9 Books For People Who Need Job Advice But Hate Advice Books


Congratulations, you got a job! Now it’s time to start thinking about what kind of employee you want to be. Will you be Bartleby the Scrivener, who would always “prefer not to,” or Andrea Sachs, the publishing assistant glued to her phone 24 hours a day?

You should read some books about work to get you in the right mindset before starting a new job. If you can't stand advice books, here are nine titles -- four novels and five non-fiction -- that are interesting, funny and worth your time.

Stick with these, and you'll never have to go near the advice section.

1) The Devil Wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger

I read this book as a young, aspiring journalist, so I will never not love it. And if your boss is horrible, you work all the time and you have no energy to read another word after getting home from the office, I have two words for you about the movie: Meryl Streep.

2) A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

The lesson to learn from the horrible, obnoxious, hilarious protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly is that when all else fails, just throw in the trash whatever your boss asked you to work on. Also some people were just not made to exist in a world outside academia.

3) The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton

Wharton’s classic novel of manners is about Lily Bart, born to the right people but trying to get by in society without the right amount of money. It is about the social pressures of the upperclass in the late 19th century preventing women from working and funneling them into marriages they may or may not have wanted. When the latest sexist outrage on the Internet gets you down, it can be helpful to reflect on how far women have actually come in the last century. 

4) Bartleby, the Scrivener - Herman Melville

A classic of the work-is-terrible fiction genre. What happens when you're asked to do something and you answer with what you are actually thinking ("I'd prefer not to")? It all works out and you get to go home! Just kidding. That's not how work works. The lesson here is that capitalism sometimes leads to therapy. 

5) The Journalist and the Murderer - Janet Malcolm

Is there moral complexity to the industry you are about to join? Malcolm’s essay delves into the complexity of a journalist’s work, beginning with her now-famous thesis: "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible." There’s nothing like starting a new job knowing that moral clarity is never a guarantee.

6) Hand To Mouth - Linda Tirado

It’s good to remember that the boredom of a white-collar office is not the worst that could happen to a person in America. There are millions of people who would kill for a job where they could sit down all day -- or one that allows them to pay all their bills.

7) The Managed Heart - Arlie Russell Hochschild   

Emotions take energy. Hochschild’s book explores certain industries where the emotions of employees are manipulated by their employers for a specific business purpose (think: always-happy customer service reps, or always-stern debt collectors), and how that affects the people doing that work. It’s a good reminder that work often requires a specific emotional state, but that everyone is human.

8) Pound Foolish - Helaine Olen

Once you start in the working world, saving becomes an option all of a sudden. How much should you save? Where should you turn for financial advice? Olen's book walks you through the pitfalls of the personal finance industry and, most importantly, whose advice to steer clear of.

9) Never Done - Susan Strasser

For many people, women in particular, the day’s labor doesn’t begin when they get to the office, nor does it end when they get home. There was once a time when keeping the average home running was so much work that it took two adults (plus children!) to do so. Technology has rendered full-time homemaking almost unnecessary -- but that doesn't mean there is no household labor left. Who ends up doing that work? What are the politics behind it?