Good industry memoirs
July 22, 2017 7:40 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for examples of memoirs which changed assumptions about particular industries or professions, or remoulded individual practitioners in the public conciousness. Not whistle-blowing, but books which exposed unusual facets of a particular job, or lifted the lid on unexpected excesses and humourous incidents.

For instance Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. The more obscure the profession the better.
posted by mani to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica
posted by saturdaymornings at 7:51 AM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Uncommon Carriers by John McPhee
posted by Morpeth at 7:55 AM on July 22, 2017

Studs Terkel's Working (a series of interviews with people in a wide, wide range of professions), and James Herriot's country-veterinarian books, are some older titles that you might enjoy.
posted by box at 8:09 AM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Less Obscure: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (sharecropping) and The Jungle (meat packing)
More obscure: Heat by Bill Buford (along the same lines as KC), The Big Year (competitive birdwatching), Dead Beat (obituary writing)
posted by jessamyn at 8:11 AM on July 22, 2017

Beauty Junkies by Alex Kuczynski. A compelling expose of the plastic surgery industry.

Disrupted by Dan Lyons was an immensely enjoyable read on HubSpot and exposes the hype, hyperbole and lies of the start-up tech world.

Liars Poker by Michael Lewis was the one of the original exposes of the shenanigans in the financial sectors. Since the crash, there has been a veritable explosion of "expose" type books on the world of banking and finance. One such book is Treasure Islands by Nicholas Shaxon who digs deep into into the world of tax-havens uncovering some of the tactics used by multinationals to lower their tax bills.
posted by jacobean at 8:16 AM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dead-body adjacent: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty; Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home, Sheri Booker; The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, Thomas Lynch; Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, David Simon.
posted by box at 8:16 AM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

More from law enforcement: The Job, Steve Osborne; Bad Cop: New York's Least Likely Police Officer Tells All, Paul Bacon; Newjack, Ted Conover; Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian, Avi Steinberg
posted by box at 8:32 AM on July 22, 2017

Heads in Beds (hospitality, particularly hotels)
posted by librarylis at 9:54 AM on July 22, 2017

Cruising Attitude by Heather Poole (flight attendants)
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:27 PM on July 22, 2017

The house of God by Samuel Shem
posted by SyraCarol at 3:14 PM on July 22, 2017

In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, by a Jesuit who got his call while working at GE

Open Secrets is by a Lutheran minister about his first posting when he was young and dumb and green and well-educated and got posted to a small rural Illinois town

Both very interesting and entertainingly-written insider memoirs of a job most people don't know a lot about. (I've met both authors.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:37 PM on July 22, 2017

Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid by Jessica Alexander
posted by philotes at 5:48 PM on July 22, 2017

There's one just out recently, The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy.
posted by old_growler at 8:04 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

John D. Clark: Ignition! is a memoir and an informal history of liquid rocket propellant research.
  • Industry: chemical & military - check.

  • Memoir - check.

  • Humorous incidents - you bet...

  • posted by kmt at 4:43 AM on July 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

    A shout out also for Kill your Friends by John Niven. A hilarious "fiction" book about behind the scenes in the UK music industry. Ascerbic, razor sharp and genuinely unputdownable.
    posted by jacobean at 7:22 AM on July 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

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