Peculiar Professions: Forks in the Career Path

The 20th Century Toolsmith and Steelworker

How do people end up with the jobs they have?

A friend of mine recently said she'd been worried about her cat. When I asked what was wrong, envisioning broken bones, diseases, pit bulls, she continued. "She seems depressed. I think she's mad at me."

My friend found, with little difficulty, a person she was sure could help. Not a veterinarian, but a pet psychic, a person who, through spending time with animals, touching them, talking to them and more, feels able to effectively communicate with them. The pet psychic provided - at no small cost - a detailed report to my friend, who was satisfied with the results.

Good grief, I thought. How does one become a cat whisperer? If you can be a cat whisperer for a living, you can be anything. There are people who formulate antidepressants for pets. There are people who taste pet food. There are people whose sole means of income lies in designing dog clothes in every size from Yorkshire Terrier to Great Dane (doubles as a horse blanket).

And that's just pets. What about rodeo clowns? Lighthouse keepers? The voiceover guys for movie trailers? Somewhere out there someone whose job is comprised, at least in part, of naming lipsticks and nailpolish colors. I'd be great at that one. Ruby Rage. Galloping Consumption Rose. Umů Bland Beige. Revlon, call me!

Apparently, the people who herd, castrate and brand steers are called cowpunchers. How does one become a cowpuncher? Perhaps if you grew up in Wyoming, it's perfectly natural, but to a westcoast city slicker, it seems like fiction. The mind boggles at how many forks on the road of life are possible to lead us to different careers.

Granted, things have changed a lot over generations. Being a brushmaker for a living is probably unlikely now, and earning a living as a creator of applications for Facebook only popped into existence in the last decade. But regardless of the time we're living in, our careers shape our lives. How we support ourselves and pay our bills influences our interests and conversations, and becomes part of our identity. Clearly, things change since childhood, or we'd all be firefighters, ballerinas and veterinarians. How many of us follow the career path we wanted in primary school when the teacher asked us what we want to be when we grow up?

Let's take a look at a selection of books dedicated to some of the more unusual career choices out there, and the experiences people have with them.

Recommended Unusual Career Books

Kitchen Confidential Kitchen Confidential

Anthony Bourdain

Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain is known as well for his bluntness and humor as he is for his cuisine. In Kitchen Confidential he writes with wry candor about what it's like to be a chef, and why you should never order the fish on Monday.

All Anthony Bourdain

Practical Floriculture Practical Floriculture

Peter Henderson

Originally published in 1892 and reprinted, Practical Floriculture covers the growing of all manner of florist-quality plants, for both amateur and professional gardeners, and includes advice on how to follow a career as a florist.

Books About Florists

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King

Practical, inspiring advice on everything from plot and character to work habits and rejection. Brilliantly structured and chock-full of master's experience and advice, On Writing will enable the work of writers around the globe.

All Stephen King

A Ball Player's Career A Ball Player's Career

Adrian C. Anson

First published in 1900, A Ball-Player's Career is the personal experiences and reminiscences of Adrian C. Anson, late captain of the Chicago Baseball Club, arguably the greatest player of the 19th century.

More Baseball Books

Heat Heat

Bill Buford

Throughout Heat, Buford stunningly details the complex aspects of Italian cooking and its long history, creating an engrossing and visceral narrative stuffed with insight and humor. Perfect for the budding Italian chef!

All Bill Buford

The Great Comedians Talk About Comedy The Great Comedians Talk About Comedy

Larry Wilde

This volume presents 17 of the funniest people of the 20th Century talking about how they make people laugh. Each engaging interview was painstakingly elicited by the author. With chapters on Woody Allen, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Phyllis Diller, and many more.

Comedy Biographies

The New Complete Guide to Beekeeping The New Complete Guide to Beekeeping

Roger A. Morse

What's all the buzz about? This guide from one of the world's bee experts will give beginners all they need to start their own healthy bee colony, while existing beekeepers will find advice on how to expand their business and refine their skills.

