America the Ingenious: How a Nation of Dreamers, Immigrants, and Tinkerers Changed the World

Kevin Baker (Author)

Product Details

Artisan Publishers
Publish Date
October 04, 2016
7.7 X 1.2 X 9.1 inches | 2.1 pounds
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About the Author

Kevin Baker was born in August 1958, in Englewood, New Jersey, and grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, a small town on the North Shore. He graduated from Columbia University in New York City in 1980, and since then has earned his living as a writer and editor. His first novel, Sometimes You See It Coming, based loosely on the life of Ty Cobb, but set in the modern day, was published in hardcover by Crown in 1993 and in paperback by Harper Paperbacks in the spring of 2003. Dreamland, part of Baker's New York' City of Fire trilogy was published by HarperCollins in 1999, and in paperback the following year. Paradise Alley was published by HarperCollins in 2002, and the third and final volume of the trilogy, Strivers Row, which was published in February, 2006. Kevin was the chief historical researcher on Harold Evans' best-selling history, The American Century, published by Knopf in 1999. He wrote the monthly "In the News" column for American Heritage magazine from 1998-2007, and has been published in the New York Times, the New Republic,, New York magazine, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and Harper's magazine, among other publications. He is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow for nonfiction. Baker is married and lives in New York City.


"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."
--Kirkus Reviews

"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