How did it get to be Labor Day 2023?
How did it get to be 2023?
Well, clearly I'm just way behind. But as you may or may not know, Labor Day is one of my very favorite holidays (no war, no church, no gifts, no family get-togethers), and reading about labor is one of my very favorite things to do. This year marks my 11th year of offering a round-up of the job-related nonfiction and fiction I've read the previous year (links to each previous year's list are at the bottom of this post); I hope you enjoy. Apologies for the shorter list; my reading time has, for various reasons, taken a real hit the past few years.
Remainders of the Day, Shaun Bythell
This is the third diary published by Scottish misanthropic bookseller (my very favorite kind) about his life selling books in the largest used bookstore in Scotland. I LOVE THESE BOOKS. I love hearing about the locals of Wigtown, Scotland; I love hearing about the books Bythell buys and sells; I love hearing about the annual Wigtown Book Festival.
I find these books so calming and so wonderful that I just read them compulsively, over and over (the first two are called Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Book Seller). In fact, my need for comfort reading this year has been so great that I have read these three diaries over and over and over again in lieu of reading many other new books.
This book was so good, and so sad. Budd talks about how she joined the Border Patrol because she really wanted to serve her country. And what happened to her? Horrible sexism, being raped at the Border Patrol academy; a work life that consisted mainly of learning about how much racism and anger exists in the Border Patrol organization. A must-read if you want to learn more about how America's immigration "policy" (if you want to call it that) is not working.
Fire and Rain: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Wars in Southeast Asia, by Carolyn Woods Eisenberg
Okay, this one is only tangentially about work, but it is an unparalleled inside look at what passed for foreign relations and military strategy under the Nixon and Kissinger White House in the 1960s. Spoiler alert: Whatever else you say about them, Nixon and Kissinger were also not very good at their respective jobs.
This one's all about the dairy industry in Wisconsin and the Midwest, and how dependent it is on immigrant labor. Conniff not only interviews farmers and workers in this country; she also traveled with some farmers as they traveled to the places their workers came from to learn more about their lives.
It was really interesting, but it was almost too hard for me to read. My father was a dairy farmer and so was my eldest brother, so it is really hard for me to read about the continuing demise of the small family dairy farm. Even though I could never have been a small dairy farmer. If that makes any sense.
Proof, by Dick Francis
Dick Francis, a former jockey (who rode horses owned by the UK's Queen Mother!) is famous for his second career as the author of horse- and racing-themed mysteries. When I worked in libraries he was very popular and I reshelved his books, which often had very distinctive, minimalist covers in bold colors, a LOT. And yet I never read one, and probably would never have read one, if a friend of mine hadn't recommended his mystery Proof. (To be more accurate, she recommended it by saying Francis's writing is, ahem--not good--but that he is very good at showing a lot of character information and vividly setting a scene in just a few words and pages.) So I read Proof, and then it promptly moved onto my night table as the book I compulsively re-comfort read whenever I need a little break from Shaun Bythell.
The main character/amateur sleuth in the book is a wine and spirits merchant named Tony Beach, and although he's actually rather boring, he's also rather wonderful. And of course the book is very British, so there is that. But my friend was not wrong--when I read this book, I can actually see Beach's store and smell his liquor storeroom--specifically that pulpy, heady smell of cardboard that contains wine, beer, and spirits bottles. You know that smell? I can no longer drink and if I smoked a cigarette I would probably pass out from the buzz, but there are not many things I love in this world more than the smells of cigarette smoke and a tavern serving beer and wine. I used to slow down when walking by bars on sidewalks just in case someone would be coming out and I could get a nice long sniff.
Weird, I know. Tell me something I don't know.
Anyway. Happy Labor Day to you all. Now go take the day off.