Andrew J. Hoffman


Builder's Apprentice: A Memoir
Huron River Press, 2010








Builder's Apprentice is a beautifully written and engrossing account of Andrew Hoffman's rather sudden decision to give up a promising office position and become an apprentice carpenter.  This move, which challenges social expectations about career path and success, was motivated by a yearning to produce something in the world more tangible and lasting than just written reports.



Hoffman has a wonderful sense of narrative flow and a keen ear for the vernacular as he describes learning about construction materials, hand tools, and how experienced craftsmen work and think.  Eventually, he comes to be in charge of overseeing the entire construction of several exclusive and very large architect-designed homes, something he describes in the kind of detail that helps the reader actually understand the complexities of building construction and the pleasures to be found in skilled handwork.



While Hoffman's success in his new career makes Builder's Apprentice a coming-of-age story, the pride and satisfaction he attributes to a job well done makes it a timely cautionary tale for anyone who believes, as Wall Street types seem to, that success in life has solely to do with monetary reward.  Hoffman's underlying moral, one often forgotten today, is that it is meaningful work that leads to well-being and happiness.


Howard Risatti, Emeritus Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, author of A Theory of Craft and Skilled Work



Hoffman's beautifully written memoir reads like a novel, but it's also a compelling argument for the road less traveled.  Giving up Harvard Graduate School to swing a hammer may not have garnered Hoffman any initials to list after his name, but it taught him one of life's most valuable lessons: how to trust himself.


Kevin Ireton, Editor-at-Large, Former Editor-in-Chief, Fine Homebuilding Magazine



Builder's Apprentice offers a fascinating true tale of the path from recognizing Hoffman's deep attraction to building to upending his whole life to pursue his craft.  His journey reflects all that is gained by following one's calling and reminds us of the importance of meaningful work in our lives.  Hoffman is the rare person who boldly walked away from security and status to start at zero doing something he truly loved.  He gained everything in the process.


Amy Wrzesniewski, Associate Professor, Yale School of Management, author of Identity and the Modern Organization



Builder's Apprentice is a great read.  As a contractor, I enjoyed the familiar cast of characters, the day-to-day incidents, and references to tools and terminology I use myself.  He captured the feel of the job site perfectly.  And to top it off, it's just a really good story about building some amazing houses.  I recommend it to anyone who wants to experience the journey to becoming a modern day master builder.


Ryan Kline, Senior Project Manager, Turner Construction Company



In a culture overwhelmed by TV and computer-induced passivity, Andrew Hoffman's journey is a reminder that the design and construction of the physical world is still a rich source of learning. Building is an ancient craft that can produce places and things that are beautiful and useful to us all. For those that dedicate their lives to it, the special benefit is accumulating the hands-on experience that leads to life-transforming self knowledge.


Stefanos Polyzoides, Principal, Moule & Polyzoides Architects and Urbanists, author of Las Angeles Courtyard Housing and R.M. Schindler, Architect, Pasadena, CA



Have you ever felt that gnawing discomfort from a dream not pursued or an unmet calling?  Have you had someone believe in you more than you could imagine believing in yourself?  Do you savor the scent of fresh cut wood and the feel of a well-used tool-in-hand?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, dive into this book for a sensual and gripping account of following a dream propelled by the strength of someone believing in you.  The book provides a rare and detailed account of building craft homes from start to finish through the lens of a man on a journey to becoming a skilled builder.  It is a unique journey due to the special challenges of the craft.  It is a timeless journey of becoming excellent in a life domain that one barely dreamed of trying.


Jane Dutton, Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor, University of Michigan, author of Exploring Positive Relationships at Work