21 Dog Years: A Cube Dweller's Tale
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21 Dog Years: A Cube Dweller's Tale

3.22 of 5 stars 3.22  ·  rating details  ·  291 ratings  ·  56 reviews
In 1998, when Amazon.com began to recruit employees, they gave temp agencies a simple directive: send us your freaks. Mike Daisey -- slacker, onetime aesthetics major -- fit the bill. His subsequent ascension, over the course of twenty-one dog years, from lowly temp to customer service representative to business development hustler is the stuff of both dreams and nightmare...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 26th 2003 by Free Press (first published June 4th 2002)
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Community Reviews

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Bryan
This book is a little tricky because (if I understand correctly), it originated as a one-man show, and he then lengthened the work to turn it into memoir/book form. Because it wasn't originally intended as a book, I do think it can be a little rough around the edges.

Primarily for the above reason, I'm giving it four stars. Nevertheless, I am interested in Daisey as a performer, and I wanted to get a feel for his work. As this is his only published (sort of) play (and because I don't live anywher...more
Punk
Non-fiction. Mike Daisey is the epitome of Gen X: bachelor's degree in aesthetics, background as a professional temp, and a hundred casual Superman references tossed into his speech. It's 1998 and Seattle is churning out disaffection and coffee like it's the new world order, and Daisey has just gotten hired as a customer service representative for Amazon.com.

The day of his first interview with Amazon, Daisey walked out of the building and was confronted with a Seattle Weekly newspaper box on the...more
Charlene
I enjoyed the beginning of the book. The opening chapters were filled with humor. I enjoyed the bits about school, moving to Seattle, Nintendo, and coffee.

As the story continued, I found myself being reminded that often in life, people are searching for an identity, a place to make a difference. In other cases, we are often motivated to amass stockpiles of green. In reading this work of non-fiction, I see how people can get caught up in the emotion and losing a bit of "themselves".

Despite thes...more
Amanda
I love Mike Daisey, and if you've ever seen one of his shows, they're great. I found myself reading aloud several parts of this book to my fiance, and we'd chuckle along. However, I found the book to have a very quick drop-off at the end, and less of a lead-up to his final days than I would have liked. Additionally, I would have loved to have had a (even if it were fictional) Amazon-sidekick to compare the two lifestyles in order to glean from the text what was making Mike unhappy during these t...more
Maddie
21 Dog Years is the chronicle of author Mike Daisey's brief time at start-up Amazon.com

21 Dog Years because like dogs, the years (especially the earlier ones) seem to age you faster at Amazon than in the real world.

Daisey details how he was a shiftless "dilettante" few ties before he broke down and joined the freak show of the customer service team. The Amazon.com he describes is like a cult - and was apparently covered so in some of the media at the time - with a message and figurehead that was...more
Tania
quotes#346980 from my notebook

In some ways it was the curse of talent; there was a whole list of things in which I showed great promise. But there is a hell of a gap between "talented" and "successful," and to bridge it you need something called "will." My teachers begged me to dedicate myself - just a little - and said I would really blossom. I dug in my heels and refused. I feigned scorn and indignation but really I was just too scared to apply myself. I was afraid I would discover my limitati...more
Dana
I first saw Mike Daisey in 2005 at the Portland Center Stage performing 21 Dog Years, or Doing Time @ Amazon.com as a one man show. The performance was excellent and I still remember him using the analogy of a three legged dog. (a dog with its leg in a trap chews it off and lives to escape but it still loved because who doesn't like dogs even if they have only three legs). He made me realize that I too could escape a job that I truly hated and I also did a geographic cure. I have a photo of a on...more
MattA
This book is an adaptation and expansion of Mike Daisey's original one-man show. It increased my appreciation of the book to imagine Mike delivering it as a monolouge. I've heard several other pieces by Mike, and he's a great story teller. A decent author, too.

