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Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  366 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Harley-Davidson bikers . . . Grand Canyon river rats. . .Mormon archaeologists. . . Spelling bee prodigies…

For more than fifteen years, best-selling author and historian Hampton Sides has traveled widely across the continent exploring the America that lurks just behind the scrim of our mainstream culture. Reporting for Outside, The New Yorker, and NPR, among other national
Paperback, 450 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Anchor
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Karen Germain
Jun 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My Friend Nicole passed this book my way and it was absolutely fantastic. Hampton Side’s “Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier” is comprised of thirty chapters, each reflecting on a different American subculture or perspective. The stories each vary drastically in tone, some taking more of a travel writer feel and some hardcore journalism.

As with all collections, some pieces are bound to be more interesting than others, but I really don’t think that there was a low point in this book. The
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Anthologies aren't the type of books that I knowingly choose to read. i didn't realize this book was an anthology when i bought it; i might not have bought it had i known it. anyway, when i discovered this was a book of short stories, i wasn't thrilled. well, the book was good. it was in the travel section at half price books, but it shouldn't have been. Maybe the sociology section would have been more appropriate for it.

This author wrote interesting non-fiction stories about interesting topics
Fred Forbes
Oct 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I must have been in the mood for essays after Bryson's book about the summer of '27 in America so this one was a nice continuation. A lot of different, interesting topics from "Airstreaming" retirees, to cavers to bass fishing. But probably the most powerful writing is on the experience of the those at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Pretty tough to come away from those stories with dry eyes.
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was incredibly interesting. The anthology style means you get a brief glimpse at all kinds of different people and events, tons of which I wouldn't have read about otherwise.

I would love to read a biography of Hampton Sides. He has definitely lived an interesting life.
Angela Oneal
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author starts this book with an anecdote where he asks a Moroccan friend how he could spot an American. The friend responds, "Confident like you own the world. But open." The book is a series of stories that document American stories- from skate board culture to fundamentalist Christians. Overall, a good read.
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mcls-audio
I listened to the audio book, which was very well narrated. The stories were often on unusual topics and many were dated in the 1990s-early 2000s but most of not all were interesting.
Patrick Gibson
Feb 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like social commentary road trips
It is precisely because Hampton Sides writes with articulate verbosity that I like him. Knowing clever words and using them wisely is craftsmanship not showoffyness. And he doesn’t need me to defend him—but there are critics among you who find him elitist and wordy. Can you imagine such a thing? He also has a macho bravura that takes him places other chroniclers of the human condition shy away from. The annual Harley hog-fest in Sturgis, South Dakota for example. Or tracking the Bassmasters in R ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Americana by Hampton Sides is easy to read and interesting. The volume is composed of 30 short, non-fiction, people pieces. Each article offers a snippet of the kaleidoscope of the American character. Sides has a talent at choosing intriguing topics. Some of the topics are satirical, but, not with malice. Sides seems to attempt to bring understanding to each of the pieces by including lots of interesting facts. One piece, for example, on spelling bees and modern spelling contests includes a whol ...more
Dec 02, 2010 rated it liked it
I loved Ghost Soliders and just read Blood and Thunder before this one. Maybe not as great as the others, but still very good. It is more like a 3.5.

This is a collaberation of articles he had done in the past 15 plus years about America. Some were better then others and I thought some needed to be expanded on. I know some were written in the past, but he could have updated some maybe. Of course he might have already done that. The best stories were a Chief Without Indians, Toughest Guy in Alaska
Booth Babcock
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
Have you ever picked up a book from your shelf and struggled to remember if you had already read it? Have you ever wondered that after you finished the book? That's the case with this collection of medium- and long-form essays from Hampton Sides...I like the long form article, so this is a book of various ones written mostly in the 90s covering a variety of American characters and subcultures. Somewhere between something you'd read in the New Yorker and in an in-flight magazine. Not bad, but unm ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have some go-to non fiction writers that I rely on to provide a variety of real life events or stories that I know will educate, enlighten, entertain, and always be great. Erik Larson, Sarah Vowell, Nathaniel Philbrick, Amy Stewart. And Hampton Sides. It was a happy day when I discovered this man. One thing I LOVE about Sides is that his books are so varied, and still so interesting. There is no better example than Americana.

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Gavin Hribar
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
a collection of essays that aim to capture the essence of America, all authored by Sides who is fast-becoming my favorite writer. some favorites are the one on Santa Fe, one on St. Michaels (MD), Murder in Falkner, and First (ironically the last one in the book). but the most gripping is 'Points of Impact', following 3 individuals and their stories on 9/11. at the very least, i highly recommend anyone goes to a bookstore or a library and just sits down and reads that particular one, puts so much ...more
Ann Adams
Feb 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Hampton Sides is an excellent writer---I just enjoy his complete works more than this collection of short stories. Some stories were more appealing than others, as well.
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
The introduction to this book is epic, eagle spreading his wings, firecrackers exploding over Fort McHenry. This introduction made me proud to be an American.

