The 10 Best Books About Miserable Media Jobs


So you think you want to work in media. We asked Jessica Grose, former Slate and Jezebel editor and author of this month’s Sad Desk Salad , what books she would recommend for anyone considering a career in blogging. She did us one better with this comprehensive list on the less glamorous side of publishing, advertising, and film — fields notorious for high burn out, abusive bosses, and soul-crushing competition.

Grose’ debut novel, the story of a young blogger who must decide just how much more she’ll compromise for her life in the media grind, is partially inspired by her own experiences as a stay-at-home writer. “There’s a way you can become a total weirdo couch gremlin when you don’t have to go outside and talk to people every day,” Grose told us. “It’s a bizarre phenomenon that can make you lose a little bit of perspective.” And the title, a reference to “prime-posting time” (or when cubicle dwellers chomp on their midday salads while scrolling celebrity gossip), came to her on her desk at Slate in late fall 2010. “I Tweeted something about having a sad desk salad, and the novelist and writer Lily Burana tweeted back to me something like, that would make a great novel title.”

Needless to say, anyone part of depressing desk-lunch culture will appreciate this story. And those with “sad media” jobs needn’t despair completely, for Grose offered this bit of affirmation: “If you think it’s a stepping stone for a job that is not sad and that you’d actually want some day, stick it out and suck it up; you won’t be there forever.”

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

“McInerney’s debut novel is about a fact checker at a highbrow publication with an imperious boss and a cocaine problem who is floundering in both his career and his personal life. He was once a fact checker at the New Yorker in real life.”

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

“Another debut novel, Rachman’s book about the fates of a collection of staffers of a declining English-language newspaper in Rome is both hilarious and touching and provides a window into how the business has changed over the past few decades.”

Personal Days by Ed Park

“Park’s novel isn’t explicitly about a media company — the business that the book is about is never stated — but it is about the terror felt by employees who are constantly under the threat of layoffs. Park experienced rounds of layoffs as an editor at the Village Voice, and any media cubicle dweller will recognize details of their lives in this book.”

I’m So Happy for You by Lucinda Rosenfeld

“Wendy, the heroine of Rosenfeld’s delightfully tart novel is an editor at a staunchly leftist magazine called Barricade (though she’d probably rather be reading tabloids than earnest stories about worker’s rights). The book’s main plot is about Wendy’s fraught friendship with her closest pal, but the details about her working life are priceless.”

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

“A jewel in the media-lit genre that taught us how Anna Wintour likes her steak.”

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

“Ferris’ novel about successive rounds of layoffs at an advertising agency perfectly captures a lot of recession-era angst about job security.”

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

“Among her other woes, Bridget has a bummer of a job in publishing, and Helen Fielding is at her hilarious best when describing Jones’ workplace follies.”

Personal Velocity by Rebecca Miller

“This is actually a collection of interconnected short stories by the fantastic Rebecca Miller, and only the first is explicitly about media types. A cookbook editor who is married to a New Yorker fact checker gets her big break when she is asked to edit the novel of an up-and-coming former Harvard classmate who has written a buzzy novel.”

Save the Assistants by Lilit Marcus

“A necessary how-to guide for surviving your first media job in New York. If you’re stuck in an entry-level job with an evil boss, you will find many stories with which to commiserate here.”

The Twins of Tribeca by Rachel Pine

“A roman-a-clef about Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the notoriously tough founders of the movie studio Miramax, written by a former assistant. A fun, fabulous insider’s view of the bottom floor of the movie industry.”