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My Heart Is an Idiot: Essays Hardcover – September 4, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2012: Following your heart can get you in a lot of trouble. This is true for no one more than Davy Rothbart, whose hilarious new essay collection is loosely built on the premise that he falls in love much too easily. But Rothbart's desire to impress his crushes is often just a starting place for a much wilder story. One involves rallying a group of strangers for the best Valentine's Day ever; in another, he finds a dead body in a swimming pool. (My favorite piece involves Rothbart's attempt to seek revenge on a scam artist by dumping urine on his head.) But none of these hilarious reflections would work if Rothbart didn't show such a clear sense of self-awareness. As a character, he's likable, shortsighted, and earnest; as a writer, he is a shrewd storyteller with a deep empathy for all the eccentric people he meets. Given his credentials--as a creator of Found Magazine and a contributor to This American Life--it's no surprise that Rothbart is so attuned to the world around him. Now if only his heart were as perceptive. --Kevin Nguyen


“THIS BOOK IS F---ING GREAT! Nobody writes quite like Davy Rothbart, because nobody lives quite like Davy Rothbart--a true and funny ragged-hearted seeker of ecstasy, mystery, and human connection. My Heart Is an Idiot contains some of the most perfect and heartbreaking writing that I have ever read.” ―Elizabeth Gilbert

“Welcome to the newly remodeled Heartbreak Hotel, where Davy Rothbart is concierge. He'll also unpack your underwear, restock your minibar, and do stand-up comedy in the lounge.” ―Tom Robbins

“In Davy Rothbart's essays on heartache, mad love, the low life, and the high life, everybody is fascinating; everybody has something to say. The sentences speed you along down one narrative highway after another, and your tour guide is smart and funny and a real democrat: he has a sweet-tempered openness to experience that wins you over. This book breathes new life back into the personal essay, and these essays are a trip. Take that trip.” ―Charles Baxter

“Tender, cool, funny, and utterly engaging, Davy Rothbart writes with a kind of warmth and cockeyed energy that make you love him. This book is marvelous.” ―Susan Orlean

“An intriguing hybrid of timeless Midwestern warmth and newfangled jive talk.” ―Sarah Vowell

“Davy Rothbart has the humor and purity of heart you want and need in an observer of contemporary American life. Without guile and with a belief in small towns, underdogs, love at first sight, the pull of the road, and the soulfulness of strangers, Rothbart is a kind of new-styled Bill Moyers--genuine, wide-eyed, and hopeful.” ―Dave Eggers

“I believe in Davy. He's a force to be reckoned with.” ―Ira Glass

“Davy's as real as it gets. This is a badass book.” ―Kid Rock

“Davy's my kind of storyteller--honest, hilarious, deeply feeling, and slightly cracked. This is the fresh voice we've been looking for.” ―Jim Carroll, author of The Basketball Diaries

“Davy writes with his whole heart. These stories are crushing.” ―Arthur Miller on The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas

“It's always exciting to discover a talented new writer. Davy writes with such energy, wit, and heart.” ―Judy Blume on The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas

“Like Kerouac's best novels, these stories are breezy and energetic dispatches from obscure corners of the country... Rothbart mines his material to heartbreaking effect.” ―The Washington Post on The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374280843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374280840
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Davy Rothbart is the author of the national bestseller Found, and creator of the magazine of the same name. A contributor to public radio's This American Life, he is also the author of the story collection The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Warning: Read this book and you'll be in the mood to fall in love all over again. Despite love's perils, many of which Rothbart delves into through this collection, no feeling could be sweeter.

Each essay in My Heart is an Idiot has a little "ah-hah" moment to it - a moment of connection, exhilaration, or heartbreak that pops out and punches you right in the heart or the face. Rothbart's essays seem a natural progression from his years working with This American Life and telling stories on the road - the essays are breezily written and full of nicely-put detail. If you have ever wanted to stick Davy in your pocket for safekeeping or wanted to hop in his van and travel along with him after a show, reading this book is probably the next best thing.

From the utterly filmic "Human Snowball" to the crushingly sad "Shade," Rothbart succeeds in showing us why his heart is an idiot, yes, but a lovable idiot. Rothbart himself is a rich character, charming but weird, sweet but a little selfish, and addictive like few people are. Readers who have ever been in love and done something a little outside-of-the-box will find plenty to relate to, as will those who have been on the receiving end of such gestures.

