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Must-Read Fiction about the Workplace

 

Looking for fiction based in the workplace? You’ll find a great selection of novels here. Share your suggestions in the comments below!

Then We Came to the End

No one knows us quite the same way as the men and women who sit beside us in department meetings and crowd the office refrigerator with their labeled yogurts. Every office is a family of sorts, and the ad agency Joshua Ferris brilliantly depicts in his debut novel is family at its strangest and best, coping with a business downturn in the time-honored way: through gossip, pranks, and increasingly frequent coffee breaks. With a demon’s eye for the details that make life worth noticing, Joshua Ferris tells a true and funny story about survival in life’s strangest environment–the one we pretend is normal five days a week.


  Personal Days Ever wondered what your boss does all day? Or if there is a higher – perhaps an existential – significance to Microsoft Word malfunctions? This astonishing debut is a scathingly funny look at a group of office workers who have no idea what the unnamed corporation they work for actually does. When it looks like the company may be taken over, fear of redundancy unleashes a deliciously Kafkaesque plot full of the tedium and mistrust of corporate life and the backstabbing bitchiness of our survival-of-the-fittest instincts.


 

Disclosure

An up-and-coming executive at the computer firm DigiCom, Tom Sanders is a man whose corporate future is certain. But after a closed-door meeting with his new boss—a woman who is his former lover and has been promoted to the position he expected to have—Sanders finds himself caught in a nightmarish web of deceit in which he is branded the villain. As Sanders scrambles to defend himself, he uncovers an electronic trail into the company’s secrets—and begins to grasp that a cynical and manipulative scheme has been devised to bring him down.


  Severance Package Jamie DeBroux’s boss has called a special meeting for all “key personnel” at 9:00 a.m. on a hot Saturday in August. When Jamie arrives, the conference room is stocked with cookies and champagne. His boss smiles and tells his employees, “We’re a cover for a branch of the intelligence community. And we’re being shut down.” Jamie’s boss then tells everyone to drink some champagne, and in a few seconds they’ll fall asleep—-for good. If they refuse, they’ll be shot in the head.


The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit Universally acclaimed when first published in 1955, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit captured the mood of a generation. Tom Rath doesn’t want anything extraordinary out of life: just a decent home, enough money to support his family, and a career that won’t crush his spirit. After returning from World War II, he takes a PR job at a television network. It is inane, dehumanizing work, but when a series of personal crises force him to reexamine his priorities he is finally moved to carve out an identity for himself.


Something Happened Bob Slocum was living the American dream. He had a beautiful wife, three lovely children, a nice house…and all the mistresses he desired. He had it all — all, that is, but happiness. Slocum was discontent. Inevitably, inexorably, his discontent deteriorated into desolation until… … something happened.


Company Stephen Jones is a shiny new hire at Zephyr Holdings. From the outside, Zephyr is just another bland corporate monolith, but behind its glass doors business is far from usual: the beautiful receptionist is paid twice as much as anybody else to do nothing, the sales reps use self help books as manuals, no one has seen the CEO, no one knows exactly what they are selling, and missing donuts are the cause of office intrigue. While Jones originally wanted to climb the corporate ladder, he now finds himself descending deeper into the irrational rationality of company policy. What he finds is hilarious, shocking, and utterly telling.


The Circle When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime.  . There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. But What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.


Lightning Rods Joe fails to sell a single set of the Encyclopedia Britannica in six months. Then fails to sell a single Electrolux and must eat 126 pieces of homemade pie, served up by his would-be customers who feel sorry for him. Holed up in his trailer, Joe finds an outlet for his frustrations in a series of ingenious sexual fantasies, and at last strikes gold. His brainstorm, Lightning Rods, Inc., will take Joe to the very top and to the very heart of corporate insanity with an outrageous solution to the spectre of sexual harassment in the modern office.


The Bug The Bug breaks new ground in literary fiction, offering us a deep look into the internal lives of people in the technical world. Set in a start-up company in 1984, this highly acclaimed novel explores what happens when a baffling software flaw—a bug so teasing it is named “the Jester”—threatens the survival of the humans beings who created it. This is a story about obsession and love that takes readers deep into both the personal and virtual life.


Microserfs They are Microserfs–six code-crunching computer whizzes who spend upward of sixteen hours a day “coding” and eating “flat” foods (food which, like Kraft singles, can be passed underneath closed doors) as they fearfully scan company e-mail to learn whether the great Bill is going to “flame” one of them. But now there’s a chance to become innovators instead of cogs in the gargantuan Microsoft machine. The intrepid Microserfs are striking out on their own–living together in a shared digital flophouse as they desperately try to cultivate well-rounded lives and find love amid the dislocated, subhuman whir and buzz of their computer-driven world.


Kings of Infinite Space Paul Trilby is having a bad day. Actually, a bad life. His wife left him. Three subsequent girlfriends left him. He’s fallen from a top-notch university teaching job, to a textbook publisher, to working as a temp writer for the Texas Department of General Services. And even here, in this land of carpeted partitions and cheap lighting fixtures, Paul cannot escape the curse his life has become. For it is not until he begins a tentative romance with the office’s sassy mail girl that he begins to notice things are truly wrong. Strange sounds come from the air conditioning vents, the ceiling bulges, a body disappears. Mysterious men lurk about town, wearing thick glasses and pocket protectors…


Revolution Revolutionary Road has been hailed as a masterpiece of realistic fiction and as the most evocative portrayal of the opulent desolation of the American suburbs. This is the the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple who have lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves.


Since the Layoffs The guys who owned the factory have left town for someplace where there’s more sun and cheaper labor. The deserted plant is fenced in and the fence topped with razor wire, as if they’d worried that the locals would steal tractor-building equipment and start making tractors in their basements. Jake’s girlfriend has also decamped. ake’s got six months of unemployment left before he’s dead broke and the locks get changed. Life has turned into one big downgrade. It has downsized and hardened him. He’s up for anything. The economy is pain, lies and silliness, and he is going to carve off a piece of it for himself or die trying.


 

Factotum

Factorum follows the wanderings of aspiring writer Henry Chinaski across World War II-era America. Deferred from military service, Chinaski travels from city to city, moving listlessly from one odd job to another, always needing money but never badly enough to keep a job. Henry’s day-to-day existence spirals into an endless litany of pathetic whores, sordid rooms, dreary embraces, and drunken brawls, as he makes his bitter, brilliant way from one drink to the next.


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