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Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel about What They Do
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Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel about What They Do

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  3,159 ratings  ·  262 reviews
Perhaps Studs Terkel's best-known book, Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, from a policeman to a piano tuner, this book provides an enduring portrait of people's feelings about their working lives
ebook, 640 pages
Published July 1st 2011 by New Press (first published 1974)
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like any studs terkel book, you start off like "wow, everyone has a story" and then 400 pages later you're like "jesus, EVERYONE has a story."
My shittiest jobs, in order:

1) For one summer, at the Northeastern Illinois University library, I wrote tiny symbols on adhesive labels. Later I attached these labels to government documents.

2) Brown’s Chicken.

3. Mrs. Field’s Cookies.

I’ve often said that my primary motivation for attending college involved avoiding meaningless employment. I’m one of those people who grows near suicidal if I have to do rote tasks for the money necessary for food and shelter. I’m flat-out scared of a shitty job.
This book was to some degree a political gesture when it was written--a radical reassessment of which lives are worth documenting and which voices worth being heard--but it would be a shame to read it that way.

What this book is is what life feels like during the hours you don't choose for yourself--as told by airline stewardesses, union bosses, factory workers, CEOs, car salesmen, whatever--and there's as much humanity in here as in any novel. It is also, incidentally, insanely useful source ma
Studs Terkel opens Working with one of the most stirring sentences I have read of late: "This book, being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence - to the spirit as well as to the body." And although Terkel's voice and narration are only present for the following 13 pages of the Introduction, giving way to 600 pages of the voices of others, the power of his intent resonates through to the back cover.

Those remaining 600 pages are direct transcriptions from the stories told to Terkel b
Niki Haworth
I think that in today's climate of reality TV and everyone trying to sell their story or seek their "15 minutes" that the interviews for this book couldn't have been done with the un-selfconsciousness with which they were done 30-plus years ago.
Victory Wong
Short little 1/2-4 page interviews with people about their jobs. There is the stockbroker that admits getting into the stocks is going to have you losing money, the housewife, the executive secretary (this was published n the 70s), the mason, hotel operator, newspaper carrier.... It's interesting esp because it also is a glimpse into 30 years ago but also just intersting for people to talk about their work. Not everyone's happy, not everyone's unhappy with their jobs but Stud Terkel does an admi ...more
I'm a fan of both Studs Terkel and of oral histories, so this book was a win-win for me. Terkel interviews people from all walks of life about the work that they do and how they feel about their occupations. And the interviews range from the humorous to the truly sad. It's apparent in these short oral histories that Terkel isn't making judgments about certain occupations. Instead, he seems genuinely interested in what people do and how they perceive their jobs. However, the fact that this book w ...more
A stunning look at America in the 1970's. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry at some of the depictions of these hard-working people. Mostly I just wanted to quit my job.

It would be interesting to see what Americans would say to the same questions Studs posed in today's working world (although nobody could replace the way he asked them). I would suspect that fewer would complain about the toll work placed on their bodies (we probably could use a little more of that to tell the truth). But I im
Kressel Housman
Here's another one for my unfinished shelf, unfortunately. I've read about 250 pages, which is one-third of the way through, but with the end so far on the horizon, I'm ready to give up. Since the book is structured in individual interviews, can always pick up again some other time. It's not like it's a complete story, and I'm missing the ending.

The interviewees are regular Americans talking about what they do for a living. Most of them are griping, which I can relate to, but that may be part of
It took me almost a month to read this and has gotten me a little off-track my reading goal for the year. The concept was interesting, but it was pretty boring overall for me.

Written in 1972 and organized into relatively short vignettes, Terkel explores a multitude of occupations ranging from farmer to stock trader to stonecutter to hooker to apartment dooramn. Most of the jobs are in and around Chicago. Given the time, computers/technology didn't play much a role, though several of the subject
Does it get better than Studs Terkel? No. It doesn't. Here's a man who created and sustained, all by himself, a particular non-fiction genre that had never been conceived of before. The long, almost unedited interview with the questions deleted. It permitted (and, yes, it's past tense because to my knowledge no one has seen fit to pick up the torch) the entry by the reader into the personal thoughts and values of the person interviewed to a degree otherwise impossible. Of course, I'm sure that M ...more
David Gillette
I really enjoyed this book. I read it very slowly, bits at a time, all out of order. I purchased it the week I quit my job at the bookstore, with my employee discount, and got a slow start on it. As the months drifted by, and I started a new job that I enjoyed much more, I kept coming back, a few installments at a time. And then the last couple of weeks I've basically been walking around the apartment with it like a security blanket and I think it's become one of my favorite books.

That would hor
Joseph Nicolello
Ah, at last a work which not just reminds me why I spent those years studying journalism, but actually inspires me to tap into that part of my brain again. I swore off journalism after Britney Spears's shaved head made the front page of a newspaper involving a thorough examination of the Sudanese holocaust and an interview w/ visiting survivors, and this is honestly the first time in about five years that I'm toying with some non-fiction projects. Thanks, Studs. I thought there was only one Stud ...more
I think I killed Studs Terkel. Since I was a kid I've read omens and augeries into anything slightly out of the ordinary that happens to or around me, so I know my sudden and intense interest in him right before he died can't be a coincidence.

This is an amazing book, although I can't imagine reading too much in one go. It's surprising how pro-union everyone seemed to be not so long ago. What happened?

