Nickel and Dimed

By Barbara Ehrenreich,

Book cover of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

Book description

Beautifully repackaged as part of the Picador Modern Classics Series, this special edition is small enough to fit in your pocket and bold enough to stand out on your bookshelf.

A publishing phenomenon when first published, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed is a revelatory undercover investigation into life and survival…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Nickel and Dimed as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

In Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich took a number of low-paying jobs to understand the challenges facing the working poor. This book opened my eyes to things I’d always taken for granted.

Prior to reading this book, it never occurred to me how expensive it can be to be frugal. Theoretically, making yourself big batches of homemade soup is far cheaper (and healthier) than getting fast food for every meal. But if you don’t have pots or utensils, the initial set-up cost of making your own food is far higher than the cost of a single Value Meal. 

This book…

From Emily's list on changing the way you look at money.

I remember reading this book on a train, and by the time I reached my stop, I felt utterly drained. Ehrenreich took on the lowest-paid jobs and discovered they did not pay her enough to live. She slept in her car a few times and eventually had to get a second job to pay for cheap rooms. What was most surprising is that poor working people ultimately spend more money on food and lodging than people who earn a living wage.

I was electrified by the concept of this book—a journalist goes undercover in the world of women’s blue-collar labor—and totally shaken by what it revealed about our political economy. This book helped formulate my approach to crafting a nonfiction project—which must start far before the fingertips ever hit the keyboard.

Ehrenreich set out to discover what it would be like to live as the poor in America do, scraping by on minimum wage jobs in fast food restaurants and cleaning the houses of the rich. In writing in gripping detail about those experiences, she opened the eyes of many better-off Americans to the struggles that the poor are forced to deal with. George Orwell did something similar in the early 1930s, and his account (Down and Out in Paris and London) is just as good as Ehrenreich’s, but hers is more recent and thus more relevant to life…

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