The Reading List: Unemployment

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The Independent Culture


'Down and Out in Paris and London' by George Orwell, Penguin Classics £8.99

Orwell's first full-length work recounts his experience of living on the margins. In Paris, he embraces a kind of bohemian poverty, living day-to-day, spending his last money on cigarettes and working restaurant kitchens. In London, things become far grimmer: homeless and unemployed, he experiences the squalor of hostels and life on the street.


'Downsize This' by Michael Moore, Pan Books (out of print)

Moore is on classic, loudmouth campaigning form in Downsize This, an examination of business and industry in American and their cosy relationship with the government. Corporations are seen prioritising the interests of their shareholders over the welfare of their employees and environment.


'Then We Came to the End' by Joshua Ferris, Penguin £8.99

Ferris's first novel chronicles the mini-dramas of life in a Chicago advertising agency. With redundancies looming, the office workers set about trying to look busy, despite the lack of work. Both funny and poignant, Ferris captures life in a white-collar office with total aplomb.


'Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas & Found Happiness' by Dominique Browning, Plume Books £9.26

Browning spent 13 years as editor of House & Garden, but when the magazine closed she found herself at a loss, struggling to maintain her glamorous existence and family of two grown sons. In this humorous, self-deprecating memoir, she recounts how she came to terms with life outside the fast lane, baking muffins, gaining weight and rediscovering her passion for music.


'Nothing Happens Until It Happens to You: A Novel Without Pay, Perks, or Privileges' by TM Shine, Broadway Books £11.73

When Jeffrey, a middle-aged editor at a Florida newspaper, loses his job, his humdrum life is changed forever. He befriends a young female neighbour and attempts a few "unemployed" rituals: drinking in the daytime, doing odd jobs. But as time passes, he realises he may not return to the office, and his life takes a turn for the adventurous. A neatly executed journey of self discovery.