Curator Reviews

Ellie Kemper

Studs Terkel was a radio host in Chicago who also wrote fantastic oral histories about 20th century America by interviewing regular people about their lives. He covered the Great Depression in Hard Times; World War II in The Good War; and, in this book, what people’s jobs mean to them. His books are invaluable time capsules of how Americans in previous generations spoke and thought about themselves.

View Ellie Kemper's Top 10 Favorite Books
Miranda July

There’s no law against asking strangers about their lives and feelings, although sometimes it really feels like there is. This is the kind of thing I want to read all day long, on every aspect of life (and there’s more, Terkel collected oral histories on race, the great depression, movies and plays, etc.)

View Miranda July's Top 10 Favorite Books
Joyce Maynard

Back in the nineteen sixties, radio legend and oral historian Studs Terkel set himself a seemingly impossible challenge: to capture, through a series of wide-ranging interviews, the voices of a vast array of American workers—farmer, librarian, stone-cutter, professional baseball player, nun—speaking about their jobs. Studs Terkel himself remains silent in these pages; he yields the stage to his subjects, whose testimony explores not simply how Americans earn a living, but more so, the meaning of work, and what our work means beyond providing a paycheck. As a one-time journalist, I understand well the importance of the interviewer in bringing out a subject’s stories. As a writer of fiction, now, I use Terkel as a reference—more valuable to me by far than a thesaurus—that informs me of lives and experiences outside of my own, and the language of those who live them.

View Joyce Maynard's Top 10 Favorite Books