Books that capture the hilarity of office life

Al Woodworth on April 29, 2020

5 novels to transport you back to the office

For weeks now, we have been re-creating our 9 to 5 lives in our homes, which can be a challenge, considering our homes are everything that work is not. There are no cubicles next to our couches, no conference rooms filled with chairs on wheels, no emails about leftover cookies being up for grabs in the kitchen, no water cooler banter about the absurd thing Joe said in a meeting or the holiday sweater Nancy wore in May. I mean, a girl could begin to miss it all!

So, here are a few office novels that will bring you right back to the hum of the copier and the chatter of co-workers. And if you’re still in the mood for office stories and love the TV show, make sure to check out the new oral history The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s by Andy Greene.

Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris

Praised as “The Office meets Kafka,” Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End sardonically tells the 9 to 5 story of a group of employees at a Chicago advertising firm that is on the brink of shuttering. Named an Amazon Best Book of the Month when it published in 2007, our reviewer wrote that Ferris “nails the dynamics of cubicle culture—the deadlines, the gossip, the elaborate pranks to break the boredom, the joy of discovering free food in the breakroom. Arch, achingly funny, and surprisingly heartfelt…a view of how your work becomes a symbiotic part of your life.”

Attachments: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell

Oh, for the love of NSFW things that people do. In Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments, an office romance develops one email at a time. Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail—but they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They continue sending each other endlessly hilarious emails about their personal lives, not caring that their words are being monitored and changing the course of one man’s love life forever.... There's nothing like a good office romance.

Personal Days: A Novel by Ed Park

A clever workplace tragicomedy that investigates workplace dynamics—the absurdities, ridiculous corporate jargon, the dithering away of time, falling in love across cubicles, water cooler gossip (you know what I’m talking about)—as an office navigates rounds and rounds of layoffs. A finalist for the PEN Hemingway Award and named one of Time’s Best Books of 2008, Park’s debut has drawn comparisons to Peter Heller’s Catch-22, Kurt Vonnegut, Don DeLillo, and of course, The Office.

The Assistants: A Novel by Camille Perri

Perri’s debut takes us a bit outside the monotony of office cubicles to include the thrill of coffee runs, fancy work parties, and a devious plot to pay off student debt by means other than a meager assistant paycheck. The Skimm raved “Ocean’s Eleven meets Devil Wears Prada” in this hilarious and razor sharp debut of over-educated and underpaid women who have decided they’ve had enough.

The New Me: A Novel by Halle Butler

Halle Butler’s novel was heralded by Entertainment Weekly as “Girls + Office Space + My Year of Rest and Relaxation + anxious + sweating = The New Me.” I mean, what more could you ask for? Comic, scathing rants of workplace disappointment and millennial views of self-improvement abound in this novel by a National Book Award Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree.

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