Working; people talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do

by Studs Terkel

Paper Book, 1974


A collection of interviews with working people in a wide variety of occupations.



Call number




New York, Pantheon Books [1974]


User reviews

LibraryThing member Teramis
This book changed my life. I read it when it was new, at a time when I was becoming incredibly discontent in my first real career position job. What struck me about the people in this book was that almost all of them, are busy doing work they don't really care for, and which many of them downright
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hate. They feel trapped and are unhappy, but they stick at it because they have bills to pay. The people who in contrast were doing work that they *loved* had a magical time of it. They were also few and far between. After I read this I questioned why people choose to make themselves unhappy at work they hate, when they could (as we say these days but didn't, then) "follow their bliss" and find what gives them joy. I have never looked at work the same way since, and the insights I gained from this book gave me the courage to leave a bad situation in order to find a better path to fulfillment. This is an amazing work of oral history, and the love work/hate work issue is just as relevant today.
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LibraryThing member alycias
"In all instances, there is felt more than a slight ache. In all instances, there dangles the impertinent question: Ought not there be an increment, earned though not yet received, from one's daily work-an acknowledgement of man's being?"
LibraryThing member simchaboston
A bit dated (it was published before the Age of the Computer), but still worth the read, thanks to a variety of colorful characters and Terkel's presence as story collector/interpreter.
LibraryThing member NativeRoses
Studs Terkel is the master of oral history. In this riveting book, he interviews Americans about their true feelings about their jobs.
LibraryThing member J.v.d.A.
To be honest, sometimes I think Terkel talks to the wrong people. This book, though undoubtedly very interesting in parts, can also become a bit of a slog at times.
LibraryThing member nycbookclub
In these times of uncertainty I'm thinking a lot about work, what we do all day, what it means, whether it makes us happy or just fulfills our need for money so we can do something else that makes us happy. I'm also interested in people's jobs and journalism. I really want to read this and I think
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it will lead to some interesting discussion topics. --Marley
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LibraryThing member carterchristian1
Any book on employment at this point in American history when unemployment is over 10 per cent, is timely. I bet a lot of people are pulling this off their shelves. LT is reporting 16 available and 61 wanted
LibraryThing member mykl-s
-helped me realize that I was not alone in disliking work and preferring play
LibraryThing member mikerees
It does what it says on the cover.
So simple, yet why had no-one done it before?
LibraryThing member figre
I was looking forward to this book. I really enjoyed Hard Times, and most things I’d seen about this book were very positive. A similar style, the same great author – the expectation was a similar experience.

I can’t really pinpoint where it all fell apart. I just know it happened very
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The book is a collection of interviews/conversations/people talking about what they do for a living. It spans the gamut of just about every profession you can think of – farming, switchboard, actor, police, welding, salesman, business, housewife, broker, sports, executive, retirement…That is an incredibly short and incomplete list of everything that is included. And, for most of these professions, it is not just the one stop in the process, but discussions with people involved throughout, from the lowliest worker to the most important executive. You can cover a lot of conversations in almost 600 pages.

But it is amazing how many of these people are just…well, let’s say it…they are boring. And it doesn’t matter what walk of life or what profession. The boring exist everywhere. And maybe that is an important takeaway. Our country is not made up of individuals that have compelling stories and superhero status. Nope, we are mainly just plain old ordinary people leading plain old ordinary lives.


Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some interesting stuff in here. Just about the time I was ready to close the book and give up there would be a story that resonated or was interesting or had something about it that was compelling.

And there were some fascinating comparisons between the 70s and today. The biggest change evident was the role of women and minorities in the workplace. Sure, we have a long way to go, but in forty years we have definitely changed our expectations and assumption. On the other hand, these stories are a reminder that the people’s trials, tribulations, and concerns have not really changed. People in the 70s were lamenting the same issues and telling the same stories and dreaming the same dreams that we are today. There is not a one of these conversations that wouldn’t be right at home on Facebook. In particular, it is interesting to see a similar resistance to change and a refusal to recognize that change is coming.

What that all means is that my feelings about this book are a mixed bag. It was hard to read through the whole thing. Far too often my mind would wander and I would realize I could care less about which ever person was talking. But then there were the moments of insight and genuinely interesting stories that seemed to almost make it worthwhile.

I cannot strongly recommend this book. There is a lot here that doesn’t do much. But I definitely can’t say to avoid it. The snippets and pieces are worth the time. You will just have to make your own decision about whether this voyage through the desert is worth the oases you find on the way.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
While the music fit into the workers' anecdotes well, I found that my attention wandered. This adaptation did make me interested in reading Terkel's book someday though.
LibraryThing member kcshankd
Started Labor Day weekend, and finished three months later. That isn't an indictment of the book, but that it is the perfect work to read in fits and starts. Stolen moments, say from working...

An oral history of work in 1970 or so USA. The world I was born into. Everyone has something to say, no
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one ever does anything about it as the old joke goes.
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LibraryThing member breic
Mostly interesting, though some interviews could have been cut without much loss. It gives a good portrait of its time.
LibraryThing member reader1009
adult nonfiction; sociology/history. Invaluable perspectives compiled dutifully by Studs. Read a few that interest you, then read a few more, and a few more.

update: I only vaguely remember picking this book up before, but it seems fitting to revisit from time to time--this time I made it through
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more than half of the book. Though it was published in 1974, the two interviews with policemen (one white, one black) and some of the other interviews take on new significance in light of current racial issues and Black Lives Matter.
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LibraryThing member kslade
Good account of various people and how they feel about their jobs.
LibraryThing member lschiff
Inexplicably, I've yet to read this!


Original publication date



0394478843 / 9780394478845
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