Citizen Reader's Holiday Gift Guide: Shopping Interlude
Citizen Reader's Holiday Gift Guide: The Classics

Citizen Reader's Holiday Gift Guide: Working in the Shadows

I know. One of these nonfiction gift choices should be a lighter read. I'll find one somewhere, eventually. But this year all the really good books seemed to be the more serious reads. (At least that's what I found.) And Gabriel Thompson's Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do was one of the best books of the year.

Working Thompson spent a year doing the back-breaking and cheap labor jobs that, as of now, are chiefly performed in our society by new legal and illegal immigrants. Along the way he worked cutting lettuce, butchering, and as a delivery man for a New York City restaurant. Along the way he learned that these jobs are poorly paid, demoralizing, and hell on the body. So what, you say, Barbara Ehrenreich did the same thing in her bestselling book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America.

Well, nothing against Ehrenreich, but this book is better. It makes you think about the big picture--not only the workers who are killing themselves for eight bucks an hour and change, but also what it says about us as a society; namely, that we are willing make people work themselves to death so we can have cheap food and goods.

Okay, maybe you don't give book gifts to make people think about the big picture. But maybe that is something we should be doing. Don't look on it as trying to bum people out; look at it as helping to educate others so we can all try and make the world a little better for each other. Isn't that part of what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown?

So, who might like this book?

Anyone who likes current event or investigative works like those by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Anyone who likes "stunt journalism," wherein an author does something for a year or so and then reports back on it.

Anyone who has shown an interest in learning more about labor history, American society and politics, or our food sources.