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Extended Audio Sample Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work Audiobook, by Matthew B. Crawford Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,831 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Matthew B. Crawford Narrator: Max Bloomquist Publisher: Brilliance Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2009 ISBN: 9781441800305
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Shop Class as Soulcraft brings alive an experience that was once quite common but now seems to be receding from society — the experience of making and fixing things with our hands. Those of us who sit in an office often feel a lack of connection to the material world, a sense of loss, and find it difficult to say exactly what we do all day. For those who felt hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, against their own inclinations and natural bents, Shop Class as Soulcraft seeks to restore the honor of the manual trades as a life worth choosing. On both economic and psychological grounds, Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a “knowledge worker,” based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing, the work of the hand from that of the mind. Crawford shows us how such a partition, which began a century ago with the assembly line, degrades work for those on both sides of the divide. But Crawford offers good news as well: The manual trades are very different from the assembly line and from dumbed-down white collar work as well. They require careful thinking and are punctuated by moments of genuine pleasure. Based on his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Crawford makes a case for the intrinsic satisfactions and cognitive challenges of manual work. The work of builders and mechanics is secure; it cannot be outsourced, and it cannot be made obsolete. Such work ties us to the local communities in which we live and instills the pride that comes from doing work that is genuinely useful. A wholly original debut, Shop Class as Soulcraft offers a passionate call for self-reliance and a moving reflection on how we can live concretely in an ever more abstract world. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • Shop Class as Soulcraft is a beautiful little book about human excellence and the way it is undervalued in contemporary America.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “It’s not an insult to say that Shop Class is the best self-help book that I’ve ever read. Almost all works in the genre skip the ‘self’ part and jump straight to the ‘help.’ Crawford rightly asks whether today’s cubicle dweller even has a respectable self.”

    Slate

  • “With wit and humor, the author deftly mixes the details of his own experience as a tradesman and then proprietor of a motorcycle repair shop with more philosophical considerations.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “A fascinating, important analysis of the value of hard work and manufacturing…Crawford makes real the experience of working with one’s hands to make and fix things and the importance of skilled labor. His philosophical background is evident as he muses on how to live a pragmatic, concrete life in today’s ever more abstract world and issues a clarion call for reviving trade and skill development classes in American preparatory schools. The result is inspired social criticism and deep personal exploration…Should be required reading for all educational leaders.”

    Library Journal

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • One of the 2009 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction
  • A 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2009 Christian Science Monitor Book of the Year for Nonfiction
  • A 2009 Publishers Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 pbb | 2/20/2014

    " if you like doing things...read this one. really good. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stephanie | 2/14/2014

    " Interesting premise, but I got lost in both the more philosophically grounded pieces of his argument and the more technical (gear head) aspects of the book. That he brought together two disparate vocabularies and bound them together in a relatively seamless whole is quite an accomplishment, but overall, just not for this reader. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Francine | 1/29/2014

    " I REALLY like what M Crawford has to say about the value of manual labor, and the amount of critical thinking it often really takes... and what it does to your being, which is something healthy... and the under-appreciation it endures. This man thinks so very deeply that I have to read this in pieces and let it sink in, then do some escapist reading and get back to it. But I think this is one of the most important philosophical books out there and should be on high school and college reading lists. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ldrutman Drutman | 1/26/2014

    " I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It 1) gave me a totally new appreciation for what it means to work as a craftsman, and in the manual trades generally; 2) made me question whether we are training too many people for work in the so-called "knowledge economy" so that they can just become mindless information economy factory workers; and 3) made me re-think my philosophy towards my own work. It's a strong argument for struggling and going slow and taking pride in the details and thinking about the larger context and community of work. Highly recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Millie | 1/23/2014

    " This book was a lot harder-going than I expected. I didn't enjoy the book that inspired this though (Zen and the art of motorcycle maintaince) so perhaps it's not surprising. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Spencer | 1/21/2014

    " While singing praises to physical, blue-collar work, Matthew B. Crawford can't help but take aim at the white-collar world. He doesn't make this a book about clash of the classes, which is perhaps a precarious point. Instead, he describes how manual work can be wholesome, meaningful, and truly productive, while the modern workplace can be silly, backward, and void of virtue. Crawford's assault on the the idea of a "creative class" is worth the read, as is his critique of Marxist ideas. However, I can't help but take notice of how Crawford spent his childhood in a California hippie commune, which, at least in my mind, is an environment of questionable morality. My own notion of a hippie commune seems similar to the way Crawford describes a modern office as a place that is slippery and deceiving, filled with squishy interpersonal demands and flawed structures. It is no wonder that Crawford prefers work that is straightforward with clear purpose and direct outcomes. While I believe our modern world needs more thinkers like Crawford, this book can sometimes come across as a letter to himself, justifying his professional choices. Then again, we might need this justification for ourselves. Pardon me while I go crank up the classic rock and change the oil in my car. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 James | 1/18/2014

