If you sit in a cramped cubicle under bad fluorescent lights, push around Sisyphean stacks of papers and bide your time until retirement—only 9 years, 7 months, 2 weeks, 3 days, 3 hours and 12 minutes to go, but hey, who’s counting—it’s inevitable that you suffer from the occasional bout of modern office malaise. You are not alone. Boredom can and will strike even the most dedicated, toilsome office worker anytime, anywhere.
While there is no known cure for workplace-induced ennui, you may find some relief in these novels that take the languor and absurdity of office culture to a whole other level.
Something Happened by Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller’s second novel is a scathing satire on business life and American culture. It’s as inventive, but not nearly as well-known, as Catch-22. Something Happened takes readers inside the head of Bob Slocum, a man who has it all: a steady job, a beautiful wife, three children, a nice house, plenty of mistresses, and plenty more discontent…until something happens. Eavesdrop on Bob as he records the goings on in his life at home and at the office.
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
Dan Underwood, a computer programmer at Microsoft, narrates this novel that follows six computer whizzes. These “microserfs” work at least 16 hours a day as cogs in the machine until they decide to strike out on their own to form a high-tech start up in Silicon Valley. This will touch a nerve with any worker who remembers fondly (or not so fondly) slaving away during the 1990s tech boom.
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
The employees of a Chicago advertising firm struggle to cope with a business downturn and multiple rounds of layoffs. Their solution? A rumor mill, covert romances, pranks, too many coffee breaks, and a fierce competition to score the best office furniture. If you’ve ever spent time hoarding Post-It notes in a cubicle, you’re sure to recognize someone you know among this large ensemble cast of quirky office workers.
Now stop reading this and get back to work. Or better yet, leave a comment and tell me about your favorite book set in an office. And then get back to work.