The Amateurs
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Amateurs

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  456 ratings  ·  49 reviews
"Astonishing . . . Moving . . . One of the best books ever written about a sport."
*Walter Clemons

*David Guy
Chicago Tribune
In The Amateurs, David Halberstam once again displays the unique brand of reportage, both penetrating and supple, that distinguished his bestselling The Best and the Brightest...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 7th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published 1985)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Moneyball by Michael LewisSeabiscuit by Laura HillenbrandFriday Night Lights by H.G. BissingerThe Blind Side by Michael LewisFever Pitch by Nick Hornby
Top reads for sports fans
82nd out of 511 books — 486 voters
Boycott by Jerry CaraccioliRome 1960 by David MaranissTriumph by Jeremy SchaapStriking Silver by Tom CaraccioliMark Spitz by Richard J. Foster
The Olympic Games
26th out of 121 books — 68 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 840)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Tom Gase
After reading David Halberstam's "The Amateurs" I am convinced that the man could have written a book on bird watching and would have made it interesting.

Halberstam is one of my favorite authors of all time, having written classics such as "Summer of 49", "Teammates", "War in a Time of Peace", "The Coldest Winter" and "Playing for Keeps." So when I saw Halberstam's "The Amateurs" for a book at Green Apple, I picked it up without a second thought--even though the book was on rowing.

In this book,...more
Sep 13, 2010 Sam rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Sportsmen, rowers.
Recommended to Sam by: Rowing coach
Shelves: rowing
A very interesting and reveting narrative. As you might know from my 'about me' section of my profile, I really enjoy rowing and find it the ultimate test of my body and mind. This story depicted exactly what rowing is like for me. The Amateurs by David Halberstam

Written in 1985 by David Halberstam, The Amateurs tells the story of four young men, all vying for the coveted '84 Olympic team and ultimately the Olympic gold medal. In telling this story, Halberstam takes as his focus the 1984 single sculls trials in Princeton. The...more
I finished the book within 2 evenings. It is such an extraordinary book that illustrates what rowing really is. When you row the feeling of pain is so overwhelming that it is even beyond the name of pain is given. In the book, it says:

"During their college years the oarsmen put in terribly long hours, often showing up at the boathouse at 6:00am for preclass practices. Both physically and psychologically, they were separated from their classmates. Events that seemed earth-shattering to them-for e...more
This book gave an interesting look into the motivations of Olympians who compete in a sport that does not lead to money and fame. The world of rowers sounds very insular, but Halberstam made it possible to look inside of their minds.

The taciturn nature of rowers became evident to me when I asked a friend of the family about his experiences, and he wouldn't say much about them, even at the lower level at which he rowed.

Returning to the book, what came through was the level of commitment the rowe...more
Though I read this fresh off of Olympic fever, this story would be a solid read anytime. Halberstam frames a story about pure amateur sport and what drives people to seek physical dominance without the lure of monetary gain around the 1984 US Olympic rowing team.

Rowing was an exceptional choice, as I doubt any of us can name any truly great rowers, proving just how little fame was to be gained in pursuing the sport. How many Nike athletes or Wheaties box cover stars ever sculled? Nobody's think...more
For several years, I spent two to three hours a week on an indoor rowing machine, so this book about the formation of the 1984 U.S. men’s sculling team piqued my interest.

The jacket blurb on my paperback copy says that “The focus of David Halberstam’s fierce and penetrating account is the 1984 Olympic single-scull trials.” Thankfully, that’s inaccurate. The trials occur just over half-way through the narrative, which follows the story all the way through to the Olympics themselves.

