These two working life memoirs seek to capitalize on the popularity of books like Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential but fall somewhat short of the mark. Alexander, a former marine officer and advertising executive, left his high-powered career in his early forties owing to client-contact burnout to become a minimum-wage pizza delivery driver, ice cream scooper, medical tech, construction site cleanup guy, fast-food worker, and cowboy. While he describes the jobs adequately, at times even humorously, he offers no analysis of the experiment or descriptions of its impact on his financial bottom line. What final insights he does list are too specific to be broadly applicable (tip your pizza guy at least five bucks and be polite to ER staff); his closing recommendation to become a big fish in a little pond and find work as a consultant will be valuable only to other career executives who have built strong portfolios and contacts.
The Waiter (real name unknown) unfolds his story along more stereotypical memoir lines, mixing anecdotes from his near-decade of waiting tables with stories from his personal life. The author first found an audience at his blog WaiterRant.net, and although the book starts much too harshly (in tone and language), it eventually settles into an engaging and funny narrative that leaves the reader with a sense of the dignity that can be found in performing any job, even one as prone to customer abuse and lack of respect as food service. Alexander's title is not recommended, although a blurb from Stephen Colbert may deliver some readers; Waiter Rant is recommended for larger public libraries andthose seeking to add depth to their memoir collections.
Sarah Statz Cords