Studs Terkel's last book, 2001's Will The Circle Be Unbroken?, took his usual interview-collection concept in a newly abstract and acutely personal direction. Where his previous books addressed people's opinions of such practical topics as their careers, their race, or memories of events like the Great Depression and WWII, Circle dealt with death, which most of Terkel's subjects addressed by describing their lives. Terkel returns with another abstract concept in Hope Dies Last, and again, his many interviewees pin down its elusive nature by describing concrete events. But where Circle's discursive anecdotes sometimes seemed to be edging around the central point, Hope's stories aren't just about hope, but are also designed to inspire it. Terkel lays out the reasoning behind the book in his introduction, in which he admits that the current U.S. administration isn't responsible for all social ills, but "…hope appears to be an American attribute that has vanished for many, no matter what their class or condition in life. The official word has never been more arrogantly imposed. Passivity, in the face of such a bold, unabashed show of power from above, appears to be the order of the day." To counteract that order, the 91-year-old presents several dozen people from all over the political spectrum, mostly discussing the visible expression of hope: activism. From an exonerated former Illinois death-row inmate to Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, they present their own stories of surviving hard times and holding out for a better world, and in many cases forcibly creating that better world themselves. Not all of Terkel's subjects are pie-in-the-sky optimists, though few are as coldly pragmatic as retired U.S. Navy Admiral Gene La Roque, who, in explaining his career, baldly states "Hope in my view is a wasted emotion… a futile mental exercise." Mostly, Hope's voices emerge from a diverse group of citizens who are or were deeply involved in causes–from labor to education to civil rights to national defense–and who tell their stories with the forthright economy that typically characterizes Terkel's books. Assembled into a mass, their experiences come across as a direct and inspirational how-to guide, a paint-by-numbers kit for keeping hope alive and spreading it to others. But as is so often the case with Terkel's interview collections, the value of Hope Dies Last lies not in what it teaches readers about its narrow subject, but in the fascinating stories it reveals, and the insight it allows into the vast range of human experience.