And then you descend into the first essay, a sort of biography of Tony Hawk, American skateboarder. And frankly, it is just not that interesting. Maybe the other essays match the soaring rhetoric of the introduction, but, after slogging through much of the Tony Hawk essay, I was just not willing to find it.
Nov 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: boys-life, nonfiction
3.5 instead of just a 3. Sides is a great writer, but some of the essays are brief enough to leave you wanting more, like the second half of "Embedded". He starts talking about al-Issawi, the top correspondent of Al-Jazeera, only to stop the essay soon after. I'm sure these limits were based more on length for the magazine he's writing for & not his own choosing. A good collection to get lost in.
Rogue Reader
Aug 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
30 short pieces, oddities of travel, curiosities of American culture. Each chapter a nice collection: American Originals, American Edens, American Rides, American By Birth Southern, Americans Abroad, American Obsession, America Post 9/11.

Points of Impact - terrible and horrific; Among the Kawasaki Republicans - hilarious and ridiculous; both in America Post 9/11. What a range this guy has, what a passion for pursuing the wackiest notions.
Jan 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Hampton Sides is one of my favorite writers of History. Here is a collection of articles written mostly for "Outback" maganize about various people and pursuits in America. Some of it is a bit dated, with stories from back in the early 90's, but there's lots to enjoy here, and an especially riveting article about three people who survived the 911 attacks, and their memories of that day.
Dec 22, 2011 added it
Shelves: featured
This is a great collection of 30 short non-fiction stories of American subcultures. Fasinating and bizarre characters keep me constantly curious about people and human behavior. This book helps me appreciate the many different places and environments I've found myself around the world, and the interesting people I've met. Few careers would have afforded me this gift.
Patrick Dean
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
This collection of nonfiction pieces, many of them from Outside magazine, has some dated entries (G. Gordon Liddy?) but is otherwise strong and interesting. Sides's wide-ranging subjects include an ultra marathon in the Moroccan desert, the aftermath of 9/11, the Sturgis Harley Rally, and Mormon archaeologists. Recommended.
Aug 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
I've been thinking about this book alot lately. After reading Hunter S. Thompson, the piece of the Hell's Angels is disappointing. And the piece on that local murder was too long. But other than that, I really enjoyed this collection of articles, and like I said, they keep popping up in my memory.
Kellun Turner
Apr 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Mr. Sides is an excellent writer; however, I didn't love this book and I think it's quite accurate for him to label the writings "dispatches." It reads like a book for "macho" guys and I'd rather not know about, especially in such detail, many aspects of these sections of Americana. But he's definitely someone who knows how to capture the essence of people and experiences.
Jul 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travelnarrative
I love American Travel narrative and Hampton Sides does a great job with this one. He is a writer at Outside magazine and writes great narrative. this book takes him all over the US of A to inhabit strange subcultures, from the harley rallies at Sturgis to hippy communes in the west. one of my favorite authors. I read everything he writes.
Feb 29, 2008 rated it liked it
This anthology is spotty. Some of the pop culture pieces are now 15 years old. But there are some terrific pieces in here too: "In Darkest Bohemia", ""The Silver City", "A Murder in Falkner", "This is Not the Place", "At Home in a Fake Place", and "Points of Impact." Worth a look see if you're interested in this sort of thing.
Aug 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is an anthology of magazine pieces about different aspects of life in America. The pieces range from articles on Tony Hawk to a profile of 3 9/11 victims. Overall it’s particularly well written and all the pieces were pretty interesting. Definitely recommended.
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've never been one for a book of short stories in the past, but this book changed that. Hampton Sides really had a great time documenting and spending time with these real American Outliers. Story after unique story. Great compilation.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I loved this book, from essays about Airstream trailer road clubs to a bass fisherman tournament; left on my own to seek out reading material, I would have sought out nary a one. The author can write and I once again find myself following a good writer wherever he takes me like a loyal dog.
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
A variety of true stories mostly about things, people and events of which the general public is not familiar. Eye-opening, intriguing, interesting and thought provoking. Hampton Sides does not disappoint.
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Read this one a while ago. Tons of fun. It is kind of brief scan of the different types of people in America, and the variety of cultures within it. From sneaking into FreeMason meetings to Christian rallies in Appalachia to techno raves in the middle of the forrest. It's pretty fun.
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
A collection of eclectic essays portraying America's personality. Dated but interesting. Wordy and well crafted in the usual Hampton Sides style. Recommended for those who typically enjoy the history genre.
Sep 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is a series of article about many different topics, such as the Bohemian Grove, the Iditarod, Mormon archeology, and the Church of God in Christ. Really interesting snippets into all sorts of stories.
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