The best books about the working class in the United States

Many authors have picked their favorite books about the working class in the United States and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Blue Collar Aristocrats: Life-Styles at a Working-Class Tavern

Blue Collar Aristocrats: Life-Styles at a Working-Class Tavern

By E. E. Lemasters,

Why this book?

LeMasters hung out at a tavern in Wisconsin from 1967 to 1972, talking to factory workers who held well-paying, unionized jobs in the heyday of American industrial production. Working-class lives are so different now that I wish I could enter a time machine and travel back to the 1960s and talk to working-class men then. LeMasters’s book is as close as one can get to doing that. He describes the outlook of the tavern regulars on their work, their families, and the world around them. Despite their prosperity, they express attitudes about public life that, in some respects, would not…

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The best books on what has happened to the American working class

Book cover of Race Rebels : Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class

Race Rebels : Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class

By Robin D. G. Kelley,

Why this book?

This book is a brilliant collection of essays highlighting “race rebels,” where Kelley looks outside of traditional politics and organized movements to find Black resistance to forces such as white supremacy, labor exploitation, and war. Kelley focuses in on the everyday lives of working-class Black men and women, highlighting a “hidden transcript” of expression and resistance in things like music, language, dance, and choice of dress.  He elevates the political potential found in these cultural elements, urging historians to see these “style politics” in the social and economic contexts which give rise to them, for they are powerful and worthy…

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The best history books on culture’s role in shaping race, class, and gender in modern America

Book cover of The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class

The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class

By Guy Standing,

Why this book?

This U.K. author provides the most insightful analysis of a new category of worker. The portmanteau title combines “precarious” and “proletariat” into “precariat.” The growing number of workers in the “precariat” not only receive low wages but also take precarious jobs in which scheduling can vary week to week, employment guarantees are absent, and fringe benefits are almost nonexistent. Standing looks for the reasons behind the emergence of the precariat and how we might respond to their growing numbers.

From the list:

The best books on what has happened to the American working class

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