Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale
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"Meticulous . . . [Nagle''s] passion for the subject really comes to life." The New York Times

New York City produces more than twelve thousand tons of household trash and recyclables a day. As quickly as it accumulates, it''s hauled away. But who makes that happen? What''s life like for the workers with careers built around garbage?
In Picking Up, the anthropologist Robin Nagle takes us inside New York City''s Department of Sanitation, a largely unseen and often unloved army responsible for keeping the city alive. Nagle spent a decade with sanitation people of all ranks to learn what it takes to manage Gotham''s garbage. She even took the job herself, driving trucks and plowing snow while enduring the physical aches, public abuse, and risk of injury that are constant realities of the job. Nagle offers an insider''s perspective on the complex hierarchies, intricate rules, and obscure language unique to this mostly invisible world.
Not just a contemporary account, Picking Up charts New York City''s four-hundred-year struggle with trash. It traces the city''s waste-management efforts from a time when filth overwhelmed the streets to today''s far more vigorous practices, which have made the city cleaner than it''s been in decades.
Complete with vividly evoked characters and memorable descriptions of the sights and smells of the job, Picking Up reveals the vital role sanitation workers play in every city across the globe.

Review

“Meticulous . . . [Nagle''s] passion for the subject really comes to life.” ―The New York Times

“With Picking Up, Nagle joins the likes of Jane Jacobs and Jacob Riis, writers with the chutzpah to dig deep into the Rube Goldberg machine we call the Big Apple and emerge with a lyrical, clear-eyed look at how it works.” ―Sydney Brownstone, Mother Jones

“In her 10-year, sometime-firsthand study of ''san man'' crews, cultural anthropologist Robin Nagle shines a light on their invisible lives . . . [she] evokes the physical and psychological toll of this dangerous, filthy, necessary work.” ―Nature

“Nagle worked as a garbage woman to better understand her subject, and that experience, combined with years of research, results in an intimate look at the mostly male work force as they risk injury and endure insult while doing the city''s dirty work. She also provides a fascinating capsule history of the department and the city''s 400-year relationship with waste.” ―Publishers Weekly

“War correspondents routinely embed with military units, and it''s only appropriate that Robin Nagle embedded with the people who daily go to war against New York''s city''s unimaginably unending flow of trash. In gripping and often harrowing detail, Robin Nagle shows us the unbelievable amount of crap the Strongest go through (and put up with) to keep a city clean, navigable and safe, all times of year, especially winter. Thanks to Nagle, you will never think about snow the same way again.” ―Robert Sullivan, author of Rats and My American Revolution

“Gamely braving ''indications of unwelcome,'' Nagle - bad-ass and brilliant--insinuates herself inside sanitation garages to decode the folkways of a vast, and essential, city bureaucracy. Scholarly and funny, Picking Up is an irresistible work of participatory journalism and cultural anthropology.” ―Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land

“Robin Nagle''s brilliant book does not simply teach us about a reviled occupation. It serves as an inspiration to open our eyes to the unnoticed and unmarked experiences of city life.” ―Mitchell Duneier, author of Sidewalk

Picking Up eloquently conveys the human stories behind the dirty work of trash collection. With a literary sensibility, Robin Nagle gets inside the guts of one of the largest rubbish hauling systems in the world, and, in doing so, reveals the dignity of these filthy, at times demeaning, always brutal labors. This book will change how you think about the people who haul away your trash.” ―Heather Rogers, author of Green Gone Wrong and Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage

“Robin Nagle''s Picking Up brings a necessary ''bottom-up'' approach to the chronic problems of collection and disposal of municipal waste. The very human quality of the book should remind us that sanitation workers are not faceless drones, but public servants taking on tasks that any of us would shun. Nagle shows us that solid waste service might be a mundane task, but without it we couldn''t even step out of our houses without a sensory and environmental assault. Picking Up is a fine corrective.” ―Martin V. Melosi, author of The Sanitary City

About the Author

Robin Nagle has been the anthropologist-in-residence at New York City’s Department of Sanitation since 2006; she is the first person to hold the title. She teaches anthropology and urban studies at New York University, where she also directs the Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought. She is the author of Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City and she lives in Harlem.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
86 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

ReviewerTop Contributor: Boxing
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
When I grow up, I want to be...a Garbageman?!
Reviewed in the United States on September 25, 2020
Many people would be surprised (maybe even shocked) to learn that being a sanitation worker in New York City is more dangerous than being a policeman or a firefighter. I certainly didn''t know as much before reading this book. And yet, despite the near-heroic work done by... See more
Many people would be surprised (maybe even shocked) to learn that being a sanitation worker in New York City is more dangerous than being a policeman or a firefighter. I certainly didn''t know as much before reading this book. And yet, despite the near-heroic work done by sanitation engineers, when a young and idealistic kid talks about the kind of job he might want to do when he grows up, something like firefighter or policeman tends to make the list right after a gig like astronaut, while "garbageman" is usually held in reserve as an insult, not a potential occupation.

