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Working by Studs Terkel

Working (original 1974; edition 1975)

by Studs Terkel (Author)

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1,694136,803 (4.18)50
A collection of interviews with working people in a wide variety of occupations.
Authors:Studs Terkel (Author)
Info:Avon (1975), Edition: First Edition, 762 pages
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Working by Studs Terkel (1974)


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Working captures the range of human variety and personality in a way unlike anything I've read before. It's a bite sized procession of humanity baring their lives. And while most aren't trying to instruct or direct others, there is almost always an insight or something to learn from each interview. With well over 100 interviews it's a long book that never gets old. Perfect for reading in bite size pieces, a couple interviews at a time. I would happily keep reading (in small bites) if there was another five hundred or a thousand pages, or further editions from more recent decades. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
I was looking forward to this book. I really enjoyed Hard Times, and most things I’d seen about this book were very positive. A similar style, the same great author – the expectation was a similar experience.

I can’t really pinpoint where it all fell apart. I just know it happened very quickly.

The book is a collection of interviews/conversations/people talking about what they do for a living. It spans the gamut of just about every profession you can think of – farming, switchboard, actor, police, welding, salesman, business, housewife, broker, sports, executive, retirement…That is an incredibly short and incomplete list of everything that is included. And, for most of these professions, it is not just the one stop in the process, but discussions with people involved throughout, from the lowliest worker to the most important executive. You can cover a lot of conversations in almost 600 pages.

But it is amazing how many of these people are just…well, let’s say it…they are boring. And it doesn’t matter what walk of life or what profession. The boring exist everywhere. And maybe that is an important takeaway. Our country is not made up of individuals that have compelling stories and superhero status. Nope, we are mainly just plain old ordinary people leading plain old ordinary lives.


Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some interesting stuff in here. Just about the time I was ready to close the book and give up there would be a story that resonated or was interesting or had something about it that was compelling.

And there were some fascinating comparisons between the 70s and today. The biggest change evident was the role of women and minorities in the workplace. Sure, we have a long way to go, but in forty years we have definitely changed our expectations and assumption. On the other hand, these stories are a reminder that the people’s trials, tribulations, and concerns have not really changed. People in the 70s were lamenting the same issues and telling the same stories and dreaming the same dreams that we are today. There is not a one of these conversations that wouldn’t be right at home on Facebook. In particular, it is interesting to see a similar resistance to change and a refusal to recognize that change is coming.

What that all means is that my feelings about this book are a mixed bag. It was hard to read through the whole thing. Far too often my mind would wander and I would realize I could care less about which ever person was talking. But then there were the moments of insight and genuinely interesting stories that seemed to almost make it worthwhile.

I cannot strongly recommend this book. There is a lot here that doesn’t do much. But I definitely can’t say to avoid it. The snippets and pieces are worth the time. You will just have to make your own decision about whether this voyage through the desert is worth the oases you find on the way. ( )
  figre | Jan 19, 2017 |
It does what it says on the cover.
So simple, yet why had no-one done it before? ( )
  mikerees | Aug 14, 2015 |
-helped me realize that I was not alone in disliking work and preferring play ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 31, 2013 |
"In all instances, there is felt more than a slight ache. In all instances, there dangles the impertinent question: Ought not there be an increment, earned though not yet received, from one's daily work-an acknowledgement of man's being?"
1 vote alycias | Apr 4, 2013 |
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For Jude Fawley; for Ida, who shares his vision; for Annie, who didn't.
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It is a two-flat dwelling, somewhere in Cicero, on the outskirts of Chicago.
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