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Gig: Americans Talk about Their Jobs

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  1,078 Ratings  ·  121 Reviews
More than 150 people in common and unusual occupations talk about their lives and work in the new economy, encompassing the human experience from a labor-support doula to a funeral home director.

For the last several years, the editors of Word, the pioneering Web magazine, have been sending interviewers—nearly forty in all—across America to talk to people about their jobs.
Paperback, 672 pages
Published August 21st 2001 by Broadway Books (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

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Jun 05, 2008 Marissa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book really fascinating for reasons I did not expect. It is a book composed of condensed 3 or 4 page interviews with people in a fairly comprehensive range of jobs. I checked it out because I thought it might give me some guidance about types of jobs or careers that might be interesting to me. What I took away from it was more of a nuanced insight into how different people think of their work, what they like and don't like about the jobs they do, the casual, sociological knowledge t ...more
May 22, 2007 Dan rated it it was amazing
People talking candidly about their jobs, that's what this book is all about. Some of the interviews are a bit dated (copyright 2001), like all the people in the tech sector talking about how their businesses are taking off, but overall, the people interviewed are interesting and you get a good survey of the fundamental questions about other people's jobs--how they got into it, why they're doing it, how they feel about it, etc. The book is especially good because it covers a diverse array of car ...more
Christopher Litsinger
Nov 29, 2010 Christopher Litsinger rated it it was amazing
This book is interesting to me on a lot of levels. It is essentially a series of interviews about what people do for a living. It may very well be the first book developed from a website; I'd be curious if anyone is aware of an earlier one. Unlike the current craze of personal memoir (blog) books, or coffee table LOLz books, this is actually very journalistic in nature. These stories seem like they were collected by audio interviews, and it's hard to imagine any website doing that today. The fac ...more
Apr 29, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it
This book was fascinating to read - it's a bunch of people talking candidly about their jobs. Some of them are shocking, some uplifting, some downright depressing. But all of them were very interesting. My favorites were the florist (because I've always had a secret desire to be florist), the software engineer (because he had fabulous insights on the differences in lifestyle between socialist nations and capitalist ones), and the McDonald's crew member (her uplifting spirit and sense of self is ...more
Ryan Mishap
Mar 29, 2010 Ryan Mishap rated it it was ok
Shelves: personal-writing
I guess it isn't fair to ask anybody to be as good as Studs Terkel was at coaxing out the important matters when interviewing people, but I was disappointed in this collection.

First, it is ten years old, so the interviews took place in the go-go nineties--outdated.

Second, the interviewers just let the people ramble on about their jobs (this is lack of editing) and rarely does an important point get made (this is lack of good interview skills, or maybe people aren't as introspective and wise as t
Aug 23, 2009 Morganelle rated it it was amazing
This book was fascinating to me; it illustrated that the reasons why people choose the kind of work they do and how they feel towards it are as numerous and unique as the people themselves. The book covers the occupations you'd expect, but also sheds light on lesser-known occupations like moving huge pieces of art, or supervising workers at a chicken slaughtering facility, to give two examples.

After I read this book, I felt I had learned more about the US's economy, demography, regional differe
Dec 10, 2011 Santos rated it it was ok
After reading the Interview of the teacher I realized that this book did not accurately represent the typical experience of people in their jobs. I found some of the interviews ridiculous and appalling. I just couldn't get past some of it.
Sep 10, 2014 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a book of unstructured interviews with Americans, about their jobs. It is transcribed in their own words (though with all the annoying um’s and uh’s helpful edited out), so it preserves the diversity of regional accents, educational levels, and idiosyncratic speech patterns for a down-to-earth flavor.

At first glance, you would think this was a book about employment, about the ways we make money. But it is really about how we live, and what we live for.

The book is organized by professio
You can't speed-read literature, but most of what I'm looking at is commercial fiction where you're basically reading for plot. It's not like the language is so intricate

Fortunately, scouts are salaried, so we don't have a pecuniary interest in any particular book. We're on retainer—we get a flat fee every month from our clients by contract and our income is steady. That means we just report on any book we think will be of interest to our clients. We learn their taste and they learn o
Jan 23, 2008 David rated it really liked it
This book follows a very simple formula. People across a wide variety of jobs were asked to talk about their work and the interviews are presented, with minimal editing. Thus, the structure mimics that of Studs Terkel's 1972 classic "Working" Although there are a couple of famous names (Jerry Bruckheimer, Heidi Klum), the great majority of the contributions are from 'ordinary people'.

