The labor of Labor Day

Janet Clapp

Summer informally ends with a three-day weekend for many of us, because of the Monday Labor Day holiday in which we celebrate labor by not working. Whether or not you like your job, you may wonder what somebody else’s work life is like. Here are a few books that offer you the opportunity to find out.

The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital

by Alexandra Robbins

“There are few other careers in which people are so devoted to a noble purpose that they work twelve, fourteen, sixteen straight hours without eating, sleeping, or taking breaks, and often without commensurate pay simply because they believe in the importance of their job…Nursing is more than a career; it is a calling.” Journalist and author Robbins follows four nurses throughout the course of a year, and interviews many others, to reveal the heart of these professionals and the incredible challenges they face.

Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business

by Paul Downs

“We made some money, then lost a whole lot more, then clawed most of it back. Meanwhile, my complicated family life couldn’t be ignored. This is real life. The triumph and tragedy of small business. The uncertainty and challenges of being the boss.” Downs shares his story of one year in his life and business. Along with descriptions of his company’s operations and decisions, he discusses how to manage and balance life.

The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop

“For twenty years my family and friends really didn’t understand what I did for a living. It was like I was living a double life, and they only knew half of it…Sometimes I would share some of the funny stuff about the job, but the blood and gore, and especially the danger, I needed to keep to myself.” After retiring, Osborne decided to relate tales of his two decades working for the New York City Police Department, from the 1980s through 9/11 and after.


A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back

by Kevin Hazzard

“Medics don’t have to be heroic or tough or even good people. They simply have to enjoy the madness. The normal reaction to gunshots or screaming or house fires or someone collapsing in a messy heap is to get away, to back off, not necessarily to ignore it, perhaps, but not to stumble in half-cocked. And really — aside from a driver’s license and a high school diploma — that’s what this job takes. A willingness to walk in unprotected when we clearly should walk away.” Hazzard tells the unvarnished stories of his time spent as a paramedic, witnessing death and dismemberment along with his various partners.

The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road

by Finn Murphy

“You’re about to go out on the road with me, a long-haul mover. It’s a road uncongested by myth. You’ll see the work, meet the families I move, and visit with the people who populate this subculture. You’ll smell the sweat, drink in the crummy bars, eat the disgusting food, manage an unruly labor pool, and meet some strange people. But I hope you’ll also experience the exhilaration and the attraction, of the life…out there.” As a long-haul mover, Murphy has driven across the country and into a variety of American neighborhoods, helping people in the major transition from one home to another.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

by Barbara Ehrenreich

“The first thing I discovered is that no job, no matter how lowly, is truly ‘unskilled.’ Every one of the six jobs I entered into in the course of this project required concentration, and most demanded that I master new terms, new tools, and new skills — from placing orders on restaurant computers to wielding the backpack vacuum cleaner. None of these things came as easily to me as I would have liked; no one ever said, ‘Wow, you’re fast!’ or ‘Can you believe she just started?’” In a journalistic attempt to experience how people make ends meet in the low-wage market, Ehrenreich spends months at different jobs (waitress, retail clerk, cleaning person, nursing-home aide), learning how difficult it is to live by performing often-menial tasks.

The books above, as well as job hunting and career management titles, are available at the Rutland Free Library.

Happy reading and enjoy your Labor Day!

Janet Clapp

Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me: