Share Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

Sarah Jane Abbott is an assistant editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.  She grew up having NANCY DREW books read to her by her father, and is now an avid reader of mystery, thriller, and horror, along with everything from literary fiction to poetry to personal essays.  She graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing.  Sarah Jane is an advocate of quasi-destructive book love—her best-loved volumes are highlighted, scribbled in, dog-eared, and wavy from being dropped in the bath tub.  

The office can be a strange place, from office politics to meetings that could have just been an e-mail to water-cooler gossip to conflicts over who ate whose yogurt in the communal fridge. It’s no wonder that shows like “The Office” and comic strips like “Dilbert” are so popular as a humorous outlet for office dwellers, reflecting the camaraderie as well as the drudgery of workplace life.

For those of us who spend a large portion of our lives behind cubicle walls, here are some fictional offices to make us feel better about our real ones, parodies to make us laugh about the daily workplace grind, and guides that provide real-life tips to survive and thrive in the office.


Break in Case of Emergency
by Jessica Winter

In this irreverent and deeply moving comedy about fighting for one’s sanity in a toxic workplace, Jen takes a job at a feminist nonprofit where the ostensible aim is to empower women, but instead staffers spend all their time ruthlessly undermining one another and stroking the ego of their larger-than-life celebrity philanthropist boss.

Break in Case of Emergency
Jessica Winter

In this irreverent and deeply moving comedy about fighting for one’s sanity in a toxic workplace, Jen takes a job at a feminist nonprofit where the ostensible aim is to empower women, but instead staffers spend all their time ruthlessly undermining one another and stroking the ego of their larger-than-life celebrity philanthropist boss.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

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The Knockoff
by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

As editor in chief of “Glossy” magazine, Imogen Tate is queen of the fashion world… until Eve, her conniving twentysomething former assistant, returns from business school with plans to knock Imogen off her pedestal, take over her job, and relaunch “Glossy” as an app. Now Imogen will do anything to reclaim her kingdom—even if it means channeling her inner millennial.

The Knockoff
Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

As editor in chief of “Glossy” magazine, Imogen Tate is queen of the fashion world… until Eve, her conniving twentysomething former assistant, returns from business school with plans to knock Imogen off her pedestal, take over her job, and relaunch “Glossy” as an app. Now Imogen will do anything to reclaim her kingdom—even if it means channeling her inner millennial.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

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Works Well with Others
by Ross McCammon
When Ross McCammon landed his dream job at Esquire magazine in New York, he had to learn how to navigate the workplace while feeling ill-equipped at succeeding in his new career. This humorous and perceptive guide to the workplace based on his experiences provides advice on everything from firm handshakes to small talk in elevators.
Works Well with Others
Ross McCammon

Here’s a helpful book on how to not be a terrible person at work—I swear I’m working on it, my dear colleagues, please have patience! This brilliant, honest, and funny career guide details everything you need to know about being nice, getting sh*t done, and advancing your career.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

13 Books on How to Not Be a Terrible Person

By Erica Nelson | September 8, 2016

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Opening Belle
by Maureen Sherry

Isabelle, a Wall Street executive, seems to have it all, but her work environment resembles a frat party and her family life is equally complicated. But then women in her office who have been sexually harassed recruit Belle into a secret “glass ceiling club” whose goal is to change banking culture and get equal pay.

Opening Belle
Maureen Sherry

Isabelle, a Wall Street executive, seems to have it all, but her work environment resembles a frat party and her family life is equally complicated. But then women in her office who have been sexually harassed recruit Belle into a secret “glass ceiling club” whose goal is to change banking culture and get equal pay.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

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The Circle
by Dave Eggers
When Mae is hired by the Circle, she feels privileged to work for the world’s most powerful internet company. She’s dazzled by the company’s incredible perks and facilities even as life beyond the campus grows distant. What begins as the story of one woman’s ambition soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, privacy, and the limits of human knowledge.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

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By Julianna Haubner | August 11, 2016

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By Leora Bernstein | November 25, 2015

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The Assistants
by Camille Perri

Tina is a 33-year-old executive assistant and after years as a bartender pouring drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, a technical error with an expense report presents her with the opportunity to pay off all of her student loans. As Tina pursues her morally questionable plan, other assistants with crushing debt want in, spawning a movement that has implications far beyond what anyone anticipated.

The Assistants
Camille Perri

Tina is a 33-year-old executive assistant and after years as a bartender pouring drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, a technical error with an expense report presents her with the opportunity to pay off all of her student loans. As Tina pursues her morally questionable plan, other assistants with crushing debt want in, spawning a movement that has implications far beyond what anyone anticipated.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

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Feminist Fight Club
by Jessica Bennett

Part manual, part manifesto, this is a hilarious yet incisive guide to navigating subtle sexism at work, providing real-life career advice and humorous reinforcement for a new generation of professional women. Hard-hitting and entertaining, FEMINIST FIGHT CLUB blends personal stories with research, statistics, and expert advice.

Feminist Fight Club
Jessica Bennett

Part manual, part manifesto, this is a hilarious yet incisive guide to navigating subtle sexism at work, providing real-life career advice and humorous reinforcement for a new generation of professional women. Hard-hitting and entertaining, FEMINIST FIGHT CLUB blends personal stories with research, statistics, and expert advice.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

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The Fireside Grown-Up Guide to the Meeting
by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris

Meetings are important because they give everyone a chance to talk about work, which is easier than actually doing it. This parody guide introduces the colorful characters around the boardroom table, from those who have nothing to say but must say something anyway to those too busy putting their butt on the photocopier to attend the meeting in the first place.

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide to the Meeting
Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris

Meetings are important because they give everyone a chance to talk about work, which is easier than actually doing it. This parody guide introduces the colorful characters around the boardroom table, from those who have nothing to say but must say something anyway to those too busy putting their butt on the photocopier to attend the meeting in the first place.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

Close

100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings
by Sarah Cooper

You know those subtle tricks your coworkers are all guilty of? The constant nodding, pretend concentration, useless rhetorical questions? These tricks make them seem like they know what they’re doing when in fact they have no clue. With this sly satirical guide, you too can appear engaged and productive in boring meetings.

100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings
Sarah Cooper

You know those subtle tricks your coworkers are all guilty of? The constant nodding, pretend concentration, useless rhetorical questions? These tricks make them seem like they know what they’re doing when in fact they have no clue. With this sly satirical guide, you too can appear engaged and productive in boring meetings.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

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My Salinger Year
by Joanna Rakoff

As young woman, Joanna Rakoff worked as the assistant to the literary agent for J. D. Salinger and was tasked with processing Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. Impulsively, she stopped sending the agency’s form response to the heart-wrenching letters and began writing back, to humorous and moving results.

My Salinger Year
Joanna Rakoff

As young woman, Joanna Rakoff worked as the assistant to the literary agent for J. D. Salinger and was tasked with processing Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. Impulsively, she stopped sending the agency’s form response to the heart-wrenching letters and began writing back, to humorous and moving results.

MENTIONED IN:

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By Allison Tyler | June 20, 2017

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

Close

In the Company of Women
by Grace Bonney

Chock-full of practical, inspirational advice for those looking to forge their own paths, these profiles of over 100 influential and creative women detail the keys to success, highlight the importance of everyday rituals, and dispense advice for the next generation of women entrepreneurs and makers.

In the Company of Women
Grace Bonney

Chock-full of practical, inspirational advice for those looking to forge their own paths, these profiles of over 100 influential and creative women detail the keys to success, highlight the importance of everyday rituals, and dispense advice for the next generation of women entrepreneurs and makers.

MENTIONED IN:

10 Pivotal Books on Feminism

By Jesica Sweedler DeHart | August 1, 2017

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

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The Pale King
by David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace’s final novel, THE PALE KING, was unfinished when he died and still many argue it is his finest work. Set in an IRS office in Peoria, THE PALE KING takes on the biggest questions—the meaning of life, the value of work, the way we live. It is at once philosophical, provocative, and terribly funny.
The Pale King
David Foster Wallace

This unfinished, posthumous novel by one of the most iconic writers of our time reimagines the experiences of IRS employees in Peoria, Illinois, in 1985. There, newly appointed trainee David Wallace (a character, not the author) immerses himself in a routine so tedious that he needs to undergo boredom-survival training.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

I Heart the 80s: 12 Radical Reads About Everyone’s Favorite Decade

By Julianna Haubner | October 27, 2016

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The Devil Wears Prada
by Lauren Weisberger
Andrea Sachs got the job “a million girls would die for”: assistant to the editor of “Runway” magazine. Now, she puts up with being treated poorly every day because a recommendation from her boss would land her a job at any magazine. But as things escalate, Andrea has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price.
The Devil Wears Prada
Lauren Weisberger

Lauren Weisberger’s bestselling novel was a higher-profile literary work than Bushnell’s Sex and the City, and the movie version a closer adaptation. But what an adaptation it is: the book set the bar high, it was smart and fun, but the movie was a romp that brought romantic comedy to new heights. Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, and Stanley Tucci all created unforgettable characters, but Meryl Streep’s performance as the Prada-wearing devil herself, Miranda Priestly, is one for the ages.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

A Dishy and Witty Novel Perfect for Your Prada Bag

By Erin Flaaen | June 24, 2016

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Then We Came to the End
by Joshua Ferris
Every office is a family of sorts, and the ad agency in this 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. This is a funny and keenly observed story about survival in life’s strangest environment.
Then We Came to the End
Joshua Ferris

If you’re a fan of the “mockumentary” TV hit “The Office,” you’re going to love this wickedly funny read. The Greek chorus in this novel about office life copes with a business downturn through gossip, secret romance, elaborate pranks, and increasingly frequent coffee breaks.

MENTIONED IN:

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 9, 2017

We the People: 10 Novels Featuring a Greek Chorus

By Tolani Osan | September 9, 2016

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