All Beekeeping Books

Violin-Making, As It Was and Is Violin-Making, As It Was and Is

Edward Heron-Allen

This classic guide offers an initiation into the mysteries of violins and their makers. Charming in its style and cultivated in its research, it covers every detail of the process and includes a fascinating history of the instrument and its makers.

Violin-Making Books

Doing Prison Work Doing Prison Work

Elaine Crawley

Full title: Doing Prison Work: The Public and Private Lives of Prison Officers. As well as revealing how the job of the prison officer is accomplished on a day to day basis, the book explores not only what prison officers do but also how they feel about their work.

More Prison Books

Here We Are Again: Recollections of An Old Circus Clown Here We Are Again: Recollections of An Old Circus Clown

Robert E. Sherwood

Sherwood, a protege of P.T. Barnum, worked with Tom Thumb, Dan Rice and all the old ones who made the circus a thing of witchery, wonder and romance. Sherwood's artistry as a clown gained him the plaudits of Mark Twain, Queen Victoria and others.

More Clown Books

Tell Me Where It Hurts Tell Me Where It Hurts

Dr. Nick Trout

Trout offers an insider's perpective on 24 hours as a veterinary surgeon, offering engaging anecdotes about pets, their owners and the unique blend of cutting-edge technology, old-fashioned instinct, and caring that comprise veterinary medicine today.

More Veterinarian Books

Techniques of the Professional Pickpocket Techniques of the Professional Pickpocket

Wayne B. Yeager

If you wonder how someone can get inside your pockets, then get inside this book. You'll learn all the techniques of the pickpocket: the grab and run, the finesse lift, cutting the pockets, how they use accomplices, how they can steal a watch right off the wrist.

Wayne Yeager Books

Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback

George Plimpton

In the 1960s, 36-year-old Plimpton joined the Detroit Lions in the pre-season as a wannabe quarterback and stuck with them through an intra-squad game for the paying public a month later. What resulted is one of the funniest, most insightful books on the game.

All Football Memoirs

Skygirl: A Career Handbook for the Airline Stewardess Skygirl: A Career Handbook for the Airline Stewardess

Mary F. Murray

Career handbook for flight attendants from over 50 years ago. Book includes tips on proper attire, behaviour and conduct, as well as helpful information about the planes themselves, what to expect from crew and passengers, and more.

Stewardess Books

Practical Taxidermy Practical Taxidermy

Joseph Batty

Fully titled Practical Taxidermy, and Home Decoration; Together with General Information for Sportsmen. If ever you've wondered the proper techniques to stuff a dead owl, fox or badger, and how to most effectively display it in your home, this is the guide for you.

All Taxidermy Books

Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut

Mike Mullane

In 1978, the first group of space shuttle astronauts was introduced to the world. They would carry NASA through the most tumultuous years of the space shuttle program. Among them was USAF Colonel Mike Mullane, author of Riding Rockets,a memoir of the experience.

Astronaut Memoirs

The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic or How to Become a Wizard The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic or How to Become a Wizard

Robert Houdin

Robert-Houdin is widely acknowledged as the father of modern conjuring. (Harry Houdini modeled his name after him.) Full explanations of several of Robert-Houdin's magic tricks, plus advice on presentation and general tips on the art of conjuring.

Magician Books

How to Become a Ventriloquist How to Become a Ventriloquist

Edgar Bergen

Easy-to-follow guide offers expert advice from internationally renowned performer. Helpful tips on "near" ventriloquism, hand puppets, dummies, shadowgraphs, staging, entertainment, distant ventriloquism, and more. 48 illustrations.

More Ventriloquism

In Love and Unity: A Book About Brushmaking In Love and Unity: A Book About Brushmaking

Tom Girtin

A history of the Hamilton Brush Company with many interesting pictures of work and processes - the craft of brush and Broom making through History. Published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Hamilton star limited manufacturers.

All Tom Girtin

How I Became a Cricketer How I Became a Cricketer

Alan Oakman

For any cricket-fanciers out there curious about a professional career in the sport. Biography of the Sussex (England) Cricket batter who broke records, won hearts and later went on to coach the sport he loved.

More Cricket Books


What's the strangest job you've ever encountered?

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