Robin Nagle''s "Picking Up" is a solid sociological/anthropological exploration of this paradox of the sanitation worker, who performs one of the most essential services not just in the city but for civilization itself (trash piling up can lead to plagues). It is a job that, despite its importance, remains at best invisible to most, and at worst is something we denigrate as gross.

It is gross, sometimes (i.e. the bumper crops of "urban whitefish," i.e. masses of used condoms), but it''s also compelling and fascinating stuff. The section on the Sanitation Department''s role during snowstorms was especially worth the read. "Picking up," however, seems to come up *just* short of being a classic foray into the genre, if for no other reason than that none of the workers involved ever achieve enough form to become memorable in their own right as personae in the drama playing out on the pages. Still, provided the reader doesn''t go in expecting Ted Connover, this is solid bit of "immersive journalism." Recommended. No photos.
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John Williamson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Open the lid; it''s a good trashy read...
Reviewed in the United States on May 10, 2013
It''s difficult for anyone to imagine a good book about trash... call it refuse, rubbish or garbage, whatever you might like. However, sometimes one can be quite surprised, even as a New Yorker. Author Robin Nagle''s Picking Up is about the... See more
It''s difficult for anyone to imagine a good book about trash... call it refuse, rubbish or garbage, whatever you might like. However, sometimes one can be quite surprised, even as a New Yorker.

Author Robin Nagle''s Picking Up is about the DSNY, the City of New York''s Department of Sanitation, and it''s an interesting and sometimes fascinating book. As the subtitle "On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City" suggests, this one takes you down to the road level where the trash bags, garbage cans and dumpsters exist, waiting their scheduled pickup.

Ms. Nagle teaches anthropology at New York University, and has been anthropologist-in-residence at the DSNY since 2006. After reading this book, it isn''t hard to be a bit more grateful of the efforts of the men and women who clean up after us, regardless of where you live. These unsung heroes are essential to us, unless you''re one of those who has to take your own trash to a municipal dump or some such suburban facility.

As one reads the pages of this work, it becomes amazing to realize that Manhattan Island itself has historically been extended into both the Hudson and East Rivers by building on its own trash. The author does an excellent job of covering the role of the long history of sanitation and its workers in the Borough of New York, going from such topics as 17th-centuryNew Amsterdam''s ban on scavenging pigs to Street Commissioner George E. Waring Jr.''s spotless White Wings cleaning crews at the turn of the 20th century. The author also looks at the command breakdown that tarnished the reputation of the DSNY after the 2010 blizzard.

She reveals that the DSNY has its own fascinating jargon: "getting banged" is undergoing corrective disciplinary measures and "disco rice" refers to maggots. The term "mongo" refers to objects salvaged by sanitation workers from the trash, and can be used as either a noun or as a verb. In addition, sanitation workers should be referred to as "san men" and not as "garbage men."

We are reminded that sanitation workers have a higher on-the-job death rate than any other uniformed department in the city, firefighters and police officers and firefighters included. They have one of the 10 deadliest jobs in America, due to traffic accidents and exposure to toxic waste, yet their responsibilities are not at all as respected, much less admired. She quotes a sanitation worker: "You can go your whole life without ever having to call a cop. And you can also go your whole life without ever calling a fireman. But you need a sanitation worker every single day."

Ms. Nagle''s book is not just to make us more aware of sanitation workers. She reminds us that they are New York''s Most Essential. She writes: "Sanitation is the most important uniformed force on the street."

Picking Up is the result not just of Ms. Nagle''s years researching the New York Department of Sanitation, but of a deeply-rooted preoccupation with trash that dates back to her own childhood. She has taken a topic that many of us would pass on, thinking that it would be boring or perhaps even disgusting, but instead we find a book that reads like a novel. Open it and you''ll find (and pardon the pun) that it''s a good trashy read.

