"Kevin Baker, inspired master of the historical novel, celebrates America’s moxie in this kaleidoscopic canon of invention and innovation. By unpacking the provenance of eclectic novelties, from the safety pin to the supermarket and the subway, Baker identifies the visionaries and values that defined the American dream."
—Sam Roberts, The New York Times
“Among the many rewards of America the Ingenious, Kevin Baker’s survey of Yankee know-how, is stumbling on its buried nuggets. . . . Readers will unearth one or two such treasures on nearly every page as Baker examines a wide range of the achievements that have made, and still make, America great again—and again.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Historian Kevin Baker reminds us of the innovation and tenacity that made our nation great in America the Ingenious. . . .The book reveals little-known anecdotes and quirky stories of the eccentric and often egotistical personalities behind the inventions. Leo Fender, known for the electric guitar, couldn’t play a note of music. The creator of the safety pin, prolific inventor Walter Hunt, sold his patent to cover a $15 gambling debt. . . . Baker includes nonphysical innovations such as jazz and the blues along with other pieces of Americana: Levi Strauss’ jeans, athletic shoes, amusement parks and lavish movie palaces.”
—The Los Angeles Times
“Just as you can’t eat only one potato chip, it would be impossible to stop with one selection from America the Ingenious. . . . Thanks to Baker’s efficient and witty commentary, the learning goes down easily and leaves the reader wanting more. . . . He casts a wide net, somehow managing to work in such disparate subjects as the safety pin and the Tennessee Valley authority.”
“From past to present to future, discover the history of what Americans have made and what is on our horizon. . . . History buffs and engineers will find America the Ingenious hard to put down.”
“Kevin Baker has the storytelling ability of a novelist (which he is) and the historical chops of a scholar (which he also is). America the Ingenious is, itself, ingenious—both endlessly entertaining and thoroughly edifying.”
—Daniel Okrent, New York Times bestselling author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
“From the electric guitar to the farm combine, the safety pin to the Conestoga wagon, from Pampers to blue jeans and the telegraph: Kevin Baker’s ingenious, eclectic, and breathtaking chronicle of American invention reminds us of the daring, the love for experimentation, and the resilient optimism that is America at its very best—a land of freedom, imagination, diversity, and grand-hearted authors like Kevin Baker.”
—Brenda Wineapple, award-winning author of Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848–1877
"From Kevin Baker’s typewriter emerges a past that is no longer about places and dates but a bunch of often hilarious misfits stumbling through the most uncanny events and into fantastic stories that readers will be forgiven for not immediately recognizing, through their laughter and tears, as profound American history."
—Jack Hitt, author of Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character