If anyone wants mp3s of Studs Terkel interviewing Dorothy Parker, Alan Lomax, James Baldwin, Mah
I got about 100 pages into this 600-page tome, and I couldn't help but feel that the reading endeavor as pointless as some of the folks felt that their jobs were. It's interesting to hear people's voices, straight with little editing, but disconcerting after a while to not find any sort of structure or context, aside from the somewhat esoteric organization of the order of interviews. The common theme seemed to be that lots of people didn't like their jobs very much, and that lots of them felt, i ...more
Beth Sniffs Books
OK, so I've finally started reading WORKING. It is incredible and still relevant despite being published in the very early 1970s. However, my initial concern about the font size is valid -- it is tiny! I'm definitely going to consider buying this as an e-book at some point in the near future... With such an epic and important work, I wish the publisher would have chosen a slighter larger font size in order to present Terkel's work to the reader in a more optimal and enjoyable way.

A wonderful collection of stories about work. I found this in the discount table of a chain bookstore the summer after I graduated from college and before my professional identity was established. I read each chapter avidly, swallowing whole (if such a thing were possible) each person's story, attending to which jobs sounded pleasant, which horrible, which I thought I could do, which not, which seemed to endow the teller with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, which not. To my surprise, ...more
Jason Reeser
I haven't made it halfway through this book yet but I can't put it down. What an extraordinary experience it is to read this. Despite the fact that this is slightly outdated now, forty years down after it was collected, it is still incredibly relevant for anyone who has to get up every morning (or evening) and go to work. I am struck by how often people say the newer generations are changing the workplace with their attitudes. It sounds like they are talking about the generation of today, when i ...more
If there were an edited version of this book I'd like it a lot better. Although I like how the author put down the word-for-word transcription so it feels like you get to know the different interviewees, apparently the majority of the world likes to cuss-a lot. This book covers blue collar America and almost everyone is disappointed in or extremely dislikes their job most of the time. These people have tough jobs and tough lives! It should be called: "A college education is worth it." :-) I wish ...more
I read this when it first came out in paperback in the 70s when I was in college and, though I no longer own a copy, I can vividly remember some of the accounts people gave of their work and how they felt about it. One that came early in the book was that of a stonemason who took great pride in what he did and who was very satisfied with his job. A true craftsman, he often drove around to look at chimneys he'd built just because it gave him pleasure to see them.

Other jobs were not so satisfying
OK, maybe I haven't exactly read this book from cover to cover, but I have certainly dipped into it for hours at a time over the years, browsing it to the point that finding something unread in it's pages has become rather rare. Personally I think that's the best way to read this book, a little at a time, not straight through. Some books are like that.

This is a really fascinating book. It's age shows to some extent, there's constant references to hippies, long hair, communism, union fights (when
Jim Bennett
This book is a report. Studs Terkel was asked to write it, and travelled the USA interviewing people about their jobs and how they felt about them. We are treated to overviews and live conversations.
A car factory worker comments on the shift supervisor. A shift supervisor comments on the floor manager. A floor manager comments on the upper management. The book is an ongoing interview of working America.
A loader of steel (a mule could do what I do), a prostitute, a hockey player (Eric Nesterenko)
This book is amazing and was really hard for me to read. To have the skin of so many on mine makes me feel heavy. Maybe it's trite to say, but what I learned is that life isn't fair, which is revealed over and over again in these testimonies. Maybe this book struck a chord with me because I am always conflicted about what to do with my career, relationships, self and I am never clear on what I should be aspiring to. Use your head, follow your heart?
What I really liked about "Working" was hearing the voices of a cross-section of Americans and their thoughts on working. Because this was a Studs Terkel production, there was a larger sample from the Chicago area than others. However, since that's where I live, I found that rather compelling.

While there was more discussion about unions than I initially expected, it made sense upon further reflection. Unions played a larger role in many professions at that time; today, many of us enjoy paid sic
Alex Jeffries
Working consists of nearly 600 pages of interviews of people speaking about their jobs and how they feel about what they do for a living. It's more than just a cross-section of American working life - it's a testament to why we do what we do. It's informative to have so many of these perspectives of people having spent five, ten, twenty years in the workforce, or having worked since they were small children, or having switched jobs. The vastness of this collection is overwhelming at times, but h ...more
Bradley Hartman
There was no one like Studs Terkel to give you the real insight on the real working class. My Dad was interviewed by Mr. Terkel and became a chapter in this book. It was a highlight in both my Dad's and my life and part of the reason I am a writer today.
Alan Cordova
Excellent panorama of life at every level revealed through Studs Terkel's unparalleled powers of inquiry; a good gut check if you ever thought your life was tough!
Oct 31, 2008 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has ever worked, and especially those who haven't
Shelves: favorites
Terkel was one of the only guys out there who could reliably restore my faith in the American people.

R.I.P. Studs.
Deborah Schwartz Jacobs
Absolute masterwork of oral history. This book, which I read in the early '70s as a UCLA undergrad, convinced me that it was important to listen to people's personal experiences and to care about the travails of their lives.

Possibly it also reinforced my disaffection with the work world and the conventions of American society, and somehow contributed to my eventual abandoning life in the USA to join an intentional community and cast my fate with the Zionist enterprise that seemed coherent with m
Remains a classic. I'll be reading it a few people at a time though with other books in between.
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Terkel won the Pulitzer prize in 1985 for his interviews with ordinary people in such books as Working, The Good War, and Hard Times. Often called an Oral Historian, Studs Terkel preferred to be known for playing music on the radio.
More about Studs Terkel...
The Good War: An Oral History of World War II Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression Division Street: America Race: How Blacks And Whites Think And Feel About The American Obsession Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith

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“Most people were raised to think they are not worthy. School is a process of taking beautiful kids who are filled with life and beating them into happy slavery. That's as true of a twenty-five-thousand-dollar-a-year executive as it is for the poorest."
Bill Talcott - Organizer”
“I think most of us are looking for a calling, not a job. Most of us, like the assembly-line worker, have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people.” 2 likes
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