The best books on the importance of expecting less from your workplace

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve worked with business leaders on pay projects all over the world, at companies like Nike and Starbucks, in places like Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam, Singapore, the UAE, and all over Europe. While many business books are written from a theoretical or academic perspective, I bring an operator’s perspective. I get to work out the ideas in my book, Fair Pay, on a daily basis, and so I wrote the book to be a realistic and practical guide for understanding the perspectives of business leaders, human resources, and the typical employee. 


I wrote...

Fair Pay: How to Get a Raise, Close the Wage Gap, and Build Stronger Businesses

By David Buckmaster,

Book cover of Fair Pay: How to Get a Raise, Close the Wage Gap, and Build Stronger Businesses

What is my book about?

An expert takes on the crisis of income inequality, addressing the problems with our current corporate compensation models, demystifying pay practices, and providing practical information employees can use when negotiating their salaries and discussing how we can close the gender and racial pay gap. Fair Pay opens the corporate black box of pay decisions to show why businesses pay what they pay and how to make them pay more. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Life in the Crystal Palace

David Buckmaster Why did I love this book?

Originally published in the late 1950s, “The Crystal Palace” could have easily been the inspiration for any number of modern workplace comedies. Harrington’s story about a sprawling and sterile corporate campus shows the lack of meaning the workplace can provide for the typical worker. Think Office Space + Severance, where “the Crystal Palace serves, among its many functions, as a protective league for small talents.” If you worry about your work having too little meaning, and if you want more from your life than a stable career, this story rightly puts that pursuit back on you to develop as a person and not seek meaning only from your job.  

By Alan Harrington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life in the Crystal Palace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thousands of men enter the crystal palace yearly. In time they must make a choice: accept the numbing security of big corporation life or revolt against submission. Especially in times of economic upheaval, this book makes the reader question their fear of loosing a job at a large corporation. Will you silently suffer for a paycheck, or will you stand up against the monotony and dullness of cubicle life? Life in the Crystal Palce has been published in England, Germany, and Japan. V.S. Pritchett described the book as "a deeply ironical and polished analysis of the welfare corporations," and its…


Book cover of Uncanny Valley

David Buckmaster Why did I love this book?

Changing careers from publishing to tech is a path not often traveled. Wiener made this jump from a world legendary for its light pay compensated by romanticism, to an industry best known for generous “perks that landed somewhere between the collegiate and the feudal.” Wiener’s experience makes for one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in years—she is a gifted writer and unafraid to call out the over-seriousness of the tech bro mentality as an ultimately “dreary” worldview. 

By Anna Wiener,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Uncanny Valley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF 2020.

Named one of the Best Books of 2020 by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, NPR, the Los Angeles Times, ELLE, Esquire, Parade, Teen Vogue, The Boston Globe, Forbes, The Times (UK), Fortune, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, The A.V. Club, Vox, Jezebel, Town & Country, OneZero, Apartment Therapy, Good Housekeeping, PopMatters, Electric Literature, Self, The Week (UK) and BookPage.A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and a January 2020 IndieNext Pick.

"A definitive document of a world in transition: I won't be alone in returning…


Book cover of The Management Myth: Debunking Modern Business Philosophy

David Buckmaster Why did I love this book?

Stewart reflects on the hollowness of management consulting dogma in a way that can only be appreciated by a former management consultant. He compares his past field to the Ottoman empire, who he says used to isolate the young from the rest of the society and grant them extraordinary compensation in exchange for absolute loyalty to the throne. Stewart’s writing on this mercenary mentality of work is widely researched and often funny; this is one of my most highlighted books. Stewart’s conclusion is simple and true: a good manager is “nothing more or less than a good and well-educated person.”

By Matthew Stewart,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Management Myth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fresh from Oxford with a degree in philosophy and no particular interest in business, Matthew Stewart might not have seemed a likely candidate to become a consultant. But soon he was telling veteran managers how to run their companies.

