Making a Living

Work in a Changing America

A Let's Talk About It series developed by Joseph Parisi

  • Growing Up by Russell Baker
  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  • The Professor’s House by Willa Cather
  • Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq
  • Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy


An examination of work-related issues: women in the work force, a changing workplace, employment as identity, the puritan work ethic and the American Dream.

Like it or not–and obviously many people don’t–work is an economic necessity for most of us. But even if it weren’t, it might be missed. “To be occupied is essential,” the independently wealthy former saleswoman tells Studs Terkel in Working. “But idleness is an evil. I don’t think man can maintain his balance or sanity in idleness. Human beings must work to create some coherence.”

Identity too, we might add. Who We Are tends to be inextricably related to What We Do. How We Do It, though, may be the most pertinent part of the subject, as we may discover while discussing the five books gathered about our theme. Most of us have to work, but some of us make a virtue of the necessity. Our occupations, those books suggest, can be fulfilling as well as frustrating, callings instead of chores, not only obligations but vocations.