Bunch of Amateurs by Jack Hitt


12 Critic Reviews

A quirky approach to a fresh way of looking at the human animal.



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.

About Jack Hitt

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JACK HITT is a contributing editor to the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, and public radio's This American Life. He also writes for Rolling Stone, GQ, Wired, and, of course, Garden & Gun. He has won the Peabody Award, as well as the Livingston and Pope Foundation Awards. His stories can be heard on This American Life's greatest hits CD, Lies, Sissies & Fiascoes, and The Best Crimes and Misdemeanors: Stories from The Moth. He is the author of a solo theater performance, currently touring, entitled Making Up the Truth.
Published May 15, 2012 by Crown. 290 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Business & Economics, History, Computers & Technology, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Bunch of Amateurs
All: 12 | Positive: 9 | Negative: 3


Feb 15 2012

A quirky approach to a fresh way of looking at the human animal.

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NY Times

Reviewed by Amy Finnerty on Oct 26 2012

Hitt is a virtuoso storyteller and a skilled distiller of complex subjects...He untangles various controversies...

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Publishers Weekly

Feb 13 2012

As fascinating as it is inspiring, this hilarious book is a tour de force that celebrates troublemakers, risk takers, and the American spirit.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Below average
Reviewed by Glenn Altschuler on May 27 2012

...Hitt underestimates the intellectual curiosity that animates many professionals and the importance (like it or not) of specialized training in the world in which we live. Most distressingly, Hitt misses the anti-intellectualism that can - and does - inhere in the culture of amateurism.

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Below average
Reviewed by Doree Shafrir on Jun 01 2012

...my America bears almost zero resemblance to the one that Hitt describes in his paean to the nonprofessional...Why is Hitt so consumed with locating the American Dream in a garage?

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Time Out Chicago

Reviewed by Jonathan Messinger on May 31 2012

Hitt writes entertainingly about each of his subjects, and traces the roots of America’s inventive spirit all the way back to Benjamin Franklin. But his pro tip to fellow journalists would be to dispassionately assess the project and its chances of success, while passionately capturing its spirit.

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CNN Money

May 25 2012

Hitt is an ace yarn spinner, and his stories have a pleasant way of rolling back on themselves. He's in no rush and, besides, there are too many delightful rabbit holes to explore.

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Chapter 16

Reviewed by Susannah Felts on Sep 07 2012

Few other contemporary nonfiction writers working today are as prepared to hunt down and dissect intrinsically American specimens—and to engage a popular audience with the findings—as this guy.

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Baltimore City Paper

Reviewed by Baynard Woods on Jun 20 2012

The idea behind these stories is so timely because we live in an age when the internet has opened up every field to the assault of amateur knowledge. So it’s an important idea, no doubt, but it also seems to be demanded by the market as much as by the stories themselves.

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The Beaufort Gazette

Below average
Reviewed by Don McKinney on Jul 01 2012

This is a noble effort to justify his theme, but it doesn't quite work. Hitt has a lot of fun looking for evidence to support it, but in the end he didn't quite find what he was looking for.

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New Haven Review

May 13 2012

Mixing Ben Franklin, T. Rexes, robot clubs, and Clovis Man in a unique and profound way, Hitt’s BUNCH OF AMATEURS shows how America is always pioneering new frontiers that will lead to the newest version of the American dream.

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Oliver DeMille

Reviewed by Oliver DeMille on Apr 10 2012

I loved the inclusion of the history of Franklin and Adams...The juxtaposition of these two founders with modern commentators Jon Steward and Stephen Colbert is worth the price of the book.

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