Five Books for Labor Day

1. Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do
Studs Terkel
Studs Terkel’s classic oral history Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, this book provides a “brilliant” and enduring portrait of people’s feelings about their working lives.

2. Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs
John Bowe (Editor), Marisa Bowe (Editor), Sabin Streeter (Editor), Daron Murphy (Editor), Rose Kernochan (Editor)
This wide-ranging survey of the American economy at the turn of the millennium is stunning, surprising, and always entertaining. It gives us an unflinching view of the fabric of this country from the point of view of the people who keep it all moving. The more than 120 roughly textured monologues that make up Gig beautifully capture the voices of our fast-paced and diverse economy. The selections demonstrate how much our world has changed–and stayed the same–in the three decades prior to the turn of the millennium. If you think things have speeded up, become more complicated and more technological, you’re right.

3. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
Barbara Ehrenreich
Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job—any job—can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour?

4. Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line
Ben Hamper
The man the Detroit Free Press calls “a blue collar Tom Wolfe” delivers a full-barreled blast of truth and gritty reality in Rivethead, a no-holds-barred journey through the belly of the American industrial beast.

5. A Working Stiff’s Manifesto: A Memoir
Iain Levison
In ten years, Iain Levison has lived in six states and worked at forty-two jobs, from fish cutter in Alaska to furniture mover in North Carolina, film-set gopher, oil deliveryman, truck driver, and crab fisherman. He quit thirty of them, got fired from nine, and has difficulty remembering the other three. Whatever could go wrong often did, hilariously.

* Bonus. A view from the 1% side of things –
The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
Bethany McLean
Remarkably, it was just two years ago that Enron was thought to epitomize a great New Economy company, with its skyrocketing profits and share price. But that was before Fortune published an article by McLean that asked a seemingly innocent question: How exactly does Enron make money? From that point on, Enron’s house of cards began to crumble. Now, McLean and Elkind have investigated much deeper, to offer the definitive book about the Enron scandal and the fascinating people behind it.