5/10/2013
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Ginger ALE
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
talking trash
Reviewed in the United States on June 22, 2013
I am one of those people who put out a Christmas gift for the garbage collectors in my suburban neighborhood (in Central NY). I have always had an appreciation for the people who haul away our refuse. I knew it was a tough, thankless, dangerous job & this book confirms my... See more
I am one of those people who put out a Christmas gift for the garbage collectors in my suburban neighborhood (in Central NY). I have always had an appreciation for the people who haul away our refuse. I knew it was a tough, thankless, dangerous job & this book confirms my belief that wtihout trash collectors we would all be up to our necks in crappola. Rare is the writer who literally jumps into the job to be able to report the inside perspective that only BEing there can provide. Amazing to me that women do this job. I know -- but I am older & come from a different generation even tho I too worked a rather physical job when I was younger. It''s brutal & wears you out even on the best days. The writing here is smooth, well researched, & nicely balances historical information & current issues.It is informative w/o being dull & covers a wide range of topics.Probably doesn''t go into the "politics" of the biz enough but do we really want to be dragged down with too much of that?? Nah. Tell us the nitty-gritty true life on the streets stories of the men & women who keep NYC functioning w/ little or no thanks for their non-stop efforts in all seasons & under all weather conditions. As much as the author covered in this book I''ll just bet she''s got another book worth of great stories that she could share with us. And you can learn a lot from the footnotes & glossary! Nicely done. It''s lovely to enjoy a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. She cared enough to get it right.
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M. Zavala
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
On the streets with DSNY
Reviewed in the United States on August 29, 2013
While I''ve read casual reviews on different sites of this book that express some sense of disappointment at this not being a history of the DSNY, it is important to note that this is an ethnography about the work of cleaning up performed by Sanitation workers in NYC. Two... See more
While I''ve read casual reviews on different sites of this book that express some sense of disappointment at this not being a history of the DSNY, it is important to note that this is an ethnography about the work of cleaning up performed by Sanitation workers in NYC. Two of the chapters are more specifically historical, but the rest of the book deals with the various themes of special importance to garbage men (since the department is mostly made up of men). Dr. Nagle does a wonderful job at putting the reader behind the wheel of the truck, along with her, as she performs the difficult job of picking up the city''s trash. The reader ponders waste with her, inhales the sweet and rotten smells of our city''s trash, and eavesdrops on the mysterious world of a very private Department of Sanitation. The writing is very much like the author''s speech, making this an especially readable urban ethnography.
3 people found this helpful
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S. Olsen
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Who Knew??
Reviewed in the United States on April 14, 2013
As a child, I remember watching a "Sesame Street" segment about garbage disposal. It began with a banana peel being tossed in a garbage chute, and ended with a barge chugging out of a harbor with a sing-songy jingle reciting, "Goodbye, garbage!" I was... See more
As a child, I remember watching a "Sesame Street" segment about garbage disposal. It began with a banana peel being tossed in a garbage chute, and ended with a barge chugging out of a harbor with a sing-songy jingle reciting, "Goodbye, garbage!" I was always troubled by that segment - notwithstanding the obviously absurd implication that garbage dumped in the ocean ceases to exist, I also felt that there must be more - a LOT more - to the story. Years later, I sometimes observed rumbling garbage trucks and wondered about their mission and the people who carried it out.

Enter Dr. Robin Nagle, anthropologist, professor, and sanitation worker. "Picking Up" is a moving, gritty, and sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny meditation on sanitation in the modern world. Nagle considers sanitation workers the single most important uniformed force in New York City, and after recovering from the audacity of such an idea, I had to acknowledge its plausibility. Her descriptions of New York BEFORE modern sanitation opened my eyes to blessings I never realized I had. I used to think of the City as grimy, even dirty, but compared to the ankle-deep filth and rampant disease of earlier times, I now recognize its astonishing cleanliness.

This is one of the most literate books I have ever read. Nagle tips her hat to at least half-a-dozen literary works, from Dante''s "Inferno" to Douglas Adams''s "Hitchhiker''s Guide to the Galaxy". That, the exhaustive end notes, and the occasional word that sent me to a dictionary ("peristaltic"??), engendered a deep respect for the author''s scholarship. I am relatively well-read, with an above-average education, but Nagle''s prose led me to intellectual depths I never even knew were there.

