10 (almost too) realistic novels about office life

8 (almost too) realistic novels about office life

In Reading Lists by Alison Doherty

10 (almost too) realistic novels about office life

From coworker romances to satirical capitalism critiques, the office is a prime setting for novels. Pre-pandemic, the average person spent about a third of their life at work. Now, whether you’re readjusting to being back in the office or still working from home, take your pick from these 8 exciting novels set in the office. With workplace thrillers like The Other Black Girl and The Intern’s Handbook, enemies to lovers romances like Dating You Hating You, and the office apocalypse novel Severance, there is truly something for everyone on this list.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Nella is one of the few Black women trying to break into the very white world of book publishing. After years of suffering microaggressions, she’s delighted when Hazel, another Black woman, joins her department. But when someone starts leaving threatening notes at her desk, she wonders if it’s Hazel or if she’s just being paranoid. Could her job, or even her life, be in danger?

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JPod by Douglas Coupland 

Ethan Jarlewski is a young video game designer who spends all his time in a cubicle with five other programmers with last names that also start with J. All of them hate their company and the skateboarding game they’ve designed. So together, they secretly encode a deranged Ronald McDonald character into the game. Equal parts bizarre and satirical, this office comedy portrays the weird world of tech and a group of characters willing to do anything to avoid growing up.
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Severance by Ling Ma 

Imagine a crossover episode between The Office and The Walking Dead, and you’ve got Ling Ma’s terrific debut novel. Part apocalypse novel, part capitalism critique, this novel introduces Candace — a millennial so attached to her work routine that she barely notices when a plague waylays New York City. As the world falls apart around her, she keeps commuting to her Manhattan skyscraper office and going through the motions of her unfulfilling career. Eventually the pandemic becomes impossible to ignore, and she’ll have to decide whether to cling to the life she knows or band together with survivors who are trying to restart society.

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Dating You Hating You by Christina Lauren 

Carter and Evie enjoy bigtime chemistry when they meet at a friend’s Halloween party. But the next morning, they realize they are both ambitious agents at competing Hollywood firms. When their two agencies merge, there is only one position open. Carter and Evie’s competitive natures kick in, leading to an all-out war for the job. But somehow the competition feeds the fire of the spark that’s growing between them.
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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne 

Bring on the banter in this enemies to lovers, slow burn, office romance. Lucy and Joshua are both executive assistants to the co-presidents of a publishing company. From their desks, they delight in arguing and playing pranks, but now there’s a promotion on the line and only one of them will get it. Lucy knows it’s time to leave the practical jokes behind to focus on her career, but she’s starting to wonder if instead of hating Joshua she’s actually falling in love with him.
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The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn 

HR Inc. is an intern placement agency that doubles as a network of assassins hired to kill high powered executives. Twenty-five-year-old John is already one of Manhattan’s most successful interns… and killers. He spends 80 hours a week getting coffee and answering phones at a top law firm while planning the perfect hit. Everything is going according to plan, until FBI agent Alice enters the scene with a mission to take down the same law partner John is targeting.
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This 1853 short story is one of the first literary depictions of office life. It’s told from the perspective of a lawyer who hires a new clerk, Bartleby. At first, Bartleby works hard and is incredibly efficient. But little by little his output decreases until he refuses to do any task, saying the iconic line, “I would prefer not to.” While many of us read this in high school or college, it’s a classic that is worth revisiting.

A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan 

After her husband makes a big career change, Alice goes back to full time work at a new tech company to help support her family. After adjusting to new lingo and the changes in the workforce, everything at her position seems perfect. She feels like she’s nailed the balancing act of becoming a working mother. Soon she’s being pulled in all directions from her dad getting sick to annoyed babysitters to unexpected changes in her position at work. Now Alice isn’t sure it’s possible to “have it all” or what she really wants out of life.
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About the Author: Alison Doherty

Alison is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on her way to work, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.