Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Waiting” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating


3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  1,851 ratings  ·  221 reviews
A veteran waitress dishes up a spicy and robust account of life as it really exists behind kitchen doors.

Part memoir, part social commentary, part guide to how to behave when dining out, Debra Ginsberg's book takes readers on her twentyyear journey as a waitress at a soap-operatic Italian restaurant, an exclusive five-star dining club, the dingiest of diners, and more. Whi
ebook, 320 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 2000)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Waiting, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Waiting

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Simply, utterly, brilliant.

Anyone who's worked in any kind of customer service industry will read this book and nod your head along with it. Anyone who's been a customer will read it and come away with an appreciation for what people in the customer service industry do.

Ginsberg is not only an excellent writer with clever, dry wit, but she's got some genuinely funny stories to tell. She paints the pictures of her colleagues and places of employment vividly, until you feel utterly immersed in her
Jan 18, 2008 Pinki rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone should read this
This book came at a point in my life when I wanted to justify what I did for a living. I never really enjoyed waiting tables and don't I think the author does either but she made vaild points about the business.
It is grueling work, practically running all day on your feet, the organizational skills required, the psychology of every customer (and their personality profile), and how ultimately no one is ever just a waitress or a cook, or a manager owner, everyone gets into the business for some r
I really wanted to like this book. I wanted to read about inside info. and details about waitressing. I was hoping to get a behind the scenes understanding of waitressing life. The book is sort of autobiographical as it relates to the author's work life in the food service industry.

The problem is simply that it's just not that interesting. I didn’t feel like I really learned anything new or helpful as it relates to my personal experiences in restaurants. I kept expecting to learn some exciting
This wasn't nearly as fun as I had hoped. While funny at times to anyone who has waited tables, this memoir read more as a justification of an aging Reedie as to why, despite her quasi-Ivy League Liberal Arts education, she as yet to do anything worthwhile with her life. Rather than amusing antedotes, we are treated to sophmoronic attempts to intellectualize a profession in which on is paid to set a plate on a table. She fails to bring any commonality of the human experiece her memoir and, in fa ...more
The author, a Reed grad who’s been waiting tables for 20 years (“and I’m still waiting,” she adds), describes the life of a waitress in general, the trials and tribulations of wait staff at various restaurants, and the public perception of waitresses. It’s also a memoir of her own life, which is of course less interesting.

Ginsberg has a good eye for the amusing story, and she relates her customers’ foibles as wryly as she exposes what can happen behind the scenes of every dining establishment (a
Stephen Parrish
WAITING is more than the chronicle some other reviewers make it out to be; more than a mere narrative of twenty years spent waiting tables. It's a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the restaurant business, from the perspective of the floor, of the people who come into direct contact with restaurant patrons.

In keeping with the backdrop, it does contain anecdotes about the business, insights into the personalities who bring food to the table, and even tips on how to be a better cust
Kimberly Laura Malone
Very quick, easy read. Less than a day in fact... Having been in the food industry as both an employee and an owner for most of my life. And having been a server of some sort or another for 20 years, like the author of this book, I was interested to see what more I could learn.

While I very much enjoyed the walk down my own memory lane through the stories contained in Ms. Ginsberg's memoir, I was not very impressed by the lack of a moral to the story. As a hero's journey this was an incomplete.

Judi/Judith Riddle
While getting her BA in English, Debra Ginsberg supported herself as a waitress. She gives a glimpse into the the viewpoint of the server and what goes on in the kitchen. Sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying, it is definitely a memoir to be read for most all of us have been on the serving side and/or the dining side of the restaurant business. Ginsberg, while supporting her son as a single mom as a waitress in everything from diners to the upscale side of the dining experience, went on to becom ...more
Stella Dinielli
Debra Ginsberg’s “Waiting- True Confessions of a Waitress” is a memoir about the life she made for herself out of waiting tables for over 20 years. As a teenager, serving tables was simply a way to gain independence from her parents, then as she got older, merely a way to put herself through college, and finally, as a way to make ends meet as a single mother.Debra Ginsberg inspired me and taught me that instead of cowering from the ugly, nasty and unfortunate, to face it, embrace it and write ab ...more
My true philistinism is revealed when I am forced to admit that I enjoyed this book far more than the high-culture book of the same name, by Ha Jin. This book was a lively and entertaining read - Ha Jin's "Waiting" seemed to me to be a fairly dull book, about relatively pedestrian characters, which owed much of its success to the perceived 'exoticism' (and trendiness, at the time of its publication) of its setting. A book which was anointed as being important and worthy of attention, but which I ...more
I have never waited tables, but am quite the foodie, so love eating in restaurants and always wondered what goes on behind the scenes! This book is part expose, part memoir of a woman who has worked in tons of different restaurants over 20 years. Really liked it, and loved her tips on how NOT to be an a-hole as a restaurant patron and get spit free food!
With Butterflies
Not everyone's life is interesting enough for a book, in my humble opinion.

