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The Learners

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,573 ratings  ·  217 reviews
Fresh out of college in the summer of 1961, Happy lands his first job as a graphic designer (okay, art assistant) at a small Connecticut advertising agency populated by a cast of endearing eccentrics. Life for Happy seems to be -- well, happy. But when he's assigned to design a newspaper ad recruiting participants for an experiment in the Yale Psychology Department, Happy ...more
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published February 19th 2008 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2008)
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3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,573 ratings  ·  217 reviews

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Feb 25, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2008

The Learners features the same eternally naive, lovable (?), ball-less and ostensible like thirteen-year-old protagonist as The Cheese Monkeys (it's even subtitled "The Book After The Cheese Monkeys"), Happy (read: Hapless), now out of art school and working for an ad agency. Only this time, not content with simply focusing on something he's familiar with (graphic design), Kidd throws in a second storyline, that of real-life psychologist Stanley Milgram and his 1960s experiment on human r
Feb 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Sigh. I've been thinking for the last few days about what I should say in this review. I love Chip Kidd's voice, you see, his snappy dialogue and his witty little characters and his charming descriptions. There's a lot of clever stuff in this book, too, including smart digressions on form vs. content, design in general, psychology, and clothing from the fifties. But the story... well it didn't really go anywhere. Or, rather, the places that it managed to go were not at all satisfying. To me. In ...more
Jason Pettus
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Any graphic designer worth their salt will already know who Chip Kidd is; he's the one who single-handedly transformed the subject of book design as we know it, the very first designer to regularly demand that his name appear on a book's dust jacket or copyright page. And in fact, back in 2001 Kidd c
Nov 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Apparently this Chip Kidd guy is some famous graphic artist/book jacket designer. I picked up the book from the library's "new" shelf initially because of the cool jacket, then checked it out because Augusten Burroughs about pees himself giving a back cover blurb.

The Learners focuses on identity, self-knowledge, graphic design/advertising, and Milligram's (sp?) Yale experiments. Mr. Kidd's sharp, fluid writing carries like interesting bar conversation put to paper. I mean that in a good way, in
Feb 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers, social psychologists, graphic designers, fans of Kidd
The first half of the book is somewhat slow at times (though the typography digressions are awesome!), but it really starts to pick up the pace right before the Milgram experiment.

The last third that follows is so brilliant I completely forgot any problems I had with the beginning. It reminded me a little of The Pillowman and also The Prestige (movie version). It has that absurd but very fragile quality to it that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time, not sure when to do which. Martin
Paul Eckert
Aug 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
Chip Kidd is not a bad writer. The Learners is not a bad story. But somehow, neither Kidd nor his novel The Learners never really come full circle.

I never read The Cheese Monkeys, of which The Learners is supposed to be a stand-alone sequel. And it’s true, I didn’t feel like I was left out from not having read The Cheese Monkeys.

The premise of The Learners involves a young artist fresh out of college named Happy. He wants to get a job at an ad agency in New Haven because that’s where his favor
May 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
I liked Kidd's "The Cheese Monkeys," the story of Happy's freshman year as an art major at an undistinguished state college, where he is buffeted by the harsh tutelage of Winter Sorbeck and by friendship with the bizarrely original Himillsly.

But I was disappointed by this sequel, which catches up with Happy after graduation, as he starts his advertising at the very firm where Sorbeck designed the Double Mint gum wrapper. Monkeys felt much more complete; this seems half-baked and half-finished, a
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've been in Chip Kidd's sway for something like 20 years now, so when his first authored book, The Cheese Monkeys, came out I was all over it. It took me a bit longer to get to The Learners, but not for avoiding it. I finally got around to buying it only this month, and read it in an eager rush, the way the best fictions can make you: I couldn't read it fast enough, but missed it when it was over.
This is a sequel of sorts to Cheese Monkeys, but I haven't read that since it came out and had no t
Mar 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: psychologists, graphic designers
Recommended to Shannon by: myself
I really wanted to like this, since I adored The Cheese Monkeys. But.. I'm not really sure how to feel about this. In some ways I think this sequel ruined Cheese Monkeys. The way Cheese Monkeys ended was a bit vague and mysterious an, I liked that. This takes all that away and continues.. and literally destroys some of the characters. I'm conflicted about how to rate this, though, because there were probably about 30 pages that I thought were brilliant... but most of it, the whole "plot" I thoug ...more
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Learners- Chip Kidd