The collection is based upon Rothbart's seemingly endless arsenal of impossible-but-true tales. He knows how to tell a story, to be sure, but at times the coincidences in his life seem too great, and the reminder on the copyright page seems to suggest that perhaps some of them are: "Occasionally certain aspects...have been altered, amalgamated, reordered, refashioned, omitted, or even fictionalized... to preserve narrative flow." But maybe that is the price of a collection of creative non-fiction as engaging as this, and it's one that readers will likely be eager to forgive.

Buy it. Read it. It will make you feel things.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent read. Whether you're rooting for him or furious at him, Davy's decisions and adventures always brought out strong feelings in me. These are the chronicles of a guy who says "yes" to chances and opportunity where most others would pass, and the results speak for themselves. The casual honest writing style makes for a very accessible read. I highly recommended this book!
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Format: Paperback
So, I thought this book was just "ok" and don't much understand all the hype. It's entertaining, for the most part, if you like reading mildly crazy tales about a petty miscreant who blindy trusts/falls in "love" with everybody. I will admit that the story of him going unnoticed while naked in NYC made me laugh and his willingness to drop everything for an adventure - usually involving helping some stranger - is endearing. That's about where I stopped liking him. He lost me in the first story telling us about the pranks he and his brother would play on his deaf mother. But OK, kids are stupid. His "falling in love" with every sad girl he met made me roll my eyes. This guy has no clue, and in losing himself in the strange romanticized fiction of his life it seems like he had probably hurt a good many on the way there. So him falling in "love" with movie characters and random service inustry folk was annoying, but when he dropped everything to run to NYC after 9/11 under the guise of a fake writing assignment to impress another stranger-girl, taking the place of somebody who legitimately needed a seat on that elusive greyhound, I was done with him. Really what a selfish prick. Also, I couldn't get past the innumerable iterations of "Me and ______ left/went/did.....". Grammar, it's not for writers anymore, apparently. SO super "meh". Wait for a sale, for sure, and only if you can't find anything better to read.
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By B.H. on October 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Regardless of the fact that these stories are extremely far-fetched (and/or highly exaggerated), Rothbart definitely knows how to write. He also knows how to make a reader smile, gasp, and guffaw...sometimes in a single sentence. Some of the stories in this collection are better than others. "What Are You Wearing?" was my personal favorite; it's witty, unexpected, and surprisingly touching. Others, like "Tarantula" and "Southwest," seemed less like literature and more like rambling blog entries. I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to read these essays, but if you're looking for a fun, light read on an airplane, you could certainly do worse.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved these stories. It's probably not a fair review since I'm in one of them, but the whole book stole my heart. Davy's writing is funny, poignant and honest. It's wonderful to watch him develop as a writer since his earlier book, "Lone Surfer," and see the increasing depth. I especially love his openness to people of all sorts, free of our usual prejudices. He is happy to chat with fellow passengers of all sorts on a bus, or to the person beside him on the street, to climb into cars and welcome passengers into his car, and to see both the beauty and the confusion inside people's hearts without giving judgment. His last story, "Ain't That America" especially reflects this open heart. I look forward to seeing more of his writing. [[...]]
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Format: Paperback
I came across “Human Snowball” in "The Best American Non-Required Reading-2013" and I thought it was fiction.

Wrong. Not fiction but "essays," according to the cover of Rothbart's collections. Not college-course "essays" but non-fiction accounts. Adventures, perhaps? Maybe categories don't matter.

With passion tattooed on his bicep for everyone to see, Davy Rothbart is the likable star and hero of his ever-changing world.

Surely he’s literary three-way love child of Jack Kerouac, Studs Terkel and, I don’t know, Lord Byron.

"My Heart is an Idiot" will give you armchair travel time with a guy who follows the smallest urges and wispiest reasons to chase down offbeat dreams and stray questions. And women.

But like the action in “Human Snowball” (which is a terrific story/essay) Davy Rothbart gets bounced and whacked by the giant pinball flippers of life. Many of these stories start out being one thing and morph suddenly or slowly into something else. For 14 years, Rothbart has been running Found magazine, which collects love letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, doodles (this is from their web site)—anything that gives a glimpse into someone else’s life. He’s also a contributor to “This American Life” on NPR and there’s a ton of videos on YouTube from his endless roadshow and there is a documentary based on this volume of essays/stories/adventures.

But I just took "My Heart is an Idiot" for what it is—good writing. I don’t know if telling these stories come naturally, but they sure feel that way. Rothbart’s hopeless romanticism is everywhere, whether it’s chasing skirts or thinking through the guilt or innocence of a man imprisoned for murder.
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