Maybe I was expecting more juicy stories about customers and restaurants, but it's really just about her life which is pretty ordinary.
Originally posted on The Canon! {}

As a worker bee in the food/hospitality industry, I love to read memoirs about the business. When I was researching my review on a previous food book, I found so many good reviews online for Debra Ginsberg's Waiting that I couldn't stand it: I had to read it.

Unfortunately, I fell victim to the GoodReads recommendation; I did not like Ginsberg's Waiting. The writing was flawless, but occasionally leaning towards boring as
It took me a while to get through this book. I'm not sure whether it was Ginsberg's writing style or lack of interest on my part. It felt like I was reading a bunch of short stories about serving, which was interesting, yet I felt was perhaps lacking something. I am an ex-server, so i did relate to a lot of her experiences, some of which made me nostalgic about waiting tables, and others reminded me of why I vowed to never work in the food industry again. It felt like the story lacked any reason ...more
Quite a bit has changed since this book was written and published about a decade ago. Wait, let me rephrase that: a lot of things haven't probably changed, but the perspective for the book would have changed. The whole celebrity chef phenomenon has sprouted and grown since this book was published. And while it's not celebrity waitresses or waiters, it would surely have added a bit more drama and spice to a more recent edition. Are all the celebrity chefs as horrible to work with as the rumors ha ...more
My four-sentence or less take on the plot: Debra was a server for most of her life, working in everything from a family-run pizza place to a five-star dining club. She experiences extreme highs (good money, great tips, dating a Chef, the trill of working a perfect shift) and lows (a shift where everything goes wrong, restaurants that just can't get traffic, and, above all,being treated as absolute dirt by your customers). If you ever waited tables or wanted to do so, this is the book for you.

My parents always told me that everyone ought to work as a waitress or waiter at some point, because it would allow for them to recognize how tough the work really is. Well, I've never waited, but I'm glad I at least was able to read this book, because it was a serious eye opener, along with being very well written.

The author has a very keen way of blending a chronological story of her life with various concepts and themes concerning waiting that tells a story while simultaneously exploring an a
This memoir about life as a waitress was not as exciting as I would have imagined. I'm not sure why Debra Ginsberg's story warranted a memoir as her life is pretty ordinary. Maybe I'm not the right audience for this type of book, seeing that I've never waitressed before, but a good memoir should make people feel like they are part of the narrative, keeping readers involved and interested. Also, there was something off about her writing - she's not a bad writer, but her writing almost reads like ...more
Susana Olague Trapani
Review written in September 2010

This book is, as you might've guessed it, a memoir of Ginsberg's time as a waitress (a span of 20 years). She takes us through the ups and downs of living as a waitress, and offers something of a social commentary on how the public views waiters and waitresses (waitrons?). While the memoir doesn't reveal anything that a decent, feeling human being couldn't have guessed already, Ginsberg's voice is one that I've come to enjoy and admire. Her stories, ranging from t
REbecca Darling
May 31, 2011 REbecca Darling is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
So far, this is a really good book! This is one of those that I picked up off my bookshelf and thought, why not? It's like her memoirs, and a lot of stories and the truth about waitressing and whatnot. Each chapter seems to be like a different time in her life, and just general knowledge thrown in there. She talks about how waiters/waitresses can tell what kind of customers people will be just by their appearance and where they're from. She noted that New Yorkers are good tippers (Stored that aw ...more
Tina Culbertson
Oct 06, 2012 Tina Culbertson rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: if you like behind the scenes in the food industry
Shelves: memoirs
WAITING: The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg is a fun read. If you enjoyed books such as Waiter Rant and Kitchen Confidential, this is in a similar style. It’s a memoir, it has good stories and graphic portrayals of customers and wait staff at their very worst. Interpersonal relationships are examined and you will find (to some folk’s horror) the things which happen in the kitchen behind the scenes are really, really things you hope are products of her creative license.

It’s funn
Apr 04, 2009 Artie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who's ever eaten at a restaurant.
This sounded like it had potential to be very interesting when I found it at a library book sale. Maybe 1/8 of the way in, I'm beginning to lose steam. Hopefully she's got better insight going forward and not just well documented instances of server-customer interaction.