Once in a while, a book cover startles you enough that you either wind up purchasing the book from the store, or borrowing it from the library. This happened to me with the novel, “The Learners” by coincidentally, famed book cover designer Chip Kidd. For starters, I knew he had designed the covers of novels written by famed authors Michael Ondjaate and Michael Crichton, but had no idea he was a writer himself-only after having bought a copy of “The Learners”- only because
Apr 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-read
I found this book on the remainder table at Urban Outfitters for $5. I knew Chip Kidd by virtue of his ginormous body of work doing book covers, and was intrigued by his efforts as a writer. It makes sense that he would be interested in trying his hand, as it were, and I found this second novel to be quite good. It's setting is the same mileau as my favorite tv show, "Mad Men", and therefore a must read for me, especially at $5.

Kidd utilises many different techniques of storytelling, not the lea
Apr 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
This is a sequel to the author's first novel, The Cheese Monkeys, where graphic designer Happy (a nickname), finds a job and then gets involved in Stanley Milgrim's notorious Obedience to Authority experiment. The story is set in 1961 and is mostly about Happy's reaction to participating in the expirement and about graphic design. The author is a well-known graphic designer himself, especially of books. It's a thin story though and I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as The Cheese Monkeys. It has i ...more
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: witty folks, graphic design fans, Yale-ies
Shelves: 2010, bookshelf
I can't even begin to explain why this book fascinated me so. I haven't read the precursor to this (yet) and basically picked it off my boyfriends hands when he was finished with it.

The seamless way Kidd breezes through New Haven, making it feel as real in 2008 as it did in the 60's was a really important part of making me comfortable with the novel. I was truly sucked in, he is a master of setting the scene (graphic design does that I hear)

Also, the laugh out loud moments in this book were fant
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: regularnovels
I enjoyed Chip kidd's first novel, 'The Cheese Monkeys,' I thought it was a good look at art school, and design, it was funny, if a bit uneven. I really liked The Learners, much improved over his first book. His design philosophy weaves throughout the book - both on the surface and beneath it - and the narrative is much more focused. There's a sense of mystery or problem solving that kept me moving along, and at the end of it, I laughed out loud.
Jun 11, 2012 added it

I understand where he was trying to go with this novel but oh my god, he failed miserably. What a waste of valuable reading time.
Michael Whetzel
Mar 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Kidd has a wonderful mind. I enjoyed this one but enjoyed his first book, The Cheese Monkeys, even more.
Jan 11, 2018 rated it liked it
the follow-up to The Cheese Monkeys, The Learners explores Happy’s entrance into the professional world of graphic design/advertising and his sudden confrontation with the “real” world outside of academia.

it’s an odd book and one that i found confounding. the wit and snark is just under my bar for such things as i mostly find it sophomoric in its desire to one-up everything and everyone nearby. but Kidd doesn’t quite descend into the murky depths like a Sedaris where the wit actually becomes a p
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dying is easy, it's comedy that is hard. And writing a comedic novel that maintains its tone throughout, must be near impossible. The Learners by Chip Kidd achieves this, almost. But not without a lack good laughs, and a stab at something deeper. The Learners is the sequel to The Cheese Monkeys, taking place three years after Happy has graduated from art school. Keen to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Happy gets a position at the same advertising firm that he started out in in New Haven. ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the latest casualty in my weird obsession with books about art students.