It’s remarkable how well things turned out. The book is wide-ranging, consistently interesting, fun to read, and
Jun 16, 2016 Ev rated it really liked it
At 700 pages, I hit a wall at 400 -- I began to bemoan how it seemed unending, though each individual story was interesting. Overall, it's a great series of vignettes stringing together a wholesome narrative of 2000's Americana. I'd love to see it revised to today's 2016, as a great deal has changed in our professional landscape, particularly in terms of AI.

Gig's editors certainly had a hand to play in that "wholesome" aura -- but I continue to muse on whether it's a general human attitude towar
Barry Davis
Feb 16, 2016 Barry Davis rated it liked it
A compilation of over 120 interviews with Americans talking about their jobs. These interviews, conducted by nearly 40 interviewers, are patterned after Stud Terkel’s book Working, written in 1972. Over 600 pages long, Gig has an incredibly diverse collection of frank, first-person discussions on a wide range of occupations, from Wal-Mart greeter and crime scene cleaner to a poultry factory worker and a member of Congress. As a result, the book provides an interesting way to get a sense of what ...more
Sep 10, 2013 Cassie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was really interesting and I'm glad that I randomly picked it up at Powell's. It is short, candid stories of people talking about what their jobs are all about. It covers ALL jobs, this thing is 700 pages long. But it's great, because it's all short, non sequitur stories so you can spread it out over a long period of time. Some of the stories are starting to become a little out of date. In one of them, the guy explains in great detail what this newfangled Powerpoint thing is that he us ...more
Rachel Smalter Hall
May 19, 2008 Rachel Smalter Hall rated it really liked it
Imagine that you're reading transcript after transcript from Ira Glass' This American Life. This will give you a little bit of an idea what's in store for you as you curl up with Gig.

My sis gave me this book for Christmas, and it got me through some cold, dark, lonely winter days. These were my friends: the Wal-Mart Greeter, the Slaughterhouse HR Rep, the Hat-Store Owner, the Film Director. The most fascinating tales often came from the people with the most dull-sounding jobs, like the Universit
May 14, 2007 Lauren is currently reading it
This book provides short essays, roughly 3-5 pages from various people across the country. Each of them writes about their jobs. Each essay is not only different in its author and their profession, but also in what they choose to write on. Some focus on what they do day to day while others focus on the strengths and weaknesses of their job, how they got there, etc.

Some of the people hold positions of people that we have interacted with a lot in our lives but probably didn't stop to think about w
Aug 16, 2007 Will rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People hate their jobs.
Large (near 700 pgs) book focusing on, well, Americans and their jobs, made up of a huge amount of various jobs (everything froom carnival workers to congressmen), most with section running about half a dozen or so pages. This is a blessing as someone of the folks here are pretty bland but it's easy to get through them due to length. But those are few and far between and most of the stuff is fairly interesting; occasionaly hilarious (the UPS worker who does everything BUT work and strangely enou ...more
Brian Roberts
Feb 21, 2011 Brian Roberts rated it liked it
Interesting snapshot into the lives of people doing a variety of jobs. I found it fascinating to hear the insider view of so many professions.

However, I wish the interviewees were people that interested in doing their job long-term---so that you could get a feel for how it might be to do that job for a living. No such luck. Many of the interviewees complained about their job, and wanted to leave it as soon as possible. The interviewer could also have focused the interviews on the jobs more---man
Dec 13, 2007 Jenny rated it liked it
A series of short essays by Americans working in a number of different professions. This book has been interesting and informative, especially in reading about people with uncommon professions, such as strippers, UPS drivers, slaughterhouse human resources manager, etc.

