Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do
by Studs Terkel (c) 1974
On the surface this book looks like it might be kind of boring. It's an oral history about the day-to-day work that normal people do. *yawn* I only read it because I was in a refugee camp in Guatemala and some past visitor had left it, water damaged and a little mildewed, in the visitors' cabin where I was staying. There wasn't a lot else to read.
But Studs Terkel has a real gift for making a fascinating story out of even the most mundane details, and I found myself pleasantly surprised and engrossed.
The variety of people he interviews is stunning in itself, and the interviews are grouped thematically, so after he interviews a farmer whose land is being ruined by strip mines, he goes on to interview one of the miners. He includes some illegal professions, which makes for some very interesting reading. He finds people with jobs you've never heard of. And he finds people with boring, ordinary jobs and imparts to the reader some of the quiet futility of the rat race, or else the unlikely pride and determination even someone earning minimum wage can feel.
All in all it's a pretty good book. Very informative, though quite depressing at times. And can you believe that in 1978 Stephen Schwartz tried to turn it into a Broadway musical? It flopped. Kind of a cool idea, but poorly executed according to the New York Times review I read.