Wordy Wednesday: ABANDONED: There is Power in a Union by Philip Dray

It is very rare that I will abandon a book.  In fact, I can’t remember giving up on any books in the past 5 years, irregardless of how much I disliked them.  I am loyal to my reading material for two reasons: (1) sometimes I will hate something at the beginning, but grow to like it as I read more; and (2) I read a lot.  It’s not like I only read five books a year and have to make them count, or something like that.

However, I abandoned There is a Power in a Union by Philip Dray–not because I hated it.  I gave up because there’s just too much damn information.  I felt like I was reading it for a dissertation.

In October, I saw Dray on the Daily Show promoting the book, and it sounded really interesting.  Plus, I think I realized recently that I don’t know very much about unions.  Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention that week in 11th grade AP U.S. History or what, but I’m lacking a good deal of basic knowledge of the history and politics of unionization.

I was sort of looking for a general overview, and what I got was an epic.  I suppose I should have gathered as such from the subtitle: The Epic Story of Labor in America. The book is a whopping 772 pages, which didn’t initially throw me off.  I mean, Harry Potter 7 was over 700 pages too.  I’m not saying that I was expecting this to be Harry Potter, it’s just– jeez, where am I going with this….

There was just so much detail.  I only read the first 200 pages, and it covered pretty much every single rally, strike, speech, meeting, person, and factory in labor history.  I will say that it was not boring or dry– I actually really loved reading excerpts of the speeches, and I got all excited reading about how the women at the Lowell mills in the early 19th century really kick-started the labor movement in the U.S.

But after a while, I just got tired of reading it.  It was a little repetitive.  Again, it felt like I was reading something for a class– and I loved school, but even I am not down for reading 500 more pages of minutiae on the grievances of New England cobblers– ie. Should they get 12  cents or 15 cents a day?  I think I was looking for something a little more thematic or analytical in nature, not simply an exhaustive historical record.

Again, this was not a bad book, just not really what I signed up for.  I guess I’ll just have to wait for the Cliffs Notes.


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