Ben Franklin's autobiography, like Pearl S. Buck's "The Good Earth", showcases pragmatic endeavors and their resultant successes. Franklin distinguishes himself by showing his nerdy need to analyze the world around him. This ranges from actuarial analysis to vegetarianism, and is a pleasure to read (although humorous, I found myself having to read a paragraph, then parse the 18th century English, understand what's being said, and then laugh. ;).

Key points that I saw in the text:

  1. Own your business and work industriously - Ben owned a printshop by his early 20's and this was leveraged by his industry to yield enough money to retire by approx. age 40. Then he could concentrate on interesting problems, like making this place a better place.
  2. Group of friends - He sought out intellectual challenge and people interested in a broad range of subjects. He repeatedly used collectivism to derive benefits for him and his friends.
  3. Monetarism anecdote - Halfway through the text, he sees that the amount of money in an economy impacts the amount of economic development. He also notes that when there is too much money, that can be damaging to the economy. It's completely undeveloped in this text, but it is interesting to find it in this exhortative letter to his son.
  4. Planned his time - Early on, Ben managed his time and set goals for himself, all the while analyzing their success or failure. Although he may not have had the self-control he purports to have in the text, he appears to have at least tried on many occasions.
  5. 13 virtues - Ben appears to have questioned many of the things in his life, one of those being religion. Having found no religion to his complete liking, he created his own code of conduct and affiliated prayers. Of course, Ben then charted his adherence to his 13 virtues on a daily basis.
The ending of his autobiography, like Buck's work, is a downer. He details campaign work in the French and Indian War, and the Revolutionary War, both of which lack the excitement of youth and are relatively insight-less relative to the rest of the text. But on the whole, his autobiography is a blast to read.