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American Steel [Hardcover]

Richard Preston

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Book Description

April 1991
Acclaimed writer Richard Preston chronicles the nearly superhuman effort by the Nucor Corporation, America's ninth-largest steel company to build a revolutionary new steel plant from the ashes of the midwestern Rust Belt. Elegantly written and compulsively readable, American Steel has all the elements of a great novel: amazing characters, gripping suspense, towering machinery, and a driving mission.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (April 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 013029604X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0130296047
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 930 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #311,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In 1987 a maverick and minor-rank steel company named Nucor set out to challenge American "big steel" and foreign competition by crash-building on Indiana farmland a new facility, of German design, to produce sheet metal for consumer products, profitably and at competitive prices. In order to document this partial reversal of America's steel-industry decline, Preston ( First Light ) lived for months with Nucor's principal players: down-to-earth CEO Ken Iverson, larger-than-life project boss Keith Busse, cool unit manager Mark Millet and bossy Westphalian inventor-machinists. Also present are dozens of proud "hot metal" workers sweating around the clock to iron out start-up kinks, surviving fiery explosions and runaway meltdowns, and occasionally belting down boilermaker highballs to ease the tension. Preston's skillful narrative, deft characterization, authentic dialogue and description of operations make this an absorbing, informative, moving reading experience. First serial to the New Yorker.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In 1987, Nucor, the ninth largest steel company in the United States, bulldozed one square mile of Indiana cornfield and built the world's first compact strip production steel mill. Preston, author of First Light ( LJ 12/87), provides more than a compelling account of the mill's creation; he profiles and champions Nucor's hard-working, fast-driving, heavy-drinking, union-hating, hot-metal steelworkers who literally risk their lives to rekindle the fire of America's steel industry. Using suspenseful, tension-filled narration and nontechnical language, Preston dramatizes the Crawfordsville Project's birthpangs and its revolutionary German steelmaking process that, after two years and $250 million, finally transforms rusted Cadillacs, abandoned refrigerators, and broken truck axles into hot-rolled steel. This book, which will find a wide audience, just might ignite a desire among businesses to resurrect other neglected industries as well. Highly recommended for all libraries. Excerpted in The New York er .
- Andrea C. Dragon, Coll. of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, N.J.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lessons in leading strategic change July 17 2000
By K. Scott Proctor - Published on Amazon.com
The overarching theme of Richard Preston's book, American Steel, is that of leading strategic change, a concept central to the discipline of managerial science. Another important theme of the book restates a concept central to the discipline of finance: the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward.
From the moment Ken Iverson took the helm of the Nuclear Corporation of America in 1965, he was charged with leading strategic change. He "became president by default...no one else wanted the job...His job description was merely to stave off bankruptcy." Taking the path of least resistance, Iverson focused on the company's only profitable unit, the Vulcraft joist division.
Instead of purchasing bar steel from other companies, Iverson decided to build a steel mill himself. This was a tremendous risk; as he put it, "We played 'Bet-the-Company'." This gets directly to the point mentioned above -- the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward. By employing untrained, unskilled workers at this new plant in South Carolina, Iverson increased the risk profile of the company even further. This move, however, combined with a generous bonus plan, engendered a sense of trust and responsibility in the workers after some time. Trust, as it turns out, is the currency of change -- and change is just what Iverson was trying to accomplish.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From begining to end, an excellent true story Feb. 20 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I had just recently started working at a steel plant when I discovered this book. I learned alot about the steel industry, from experiences that the author had first hand, to the politics. I couldn't put it down. What I enjoyed most about it was that it's all real. The things that are described, from the EAF, to the rolling mill, I relate to it every day. At any perspective, from the office to the grunt work, it keeps your mind going.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A company bent on beating Japan at making steel March 7 1999
By Mark A Cevallos - Published on Amazon.com
Never in my wildest dreams would I expect to root for a steel factory in west-central Indiana to save American industry, but you have to read "American Steel" to believe it. Nucor Corporation has a wild idea about building a plant in tiny Crawfordsville, Indiana, and beat Big Steel and Japan at the same time with non-union labor. Though the writing style is fairly simple the story itself is fabulous and I wouldn't believe it if I didn't know it was true.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining book on steel? YES!!! July 6 1998
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I bought this book only because I like Richard Preston's work. Frankly, my interest in steel and the steel industry (metal in general, for that matter) is nil -- but I just had to see what Preston was going to do with this subject. I now know more than I ever wanted to know about steel and the men who make it -- and the learning process was funny, suspenseful and gut-wrenching. This was a DELIGHTFUL book and I'm glad I didn't let my lack of interest in the subject turn me away from it. I give this book my highest compliment: I'm glad I read it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ambishes Story of Resurrection Feb. 13 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
American Steel is a comeback story of the American Steel Industry. A little less than half a million american steel workers lost their jobs in the 70's and 80's to imported steel. This book is about their story of how they put their heads together and purchased and created a machine which would make them the most competitive steel workers in the world. This book takes the reader into the minds of the hot metal men and through every step of their ambishes story of resurrection.

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