2016-06-30
This moving collection of philosophical, literary and theological readings on the nature of human work, part of a series on the "ethics of everyday life," would make Robert Maynard Hutchins, founder of the Great Books curriculum, proud. Meilander's selection of readings ranging from Marx to Tolstoy, baseball writer Roger Angell to the Bible, illustrate beautifully the paradox of human labor: its profound meaning and its ultimate meaninglessness.

As with the best anthologies, many of the selections will make readers want to go look at the original. The beautiful passages from Anna Karenina about landowner Levin working in the fields with his peasants, for example, or those from George Orwell's "The Road to Wigan Pier" on the horrors of life in the mines, whet the appetite for the whole book. But it would have been interesting for Meilander to include information about the nature of work in modern society--none of Studs Terkel's famous interviews, for example, made the grade. And at times selections seem a little too whimsical and precious: What did Meilander think he'd accomplish by including the children's story "The Little Red Hen"? It's hard to imagine Hutchins would approve.

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