Having some ex...more
okay, i'm going to divide the book into three parts, but first, here's
what i had, going into this book:

the dad of the family i nanny for (let's call him dad 1) went to yale for undergrad and harvard business school after that. he's about ten years older than (or ahead of) most of the characters in this book. he has a friend in town (dad 2), the father of his sons' former classmate, and he (dad 1) has said that this guy (dad 2) is the only guy in town he can "intellectually relate to," or "the...more
Kate Craig
The book doesn't flow well and Halberstam's sentences are sometimes poorly constructed. However, the content was intriguing. I enjoyed reading about the history of the different scullers that vied to compete in the 1984 Olympics. These men put everything on the line, love, careers, families, to train at camp and then compete in a race that would deal their fate in the history books forever. In spite of the poor writing, it's definitely worth the read, especially if you have a soft spot in your h...more
Robin Schoenthaler
Quite the insider look at (mostly) Ivy Leaguer scholar/athletes pushing themselves beyond belief to get onto Olympic rowing teams. It is not a world with which I have any familiarity, so it was at times (jarringly) eye-opening (eg the moment when one of them ponders whether he should marry a woman who is also athletic and gorgeous and brilliant so they can combine their gene pools). Also some good background stories about families and what it took to get where they got.

But in the end I didn't fe...more
What is it that drives people to maddening lengths to succeed, especially at a sport that lies in the margins of popular culture? That question drove Halberstam to write this book about the four Americans who rowed in the 1984 Olympics, and it’s a compelling read for sports fans and pacifists alike.
Ian Allan
I read THE BOYS IN THE BOAT and thought it was a 5-star book. Loved it. So I thought I'd try another rowing book. This one's about guys trying to get on the US Olympic team for 1984. Well enough written and researched, but I wasn't that interested in it. The story simply wasn't as good.
I really enjoyed this book; read it straight through without putting it down. I was surprised that a friend (and a rower, nonetheless), wasn't as excited about this book as I was. Then I realized that I identified with the characters in this book, and their relentless (probably skewed and misguided) pursuit of an athletic goal. Since we usually like to read things that reflect our points of view, I think it's clear why I liked this so much. Still, Halberstam's sportswriting, as always, is limpid...more
L.A. Starks
A good book about a time in rowing history for athletes and their parents.
David Halberstam at his lucid best. The present day true amateur athletes, those without financial support from either sponsors, national organizations, or endorsements, rarely exist. David takes us back a few decades to a sport, crew, where only "amateurs" resided. He recounts the rowers' challenge of training and providing existential finances for themselves. They trained for love of sport, competitive desire, and the goal of winning. A wonderful study of athletic psyche' in a sport of true am...more
Matthew Dixon
Halberstam's skill as a writer and documentarian never ceases to amaze. Though many of his books ostensibly revolve around sports (in this case rowing), they are always about so much more - about people and friendship and human nature. In 200 pages, he paints indelible portraits of a group of people who put themselves through incredible hardships with no notion of material gain to become great rowers because something inside of them impels them. Told with grace, style and wit.
Olympic rowing (crew) is not a sport we see featured on Sportscenter. It was fascinating to read about the dedication these athletes put into a sport for which they don't get paid, don't become famous. They are doing it solely for the love of sport. Also I was amazed by the physicality of the sport, if I remember right they would have work-outs in which they would burn 5000 Calories at a time. Plus, anything Halberstam wrote about sports is worth reading.
Aug 15, 2007 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: athletes, or anyone interested in a good character study
This is the book I hope to write someday.

