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Extended Audio Sample Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character Audiobook, by Jack Hitt Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (142 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jack Hitt Narrator: Peter Colburn Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2012 ISBN: 9780307990334
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America’s self-invented tinkerers are back at it in their metaphorical garages—fiddling with everything from solar-powered cars to space elevators. In Bunch of Amateurs, Jack Hitt visits a number of different garages and has written a fascinating book that looks at America’s current batch of amateurs and their pursuits. From a tattooed young woman in the Bay Area trying to splice a fish’s glow-in-the-dark gene into common yogurt (all done in her kitchen using salad spinners) to a space fanatic on the brink of developing the next generation of telescopes from his mobile home, Hitt not only tells the stories of people in the grip of a passion but argues that America’s history is bound up in a cycle of amateur surges.

Beginning with Ben Franklin’s kite and leading all the way to the current TV hit American Idol, Hitt argues that the nation’s love of self-invented obsessives has always driven the country to rediscover the true heart of the American dream. Amateur pursuits are typically lamented as a world that just passed until a Sergey Brin or Mark Zuckerberg steps out of his garage (or dorm room) with the rare but crucial success story. In Bunch of Amateurs, Hitt argues that America is now poised to pioneer at another frontier that will lead, one more time, to the newest version of the American dream.

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Quotes & Awards

  • A love letter to American culture…as fascinating as it is inspiring, this hilarious book is a tour de force that celebrates troublemakers, risk takers, and the American spirit. Publishers Weekly
  • “Hitt is smarter than Malcolm Gladwell, a better storyteller than his colleagues at This American Life, and a better reporter than any big name you can think of.  Baltimore City Paper
  • “I ask myself if there's a better non-fiction writer in America than Jack Hitt . . . and come up with nobody. I've been following and stealing from his work my whole career. His usual mode is to convince you that you're reading a rollicking yarn, while with his left hand building a serious and unexpectedly persuasive argument. In Bunch of Amateurs he brings that to perfection. The book is about cranks, but it is also about the strange crucible of social tensions and intellectual assumptions inside of which our ‘knowledge’ gets made. John Jeremiah Sullivan
  • "Hitt is a virtuoso storyteller and a skilled distiller of complex subjects. New York Times
  • How embarrassing it is to be asked to craft a blurb for Jack Hitt. I'm not fit to carry his bags. Few writers are. Bunch of Amateurs is completely sublime; beautifully written, hilarious, brushfire protean in the erudite shifts he makes--high culture, low, science, history, music, you name it--and just wonderfully rollicking. Who else can have one simultaneously laughing out loud and waiting with bated breath for Benjamin Franklin to alight from a carriage in Paris in 1778? No one but Jack Hitt, that's who. Like I said, it shames me to endorse him, so unfit to the task am I, but endorse him I must. I have no choice. You must read this book. David Rakoff
  • "Jack Hitt is a latter-day Twain: a Southern storyteller and Yankee skeptic who slaughters sacred cows with unfailing wit and a childlike sense of wonder at the world. This makes him the perfect guide to the wacky yet inspiring universe of American inventiveness. Hitt's playfully profound book had me laughing with pride at the amateur in us all. Tony Horwitz
  • “…a fabulous tribute to amateurs….This is a totally absorbing gallery of oddballs and obsessives on the brink of possibly great discoveries, written by a man with a deep appreciation for amateurs and their pursuits. Booklist

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tlenon | 2/18/2014

    " It's wide ranging. Hand ground telescope lenses to homebrew genetics. It reminds me of a This American Life episode, which isn't surprising. The author is a contributor. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brett | 11/4/2013

    " I enjoyed this book. Though it does address the amateur spirit (aka "American character") it is more a comparison of amateurs and professionals within several different fields, from bird watching to telescope building to biohacking. The term amateur has many connotations, and Jack Hitt explores many of them. In addition to great content, I love Hitt's writing style. Informative, engaging, and funny. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 LikeTheDog | 10/27/2013

    " Just great! Enjoyed his writing and the examples. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aife | 10/21/2013

    " I'm in good company as an amateur. Fab read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julia | 10/19/2013

    " Fascinating subjects and Hitt is a great writer. This book needed better editing for continuity. I definitely got bogged down in the astronomy chapter. The premise is interesting, though. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Katie | 10/13/2013

    " The concept of this book sounded interesting, but unfortunately it just didn't hold my attention and I only got halfway through it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dirk Heinz | 9/14/2013

    " Good stuff...very like Bill Bryson in a way as one story tumbles into the next. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 8/24/2013

    " It was a case of the book being not exactly what I wanted, and not what I expected. Still good in many respects, but it was more about Jack Hitt's experiences with various amateurs and amateur organizations (and what he thought about them), rather than a really insightful book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Greg | 7/10/2013

    " I enjoyed this plenty. As is the case with so many books written by people who write primarily for magazines, this is essentially a series of lengthy articles around amateurs. Many are very good and I appreciated how well the stories were bookended with discussions of Ben Franklin. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris Hellstrom | 5/29/2013

    " Audible audio version. I really enjoyed this book. It's packed with interesting stories from the original "hacker" Ben Franklin to biopunks messing with genetics in gargages today. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea | 1/2/2013

    " Interesting vignettes about quirky people, but I don't think it all tied together in as compelling a way as the author wanted me to believe. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa Selligman | 12/22/2012

    " Glib, but his brain pulls interesting parallels ... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Anthony | 8/22/2012

    " The idea to write about a "bunch of amateurs" was a good one but the execution was terrible. Not what I expected to read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Don Russell | 8/22/2012

    " I'm having a hard time getting into this. I was really looking forward to being entertained but it seems ponderous 40 pages into it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Misty | 7/26/2012

    " Disappointing, and while at times interesting, the off-topic flourishes ruined what could have been, should have been, a fascinating read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Pepper | 6/23/2012

    " I will be honest. I was not crazy about this book in entirety. I love certain sections or chapters, but as a whole I wouldn't reread it. Chapter three intrigued if only because of my own amateur curiosity in biology/genetics. I enjoyed the humor and the down to earth nature of this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kaia | 5/19/2012

    " I'll never think of Ben Franklin the same again. "

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