WORK BOOKS FOR THE CYNIC

The global economic collapse has raised enough unsettling questions to make even the most confident guy run to the self-help shelves. Lucky for you and your anxieties, this new batch of texts offers something more than oversimplistic, Who Moved My Cheese?–style tonics.

Photograph by Doron Gild

The global economic collapse has raised enough unsettling questions to make even the most confident guy run to the self-help shelves. Lucky for you and your anxieties, this new batch of texts offers something more than oversimplistic, Who Moved My Cheese?–style tonics. In Life Inc. (Random House, $25), trend guru Douglas Rushkoff argues that corporations have tricked us through what is essentially a massive Ponzi scheme into betraying our best selves. Sure, the book's a polemic drawn in broad strokes—but it's a surprisingly invigorating read. Matthew B. Crawford, a philosopher/mechanic, explains why he believes plumbers lead happier lives than investors in his less political but equally radical Shop Class As Soulcraft (The Penguin Press, $26). Ignore any undergraduate Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance memories the title may inspire: With its history of the cubicle maze, this is a far smarter and more satisfying book. In the comparably fulfilling The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Alain de Botton describes, with his typical eloquence, the ways people from Maldivian fishermen to London accountants make their livings. Reading all three books at once is a little like listening to the proverbial blind man describing an elephant, but someone's got to address that large animal in the room. Timothy Hodler

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