I had no interest in rowing (and little interest in reading about sports) before picking up this book. I decided to read it to help me prepare to write my own article about rowing. Even as someone with little interest in the topic, I was immediately taken with the story and mainly with the in-depth way Halberstam brought his "characters" alive. This is the book that recently resparked my interest in creative non-fiction.
Great book. As a collegite runner, I readily identified with competing in a lonely sport with no hope for financial gain. Halberstam is amazing at accurately capturing the inner motivations of the atheletes. His writing style is dry, but somehow you really care about each of the athletes and how they fair. I kept reading, page after page, to find out how they did. I could care less about rowing, but highly recommend this book.
Yet another excellent book about rowing. The tight prose is expressive and captures quite powerfully the diversity of the personalities, abilities, pettiness, psychology, emotion, and power that each oarsman brings to a boat. I found Halberstam's concise description of the sport to be illuminating, especially where he points out how difficult and nearly impossible it is to compare the feats of rowers over the years.
An insightful look into the world of rowing, with a particular focus on the strange obsession that seems to come over rowers of all levels of expertise. I rowed in high school and my first reaction every time I see a body of water is still, "Would that make for good rowing?" Not as exciting as Brad Alan Lewis' "Assault on Lake Casitas" as far as narratives about the 1984 Olympics go, but a good read nonetheless.
This is a book about rowing. It was pretty good, but not as gripping as I wanted it to be. A friend of mine said he couldn't put it down once he got into it. I found myself pushing myself through just to finish it, which disappointed me because rowing is written about very infrequently. Halberstam certainly is a good writer, but I didn't feel the investment in the characters.
It was fun, but it didn't change my life. There was a lot of description of how brutal rowing a single is, a lot of technical description but not that much introspection or even drama, which you would kind of expect from a book about racing. If I were to run into Tiff Woods after reading this, I wouldn't be particularly inclined to talk to him.
I don't know why rowers always like this book. Sure, it's about rowing, but it's much too disorganized and uninspiring to be enjoyable. It was obviously pieced together from several interviews of the rowers trying out for the 1984 Olympic team, but maybe if the timeline of their stories were consistent it would be easier to follow.
Halberstam is an exceptional writer. This book covers the lives of 4 world-class rowers, and their struggle to make it to and win in the Olympics. While I'm not particularly interested in rowing, but if you are (or even if you're interested in underappreciated Olympic sports or athletes in general), this is worth checking out.
Moving story on the 1984 US Olympic rowers. A little gem on another age before professional athletes and the Olympics was big business. The dedication of these athletes is remarkable, and Halberstam is very sensitive to the pressure on these characters in the small world of Olympic rowing. Great read from a small book.
Beautiful sports writing. Goes into the heads and hearts of four young men and their quest for that Olympic dream. Book also introduced me to the legendary Harvard crew coach Harry Parker. Definitely worth a read for all fans of sports books. Halberstam writes brilliantly!
An exceptional book. Certainly Halberstam's best, including Best and Brightest. The guy could write sports, witness Breaks of the Game, but this remains utterly compelling. Scullers as the land of broken toys, OCD driven maniacal and exceedingly, in the end, sad.
David Zemke
i would not call this "moving" as some of the reviews have said. However Halberstram is one of the best and it is a riveting look at what drives people to excel in the weird wonderful and often lonely pursuit of Olympic rowing.
If you like to row, as I do, you'll like this story about the rivalry among the contenders for spots on the U.S. Olympic rowing team in 1984. If you're not a rower, it's probably not something that will keep your interest.
Sally Munn
Sent to me by a doctor I work with whose daughter has started rowing. I enjoyed the read partly because I was aware of who some of the people are in it. Shows what competition there is to make boats in elite rowing.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 27 28 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Good Work
  • Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation
  • Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility
  • Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workshop
  • Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A'S, Praise and Other Bribes
  • The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL
  • Tales from Q School: Inside Golf's Fifth Major
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game
  • The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball's Most Improbable Dynasty
  • The Real All Americans: The Team That Changed a Game, a People, a Nation
  • I Was Right On Time
  • Baseball
  • Once a Runner
  • Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played
  • Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback
  • The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever
  • The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series: The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds
  • Who's Your Caddy?: Looping for the Great, Near Great, and Reprobates of Golf
David Halberstam (April 10, 1934–April 23, 2007) was an American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author known for his early work on the Vietnam War and his later sports journalism.

Halberstam graduated from Harvard University with a degree in journalism in 1955 and started his career writing for the Daily Times Leader in West Point, Mississippi. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, writing for...more
More about David Halberstam...
The Best and the Brightest Summer of '49 The Breaks of the Game The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »