he could have foreseen his personal memoirs being read by a 21-year-old lying in bed in 2017 on an interactive touch device. And I expect his writing will continue to be read far into the future.


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