Not everyone has the luxury of taking time away from work this summer, but if you do, a few compelling reads should be essential items for your suitcase or beach bag. Need ideas? The U.S. Department of Labor launched its Books that Shaped Work in America initiative in 2013, and the ever-growing list holds some great ideas for everyone. Whether you prefer the mildewy comfort of a cracking paperback spine or the bright high-tech glitz of the latest e-reader or tablet, the Labor Department's list is a perfect departure point for your literary travels.
Even if the books are notable for their relationship to the American workplace, there's no reason reading them should be a chore. The adventures of Ahab and Annie are well known, but the list contains tales of a variety of journeys that are well worth making. You can descend into a hacker underground, brave the criminal atmosphere of New York City docks, travel to a tyrannical future society or follow the exploits of one extraordinary pig (yes, the list has something for readers of all ages).
History buffs have an abundance of choices. Work and workplace policy has had an overwhelming influence on the social and political thought of the contemporary world, and a summer respite is a perfect time to bathe in the rays of intellectual enlightenment (no sunscreen required). If you've been promising yourself for years that you'll finally tackle that Scottish tome you skimmed in college, why wait any longer? There are inspiring stories about the remarkable Americans who are shaping our world, explorations of bygone eras and groundbreaking essays that shattered conventional thought.
The department's Books that Shaped Work in America project was formed in partnership with the Library of Congress' Center for the Book and initially compiled by notable contributors, including nine secretaries of labor, authors and labor leaders. Each book selection is related to the work that the Department of Labor undertakes to promote opportunity and protect workers, and the list is a great way to learn more about that work. To mark the start of the summer reading season, we're adding 10 new books -- all recommended by the public -- from big names like Vonnegut, Ellison and Orwell. Once you browse our digital library, we encourage you to make your own contribution to the project by submitting your recommendations.
New titles being added from public submissions to mark the beginning of summer are "The Dollmaker" by Harriette Arnow, "Out of this Furnace" by Thomas Bell, "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison, "Exploring the Dangerous Trades" by Alice Hamilton, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" by Herman Melville, "Last Night at the Lobster" by Stewart O'Nan, "Animal Farm" by George Orwell, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith, "On the Line" by Harvey Swados and "Player Piano" by Kurt Vonnegut.