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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

I found this book by accident: when seeing what people I follow on Twitter think about Bill Plotkin's Soulcraft (I recently read another of his books, Wild Mind), I found high recommendations for this—entirely unrelated—book. And oh how much I loved it.

Shop Class as Soulcraft is about many things: how society is increasingly dealing in abstractions on abstractions that disconnect us from reality and each other, how educational systems are only building "knowledge workers", how it's such a shame we're losing the ability to figure out how things work, how meaning and work are connected, and how our economic system treats labor. It's most definitely not a conservative rant about how things used to be better, or how the kids don't want to work anymore. It's also not a Marxist labor vs capital diatribe.

Instead, it's a plea to consider what we're moving away from, and how we may embrace this form of thought and work. The author stays oriented in the present, and meanders through sharing personal story and hard-earned experience to illustrate his perspective. There are things to learn, but the book primarily is offering a perspective that's often neglected. And as a fun anecdote, written before the current rise in language models and AI-everything, he astutely predicts exactly how "knowledge workers" are replaceable as well.

I highly recommend this book. I don't agree with everything in it, but the perspective most definitely shifted how I see the future of labor, education, and meaning through work.


These are entirely subjective, and roughly try to capture my personal enjoyment and usefulness, and how likely I'd recommend it to others. Don't read too much into this unless you love my judgement. Rough guidelines:

A: Top quartile. Changed the way I think about something.

B: Worthwhile. I took away something useful.

C: Didn't hit, wouldn't directly recommend. Likely won't revisit.

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