The best books for workaholics who, in addition to working, still have time to read

Who am I?

I am fascinated by work, especially women at work. I am an immigrant, a child of immigrants, a former scientist, and for most of life, have been conditioned to work because if I could not work, then why else was I here? Yet work is not strictly an emblem of immigrant grit or the model minority mindset. It can be made funny, surreal, existential, and it’s a rich subject to tackle. More often than not, work is treated as taboo. It’s ignored or deemed too prosaic to discuss.  Who wants to see what goes on inside the factory? I do. I’m obsessed with stories that showcase the factory. 


I wrote...

Joan Is Okay

By Weike Wang,

Book cover of Joan Is Okay

What is my book about?

Joan lives on her own terms. And she is okay. Really. Caught between the cultural expectations of her Chinese heritage and her American upbringing, Joan has chosen instead to make work her home. As a successful doctor at a busy New York City hospital, she finds comfort in being just another cog in the vast, orderly machine of the ICU. But to those who know her, Joan can be a puzzle.

Life, unlike medicine, doesn’t always follow a prescribed set of procedures, of course. Family turmoil and loss start to permeate the boundaries Joan has drawn around her. And all the while, cases of a new virus keep rising, and the world hurtles toward an uncertain future. Will Joan be okay?

The books I picked & why

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Convenience Store Woman

By Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori,

Book cover of Convenience Store Woman

Why this book?

Part of my inspiration for Joan came from Murata’s novella about a single, childless, thirty-something-year-old woman who works in a convenience store and loves the work that she does. I blazed through this book thanks to its smart plotting, provocative social commentary, and wickedly delicious humor. The book was originally written in Japanese and once it became an international best-seller, translated into English.  I think it’s important for all predominantly English-speaking readers to read more translations of East Asian writers, and for those who haven’t, this is usually the first book I recommend. 

Convenience Store Woman

By Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Convenience Store Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Keiko.

Keiko is 36 years old. She's never had a boyfriend, and she's been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years.

Keiko's family wishes she'd get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won't get married.

But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she's not going to let anyone come between her and her convenience store...

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

By Ottessa Moshfegh,

Book cover of My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Why this book?

The premise of this book is how to be the ultimate anti-workaholic, and from that concept alone, I was hooked. Our protagonist decides to spend a year doing nothing, literally a year of rest and relaxation. She sleeps, eats, and watches lots of VHS movies. Moshfegh is one of the most exciting young writers of contemporary literature. Her wit could cut through granite, and as ridiculous as the premise is, she manages to pull it off. Reading this book was like giving in to my Id. Sometimes all I want to do is watch myself be lazy.  

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

By Ottessa Moshfegh,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked My Year of Rest and Relaxation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, Time, NPR, Amazon,Vice, Bustle, The New York Times, The Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, Entertainment Weekly, The AV Club, & Audible

A New York Times Bestseller

"One of the most compelling protagonists modern fiction has offered in years: a loopy, quietly furious pillhead whose Ambien ramblings and Xanaxed b*tcheries somehow wend their way through sad and funny and strange toward something genuinely profound." - Entertainment Weekly

"Darkly hilarious . . . [Moshfegh's] the kind of provocateur who makes you laugh out loud while drawing blood." -Vogue

From one of our boldest,…

Personal Days

By Ed Park,

Book cover of Personal Days

Why this book?

Here is a dark comedy for the office worker. Office dysfunction is unique but also ubiquitous and lends itself well to, of course, Kafkaesque and Orwellian absurdity. One day, people just start getting fired, which leads to growing paranoia and more dysfunction. I like stories that don’t explain too much. Thanks to the pandemic, life, especially work life, has become increasingly amorphous and unreal. What is balance anymore? Where is the line? It’s refreshing to be immersed in a world even more bizarre than the one that workaholics now seem to be living in. 

Personal Days

By Ed Park,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Personal Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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. We meet Pru, the ex-grad student-turned-spreadsheet drone; Laars, the hysteric whose work anxiety follows him into…

Little Labors

By Rivka Galchen,

Book cover of Little Labors

Why this book?

A friend once described her early years of motherhood as non-stop work but also total idleness. Galchen’s slim book of collected observations and witticisms about babies and motherhood, some only one dazzling paragraph long, made me pause to savor each word. I liken reading this book to reading fun poetry or admiring a pop-up gallery. You can read a bit of this book every day, without losing the thread. Each chapter (they are very mini chapters) made me see the world in a new light. Many made me laugh out loud with joy. 

Little Labors

By Rivka Galchen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Little Labors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this enchanting miscellany, Galchen notes that literature has more dogs than babies (and also more abortions), that the tally of children for many great women writers-Jane Bowles, Elizabeth Bishop, Virginia Woolf, Janet Frame, Willa Cather, Patricia Highsmith, Iris Murdoch, Djuna Barnes, Mavis Gallant-is zero, that orange is the new baby pink, that The Tale of Genji has no plot but plenty of drama about paternity, that babies exude an intoxicating black magic, and that a baby is a goldmine.


The Writing Life

By Annie Dillard,

Book cover of The Writing Life

Why this book?

A frequent question I am asked is what my work, my day-to-day activities, as a writer are like. The answer is that it’s pretty mundane. Physically I sit at my desk for many hours without standing up. I can see it in my dog’s eyes that I am boring to watch. But inside my head, lots of trains, planes, and electric automobiles are flying around. Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Dillard puts into words, so eloquently, what writers are preoccupied about and how we manage to get our work done. Also, a slim book, clocking in at 111 pages of brilliance. 

The Writing Life

By Annie Dillard,

Why should I read it?

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


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Manhattan, romantic love, and satire?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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