In the late seventies, as a teenager growing up in a sheltered suburb of San Francisco, I stumbled upon a paperback that introduced me to people I’d rarely read about. The book’s title, Working (New Press), was inscribed diagonally in bold black letters across a scarlet cover, and inside were interviews with a hundred hardworking people, from a footsore waitress to a gas-meter reader dodging canines.

Studs Terkel’s enduring conversation with America

More Than 40 Years Of Personal Writing Don’t miss the complete Sun archive Subscribe for access