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84 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading For The 21st Century Depression
This book is a compilation of oral recountings of the Great Depression of the 20th Century, taken by Studs Terkel. The book can be regarded as an excellent primary source of information from a historical point of view. These are anecdotes from people ranging from sharecroppers on up to highly placed executives, politicians, and professionals. Terkel leaves no stone...
Published on December 18, 2002 by E. Richards

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25 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative. But It Dragged.
There is undeniable value in recording the memories and perspectives of people who have lived through something as remarkable as the Great Depression. The Internet of the future may provide the best possible compilation of such raw materials: only then may we see video and hear audio of the actual event, culled from tape recordings and home movies of the 1970s and...
Published on August 11, 2005 by Ray Woodcock


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84 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading For The 21st Century Depression, December 18, 2002
By 
E. Richards "Herself" (Alone with my thoughts) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Paperback)
This book is a compilation of oral recountings of the Great Depression of the 20th Century, taken by Studs Terkel. The book can be regarded as an excellent primary source of information from a historical point of view. These are anecdotes from people ranging from sharecroppers on up to highly placed executives, politicians, and professionals. Terkel leaves no stone unturned, as these stories (grouped by occupation and social stratum) show how the Depression affected people in all walks of life in the United States.
No secondary source is going to prove as truthful as the stories themselves. No high-flying armchair analysis by a detached political commentator, PhD or windbag is going to give you the true flavor of what our country went through after October, 1929.
We are in the midst of an economic downturn that has 800,000 American citizens without unemployment insurance, a looming health crisis among unemployed members of the middle class, and a war on the horizon. If you want to be prepared and to understand the ramifications of this situation, I urge you to not only read this book cover to cover, but also to go out and find people who lived through this time and listen to their stories. Go to your grandparents, parents, elderly relatives, the old guy on the porch across the street, the local senior centers. Ask them to talk.
Understanding history helps us understand the future.
Studs Terkel's book is a recounting of the past, but is also a story of our coming future.
Read it!
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harder for some than for others ..., December 13, 2001
By 
doc peterson (Portland, Oregon USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Paperback)
Studs Terkel interviewed dozens of people for his oral history, "Hard Times." What you get is a very good overall picture of the Great Depression in America.
Terkel interviewed the rich, gangsters, southern sharecroppers, Oakies and Arkies, the rural poor, young and old (in the 1930's as well as in the 1960's when he was interviewing people.) The perceptions of the Depression by each is as individual and as varied as America itself. What struck me most, however was the inequitability of the Depression.
When I thought of the "Depression" images of soup lines and "Hoovervilles" sprang to mind. And yes, many remembered those as well. But there were several interviewees who never saw a bread line, a shanty town, or felt the sting of economic crash. To my suprise, there were even a few individuals who became RICH as a result of the Depression.
Another interesting aspect of the book (which was totally unexpected) was the reflection of the "present" while looking back at the Deperession. Terkel assembled the book in the late 1960's; as you may imagine, the social turbulence and youth culture of the day was often brought up in the various interviews ... fascinating.
All in all an interesting and engaging read - if nothing else, it certainly puts things in perspective relative to the "hard times" the nation faced in the 1930's. The book is not for everyone, but I do recommend it.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The voices of a nation........during the Great Depression., November 1, 2001
By 
American_History_Rocks (Southeastern Michigan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Paperback)
Studs Terkel's "Hard Times" offers an excellent look into the 1930s from a multitude of Americans, including: the young/old, rich/poor, and new immigrant/old stock Americans were all coved in "Hard Times". Their stories will change you and your understanding of the Great Depression will be enhanced from what you learn from these readings.
Interestingly, the interviews were conducted in the late 1960s, so you also have a comparative oral history of the 1960s as well.
However, Stud Terkel's book would be greatly enhanced if he had included an index and a bibliography for interesting and important subjects. Maybe he will include an index and a bibliography in the next edition.
Overall, an excellent book!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Front line reports from America's Great Depression, October 1, 2001
By 
Ross Nordeen (Orlando, FL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Paperback)
Studs Terkel has assembled a great collection of oral histories from a pivotal period in the twentieth century. Don't look here for a detailed analysis of the economics of one of this country's worst downturns. Instead, one should read this to get a glimpse of the despair that seemed to capture nearly everyone in its grasp while no one seemed to know what was causing it nor how to fix it.
There are a lot of terrific stories in this book, covering everything from union strikers, farmers to business men and college students. This book is a must-have for any serious student of this era.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The revolution that shoulda, coulda been, November 22, 2007
This review is from: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Paperback)
This is the first book I've read on America's experience of the Great Depression of the 1930s. My parents and other relatives and some of my older friends went through it. One man whom I knew, frequently brought it up and with great bitterness and anger, often directing that anger to others around him - especially those who were younger and didn't go through it - while others had little or nothing to say and seemed to brush it aside. Most though, seem to just want to forget it.

