Review of Andrea Hiott’s Thinking Small

“The story of the Volkswagen is part of the human story, not just the story of any one country, time, family.”

1949 Split window VW Beetle
Image via Wikipedia

When I obtained a galley copy of Andrea Hiott’s book Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle from Netgalley (www.netgalley.com)  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 asked myself, “Where is this book going?”

I am glad I kept reading.

Hiott’s book is a broadly written sweep of 70 years, really longer in many ways, as she unpacks the story of what we have come to call ‘The Bug” and its roots in the mind and heart of a man whose name has become synonymous with  another famous brand of car, Ferdinand Porsche. It is a book that will take you to the early 20th century Germany then into wartime Nazi Germany, post-war Germany and back and forth across the Atlantic as visionary German designers and manufacturers begin to see a new car and a new way of life even during the dark days of Nazism and the resultant turmoils of postwar reconstruction and politics.

This book is about the story of several men: a designer, a manufacturer, several ad men, military men who were soldiers first and then occupiers of a vast manufacturing plant, and yes, one of the most ruthless dictators in human history and one car. One car, that nearly died but kept coming back to life and wiggled its way into American culture in a way that still runs deep today.

If you buy this book (and I suggest you do!), don’t get discouraged as you read it. Hiott’s masterful weaving together of several story lines finally comes together at the right time… well just as the Beetle comes together at the right time!

I give this book an “outstanding” rating.

Note: I obtained a galley copy of this book via netgalley. I was not required to write a review but did so.

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