    " "People who ride motorcycles have gotten something RIGHT, and I want to put myself in the service of it, this thing that we do, this kingly sport that is like war made beautiful." "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kristin | 1/16/2014

    " This book articulated for me so many restless, truly hateful thoughts I have about the world and why I feel so uncomfortable functioning within its expected boundaries. The premise is essentially that our world (college, careers, consumer culture) have morphed into something that deals entirely in abstractions rather than a physical reality, and we are therefore disconnected from it. We create a false reality for ourselves by living in our heads, inventing foundations for our beliefs, thoughts, and activities that are rooted in theoretical nothingness rather than something tangible. Moreover, there is some strange, persistent ideology that abstractions and theoretical concepts are somehow more intelligent, insightful, or more difficult to grasp than, say, fixing a motorcycle. Untrue. More than anything, I am pleased that my aversion to grad school--and anything involving linear careers, perfect resumes, or other cookie cutter means of identity and proof of intelligence--is not a unique experience. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Alexis | 12/30/2013

    " Some insights but too much hand waving for any argument to really come together. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Disparlure Nagle | 12/30/2013

    " I strongly agreed with many of his conclusions, yet felt that many of the arguments were somewhat weak and unsupported. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sue Anderson | 12/7/2013

    " not as good as I had hoped. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chad Kieffer | 12/6/2013

    " This wasn't a particularly great read, but I completely agree with Crawford's analysis and message. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Hypatia | 12/4/2013

    " Interesting and thought provoking at times, but there are too many ways in which I strongly disagreed with the authors arguments to really enjoy it. I think he has some good points, but I didn't like the way the book was argued. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Evan | 11/20/2013

    " Explains why I like to DO (and not work in the cubicle) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christina | 10/20/2013

    " Text is dense at times, but overall some great ideas in this book about the value of manual competence and the overvaluation of the modern higher education experience and the type of work it prepares you for. This book will probably become one of the more highly referred-to in my "read" list. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark Frederiksen | 5/10/2013

    " For bored with it and quit halfway through. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jen | 8/26/2012

    " A bit preachy but a good message... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Katie Kramer | 7/6/2012

    " Valid argument and one that I agree with. However, I would not say there was anything "new" or ground breaking about the message. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sam Sheridan | 1/26/2012

    " Tremendous, interesting contemplation of labor, of satisfaction, of who we are. I will probably have to read this a few times to really get it. Thank you Matthew! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alex | 5/23/2011

    " Great reading for gearheads and those who are tired of the rat race, but Crawford's narrative style is somewhat lacking. I wasn't pulled in except for brief phases when he recounted stories of his childhood. It's not a bad book at all, but it's not for everyone either. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rob | 5/5/2011

    " Becomes a little bit pretentious at times, and a little outspoken, but well put together, coherent, makes good arguments, and doesn't talk down to the reader. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tom | 4/12/2011

    " Excellent.this is a commentary on how a persons occupation might impact their level of life satisfaction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lynne | 4/4/2011

    " Every person interested in education should read this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 3/27/2011

    " Terrific book! Hits a lot of points regarding what is satisfying as far as work and life. Made me want to go work on my motorcycle! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jeff | 3/22/2011

    " Funny, since the last book I read, 'The Big Short', the mortgage broker was mentioned as one doing soul-sucking (my words) work. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Atorreano | 3/16/2011

    " The stories he told were good, but the rest was academic filler. Topic was good and everything was true...we are losing the craftsman's touch in America. "

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About the Author
Author Matthew B. Crawford

Matthew B. Crawford is a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and a fabricator of components for custom motorcycles. His bestselling book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, which has been translated into nine languages, has prompted a wide rethinking of education and labor policies in the United States and Europe, leading The Sunday Times to call him “one of the most influential thinkers of our time.”

About the Narrator

Max Bloomquist is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and musician. He and his wife, Ruth, have been making folk, bluegrass, and country music together since 1975.