In narrating his own ill-fated (and often hilarious) odyssey at a top-tier firm, Stewart turns the consultant's merciless, penetrating eye on the management industry itself. The Management Myth offers an insightful romp through the entire history of thinking about management, a withering critique of pseudoscience in management theory, and a clear explanation of why the MBA usually amounts to so much…


Book cover of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor

David Buckmaster Why did I love this book?

Greenhouse’s accounting of union history shares endlessly fascinating stories that could inspire 1,000 Netflix series, but most of us (myself included) know nothing of them. This book is not a pro-union polemic and even for those with a strong skepticism or distaste for unions, we should all understand the history of labor rights and appreciate how many of the things we take for granted now, like overtime pay and weekends, came at very real sacrifice and loss of life rather than through corporate benevolence. 

By Steven Greenhouse,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Beaten Down, Worked Up as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A page-turning book that spans a century of worker strikes.... Engrossing, character-driven, panoramic.” —The New York Times Book Review

We live in an era of soaring corporate profits and anemic wage gains, one in which low-paid jobs and blighted blue-collar communities have become a common feature of our nation’s landscape. Behind these trends lies a little-discussed problem: the decades-long decline in worker power. 

Award-winning journalist and author Steven Greenhouse guides us through the key episodes and trends in history that are essential to understanding some of our nation’s most pressing problems, including increased income inequality, declining social mobility, and the…


Book cover of The Affluent Society

David Buckmaster Why did I love this book?

Written in a much easier to digest, more fluid style than many books of its time, Galbraith’s classic is an optimistic reminder that good business, good people, and good societies are not antithetical. The Affluent Society is a check on the idea that unfettered growth—without also strengthening the environmental and social structure around it—is an empty pursuit. As Galbraith says when speaking about social infrastructure, “the conflict between security and progress, once billed at the social conflict of the century, doesn’t exist.” This simple idea, to use a phrase coined by Galbraith himself, should be “conventional wisdom.” 

By John Kenneth Galbraith,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Affluent Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

John Kenneth Galbraith's international bestseller The Affluent Society is a witty, graceful and devastating attack on some of our most cherished economic myths.

As relevant today as when it was first published over forty years ago, this newly updated edition of Galbraith's classic text on the 'economics of abundance', lays bare the hazards of individual and social complacency about economic inequality.

Why worship work and productivity if many of the goods we produce are superfluous - artificial 'needs' created by high-pressure advertising? Why begrudge expenditure on vital public works while ignoring waste and extravagance in the private sector of the…


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Book cover of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Story-lover Middle East expert Curious Iconoclast Optimist

Ethan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Benghazi: A New History is a look back at the enigmatic 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, its long-tail causes, and devastating (and largely unexamined) consequences for US domestic politics and foreign policy. It contains information not found elsewhere, and is backed up by 40 pages of citations and interviews with more than 250 key protagonists, experts, and witnesses.

So far, the book is the main -- and only -- antidote to a slew of early partisan “Benghazi” polemics, and the first to put the attack in its longer term historical, political, and social context. If you want to understand some of the events that have shaped present-day America, from political polarization and the election of Donald Trump, to January 6, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russian expansionism, and the current Israel-Hamas war, I argue, you need to understand some of the twists and turns of America's most infamous "non-scandal, scandal.”

I was in Benghazi well before, during, and after the attack as a US diplomat and co-director of a medical NGO. I have written three books, and have been a contributor to The NYT, Foreign Affairs, Forbes, Salon, The Financial Times, Newsweek, and others.

By Ethan Chorin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On September 11, 2012, Al Qaeda proxies attacked and set fire to the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, killing a US Ambassador and three other Americans.  The attack launched one of the longest and most consequential 'scandals' in US history, only to disappear from public view once its political value was spent. 

Written in a highly engaging narrative style by one of a few Western experts on Libya, and decidely non-partisan, Benghazi!: A New History is the first to provide the full context for an event that divided, incited, and baffled most of America for more than three years, while silently reshaping…


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