Update: 03/23/2009
Ok this book is picking up as the author explores her first experience in a fine dining restaurant and its subtleties both in terms of service and staff politics. I think I chose this book because I like hearing
Feb 28, 2008 Kristen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who eats out
When I originally read this book, I was waiting tables and starting to think I'd be a lifer. I loved how Ginsberg was able to describe the thin line between loving the rush and the experience for the sake of a story, and feeling like a second-class citizen coated in mayonnaise.
Now that I have a "real job," and am re-reading the book, I am less effected by her stories. But I still appreciate how she tells just enough to make them interesting without sliding completely into gossippy trash. She has
John Wiswell
Apr 17, 2008 John Wiswell rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who eat out, social criticism readers, general non-fiction readers
Recommended to John by: Nicholas Sabin
“ I stormed into the kitchen and threw a handful of tickets over the line at Sonny.
“What’s the order?” he asked, baffled.
“You are such an asshole,” I spat at him.
“So, will that be rare or medium rare?” he asked. “

Every few dozen pages there was an exchange like this that I desperately wanted to share with someone, though I never made it back to the computer in time to do so. I don’t know how other people read this, but I found it to be the perfect bathroom book. Ginsberg writes in a very convers
A pass-along from crankyasanoldman after I saw her mention the book in her LJ.

Ginsberg has worked as a waitress for over twenty years, working in a diner at a summer resort as well as a fine dining establishment in the big city. Her stories range from the amusing, to the amazing to the heartbreaking. The frenetic pace of most of her days is astounding to those who have never worked in the business. To Debra, waitressing is a form of acting, as she becomes whatever persona her customers are expe
Dread PirateRobots
I work in high-volume retail. This book completely speaks to me as a "self-seller." People expect an act. They expect YOU. For it to work, you need to meet them there, but to meet them there, as frequently as one needs to to make a paycheck, it completely drains you. I get it. I like it. I'm also reading it rather quickly. Pleasant and anecdotal. She uses some good facts, but the book is 4 years old. If I felt I had time, I'd follow up on some of her figures, crunch some numbers, and probably fi ...more
Made me want to go back to waitressing! Holy shit! Not exactly my life's work! Of course, she is American so the tip system is different there, there's no way I would come away with much more than a fiver, never mind £100 after a shift. But still, it really brings back the comradeship, the energy, the warmth of doing what no-one else wants to do, wait on tables. If the tips were this good, I'd go back.
3.5 stars
I think this book will be particularly appealing to anyone who has spent significant time as a waitress/server. The author did a good job of capturing the atmosphere of most restaurants, as well what goes on behind the scenes. She revealed some interesting things that applied to the "lifers" of the business. I enjoyed her story as her life unfolded moving from one restaurant to another.
Aug 13, 2014 Anna is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I mainly started reading this because I just got my first restaurant job as a host. I was interested to hear stories of waiters and waitresses in case I ever wanted to be one.

I got really into the first 150 pages, but after a while the whole restaurant excitement wore off. The random stories weren't particularly special or incredibly memorable. But I could tell this memoir really helped the author organize her thoughts and feelings about her waitressing life. I've gained a new perspective and r
My 8 years working in the restaurant business encouraged me to pick this up when I found it on my local B&N's buy 2, get 1 table. It was a super quick read, had many funny quips that I could relate to, and encouraged me to start looking for a quick exit from the business before I end up a "lifer." Written in the same spirit as Waiter Rant, Debra Ginsberg follows her path through many restaurants around the country, independent and chain alike, telling stories of the people she's met, the exp ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat
  • Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter
  • Retail Hell
  • Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School
  • Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
  • Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor
  • Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen
  • Among the Heroes
  • Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America
  • Confessions of a Tax Collector: One Man's Tour of Duty Inside the IRS
  • Job Hopper: The Checkered Career of a Down-Market Dilettante
  • I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise
  • Alice, Let's Eat: Further Adventures of a Happy Eater
  • Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family
  • Other People's Dirt: A Housecleaner's Curious Adventures
  • The Hungry Years: Confessions of a Food Addict
  • Quiet, Please: Dispatches From A Public Librarian
  • Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker
Debra M. Ginsberg is a London born, American author. She is the author of three memoirs as well as two novels. Her first memoir Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress was published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2000, followed by Raising Blaze: A Mother and Son's Long, Strange Journey Into Autism, which chronicled her longtime struggle to get her son the education he was entitled to.

Find Debr
More about Debra Ginsberg...
The Grift Blind Submission The Neighbors Are Watching Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World What the Heart Remembers

Share This Book

“Hey, stronzo, che cazzo fai?" Mario demands.” 1 likes
More quotes…