books-that-shaped-work-in-america-list98 Books That Shaped Work In America

by Carl Fillichio

I love a challenge, and I love my sister. And, not uncommonly, nothing stirs my competitive spirit quite like sibling rivalry. So for the past year or so, I’ve been in an ongoing competition with my sister Carolyn focused on a passion we share – reading books.

You see, in June 2012, the Library of Congress, through its Center for the Book, issued a list of “Books that Shaped America.”  As soon as I learned about it, I tallied up the number I had read and called Carolyn to compare.

And so a challenge was born. We’re now each working our way through the list. Next up for me: Invisible Man, while Carolyn is about to start A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I thought I had her beat, because I know she’d never finish The Call of The Wild (I did). But she claims she’s in the lead (darn you, Joy of Cooking!).

Given my interest in labor history (and my job at the U.S. Department of Labor), it didn’t surprise me that many of the books on the list address labor issues (for example: How the Other Half Lives and The Jungle). But the diversity of books with “work” as a central theme really impressed upon me the role fiction, nonfiction, plays and poetry have shaped our view of work, workplaces and workers in America.

And so another challenge was born. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but in this case, sibling rivalry helped.

The U.S. Department of Labor, in partnership with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, created “Books that Shaped Work in America.”

For an initial list, we asked members of the Labor Department family and others for their suggestions. They came up with 97 books, ranging from Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town (suggested by U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez) to a book that was a movie first: On the Waterfront (suggested by Fox Business TV anchor Liz Claman). You can read their book recommendations–and those of others–by visiting

But more importantly, the public can make their own suggestions and add to the list.  Since launching the project a little more than a month ago, we’ve already received nearly 600 suggestions from the public . . .  and we’ve added titles to the list based on public feedback, ranging from Moby Dick, to The Words of Cesar Chavez, to children’s favorite Click, Clack, Moo. (Editor’s Note: We’ve added a glaring omission ourselves at #90.)

We’re looking to add more in the near future and throughout the life of the project, as the list is a work in progress. Like America itself, work is constantly changing and evolving, and the list is a work in progress. I certainly hope that teachers will take this opportunity to engage with us in this unique way. We make it easy for anyone to suggest a book. The site also includes Labor Department resources related specifically to the books on the list. It’s a terrific way to learn about the mission, history and resources of a federal agency that plays such an important role in people’s lives.

Carolyn already claims to have read Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position when she was in high school. And she correctly points out that the book Little Women “is a story about women and ambition . . . long before women were allowed to be ambitious.”

She sent me How to Win Friends and Influence People off the list for the holidays.  I’ll take the hint, and now, I have some reading to do.

98 Books That Shaped Work In America

  1. The Age of Innocence
  2. An American Dilemma
  3. Anthem
  4. Atlas Shrugged
  5. The Best of Everything
  6. Bicycle Thieves
  7. The Big Short
  8. The Book of Virtues
  9. Busy, Busy Town
  10. Capitalism and Freedom
  11. Click, Clack, Moo
  12. The Day the Crayons Quit
  13. Death of a Salesman
  14. Democracy and Education
  15. The Devil Wears Prada
  16. Economics in One Lesson
  17. Executive Suite
  18. The Federalist Papers
  19. The Feminine Mystique
  20. Flow
  21. The Forgotten Man
  22. Free Agent Nation
  23. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money
  24. The Girls in the Balcony
  25. The Given Day
  26. The Good Earth
  27. The Grapes of Wrath
  28. The Guinness Book of World Records
  29. The Handmaid’s Tale
  30. The Help
  31. Homestead
  32. How the Other Half Lives
  33. How to Win Friends and Influence People
  34. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  35. I’m a Frog
  36. Industrial Democracy
  37. The Jungle
  38. Leaves of Grass
  39. Liar’s Poker
  40. Life on the Mississippi
  41. Little Women
  42. Madam Secretary
  43. Madam Secretary
  44. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
  45. Manchild in the Promised Land
  46. Mark the Match Boy
  47. McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer
  48. Megatrends
  49. Moby Dick
  50. My Antonia
  51. My Beloved World
  52. My Man Godfrey
  53. The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass
  54. Native Son
  55. Nickel and Dimed
  56. Nine for Nine
  57. O Pioneers!
  58. Of Mice and Men
  59. Oil
  60. Olivia
  61. On the Waterfront
  62. Open Wide the Freedom Gates
  63. The Organization Man
  64. The Other America
  65. The Other Side of the River
  66. The Pittsburgh Cycle
  67. Poor Richard Improved
  68. The Price of Inequality
  69. The Principles of Scientific Management
  70. Profiles in Courage
  71. Profiles in Courage for our Time
  72. Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position
  73. Rivethead
  74. Roughing It
  75. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  76. The Seven Storey Mountain
  77. Silent Spring
  78. The Song of the Lark
  79. The Talent Masters
  80. Their Eyes Were Watching God
  81. Thieves’ Market
  82. This is How We Do It
  83. Those That Mattered
  84. To Kill a Mockingbird
  85. Unbought and Unbossed
  86. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  87. The Warmth of Other Suns
  88. Wealth of Nations
  89. What Color is Your Parachute?
  90. What Are People For?
  91. What Do People Do All Day?
  92. When Character was King
  93. Which Side Are You On?
  94. Who Stole the American Dream?
  95. With God on our Side
  96. The Words of César Chávez
  97. Working
  98. Working in the Shadows

Carl Fillichio heads the Labor Department’s Office of Public Affairs. Learn more about the department’s 100 years of service by viewing an interactive timeline  and watching a special centennial video  at; 98 Books That Shaped Work In America