The book covers Mike's years working at Amazon.com, his years as a cubicle dweller. Reading it now -- ten years after publication -- it serves as a bit of nostalgia, looking back on the dot-com era of the late 90's. Mike almost seems to st...more
Aaron
This book provided a kind of quick detour from the heavy stuff I've been concentrating on lately (including "A People's History of the United States). It's a good, quick, funny read about one of Seattle's best-known (and quite cultish) companies: Amazon.com.

The upshot? Joining Amazon is like joining a cult - only the members quote "Star Wars," sport college degrees in subjects like "aesthetics" and basically trade their souls for the enormous wealth promised by stock options. The book also provi...more
Al Maki
I dealt with Amazon as a techy working for one of their suppliers in the first years of the millennium and I think the book captures something of the flavour of the place at the time, albeit from a goofy angle. It's also funny and enjoyable.
Miko Lee
Totally blown away by Mike Daisy's This American Life story about Apple Computers made in China, I searched for as much material on him as possible. Sad that I missed his productions at Berkeley Rep, I thought I'd opt for this book based upon his years at the start of Amazon.com. At the same time my daughter is applying to be a scholar with the Bezo Foundation - aka Amazon founder Jeff Bezo's foundation. This books seemed like it would be great. Sad to say that I was very disappointed. Though it...more
Garrett
After seeing Mike Daisey's monologue about his travels to Vanuatu at the Woolly Mammoth theater, I was really excited about this book. In the show he presents a very nuanced view of capitalism and western culture, raising provocative questions about "value" and why we behave the way we do.

Unfortunately the book doesn't extend the ideas or offer anything close to the same level of analysis. Though it explores the connection between capitalism, society and wellbeing, it feels like a juvenile first...more
Andy Park
Nov 11, 2007 Andy Park rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: young professionals
Casual but honest look at Amazon in its early days - having worked at an internet start-up centered around charismatic personalities, I can attest that the anecdotes and emotions the author shares are authentic - sad, humorous, and upsetting all at the same time.

Tech bubble will burst again and again as long as the business model continues, which probably isn't a bad thing over all as it constantly creates new jobs and weeds out the weak businesses, but you can't help but laugh at some of the j...more
Cathy
I went to see Mike Daisey perform a one man show at a local theater a few months ago, and it was terrific, so I looked forward to reading this book about his years working at Amazon.com in the late 90s. Maybe my expectations were too high, but this wasn't the funny and poignant portrayal I thought it would be. Instead, it dragged on and focused more on the author's own self-deprecation than real insight into working at dot-coms in that period before the bubble burst. I did enjoy the mock email m...more
Jennifer
This book is a sarcastic, funny and caustic account of the author's stint as a customer service representative at Amazon.com. He worked there in 1998 so I'm assuming a lot has changed in that time. However, it is a pretty biting view of what it was like inside Amazon during the beginning years. I read it quite a while ago but remember enjoying it and feeling like the author was probably violating some kind of workplace confidentiality agreement. Perhaps his former employee agrees because, althou...more
Marlene
Absolutely hilarious and relate-able for anyone who worked at a dot-com in the years surrounding 2000.

Jeff
Well, really three-and-a-half.

The book certainly gives you a sense of why working at Amazon was a very crazy prospect in the late '90s. I grew up in Silicon Valley during the tech boom, but I never really understood what it was like from the inside, certainly not in the way Mike Daisey saw it.
On the other hand, our narrator is a bit too sarcastic in his views of everything to be entirely believable, and sometimes the humor can wear a little thin.
Definitely worth a read; shouldn't take more than...more
Amy
This started out really great--about a guy's inside experience as one of the first (300 or so) employees of Amazon.com
But, as the story went on, I started to....not care.

I've spent the last few days with only 4 pages left to read because I just felt so blah toward the whole thing.

This guy was a major slacker, stealer of office supplies, etc. I didn't find one quality about him that I liked (well, maybe his humor), not enough to save this.

