My apologies to the unknown library patron whom I forced to return this book so that I could check it out, right before the libraries shut down indefinitely. If I'd known, you could have kept it.
First, this book is long and surprisingly dull for a popular biography. Second, as of page 92, where I finally decided to quit, there was remarkably little historical detail - it focuses in on the biographical aspects to the point that it's almost divorced from history, unusual for a biography of someone who lived more than 200 years ago. Third, it is chock-full of repetitive adoration of Franklin: barely a page passes without our being told that he was pragmatic and that whatever he's doing at the moment illustrates his pragmatic character. Or earnest, canny, frugal, etc. etc. This is especially jarring given that much of the behavior described isn't actually admirable: driving another newspaper editor out of business to clear the field to launch his own paper; writing anonymous letters to his own paper criticizing his competitors and praising himself, including for his restraint in not criticizing his competitors; allowing his wife to be openly nasty to his son, her stepson; and publishing a piece a few weeks after his marriage about how wives need to serve their husbands in everything and "deny yourself the trivial satisfaction of your own will," among many similarly unfortunate exhortations. Isaacson treats all this material uncritically, and I don't have much use for biographies that can't take an honest and balanced look at their subject, however widely loved that person might be. But Isaacson seems too enamored of Franklin's self-improvement schemes, all discussed in great detail, to do so.
At any rate, there are plenty of Franklin biographies out there and I can't say I have much use for this one. If only the library would take it back!