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The Amateurs

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,080 ratings  ·  81 reviews
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 and October 1964. This time he has taken for his subject the dramatic and special world of amateur rowing. While other athletes are earning fortunes in salaries and-or endorsements, the oarsmen gain ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 7th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published July 1st 1985)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
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 ·  1,080 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a bit outside my usual reading, but back in another life, when I was a collegiate rower and perpetually sore, tired, beleaguered, and intensely happy, this was the book we'd pass among ourselves and pore over with the same monkish devotion we had to our sport. It was the closest thing we had to an answer to the question "why" that we'd often ask ourselves at 5 am, in those hushed pre-dawn hours when we'd sit and sway in a rickety bus on our way to the most physically punishing workout an ...more
Will Hoyer
Aug 10, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm not much for long reviews but I was a little disappointed in this, maybe because I had recently read The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, which I found to be a much more interesting and detailed look at the sport and the back stories of the rowers. Perhaps I'm being overly harsh on this because I'm comparing The Amateurs to that. Both are great looks at a sport which I think I would have loved had I gotten into when I was young.
Sep 09, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting accounts of the 1984 American men’s rowing team. Also some great insights about what it takes to be an Olympian.
Tom Gase
Mar 03, 2010 rated it liked it
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,
Aug 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Like so many, I read this book shortly after having read Boys in the Boat. It is the "other-side-of-the-coin" book to the romantic depiction of rowing described in BITB. Gone is the drama (in the 1930s, stories of rowers made the front pages of newspapers all over the world, and people cared about the sport... by contrast in the 1980s, rowing has become a little-known amateur sport barely hitting the radar of any sports enthusiast in this country), the camaraderie (these are the loners... the sc ...more
Rodrigo Quintanar
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
"...he told himself that the important thing was to deal with his disappointment as a man, to be graceful and generous. That was what rowing was all about. It demands so much in preparation that even if he fell short of his goals, he was not diminishes as a person..."

There's not a better quote to summarize this great story of four men and their quest for an Olympic Medal.

This book is not solely about rowing (although it does a good job explaining its basics), it is about the struggles and sacri
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How does a world-class, gold medal winning Olympic rower get his fifteen minutes of fame? Stand behind the gymnasts, wherever they go, counsels Brad Lewis (1984 Double champ with partner, Paul Enquist), that’s where the cameras will always be! David Halberstam did it again ... capturing the real pain, complete commitment, the competition and camaraderie among America’s best rowers in the events leading towards selection of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team and through the competitions. Each of t ...more
Emily S
Dec 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I got this book because I loved Boys in the Boat so much, but I found this book really paled in comparison in terms of storytelling and general writerly ability. The pacing was good but the flipping around in timelines was unclear, and I didn't really learn as much about each rower as I wanted to and as I felt the author wanted me to. The whole time I read this book (which is a quick read), I kept thinking, "I really want to reread Boys in the Boat!"
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A rower is a rower for life

I really couldn't put this down. It is so well written as you grow to know these men, rowers and relate them back to yourself. My life experience as a rower was eerily similar and I found myself nodding and laughing out loud throughout, even though I never reached such heights. This level of commitment to things so internally driven at such high cost, has been something that I've always struggled to explain to others and that the world largely fails to understand. This
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Compares unfavorably with Brad Lewis's account. Perhaps I'm interested in a less broad, lengthier version of the book. The style didn't do it for me. I'm glad a survey of the period exists. I think I'd be more interested in the transcripts of the interviews than in the book they produced.
Tom Lehmann
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
As an Olympic rower myself I simply ate this one up.
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it
A great book about the rowing team. I liked the other book I read about the team better. Hence the rating. This should be require reading.
Christina McClintock
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed it; reminded me of my college rowing days
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very compelling storytelling. Starts slowly as you're getting into the rowing slang and characters, but the second half just flies by.
UMass Dad in SLC
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think rowers are nuts. I personally am not a rower but my son is. He once rowed 26.2 miles on an erg nonstop. And all for what? Because a group on his team challenged themselves to. There was no money it in, no awards, just the simple satisfaction of having completed something crazy hard. Kudos to those who train day after day yet their accomplishments typically are unheralded.
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
A captivating story about a small tribe of obsessive competitors. Halberstam (of journalistic fame with chops for hard hitting reporting on the Vietnam war) writes what seems to be a passion piece on this weird little tribe of mostly east coast ivy league graduates in whom a rare overlap of genetic blessings (mad VO2 max's), unmatched drive and competitive spirit, and a cultish purist ethic.

The striking thing about these world class rowers is that 1 - they are so dedicated to a sport that causes
Patrick  O'Rourke
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
A strange book in some ways. Halberstam writes brilliantly about a non-event; America's rowing in the 1984 Olympics, which the Eastern block boycotted. He seems intent on focusing on the effort to get to the Olympics and the sacrifices that the sport, which can easily be viewed as elitist, demands of its participants.
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Robin Schoenthaler
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Kevin O'brien
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very good, quick read. If you have friends or family involved in rowing this book gives a great perspective on the quest to be the best and the sacrifices required to get there.
Wouter Verster
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Halberstam is certainly an accomplished journalist. I just re-read this book after some twenty five years. Very well written and it deals with all elements that come with practicing this wonderful sport, the doubts about technique, the constant quest for improvement, the ambition, jealousness, clash of characters, managing expectations. It just all comes together in the beautifully written book. The chapters are written in such a way that the end of each chapter holds a cliff hanger, wanting you ...more
Jan 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Piyush Chaurasia
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
The sports of rowing - which historically is absent from the media coverage, gets a center stage in this masterpiece. The story is about a group of rowers with different backgrounds, geographical locations, culture and style, united by same goal of getting into the USA team for 1984 Olympics. Book essentially covers all the aspects right from the family background to the contemporary reasons for each rower to be where they are presently. A fresh perspective away from the big money sports. The cl ...more
Aug 19, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh my. This is the longest short book I have ever read. How is it possible to make the story of world class athletes competing for placement on an Olympic racing team so mind numbingly boring?? By the time the author finally wound his meandering way to the olympics, I truly didn't care who ended up on the team and who won. I didn't care what happened to them after the race. I hope I never have to hear another word about the rowers, their families or their coaches. Skip this one and read the labe ...more
Kate Craig
Feb 16, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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David Halberstam was an American journalist and historian, known for his work on the Vietnam War, politics, history, the Civil Rights Movement, business, media, American culture, and later, sports journalism. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1964.

Halberstam graduated from Harvard University with a degree in journalism in 1955 and started his career writing for the Dai
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