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The Hamburger: A History (Icons of America) Hardcover – April 22, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: Icons of America
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300117582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300117585
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,142,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

For decades America took its beloved ground-beef-patty sandwich pretty much for granted, the only controversy concerning whether it should have a slice of cheese melted atop the meat. Thanks to the ubiquity granted it by America’s mobile culture, the hamburger’s hegemony is now threatened on both nutritional and economic fronts. Ozersky traces the well-documented history of the hamburger, debunking many of the myths surrounding its nineteenth-century origins. He gives special attention to the origins of the White Castle chain of burger drive-ins, showing how it anticipated many of the innovations most people ascribe to McDonald’s. Ozersky finds the hard-driving Ray Kroc, author of McDonald’s success, a contradictory character, at once valuing conformity yet gathering around himself creative minds to ensure McDonald’s marketplace dominance. Ozersky’s analysis of Burger King’s and Wendy’s differing strategies to make their burgers somehow distinctive within the American fast-food market makes for great reading. --Mark Knoblauch


“There have been many books written about hamburgers, but none have placed hamburger mania into an American cultural context as does Josh Ozersky’s The Hamburger.”—Andrew Smith, editor, Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink

(Andrew Smith)

"When I want to know about hamburgers, Josh Ozersky is the man I turn to."—Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me
(Morgan Spurlock)

"This book is too good and too smart to be categorized as mere 'food writing.' It's like a meeting between Jane & Michael Stern and Ken Burns: bright, funny pop commentary mixed with vivid, rigorously reported American history. All compactly served on a golden-brown bun!"—David Kamp, author of The United States of Arugula

(David Kamp)

"Josh Ozersky is a cultural historian whose appetite for life and passion for eating have landed him in the heart of the food world. When he focuses on a single American icon, like the hamburger, we can trust him to take us on a delicious journey. This is my favorite book about the burger to come along!"—Daniel Boulud, Chef/Restaurateur
(Daniel Boulud)

"A sexy little volume on the history of the patty from its 18th-century beginnings to its postwar boom thanks to White Castle."—Rachel Wharton, New York Daily News
(Rachel Wharton New York Daily News)

"A must read for any like-minded eaters."—Midtown Lunch
(Midtown Lunch 2008-04-21)

"This entertaining and informative book, which traces the burger's evolution from working man's snack during the Depression to symbol of American corporatism, is nothing less than a brief history of America in the 20th century."—The Economist
(The Economist 2008-04-24)

"Lively, well-reported. . . . A tasty cultural history that appreciates the sizzle and symbolism of its subject."—Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
(Bob Minzesheimer USA Today 2008-05-08)

"Short but comprehensive, heavy with interesting detail about the habits of American diners and restaurateurs."—Graeme Wood, The Atlantic Monthly
(Graeme Wood The Atlantic Monthly 2008-05-19)

"Hugely satisfying. . . . Both scholarly and witty."—Daniel Okrent, Fortune
(Daniel Okrent Fortune 2008-04-14)

"Ozersky helps to put American history in the context of the hamburger's life story. Or is it the other way around? No matter, it's a fascinating look at one of our favorite things."—Gwyneth Doland, Fiery Foods & BBQ
(Gwyneth Doland Fiery Foods & BBQ 2008-05-01)

"The book is more than an overview of the sandwich; it is an impassioned argument for its significance in American culture and a celebration of its power."—New York Magazine
(New York Magazine 2008-03-31)

"Filled with anecdotes and enthusiasm, this book does what very few can do: it makes you hungry."—Kevin Lauderdale, Author Magazine
(Kevin Lauderdale Author Magazine 2008-03-18)

"Authoritative [and] impressively detailed."—Frank Bruni, Diners Journal
(Frank Bruni Diner's Journal 2008-05-02)

"Ozersky tells a taut tale of the sandwich's Diaspora and hand-to-mouth existence. . . . Ozersky's unusual blend of passion and common sense sets his book apart from others of its kind."—Ted Anthony, San Francisco Chronicle
(Ted Anthony San Francisco Chronicle 2008-06-26)

"Ozersky's little ode to joy on a bun is social history at its most flexible. . . .Ozersky's inquisitive mind and evocative prose will get the juices flowing and your mouth watering."—Robert Leiter, Jewish Exponent
(Robert Leiter Jewish Exponent 2008-07-03)

"[S]erves up a fast-paced and amusing account of how German 'hamburg steak' evolved into hamburgers for urban factory workers, became an irrepressible economic and cultural force, and played a role in the suburbanization of America."—Joshua Glenn, Boston Globe (Brainiac Summer Reading)
(Joshua Glenn Boston Globe 2008-06-27)

"A short, utterly brilliant chronicle of this storied American morsel. . . . Ozersky himself brings the story on to the brothers McDonald, Ray Kroc, the hamburger wars, and down to today, briskly, astutely, and engagingly."—Katherine A. Powers, Boston Sunday Globe
(Katherine A. Powers Boston Sunday Globe 2008-08-24)

"Colorful reading. . . . This is a country that needed something to unite it, and, however improbably, Ozersky convinces us that the hamburger has done just that. " —Holly Brubach, New York Times Magazine
(Holly Bruback New York Times Magazine)

"Ozersky's book is part biographical sketches of the great hamburger men and part American culture. . . . [H]e attempts to answer why the hamburger caught on in America and what kind of icon the burger business and the burger provide."—Rosalind Early, Belles Lettres
(Rosalind Early Belles Lettres)

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on June 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The history of the hamburger would seem to be a relatively mundane and fairly well known issue. If you thought that, as I did, you would be very mistaken. The history of the hamburger is much more complicated than simply the invention and selling of meat on a bun.

The author starts the book by debunking most of the current myths about how and who invented the hamburger. And, the author uses pretty strict criteria for what a hamburger is and is not. He puts to rest the claims of many of the people who claim to be the originator and comes up with a plausible explanation of how the burger was actually invented.

From that point, the author looks at the social implications, as well as the corporate structure that made the hamburger what it is today. How did McD's get started and how did a lowly piece of meat create one of today's largest corporations? You'll just have to read the book to find out. What happened to the company that started it all? And, no, that would not be McD.

The book, while relatively short, is well written and very readable. I enjoyed learning about the sides of the hamburger that I never knew existed.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Solid history, but unfortunately for every two goods pages of history you get three pages of his "social commentary" on the US, often with somewhat tenuous connections to the subject at had, namely hamburgers. For example, he rants about "Happy Days" being the most popular sitcom at one time--the connection being hamburgers were one of the items served at a restaurant in the show. Weak stuff. The actual history here can be read on sources like Wikipedia.
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By Karen Quinton on January 23, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was an interesting book for someone who likes to read odd, extra information. My husband liked it. The only reason I gave it a 4 is bc he didn't finish it.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By LoneRighter on August 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As far as it goes, The Hamburger an interesting work for its look into the personalities behind Wendy's, McDonald's, etc. Sadly it falls short of its goal; sort of like writing a book about the history of the U.S. and leaving out Columbus. How could anyone write a book about the hamburger and leave out any mention of In-N-Out Burger. A big enough short-fall to rate only two stars in my book.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By elvis9s on February 11, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
the book of history of hamburgers is great but I was also looking for some new recipes for hamburgers,fun to read
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