I wasn't sure how a follow up to the Cheese Monkeys would hold up, since I loved the Cheese Monkeys a weird amount, but this sequel is just right. It's also dark. Really dark. In a good way, and in a way that I guess makes sense for Chip Kidd, but also in a way that shook me. So. There's that.
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Highly underrated on Goodreads, though perhaps particularly appealing to me due to my interests in psychology, language, meta-fiction, and well-told stories. I'm glad I ignored the top-rated reviews.
Kim Urquhart
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quirky and memorable.
Nancy Cook-senn
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Kidd has fun with fonts and quirky dialogue in this tale of a beginning adman in 1961 coming to grips with his own failings.
May 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: design students/teachers, graphic designers, copywriters and anybody working in advertising
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Corinne Zilnicki
May 17, 2011 rated it liked it
How can a book contain such delicious writing and yet adhere to such a weak, watery plot??

Oh man. I'm not even sure what to say, really. I am a hopeless, helpless fan of this kind of writing. It is my weakness. I love the ridiculousness of it, the absurdity. I love the zany descriptions and all the wonderful, wild adjectives and the stream of consciousness and the strange flavor of the whole thing. Objectively, I can see why some wouldn't find this flavor palatable. But I want to eat it up. I ad
Apr 06, 2009 rated it liked it
If you’ve heard the name Chip Kidd before, it’s probably because you’ve read a book he’s worked on. Not that he’s written many books; he only added the profession of author to his resume in the last couple years. But he has gained notoriety by designing book jackets for everyone from Michael Crichton to David Sedaris, and some authors have him exclusively under contract to design their book covers. He’s been called the closest thing to a rock star in graphic design. This guy is good at what he d ...more
Sep 12, 2010 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to ambimb by: the library!
I finished this book a few days ago and have really enjoyed it. But one way I know it was a really good book is that I continue to think about it. It's deceptively simple, almost gimmicky at first read, but it has surprising depth and multiple layers. It's pop-cult timely because it's about a 1961 ad agency. Hello "Madmen." So that's fun. But it's also about language, about the inadequacy of the many modes of expression available to us as humans, and as I noted upon finishing it, it engages simp ...more
Jan 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
It gets 4 stars because I like Chip Kidd so much, and because I liked The Cheese Monkeys so much. But if someone else wrote this, I'd probably give it 2. I'm lame.
Anyways, it's funny, as funny as TCM in parts -- I sat in bed and laughed anyways -- just not as consistently funny, and just not as consistently clever. Now that I technically work in a marketing-type role (although, the UC is about as un-marketing-ish as you can get) I have to admit I probably have more interest in the book than I wo
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
It's amazing that Chip Kidd is such a great designer AND he can write. I absolutely loved his first book The Cheese Monkeys and this one doesn't's snarky and designery and a fun, quick read. It's definitely targeted toward advertising folks, but not so esoteric that others wouldn't enjoy it as well.

A few of my favorite quotes:

His voice was all knives.

She's the princess and the pea.
She's so pretty.
She's a poinsettia. Ever taste one?

I wasn't in the audience anymore, I was a play
May 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of The Cheese Monkeys and Dave Eggers
Shelves: books
I found this sequel to The Cheese Monkeys better than its predecessor, mostly because it's a more consistant book than Chip Kidd's first effort. The thing that bothered me the most about the Cheese Monkeys, but wasn't much of a problem in The Learners, was how drastic the tone had changed in the last forty pages of The Cheese Monkeys. The tone changes here as well from beginning to end, but it's a more controlled, gradual change that occurs through out the course of the entire novel, rather than ...more
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Chip Kidd is an American author, editor and graphic designer, best known for his innovative book covers.

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Kidd grew up in a Philadelphia suburb, strongly influenced by American popular culture. While a design student at Penn State, an art instructor once gave the assignment to design a book cover for Museums and Women by John Updike, who is also a Shillington native. T
“Hey, have you heard that one about the difference between me, Wit, and my loutish cousin, Hilarity? No? Okay, so I walk into a bar, you see, very unassuming, and order a martini. Then the bartender, Hilarity, hauls off and squirts me in the face with a seltzer bottle, ruining my n ice new camel hair suit, dousing my monocle and my watch fob, soaking my cravat. So, do I let him have what for, and blow my top? I do not. I simply say:
Sorry, I believe I said 'very dry'.”
“Life is a life-long assignment that must be constantly analyzed, clarified, figured out, and responded to appropriately.” 6 likes
More quotes…