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Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle
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Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  174 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Sometimes achieving big things requires the ability to think small. This simple concept was the driving force that propelled the Volkswagen Beetle to become an avatar of American-style freedom, a household brand, and a global icon. The VW Bug inspired the ad men of Madison Avenue, beguiled Woodstock Nation, and has recently been re-imagined for the hipster generation. And ...more
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published January 17th 2012 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 518)
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Kelly Knapp
Dec 20, 2011 Kelly Knapp rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: car enthusiests, history buff, just about anyone.
Recommended to Kelly by: Goodreads First Reads giveaways
This was a great read. I have never bothered to think about what steps go into creating any product, but even less so with something as large as a car. I learned a little about Ford in school, and read a few articles when Oldsmobile bit the dust, but never have I followed a car through its conception to its spot in history.

The irony of the vehicle being a concept of the Nazi regime to the fact that a Jewish Adman would begin its meteoric rise caught me totally by surprise. Yet I new that the nam
Paul Steele
What an excellent book on the history of the Volkswagen Beetle! Andrea Hiott did an exceptional job in the telling of the story, taking what could have been a very dry subject and making it an accessible and enjoyable read.

There were so many opportunities for this little car to fall by the wayside, but thanks to a few determined people, the Beetle not only succeeded, but Volkswagen built over 22 million of these original Beetles, keeping the same Porsche designed body over it's entire 65-year ru
Received an ARC as a GoodReads giveaway. Very interesting reading, mostly focused on VW's earlier years - 1930s and '40s. Lots of individuals from various spheres of the Beetle's story are profiled, and it makes for a relatable history. One problem I had with the personal profile approach was that nearly everyone is introduced early in the book, including people who don't actually tie into the Beetle history until fairly late in the book. Keeping the jumble of names and backgrounds straight is a ...more
Who would think that a book about a car could be interesting? It can when the book is less about the car and more about the circumstances that surrounded it's development and rise to popularity. I'm not sure there is a car that has had a more interesting life then the Volkswagen Beetle and this book perfectly captures everything that makes it so extraordinary. This book is as much about the build up to World War II, the economic rise of Germany after the war, and the creation of advertisement i ...more
This is a very well-written and truly fascinating account of the the VW Beetle's history- from initial conceptualization to manufacture to success and then recent rebirth. The book is filled with interesting historical and cultural details. I remember well the Think Small advertising campaign, how every student I knew in the 60's owned this lttle wonder car and (as a picture in the book substantiates) how many of these were on the road to Woodstock! Andrea Hiott's book deserves to be a great suc ...more
Andrea Hoitt tracks the long, sometimes troubled, yet nevertheless interesting history of one of the most iconic cars in the world. While never known for top of the line luxury the VW bug was a revolutionary car that spurred transportation in every country it went to. From its cheap and affordable frame to its unheard of gas mileage at the time to the ease of repair that left many owners able to fix the car themselves the Bug would make its iconic mark on the world. Thinking Small tells the stor ...more
I stumbled on to this book while choosing the next book my husband and I would read together. He loves the VW Beetle and history and he says the book is great. I agree that the topic is extremely interesting. The story of the Beetle is wrapped in the history of the rise of the Nazi party; Hitler's undying support for a "people's car;" and the life story of Ferdinand Porshce. The second half of the book was my favorite part. The birth of a new type of advertising agency in New York coincided with ...more
Dawn Betts-Green
Excellent read! I was expecting something slightly different when i first picked it up, but I loved what it actually was. Very in-depth historical information presented in an ultimately readable format.
"The story of the Volkswagen is part of the human story, not just the story of any one country, time, family."

When I obtained a galley copy of Andrea Hiott's book Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle from Netgalley ( I was not sure what to expect especially when she began it with a story of the legendary New York ad man, Bill Bernbach, whose cutting edge agency, DDB was chosen to do what became the legendary VW ads of the late 1950's. I halfheartedly
Reviewed first published on my blog:

Thinking Small is a history book told as a story. It tells the story of a car we are all familiar with. A car that is now symbolic of so much. The Volkswagen Beetle. The "People's Car." What is interesting is that the story is told through the stories of the individuals that were instrumental in bringing this car about and then marketing it.

This book traces the history of the car from its origins in Nazi Germany during
It is amazing to think the history of this car runs from being a product of Nazi Germany to a symbol of a Love Child. Throw in some Porsche and the fact that it still is around today, and this should be a great book. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it spent far too much time on the early years. The stories of the 20's - 40's seem to drag on. The adoption as a symbol of the 60's is about 5 pages long... chapter 53... it was great, but I wanted to see a lot more like that. The parallel story of the ...more
Zach Sparks
I won this book as an ARC giveaway from Goodreads. When I first picked up this book, I admit I was very curious as to how interesting a 480 page book on the Volkswagen Beetle could really be. I'm glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised. This book is a wonderful history of not just the VW Beetle, but also the quirky designers and advertisers, a view of WWII Germany, and even an outline of Hitler's rise to power and his hand in the making of "the people's car." This book is perfect for fans of ...more
Fascinating! So much more than the history of a car! I am neither a history-buff nor a car enthusiast, but I found the story of the VW Beetle a very moving one. I think I'll have to put Wolfsburg on my itinerary for my near-future trip to Germany. Secondary school teachers should consider reading this book - and using excerpts to flesh out studies of WWII, Germany, advertising, etc. I know it would have kept my attention more in the classroom!

*I won a copy of this book through Goodreads' First R
It moves really fast. Speed is an element in the writing. The slow parts, you can look out the window (there are not many). It's a lot to take in. A lot of information and history and the stories and lives of men. It can be challenging. But it is amazing so much was able to combine into such a good and readable story. I don't know of any other books that are history, biography, cars, and all of it mashed together with really thought-provoking connections.
Tim Jin
The Volkswagen Beetle is an iconic car around the world. No matter where you are, what language you speak, you always know a VW Bug when you see one on the road or in the junk. "Thinking Small"is an excellent read about Volkswagen. Very interesting history behind the wheel. I've read my fair share of Adolf Hitler and the war, but I would never discover his story and Volkswagen if I didn't decide to get this book. It was very enjoyable and informational to listen to.

The book almost reminded me o
Yvonne Stegall
What an amazing book. It's fun, and educational, looking at how this cool little car came about! Surely any fan of the "slug bug" will be thrilled to have the book in their collection! (received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads)
This book is awesome. Not only does it have the history, it is a story inside a story. It is amazing how such a small idea can go such a long way.
Dec 01, 2011 Lulu marked it as to-read
I won this book from the first reads giveaways and I am so excited to read it. Thanks.
A long strange trip indeed. The Volkswagen car was a dreamchild of Adolf Hitler's. Production of the car ceased during World War II of course, but the company survived by making small vehicles for the German army. Production of VW Bugs resumed after the war under the guidance of its original designer, Ferdinand Porsche. Yep, the same man who later developed a brand of car under his own name.

The author does a fine job of presenting the history of post-war Germany. The victors had plans for Germa
So, what do automotive genius Ferdinand Porsche, his son Ferry (who designed the predecessor of the Porsche 911), WWI, Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Party, the German autobahn, Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company, a large factory built in the middle of nowhere - not even near a town, WWII, the British Government, the British Army, a former executive of GM/Opal who hated the idea of a people's car, Mexico, and an advertising firm based in NYC and run by a Jew and a Greek?

Those are the dots.

Andrea Hiot
There were five pivotal individuals in the production of the original Volkswagen: Ferdinand Porsche the designer, William Bernbach the creative director and partner at the American advertising firm Doyle Dane Bernbach, Ivan Hirst the British Army engineering officer who got production started after World War II, Heinrich Nordhoff the Volkswagen executive most responsible for getting mass production started after Ivan Hirst's start, and Adolf Hitler. Ferdinand Porsche, born in 1875, had for decad ...more
I began this book thinking it was just another book about a type of car and would be a fun but unassuming read. What this book is,is a horse of a very different color. Thinking Small is much more the history of an idea, a concept. The concept being the VW "Beetle". In this brillant book Andrea Hiott take the time and goes into great length and depth about VW. She traces the lives of its creators and the admen who made it famous here in the United States. (The Book's title is taken from the most ...more
It's not just the history of the iconic car. Or the company. It's more than that.

After Germany lost big in World War I, they found themselves in a Democratic republic. All while the Allies made sure that their economy was in ruins. And stayed there. Different people had different paths in their lives which intersected with the design and production of this little car. The story is about them and their lives. The car is merely the common factor in all of them.

Why did Germany elect Adolph Hitler?
This book written primarily on the history, development, and marketing of the good old VW Beetle. Beetle being the name affixed to it by us Americans. I was fortunate to own a 1971 model back in the day. For those who missed the experience of the "original" you missed something. The latest version in its cartoonish design doesn't come close in my opinion but they recently have attempted to make a it a bit sleeker.

Andrea Hiott did a great job of telling an incredibly interesting and engaging stor
Awesome book for those who like historical facts/tidbits about "common" stuff! This book details the history of the Volkswagen as it relates to World War II, Hitler, and his Third Reich. Really love the huge role Ferdinand Porsche played in the advances in the automotive industry and technology through the years. The Fords stopped innovating/renewing their huge cars during the same time Volkswagen and the other car companies in Europe were continuously innovating, renovating, and changing the wa ...more
AngelaGay Kinkead
Nice intermingling of European history 1890's-1950's or so. A unique framing of somewhat familiar events.
The introduction of cars, roads/highways, rise of Hitler, use of forced labor and later immigrant labor, World Wars and post-Wars. On the US side, an interesting history of advertising and marketing.
A little dense at times, but eye-opening.
Melissa T
I have always thought the VW Bug was so cute, so I was curious to know how it came to be. I was not expecting the in depth history provided in this book! Very thorough, and well organized, as the author traces the VW brand from Hitler and Porsche to Woodstock . If anything, it may have been too much information, as my interest waned at times.; particularly when the author expansively covered the manufacturing process and political red tape. But, ultimately, it was interesting, jam-packed with li ...more
Interesting topic - the history of the Volkswagen Beetle - with a different focus than similar books; in this case, the author tells the Beetle's story by telling us about the people who helped it become a success, and how their philosophies influenced their contributions to the finished product. This apporach leads to a few passages that take the book off-topic toward other weighty subjects, but it does help the reader understand the perspectives of the people who had a role in creating the Bee ...more
A fun book about an iconic car that more than any other truly has a personality. Very interesting history behind the world's best selling car that came very close to not being made at all.

Makes me miss our 1965 VW Bug!
I thought this was interesting, if a little slow in places. Unlike some others who have posted reviews, I did not mind the extensive journey in Nazi Germany. I thought those parts of the book held together better than some of the later chapters, which just kept going and going, not unlike the bug itself.
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