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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

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  3,884 Ratings  ·  298 Reviews
Studs Terkel records the voices of America. Men and women from every walk of life talk to him, telling him of their likes and dislikes, fears, problems, and happinesses on the job. Once again, Terkel has created a rich and unique document that is as simple as conversation, but as subtle and heartfelt as the meaning of our lives.... In the first trade paperback edition of h ...more
Paperback, 640 pages
Published February 28th 1997 by The New Press (first published 1974)
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Cheryl Probably less so than you think. Progress is slow in most areas except computers and communication. If you feel you must, read it as History. You…moreProbably less so than you think. Progress is slow in most areas except computers and communication. If you feel you must, read it as History. You might also want to read "Hidden America" by Jeanne Marie Laskas.(less)
All Creatures Great and Small by James HerriotNickel and Dimed by Barbara EhrenreichKitchen Confidential by Anthony BourdainWorking by Studs TerkelAll Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
A Day in the Life: Work Memoirs
4th out of 516 books — 296 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
232nd out of 4,017 books — 5,889 voters

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Community Reviews

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Aug 16, 2007 lola rated it really liked it
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."
Sep 12, 2016 Scott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fic
Have you ever imagined what being a mustachioed New York cop in the 70s was like? Or how it feels to labour as a Springsteen-esque steelworker? How about as a stonemason? If you’ve ever idly wondered about any of these things, or about sundry other ways that people make a living, you can’t pass Working up. This book earns its big reputation. Working will transport you, not just into the working lives of others, but into a different, and in many ways alien, era- the United States of the 1960s and ...more
Jun 24, 2013 RandomAnthony rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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.
Dec 27, 2008 Matthew rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 30, 2012 Rana rated it really liked it
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
Only marking this as read to get it off my want-to-read shelf. Marking this book as did-not-finish has nothing to do with the content of this book. I just can't read this particular print edition -- the font is way too tiny to read this book for hours on end, let alone just two or thee of the oral history "vignettes" in one sitting. I VERY MUCH want to read this book so I'll need to stop procrastinating and buy the e-book soon. I'd also like to add that I had an eye exam earlier this ye
Niki Haworth
Jul 28, 2007 Niki Haworth rated it really liked it
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
Jun 09, 2009 Victory Wong rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Erik Graff
May 11, 2015 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Terkel/oral history fans
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff
My father died recently, just short of his 94th birthday. His wife has been gradually divesting herself of his possessions, among them many books, several of them by Studs.

Dad was a great fan of classical music and a bit of a leftist. In Chicago, that combination was best approximated by WFMT radio and its various magazines, within which Studs appeared regularly. A bit of a leftist himself, the McCarthy perseculations of the fifties threw him out of the networks and into the arms of "Chicago's f
Nov 24, 2008 Corey rated it really liked it
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
Dec 31, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2016 Katie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have an impractical desire to experience all the experiences. I could go on at great length about this, but Sylvia Plath says it best:

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.”

Thankfully, there are books like "Working"
Kressel Housman
Aug 21, 2014 Kressel Housman rated it liked it
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
David Quinn
Great concept and lots of good stories but ultimately too long and too many pointless stories.

The last two stories (the Patrick brothers) were examples of the book’s high points. Each had interesting events to describe and their points of view were unique.

The book flopped when people offered their dull and unsubstantiated theories on the various reasons why things happened the way they did. Also, there were many instances of people bemoaning the lack of work ethic in today’s youth. (The book wa
Abimelech Abimelech
Dec 09, 2013 Abimelech Abimelech rated it it was amazing
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
Jason Reeser
Jul 20, 2013 Jason Reeser rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nate Hanson
Dec 03, 2015 Nate Hanson rated it liked it
At turns illuminating and repetitive, two major themes emerge:
1) "Those on the top only see shitheads. Those on the bottom only see assholes."
(The relevant image Goodreads won't let me link. Quite SFW.)

2) Labor with no perceptible tangible outcome is inherently dehumanizing. Without a sense of ownership over a product's craftsmanship, the soul suffers terribly. Consequently, the product itself often does, too.
Oct 31, 2008 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Todd Stockslager
Feb 28, 2016 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Review Title: A long, strange trip back to a different world of work

The world of work has changed so dramatically in the 40 plus years since Terkel interviewed this selection of men and women at work in the American workforce in 1972 that this seems like a historical document from another era. His ability to capture and let people talk in their own voices makes this documentary even more vital and valuable as the world and work of our parents and grandparents disappears.

1. Work was work then. B
David Gillette
Sep 18, 2013 David Gillette rated it it was amazing
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
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
Shweta Nigam
Jul 15, 2015 Shweta Nigam rated it it was amazing
Do you hate your job? Guess what. Most people do! The author gets workers from waitresses and steel workers to dentists and ad executives to confess what's really in their souls and how they really feel about what they do to make a buck. The surprise is how universal many of the feelings we have about our jobs truly are. The book is a large volume of transcribed confessions of working people.

Although this book came out in 1972, it feels surprisingly recent. The subject of the book is the way th
Cette édition est une adaptation graphique du célèbre "Working" (en français, "Gagner sa croûte") du journaliste américain Studs Terkel. Le projet de Working est, selon moi, des plus intéressants : le journaliste donne la parole aux individus, afin qu'ils évoquent leur travail, ce qu'ils y font, la place que ce travail a dans leurs vies, la manière dont ils le perçoivent, l'importance qu'ils lui donnent.
Je n'ai pu mettre la main que sur l'adaptation dessinée, et j'ai pensé que c'était pas plus
Derby Halligan
Jul 26, 2016 Derby Halligan rated it it was amazing
Love it so far! As someone who is "[f]unemployed" right now, the narratives in this book consistently make me think about my own work and educational experiences, and what I'd like my future to be. Another reason I love this book so far is that it makes me pay more attention to the interactions I have with workers, whether they are passing out flyers to boycott somebody, or making coffee, or delivering the mail. I also like that the definition of work is flexible -- is it just stuff you do to ma ...more
C. Scott
May 02, 2016 C. Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A massive book, I'm so glad I was finally able to finish it. An excellent book, this is the third I've read by Studs Terkel - the others "Hard Times" and "The Good War" were equally great.

We all go through life making assumptions about others. I guess it's natural to use shorthand and make judgements about people based on what they do. This book does more than anything else I know to turn those assumptions on their heads. Terkel talked to people from every walk of life - CEOs and high paid execu
May 26, 2012 Rozzer rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 17, 2009 Dave rated it really liked it
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
Jan 18, 2011 Ami rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish, 2011
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
Aug 16, 2015 Gediminas rated it really liked it
An impressive mosaic of short interviews portraying work (and life) in America in the 1970s.

The interviewees are very diverse, ranging from lowest level workers to corporate executives; some stories are funny, some sad, some focus on work only, some drift off to other topics (upbringing, philosophy, parenting, social problems, etc.). Reading the interviews piece by piece a larger picture emerges - that is why I enjoy reading oral histories so much. (Thank you, Max Brooks and your "World War Z" f
Nov 23, 2009 Alyssa rated it it was ok
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
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Louis "Studs" Terkel was an American author, historian, actor, and broadcaster. He received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1985 for "The Good War", and is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans, and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago.

Terkel was acclaimed for his efforts to preserve American oral history. His 1985 book "The Good War: An Oral History
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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.” 6 likes
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