Having just finished the book, I think that overall it's ok. There are some really interesting essays on some professions that I wouldn't have necessarily thought to be interesting. But then there are also some essays that aren't
Nov 24, 2012 Kasandra rated it really liked it
Excellent, well laid out and thought out, entertaining and thought-provoking. The jobs I enjoyed reading about most: Crime Scene Cleaner, Train Engineer, Florist, Food Stylist, Book Scout, Bookie (super interesting!), FBI Agent, Homicide Detective, U.S. Congressman (Barney Frank! his bit is one of the best parts of the book). I guess Accountant and Librarian are 2 jobs that were not deemed interesting enough to make the cut ;) but this was a fascinating book overall and well worth reading. You'd ...more
Mark Woodland
A fascinating read that I would recommend to nearly anyone. On the other hand, it's not the original in its genre and style: Studs Terkel came out with "Working" quite a long time ago, and this book borrows heavily from the prior work. On the whole, I find Terkel to be a better chronicler, but this book has a couple of significant advantages. One, it's more recent, and readers may find the material fresher. Two, it includes professions that weren't even around when Terkel wrote his book. If one ...more
Feb 01, 2010 Katie rated it liked it
Interesting set of interviews about what people think about their wide variety of jobs. Some ho-hum, some really interesting, and some startling (like the UPS guy who gives better service to places with the best porn magazines in their bathrooms). Not surprisingly, I found the most interesting ones to be the ones surrounding the entertainment industry... being an assistant to a movie producer seems just like what you'd imagine it to be--working 24x7 for a complete maniac, and accepting constant ...more
Kt Bradshaw
Feb 15, 2016 Kt Bradshaw rated it it was amazing
This book picks up 30 years after the 1970s-era "Working" by Studs Terkel left off, taking snapshot peeks into people's working lives. It's a fascinating sociological and historical document. You can pick up the book and casually read an interview or two, or you can study and compare various interviews for insights into what work meant to people during this time period. I love how each person's personality comes out in the interview. One of my favorites was the television station receptionist, b ...more
Jason Rawles
Jan 08, 2008 Jason Rawles rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who has ever had a job
Quite possibly the most fascinating series of accounts I have ever read concerning hardship, employment and everyday life in this undercultured and overworked country I reside in.
The most interesting is undoubtedly the "crime scene cleanup" guy.
Most interesting is the candid nature of the discussions that results in admiration, disdain and every emotion sandwiched in-between; all brought to the surface chapter after chapter.
My most loaned-out book to date. Someone actually has it right now.
Dec 06, 2012 Tlingit rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is like a bunch of short stories. There are different aged people different personal stories and each person writes in their own style. They tell you about their job. It's a great read riding the train back and forth from your house to your job, waiting for appointments, sitting in the park, eating lunch. It's great to curl up with this book.
You can get not only a view of each job by someone who has worked it but also a good read. I don't know. This is simple because it's slice of lif
Jul 26, 2009 Diana rated it it was amazing
This book is a great escape. Hardly short of reading mini-documentaries on the lives of people you pass on the street. It truly defines the idea that everybody has a story. Embarrassingly enough, I think this book really brought to life the fact that someone has to clean up a crime scene. Why I had never thought of that before? I don't know! But it's a fantastic book--you'll find yourself anxious to read more and more.
Apr 22, 2007 michelle rated it really liked it
In 1972, Stud's Turkel interviewed hundreds of people about their everyday jobs, providing perspective to the masses about work people never thought about.

This book is the contemporary imitation of that idea. I found it engaging because the stories are shorter, in first person narrative. Everything from the tofu manufacturer to the UPS driver to the transvestite prostitute. It might not give you an idea about what you want to do, but it will give you an idea about what others do.
Apr 25, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
This is a book I read every few years or so. The book basically consists of people from all walks of life talking about their jobs. The jobs run the full gamut -- from Kinko's employee to actress (Debra Messing) to crime scene cleaners. Each interview has a unique voice depending on who is telling the story. You really get a glimpse inside each person's working world and their life. In my view, it is a more modern version of Studs Terkel's Working, which I just found too dated for my tastes.
Jul 26, 2011 Kim rated it it was amazing
Reading this book was like reading an encyclopedia, but a really, really interesting one. It is really big too, so I couldn't tote it around town to read it, so it took me awhile.

This is a collection of interviews from people from many different jobs in 2000. Some of the jobs have gone extinct or have completely changed in 11 short years. Finding out what other people actually do is pretty interesting to me, so I enjoyed this book almost the entire way through.
Marty Scott
Apr 17, 2012 Marty Scott rated it really liked it
I read this a few years ago....great vacation book or as a quick break from serious reading. The author essentially interviewed people about their jobs and gave a few pages to each. As I recall, the jobs ranged from executives to UPS drivers. Some of it was just interesting because of the job while others where the UPS driver who finished his route early so he could sneak into a nearby pool to swim in the afternoon (or something like that). Easy, mindless reading.
May 12, 2013 Melanie rated it it was amazing
A great read for anyone who has a job, wants a job, or has a job but wants a different job. No job is left unexplored--from prostitute to CEO. In this edited volume, the voice of each individual worker comes across to the reader in a way that is unique and touching. I laughed and cried, and I really liked this book.
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