Terkel is a master of the oral history, and this book will (or should) give a deeper respect for the countless jobs you'll never have firsthand experience with, and may never have given a second thought about. It will probably be the best book I'll have read this year, and comes with my highest recommendation. Looking forward to picking up more from him when I have an opportunity.
I'll choose Voices of Victorian London: In Sickness and in Health for myself next, keeping to the theme of working class life in 19th/20th century Britain and America.
2. The Last of the Wild Rivers (Wallace A. Schaber) A book devoted entirely to the Du Moine watershed, the last of the ten major Quebec tributaries of the Ottawa River to resist hydro and mining development as well as colonization, according to the back of the book. Some local history for a waterway that's about a five minute walk from where I live (the Ottawa River, that is, not the Du Moine).
3. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (Mary Roach) A lighthearted look at what we know about death and the afterlife from a scientific (and pseudo-scientific) perspective. From the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.
4. Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip (Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns) In 1903 there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire nation and most people had never seen a “horseless buggy”—but that did not stop Horatio Nelson Jackson, a thirty-one-year-old Vermont doctor, who impulsively bet fifty dollars that he could drive his 20-horsepower automobile from San Francisco to New York City. Here—in Jackson’s own words and photographs—is a glorious account of that months-long, problem-beset, thrilling-to-the-rattled-bones trip with his mechanic, Sewall Crocker, and a bulldog named Bud. (from book jacket). I loved the documentary and this has been sitting on my shelf for almost 15 years, I bet, so it's due to be read.
5. The Printer's Devil (Bill Fairbairn) "Bill Fairbairn started as a printer's devil in Scotland setting up newspaper headlines by hand 60 years ago. His vagabond reporter years in three continents followed in quick pursuit. This tale outlines some of the people and events he encountered in Canada working for newspapers, radio and magazine." I met this fellow at a book fair a few years ago and picked up his book since he (and it) sounded interesting. Time to give it a try!
6. George & Rue (George Elliott Clarke) "A masterful blend of fiction and reality from one of Canada's most daring and original writers", Clarke takes us to the ghettos of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and paints a miserable and suffocating portrait of mid-century Africadian life. Mr. Clarke was Canada's former Poet Laureate, a winner of the Governor General's Award for poetry, and has been at the Ottawa Antiquarian Book Fair the last two years. He seems to have a friendly and dynamic personality and I'd like to read this, his first novel, before I speak to him at next year's fair (if he's there, and if I can build up the courage to).
7. Nonlinear Fiber Optics (Govind P. Agrawal) This title belongs on the list perhaps more than any other. It's considered the Bible of modern fiber optics (one of them, anyway), which is the field in which I work, so I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read it yet, even though it's been sitting on my shelf for years now.
8. Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe (Norman Davies) "Europe's history is littered with kingdoms, duchies, empires and republics which have now disappeared but which were once fixtures on the map of their age. What happened to the once-great Mediterranean 'Empire of Aragon'? Where did the half-forgotten kingdoms of Burgundy go?...This original and enthralling book peers through the cracks of history to discover the stories of lost realms across the centuries." (from the back of the Penguin edition)
9. Restoration London: Everyday Life in the 1660s (Liza Picard) "Making use of every possible contemporary source diaries, memoirs, advice books, government papers, almanacs, even the Register of Patents Liza Picard presents a picture of how life in London was really lived in the 1600s: the houses and streets, gardens and parks, cooking, clothes and jewellery, cosmetics, hairdressing, housework, laundry and shopping, medicine and dentistry, sex, education, hobbies, etiquette, law and crime, religion and popular beliefs." (from Goodreads)
10. Dr. Johnson's Lichfield (Mary Alden Hopkins) "A portrait of Dr. Samuel Johnson, focusing on his life before the publication of Boswell's Life of Johnson, in his home town of Lichfield. Several historic figures, including James Watt, Erasmus Darwin, as well as Richard and his daughter Maria Edgeworth, are also featured." (from Goodreads)