John le Carré, Sarah Rose, Lois Leveen: Books Briefing

📚 An excerpt from The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite, by Daniel Markovits

How domestic workers enable well-off women to prosper

“The more I adjusted to being a mother, the more uncomfortable I was, because I was looking at my nanny and thinking, She’s a mother, too. Who’s taking care of her baby?

📚 Women’s Work: A Reckoning With Work and Home, by Megan Stack

How to “read” a tomato to see the hidden labor behind food

“With a little training, you can see the ways supply-chain practices are written all across its (artificially ripened) skin.”

📚 Tomatoland, by Barry Estabrook

📽️ Food Chains, directed by Sanjay Rawal

How the modern office shapes American life

“The original cubicle … was intended to increase the power of ordinary workers; in practice it came to do something quite different, or at least that’s how it felt to many people.”

📚 Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, by Nikil Saval

📚 “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” by Herman Melville

📚 A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

​The exhausting pursuit of work-life balance

“Some researchers think that rather than beat yourself up … it might be better to simply embrace the imbalance.”

📚 Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, by Brigid Schulte

📚 Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter, and Thrive, by Jessica N. Turner

📚 The Passion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

The Reference Desk

(New York Public Library)

Need more book suggestions for back-to-school season? Searching for the perfect inscription for a card or quotation for a speech?

Write to the Books Briefing team at or reply directly to this email with any of your reading-related dilemmas. We might feature one of your questions in a future edition of the Books Briefing and offer a few books or related Atlantic pieces that might help you out.

About us: This week’s newsletter is written by Rosa Inocencio Smith. She just spent a summer afternoon with Decreation, by Anne Carson.

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