I felt that "Picking Up" is about so much more than just garbage and sanitation workers. This is a book linked to universal human experience, through the basic life functions essential to one of today''s most vibrant and challenging urban centers.
7 people found this helpful
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Jason
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I like it, but...
Reviewed in the United States on March 24, 2015
I liked it quite a bit: it seems that the author really tried to get "neck deep" into her subject. My one issue with the book is that, as with Barbara Ehrenrich''s social commentaries, it''s written from the perspective of someone from "outside," someone who''s... See more
I liked it quite a bit: it seems that the author really tried to get "neck deep" into her subject. My one issue with the book is that, as with Barbara Ehrenrich''s social commentaries, it''s written from the perspective of someone from "outside," someone who''s working as a Jane Goodall among the savages. She admits that she''s attempting to work this from the perspective of an anthropologist, someone attempting to learn the customs of the tribe: it would be nice to see some people from this line of work write about themselves, themselves, rather than an outsider who returns to her own version of the world once the book/article/assignment is complete.
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Lia Parisyan
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Treasures in Trash
Reviewed in the United States on April 17, 2015
Robin Nagle is a really amazing writer. She is part poet, part observer, and part detective. If you like learning things about everyday things and common objects that seem ordinary and perhaps a bit boring on the surface, you must pick up your copy of "Picking Up"... See more
Robin Nagle is a really amazing writer. She is part poet, part observer, and part detective. If you like learning things about everyday things and common objects that seem ordinary and perhaps a bit boring on the surface, you must pick up your copy of "Picking Up" because it will change the way you see the world and the people around you. I never expected so much history, wisdom, and beauty inside a book about garbage. I guess that''s where the whole "Trash is Treasure" adage comes from.
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Harry Matthews
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Get to know why your city doesn''t rot.
Reviewed in the United States on May 26, 2017
Nagle offers a lively, personal, and engaging account of what happens to the stuff we throw away. It''s both a rich tribute to the men and women who deal with the materials no one else wants to deal with and a thoughtful account of how our society deals with garbage. The... See more
Nagle offers a lively, personal, and engaging account of what happens to the stuff we throw away. It''s both a rich tribute to the men and women who deal with the materials no one else wants to deal with and a thoughtful account of how our society deals with garbage. The fact the she is a brilliant raconteur and a graceful writer makes the book a great read.
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Top reviews from other countries

jackreed
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Another part the life and struggles of those working to clear NYC streets of garbage with little to no recognition of their hard
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 28, 2015
what a book!!!! One part history of NYC''s sanitation problems and solutions. Another part the life and struggles of those working to clear NYC streets of garbage with little to no recognition of their hard work. A really insightful and respectful look at New York''s...See more
what a book!!!! One part history of NYC''s sanitation problems and solutions. Another part the life and struggles of those working to clear NYC streets of garbage with little to no recognition of their hard work. A really insightful and respectful look at New York''s strongest. Recently visited New York where snow storms and freezing temps were battering the city and we saw these guys out each day clearing the streets. Next up lets have a book about MTA workers!!
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Timothy Byrne
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The book is excellent.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 10, 2014
The book is very detailed and is excellent to support my University course for my Bsc in wastes management and pollution control.
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A must read for waste scholars and those who are keen to learn about after-life of waste
Reviewed in India on September 8, 2020
Fascinating ethnographic account on the daily lives of sanitation workers in Gotham city, which otherwise gets invisibled in the fast pace consumerist lifestyle. We tend to focus only on the newness of things and forget about the things we dispose in daily lives. Nagel''s...See more
Fascinating ethnographic account on the daily lives of sanitation workers in Gotham city, which otherwise gets invisibled in the fast pace consumerist lifestyle. We tend to focus only on the newness of things and forget about the things we dispose in daily lives. Nagel''s work closely looks at after-life of wasted materials, processes of waste management post disposal and how the lives of sanitation workers get shaped by these processes.
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SBA
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
interesting book, but not life changing
Reviewed in Canada on December 17, 2019
the first half of the book is really interesting, then it starts to wander. the conclusion is just sort of m''eh. Feels like something was missing.
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Cliente Amazon
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Citizens should read it.
Reviewed in Italy on April 15, 2019
Picking-up is a fantastic accounts of the relevance of garbage and other waste collection in our cities; it underlines the hidden difficulties of the job and it explains while citizens should be aware that an environmentally and health sound waste management begins with a...See more
Picking-up is a fantastic accounts of the relevance of garbage and other waste collection in our cities; it underlines the hidden difficulties of the job and it explains while citizens should be aware that an environmentally and health sound waste management begins with a proper collection.
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Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New 2021 York popular City online sale