Ben Franklin And Reading Without Looking

In the abstract listening to audiobooks seems a good way to make the most of my daily drive to-and-from Hartford. I hope they’re not all like this one.

I am reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin. Actually, not exactly. I am listening to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin. The book on six CDs was a Chrismukkah gift from Helaine.

I am a huge fan of Benj’s. He was an inventor, scientist, publisher, author, politician and diplomat.

More than once I’ve run down that list of Franklin’s accomplishments and added, “and he was still screwing around with young French women when he was in his 80s.”

Isaacson says that’s not true! Actually he says it twice. Someone’s got a guilty conscience.

There’s a lot in Connecticut named after our founders which leads to a bunch of recognizable names. Roger Sherman (Sherman Avenue) was mentioned. So was Silas Deane (Silas Deane Highway).

According to Isaacson, Deane was a crook! Maybe we should refrain from filling the potholes on SDH this year?

I’m not sure if I like this method of ‘reading.’ It is ploddingly s-l-o-w. The book will take over seven hours to complete.

A few times the book has been playing, but I drifted off and was thinking of something else. Some of that can be attributed to Isaacson’s prose which is less than inviting. Some credit also goes to Boyd Gaines who has a beautiful voice, but left me wanting more emotion and less enunciation.

Gaines also reads direct quotes from foreign speakers in an ‘appropriate’ faux accent. Is this common? It seemed cheesy.

The book misses the parts of Franklin I wanted to know better. That’s my real disappointment. Franklin was a clever man. This portrayal reduces him to an accomplished pol.

In the abstract listening to audiobooks seems a good way to make the most of my daily drive to-and-from Hartford. I hope they’re not all like this one.

14 thoughts on “Ben Franklin And Reading Without Looking”

  1. Spent my high school years reading Cliff Notes, rather than the required literature. My bad. Now that I’m not required to read the classsics, I’m enjoying them on audio books. Covered some Dickens, Hardy, Austen, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dumas, Bronte, etc. Sorry I missed them when I was younger. But I’m sure enjoying them as I drive around SW Florida.

  2. Hey Geoff! I have two free Audible three month memberships to give away. No strings or credit cards required. I have been a member for a number of years and love listening to books. You get three books free. Email me if you want one of them. Christy from Milford.

  3. Rest assured they’re not all like that. I’ve been listening to audio books for years, some I like the reader and some I don’t understand and thus don’t like the book. It depends who the reader is, really. I find that listening to my audio books in the car while driving to work or shopping or whatever makes the commute less stressful and I really get into the story (usually once I arrive at my destination). Don’t give up, get more audio books and find your favorite reader once you do, you’ll love it!

  4. Books on CD have saved my husband his sanity for many years. He used to commute to Danbury from Hamden, now just to Shelton. My kids also love them. Many days they are up in their rooms hanging out listening. There are lots of great books out there. The best reader in my family’s opinion is Jim Dale on the Harry Potter series.

  5. I too find Franklin an interesting character. The thing I found most intriguing was his reason for dis-inheriting his son. A real feet of clay moment.

  6. I talk to a lot of people who listen to books while driving. I think it is almost as dangerous as texting. To enjoy a book, you have to pay attention. You should be paying attention to where your driving.

  7. I love listening to audio books. I drive from Sturbridge, MA to Newington, CT everyday – over an hour each way and audio books have saved me from severe frustration and boredom. There are certainly narrators that have made me want to pull out my hair, but I have found some audio versions that pull me in better than reading the physical copies.

  8. Next assignment: Walter Isaacson’s bio of Steve Jobs. It explains the man far beyond the bounds of a headline or a sound byte.

    Happy New Year, Geoff and all the Foxes,


  9. Suggestion for an e-listen: Bill Bryson’s In A Sunburned Country. lOL funny. Also, a Walk in the Woods…not as funny, but based in the US instead of Australia. Both are travel books, but don’t seem like it. You can focus on somethinelse for a few minutes and not lose track of anything.

  10. Geoff, have you tried Ben’s autobiography? Its interesting, but the language seems true to his day. I have it on my kindle, not that that makes a difference, other than it was free, along with a lot of other classics I cliff-noted my way through in high school, eons ago.

  11. FUNNY! I am also listening to this very same book (on CD 17 of the unabridged) after having recently listened to Isaacson’s Jobs bio. I was a little disappointed to find that unlike the Jobs bio the Franklin bio seems heavily weighted towards the last couple decades of his life. At least insofar as offering the little detail stories that can be found sprinkled evenly throughout the Jobs bio. Anyway, happy listening. I’ll be moving onto his Einstein book next. Aloha!

  12. You might want to check out Neil Gaiman’s new audiobook imprint on After suffering through bad audiobook versions of his books and hearing many horror stories from fellow authors and readers about bad readings and weirdly abridged versions, he decided to do it himself and get actors who actually know how to read and make the results engaging to read his friends’ books. There are only a few titles so far, but the list will grow a lot this year.

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