Internships. You have to do a lot of grunt work, but at least you don't get paid! Sometimes internships are a great opportunity to meet cool people and do real work in a field that you're deeply interested in. Sometimes internships are a great opportunity to be an unpaid servant to 30-something douchebags while you watch your precious youth slip through your fingers and wonder what you're doing with your life. Either way, they look good on a resume. So here are some books to help you survive a summer internship.
Summer reading is always a joy. But when you're spending your summer in an over-air-conditioned office instead of lying on the beach... it's a little harder to get into the whole chilled out, vacation reading head space. Especially when someone who doesn't remember your name is telling you exactly how they want their coffee.
That's when you bust out the books that understand the struggle of being kind of an adult, but without any of the benefits like a salary or job security or dignity. These books aren't all explicitly about the seasonal internship experience, but they all capture that elusive combination of boredom and panic that is being a summer intern.
1. I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
Sloane Crosley writes about intensely relatable experiences, like being a young person in New York, getting her first job, and despoiling an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This essay collection is a hilarious celebration of being hapless and young and just trying to make it. Perfect for the intern who feels like their whole life is slowly turning into one big shrug emoji.
2. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Gogol Ganguli hates his name (and can you really blame him?). The Namesake is the story of Gogol growing up as a first-generation American, dating all the wrong people, discovering his passion and (literally) making a new name for himself. It's a coming-of-age novel for any young person who's ever tried to outrun their upbringing, and it'll definitely make you want to call your parents.
3. Intern Nation by Ross Perlin
...this is actually maybe one to read after your internship. Or only if you really hate your unpaid internship and need a book to commiserate with you. Because Intern Nation is an exposé of unfair internships. It's witty at times and infuriating at others: Ross Perlin takes major companies to task for mistreating their interns, and explores why so many entry-level jobs are now "paid in experience." Perfect for the intern who's ready to snap.
4. F*ck! I'm in My Twenties by Emma Koenig
Are you over-educated, under-employed, and pretty much single forever? Emma Koenig's doodles will make you both laugh and cry into your instant ramen. She uses graphics, flowcharts, drawings, and good old fashioned words to celebrate/despair over being in your twenties. For the intern who's starting to spiral into a quarter-life crisis.
5. Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen
This is a comic collection for all those interns who feel like they're woefully unprepared to walk around in an office where people wear suits and pay other people to cut their hair. Sarah Andersen illustrates her adventures as a young "adult" bookworm who wastes time on the internet and feels weird at parties. Also that rabbit is extremely cute.
6. Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
Do you feel like your life is wasting away because your high school rival has a job with health benefits and you're still making coffee runs? J.K. Rowling is here to talk you off the ledge. Very Good Lives is just a book version of Rowling's 2008 Harvard commencement address, but it's a perfect reminder that it's OK and sometimes even GOOD to fail when you're young.
7. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Yes, The Bell Jar is about a young woman's mental breakdown and subsequent treatment. The subject matter is intense. But it's also a wry, all-too-relatable book about an unsatisfying internship, being young and frustrated, and how most men are terrible (sorry, men). If you've ever been an intern of any kind, you'll identify with Esther and her intern struggles.
8. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling is relentlessly funny and upbeat even when she's talking about being young and broke and artistically unfulfilled. She's the witty best friend we all need when that internship doesn't turn into a job, or when we just want to watch rom-coms and forget about work. And she's now a massively successful TV star, so maybe there's still hope for the rest of us sad sacks.
9. The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
No one can quip like Dorothy Parker can quip. She may have been writing back in the 1920s through the '50s, but her poems, essays, and short stories are so spot on, even today. She writes about falling for f*ckboys and being young and jaded. She's the kind of author you read when you need to sharpen your tongue before plunging back into the unpaid intern fray.
10. Zen Pencils by Gavin Aung Than
Zen Pencils has gotten me through so many low moments. Gavin Aung Than is a brilliant cartoonist who illustrates inspirational quotes from inspirational folks like Ira Glass, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Marie Curie—there's bound to be at least one dynamite quote from one of your icons in here. And the cartoons are so cute and so profound that you'll find yourself wanting to climb mountains and achieve your dreams, no matter how much intern drudgery they throw at you.