One fine elderly woman - my grandmother - was incredibly generous and loving to others the rest of her life, because of living through it. It still stuns me to see how these people with similar experiences could react so differently so many years later.

The author, being a Chicago man, places a lot of emphasis on the Depression as it hit that city and its citizens. Also he has a definite Left-oriented sort of outlook - and after reading this book it becomes entirely understandable. He frequently brings up the possibilities of revolution during the 1930s when so many ordinary and poor people lost just about everything. But the message comes through clearly that the Americans of those years firstly still had respect for law and order and the government, and secondly they had a kind of optimism or set of positive 'it will pass' illusions that kept them going.

Reading how people were treated back then, it is nonetheless a wonder that they really didn't rise up and overthrow the entire capitalist system. If a similar Depression occurred today, it would happen. And that is also the reflection of many voices in this book.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. More than anything else, it taught me to understand more clearly how and why different generational values and perceptions were formed from that period - and how they have come to impact succeeding generations.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard Times is a delightfully entertaining book, April 25, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Hard Times (Paperback)
I had to read Studs Terkel's "Hard Times" for school. At first it seemed confusing and long b/c there where no main characters and it was 462 pages. I was surprised to sincerely enjoy it. It was a captivating book with many fascinating stories. I liked the way the book shows you all aspects of the Depression from people with all different lifestyles.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable and Moving, September 1, 2001
This review is from: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Paperback)
HARD TIMES is moving oral history about the Great Depression of the 1930's from people who lived through it. A majority of the interviewees are Chicagoans, who on balance tend to reinforce the author's liberal views. We hear from former jobless, hoboes, people who had work, the rich, even a gangster. We read varied opinions on President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal, which eased (but didn't end) the hard times before later evolving into the welfare state. Imagine times so difficult that thousands hopped freight trains and traveled long distances in an often-fruitless search for a job - any job. Some interviewees worked for the WPA, a New Deal program that put millions of unemployed men (including my grandfather) to work repairing sidewalks and building structures like post offices and Chicago's Lake Shore Drive. HARD TIMES helps readers understand why so many of our grandparents kept talking about the Depression long after it had ended.

Some say that Studs Terkel isn't an author, but merely a good listener with a tape recorder. Either way, the result is a series of very readable oral histories such as HARD TIMES, THE GOOD WAR, DIVISION STREET, WORKING, etc.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not great, but still very good., March 8, 2007
This review is from: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Paperback)
This is the second book by Terkel I've read, the other being his superlative "The Good War". Like that book, it is a joy to read, and it was often hard to put down. He usually opens his interviews with just enough exposition to set up a scene, and then lets his subjects talk. And, do they! The personalities of each come through such that you feel as if you're sharing the room with them, an experience that is the more poignant for the realization that most of the people in this book are long-dead, taking their stories with them.

Nonetheless, the book has its weaknesses. Though the Great Depression is by definition an extremely broad subject, I never felt quite like I was getting a good "slice of life" of the times. For instance, there seem to be a disproportionate number of interviews with former Communists and socalists; though their movement was powerful during the Thirties, one may get the idea that they were more common than they actually were--especially since, as one reviewer noted, much of the book is set in and around Chicago. On the whole, it's a less gripping text than "The Good War"; reading that book felt like an awakening, while this one will reveal little to those with a working knowledge of the Depression-era U.S.

All that said, I'm glad I read it, and still recommend it for anyone interested in this complex and unsettling period of American history.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful...., October 21, 2001
By 
"hgbrd" (kalamazoo, mi United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Paperback)
History is best talked about, not read. You can read scores of books about the depression, get your dates and figures right, but until you read first hand accounts you can never truly understand the times.
As a twenty-something in this new millenia, the depression has been shrowded in mystery for me, my parents got only bits and pieces from theirs, and I got even less from them. This book fills in the pieces, helps me understand an era I know very little about, and allows me to understand how that era shaped my parents, and myself.
Mr. Terkel has done us all a great favor with his books, and this one is on the top of my list.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware -- It's impossible to read just one page..., January 25, 2011
This review is from: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Paperback)
There's a review on the back of my copy which reads in part, "Read a page, any page. Then try to stop." I read this smugly, as I'm not the sort to just get lost in a book that quickly, but I didn't even have to read a whole page before I'd noticed a full hour had passed. Really any paragraph in this book will get you hooked.

It's so immensely interesting the varying opinions people had on the Great Depression from a political viewpoint. I was surprised how many people who lived through it didn't seem to think it was so bad and had the "anyone can make it in America if they work hard" attitude. They call Roosevelt a despot, hate the New Deal and claim they never saw a breadline. Other people criticize the system, praise unions and speak of how the government programs helped them, but surprisingly to me there seemed to be fewer of these voices.

What's so great about this book though is the stories of what happened to people. They're funny, sad, sometimes scary, but always deeply personal and educational. I think young people could learn a lot about history by reading more books like this rather than traditional history books - this stuff is downright fascinating and addictive.
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Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel (Paperback - July 7, 2005)
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