Meh.
Jessica
Sep 25, 2007 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Current and Aspiring Amazonians
Shelves: memoirs
I picked up this book because I have long desired to be an Amazonian. I enjoyed the amusing anecdotes describing the skewed logic and cult-like atmosphere if the Customer Service team, but it did not deter me from my Amazonian dreams for 2 reasons. 1) Customer Service is always a fucked up and miserable department. I don't want to work in CS anyway. And 2) Mike Daisy is INCREDIBLY unmotivated and is clearly one of those people that can ONLY be self-employed.

Sarah Emily
Jul 29, 2008 Sarah Emily rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: artists with day jobs
Recommended to Sarah Emily by: mike daisey himself via the internet
I learned two things from this book.

1: Amazon.com is fascinating, in that it was a disaster of a company yet a miracle of a business. requesting SAT scores for applicants to the customer service department? crazy.

2: a person can go a little bit corporate, work for an organization that maybe sucks the soul a tad, and still come out alright. not immediately, perhaps, but eventually.

I may have known #2 already, but it's good to hear it again.
Cassandra
Loved it! A winning combination of great storytelling (which I expected, having seen one of his performances) and great content, poignant. Particularly appealed to me as someone who got seduced by an abusive corporation/institution and eventually found herself out of it but reeling at the idea of figuring out where to go from there. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a laugh and especially anyone with experience in a soul-sucking job.
Karen Hansen
I was very lucky to see Mike Daisey perform two monologues at the Kirk Douglas Theater this past Spring. This book was just as wonderful as his live performances. Simply put, Daisey is a gifted story-teller and I would highly recommend him to anyone.

Besides all of the great things about Daisey, this book is also interesting for the insight that it gives with regard to the birth of Amazon.com. I really got a kick out of the emails!
Bob
sense of deja vue was strong with this insight into life in a dot.bomb company with the euphoria and dubious practices that went with it. Although Amazon has survivied the period covered by this book was definitely in an era when the emphasis was on adding customers regardless of the cost. Otherwise some good chortles to be had but I'd say this stuff will date quickly enough.
Adam
Ordinary to the verge of boring. I thought I'd get an inside look at how Amazon.com works, how it started, or how it has continued to be a great company despite the critics. I got none of that. It was more of a short-term diary of one person's work day. My work day is bad enough, I like books to allow me an escape, and I don't like to escape to a different work day...
Martha
Despite what he says I found the author so pleased with himself and his eventual choice to leave Amazon that it annoyed me. Yet I also agreed with much of what he said, having been an founding member in the cult of McAfee and watching that company grow and change into a cube-dwellers worst nightmare after John left.

I also opted out.
Alexander Case
This book is amusing, certainly, but I wouldn't exactly call it a great work of computer history. It's basically the story of a humorist working for a corporation, sitting in the cogs. It's inoffensive and worth checking out from the library, but I wouldn't call this a must-have book about the history of the computer industry.
Alex Mitchell
My cousin gave me this when I graduated from undergrad. It's hilarious until, if you are like me, you realize that this is your f-in life. For those who've not lived working in technology firms, this is a pretty good look at what it is like, and what it was like during the heyday of the boom.
Lynda
Not a great book, not a life-changing book my any means. I didn't love it. I wasn't moved by it. But it was kind of neat to read about what it is like behind the scenes at Amazon.com. I picked this book up at the Dollar Tree and read it in one evening, so it was definitely worth it. Fun.
Holly Booms Walsh
An amusing tale of the dot com boom as seem through one slacker's eyes during his entertaining and exasperating time at Amazon.com while it was a startup. Those of us that have had a taste of corporate will appreciate the humor and the lengths we go tto sell ourselves to the company line.
Tamela
I was hoping for more really funny humor...but then it became really vengeful humor. Still somewhat interesting because we all(well some) become occasionally disillusioned with our jobs. Is what we're thinking really true? I'm always glad when we can find something that suits us better.
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126047
Mike Daisey is an American monologist, author, and actor best known for his full-length extemporaneous monologues, particularly The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which aired on This American Life. The story was subsequently retracted following allegations that many of the events in the story were fabricated. When confronted with evidence that much of what he reported as truth (both on stage...more
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The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs 21 Dog Years Rough Magic

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