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Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs at the Turn of the Millennium Hardcover – May 23, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A regular feature in the Web zine Word is a column called "Work," conceived as an updated homage to Studs Terkel's 1972 book, Working. A selection of these Word columns, augmented with some new material, has been collected under another monosyllabic title, Gig. The slightly more effusive subtitle describes precisely what the book offers: Americans Talk About Their Jobs at the Turn of the Millennium. Word conducted interviews with and accepted submissions from a wide range of people with an equally wide range of jobs. The editors have organized the entries into rough thematic groups such as Plants and Animals (lawn maintenance man, buffalo rancher, dog trainer), Bodies and Souls (palm reader, orthopedic surgeon, telephone psychic), and Artists and Entertainers (video game designer, Elvis Presley "interpreter," art mover).

This is a casual book of over 120 brief first-person narratives. It is not a survey or an anthropological study, but a window onto how other people spend their days and nights. A few of the people are famous (supermodel Heidi Klum, painter Julian Schnabel), but most are not, and the latter are in some ways more interesting, not least because we already hear so much about the former in the welter of entertainment coverage that already graces our TVs and newsstands. The joy of Gig lies in its conversational tone and intimate peeks into occupations that many would never even know existed (who knew you could be a "clutter consultant"?). So, if you've ever wanted to ask the human resources director of a slaughterhouse how her day was, Gig is for you. --J.R.

From Publishers Weekly

Edited by Word.com's Marisa Bowe (editor-in-chief), John Bowe (freelancer) and Sabin Streeter (senior editor), here's an engaging oral history for the dot-com era. This fat book originated as a weekly column on the site of Word.com, a hip, general-interest e-magazine; it's a smart, Studs Terkel-like examination of how we work nowAtemporary and permanent; at home and in cubicles; 20 and 100 hours a week. In place of a seamless, analytical account, the book instead collects more than 100 personal testimonies from a range of workersAfrom the anonymous (a flight attendant, a UPS driver, a pretzel vendor, a dog trainer) to the famous (Heidi Klum, Julian Schnabel, Debra Messing, Barney Frank). Each testimony reflects a history, an identity and an age. Nonfiction and fiction lovers, employed and unemployed alike, will enjoy this book and its captivating real-life characters. In one account, a transvestite prostitute speaks of the dangers of working the streets, his $150,000 home in Queens, N.Y., and his early "retirement." In another testimony, a retired educator, now a Wal-Mart "greeter," declares, "My favorite thing about the job is just the fact that I have a job." By grouping these personal testimonies according to broad categories such as Workers and Managers, Buyers and Sellers, and Bodies and Souls, this well-considered, expertly crafted book manages to illustrate how work defines our lives while successfully dodging the tendency to impose a political angle on workers and their work. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 588 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (May 23, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609605887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609605882
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When first starting into Gig, I got the immeadiate sense that this was going to be a "dump on the employer" forum for different industries employees. What it turned out to be was a thoughtful collection of essays that let you see the inner workings of many kinds of jobs and the people who do them. Above all else it gave me a sense of the people who preform these jobs everyday and the thoughts that go into daily business transactions. Though not perfect, it is worth reading simply for the peek behind the curtain at today's industry. You learn that not only do you have to be sixteen to work the Fry Machine at McDonald's, but that if you don't tip the UPS guy at Christmas, you're not going to see an early delivery any time soon.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the kind of book I try to ration to keep from reading cover-to-cover during the first sitting, but end up devouring anyway. Each one of the stories in it is immediately intriguing, and each one you read makes you more curious about the next. The stories are full of fascinating tidbits of information and insight into the everyday lives of Americans from all walks of life. It's the kind of information you can't and don't get from the media, even in in-depth articles and reports. If you've ever wondered what goes on in the lives of people you interact with only tangentially, buy this book. It makes for an amazingly engrossing and enjoyable read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you liked Studs Terkel's working you will like this book. The folks form word.com talk to people from every possible occupation, such as coporate lawyer, stripper, taco bell worker, CEO, etc. Each of them gets a couple of pages at least, and they talk freely about what their work experience is like. Some people love their jobs, some people plan on quitting soon. It is like talking to these people yourself. Gig is a fun read. There are lots of nicely obsereved details. The UPS guy talks about having to wear certain color t-shirts. An artist talks about liking the smell of paint. A temp guy talks about the need to look busy. It has a very high hard-to-put-down quotient. Also, I think it is a important book. This is the way people really think about their livlihood. A nice antitdote to coporate bs. Best read I have had in a while.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Lehrich on May 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
There are three fundamental questions about work.

* What do other people do?

* Who actually does that?

* Is their job better than mine?

As it happens, all three questions have the same answer: you'd be surprised. After collecting years of a column on "Work", the editors of Word.com can tell you exactly what Americans do all day, and those jobs are both more bizarre and more mundane than you might imagine. As _Gig_ demonstrates, Americans are working as florists, lemonade salesmen, clutter consultants, smokehouse pit cooks, paparazzi, Elvis Presley interpreters, buffalo ranchers, heavy metal roadies - and in most cases, loving it.

_Gig_ is fascinating for its variety alone. But more importantly, _Gig_ is inspiring. It's hard to read this book and not be impressed: impressed by Americans' creativity, by their insight, even by their dedication. A receptionist echoes the voices of the 120-plus interviewees when she says that "I take pride in my job. I really - it's my baby, you know? That front desk is my baby. I just take a lot of pride in what I do."

There's no one way to read _Gig_. You can turn to the oddities. (Yes, crime scene cleaner is a real job.) You can look for the parallels and contrasts. (Temp, preceded by CEO, preceded by slaughterhouse human resources director.) You can flip around for anecdotes. (The systems administrator's tale is riveting.) Or you can take heart in homespun philosophy. A steelworker says that "you work with people you like, and they like you because you do your work, and you're with them. You're together." A lawn maintenance man articulates his dream to "finish up school. And then maybe I'll try to get one of those jobs where you can wear khaki pants and relax.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By H. Cannon on June 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When I first started reading the book, I thought I was going to just flip through it and read only about careers I might be interested in myself. I was wrong. I got completely drawn into it.
I actually started reading it because my mom had just bought it and told me to take a look, thinking I might be interested. I picked it up and just kept reading. Then she went on vacation and took it with her for a week! I couldn't wait... I went and picked up my own copy.
It's strangely fascinating. There's these interviews from people I would never in my life have had a conversation with in real life. And it's very eye-opening. Plus since it's written in various essays, it's very easy to pick up and read a little and then come back to it later without losing anything.
All-in-all, I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robin Cole-Jett on March 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As other reviewers before me have noted, "Gig" is a fun book, but it's not an in-depth study of people's relationship to the jobs they do as was Studs Terkel's excellent "Working."

In "Gig," the interviews are a little shallow, and even the prostitute seems to like her job; had the word.com actually used oral history techniques, they would have interviewed the subjects over several sessions to get to the "meat" behind their stories. Of course everyone wants to be happy with their jobs. No one is going to confess from the get-go that his or her life is problematic.

Some of the interviews mirror our celebrity-saturated, status- conscious world of today. Heidi Klum and Debra Messing gush over their work, but their one-in-a-million careers do not necessarily mean anything to us "regular" folk. However, having the art mover interview appear right after the interview with the famous artist did provide a nice contrast.

"Gig" makes for a great and easy read. If you really want to understand the whole concept of work, however, I recommend "Working" and "American Dreams" by Studs Terkel.
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