Nickel and Dimed

  • by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Narrated by Cristine McMurdo-Wallis
  • 8 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

This engrossing piece of undercover reportage has been a fixture on the New York Times best seller list since its publication. With nearly a million copies in print, Nickel and Dimed is a modern classic that deftly portrays the plight of America's working-class poor.A successful author, Barbara Ehrenreich decides to see if she can scratch out a comfortable living in a blue-collar America obsessed with welfare "reform". Her first job is waitressing, which pulls in a measly $2.43 an hour plus tips. She moves around the country, trying her hand as a maid, a nursing home assistant, and a Wal-Mart salesperson. What she discovers is a culture of desperation, where workers take multiple thankless jobs just to keep a roof overhead.
Often humorous and always illuminating, Nickel and Dimed is a remarkable expose of the ugly flip side of the American dream.

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What the Critics Say



Book Sense Book of the Year Award Finalist, Adult Non-Fiction, 2002
Alex Award Winner, 2002
"One of today's most original writers." (The New York Times)
"A close observer and astute analyzer of American life, Ehrenreich turns her attention to what it is like trying to subsist while working in low-paying jobs....Her narrative is candid, often moving, and very revealing." (Library Journal)
"Delivering a fast read that's both sobering and sassy, she [Ehrenreich] gives readers pause about those caught in the economy's undertow, even in good times." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

of COURSE she has an agenda...

The author clearly states in the introduction to the book that she has an agenda, is choosing the locations for that reason, is not actually going to find out what it is really like to be poor, and is privileged. At least she's honest.
That's why the book works. All of the negative reviews are pointing out exactly what the author is trying to get across. And, from what some reviewers wrote, the need for this book still exists.
I find this book to be an interesting look into cultural assumptions and understandings about poverty, privilege, and work that is definitely worth a listen or a read.
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- Melissa

A Candid and Thoughtful Experiment

Barbara Ehrenreich is a master of her surroundings. In this book, she offers candid and daunting insight into the world of low-wage laborers. Her reflections are not limited to the financial woes of the poor but expand into their social culture and daily realities.

The detail in this book is helpful at times while frivolous at others, which is why I think the other reviewers missed the point of Ehrenreich's message. Yes, she does reveal the working class conditions of certain professions in Portland, Key West and Minneapolis to demonstrate that they are consistent (and demeaning) in the many different regions of America. Yes, she does demonstrate that the negative side of capitalism is a reality for poor Americans. But that does not appear to be her underlying message. Instead, I think Ehrenreich's point is that people deserve to be treated with respect and decency regardless of their occupation.

A word about the narration: This is definitely a book in which the voice of the narrator must fit the tone and context of the author's message. Ehrenreich would have done this audio book justice had she served as the narrator. For the most part Christine McMurdo-Wallis was able to grasp the feeling and tone of each moment of Ehrenreich's experiment, but at times I found it distracting and difficult to listen to her because her voice is quite refined and sophisticated. (It is rather difficult to tap into an author's point of view as an impostor in tough working conditions when the narrator's voice resembles that of Lauren Bacall.) This may explain why other reviewers perceived the author as whiny, condescending and elitist.
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- Michael

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-13-2004
  • Publisher: Recorded Books