Our Words at Work

Good Reads from the Next Generation of Writers

I love reading books by my contemporaries. I picked up The Quality of Life Report and The Devil Wears Prada more out of curiosity about their young authors than out of interest in quality, life, or Prada.

As I plowed through these fun, well-written reads, I learned a lot about 34-year-old Meghan Daum (Quality) and 22-year-old Lauren Weisberger (Devil), since both wrote novels closely connected to a significant career-slash-life experience (Daum claims her book is only “32.9%” autobiographical).

Meet Meghan and Lauren
Meghan Daum spins a fictional tale that parallels her move from New York City to rural Nebraska in pursuit of personal and professional fulfillment. Weisberger launches her novel from her experiences doing a brief stint as assistant to all-powerful, pain-in-the-ass Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

In reading both novels, I was granted a fascinating window into the lives of two other young writers and was exposed to some excellent, if only sometimes rambling and disorganized writing. (Since I did not author a bestselling book at age 22 like Lauren Weisberger did, and have not written for The New Yorker as Meghan Daum has, I add the rambling-and-disorganized part quietly.)

So check them out?

The Quality of Life Report, by Meghan Daum

The fictional Lucinda Trout, a NYC morning show TV producer up and moves her life to Prairie City, USA, in a “more or less rectangular-shaped state in the Midwest,” after falling in love with the place while on assignment.

Lucinda moves to Prairie City in pursuit of “real life,” complete with Midwestern charm and simplicity. She is fed up with her pricey, finance-draining New York lifestyle, shallow boss, and reporting job that allows her to report on nothing more significant than wearing thong underwear in New York City.

While in Prairie City, she hooks up with a Sam Shepard look-alike boyfriend and gets in over her head with his children and a farmhouse that won’t heat in the coldest Prairie City winter in years. Midwestern charm? Whatever.

Lucinda learns through a series of hard lessons that the “quality of life” is more elusive and complicated than she thought. The “quality of life” she discovers in a redemptive ending, is found in some rather unexpected people and places.

Any young person who has picked up and moved in the hope of fulfillment from job, relationship, or location, will identify with this wickedly funny novel. Daum reminds us, through the endearing and sincere Lucinda, that big dreams are tempered with equally big doses of reality, often resulting in poignant life lessons.

The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger
Anyone who has ever had (or currently has) a nightmarish first job will relate to the hilarious tales of Andrea Sachs, who goes to work for Miranda Priestly (The Devil Herself), the apparently omnipotent editor of New York’s elite Runway, a fashion magazine.

Miranda’s outlandish, self-absorbed behavior dominates this novel, as Andrea is sent on errand after unbelieveable errand. (Think buying two sets of lattes because the first one wasn’t hot enough and sending Harry Potter novels to Paris via private plane.) While at her Runway desk, Andrea is not allowed to leave to eat or to go to the bathroom.

Andrea does all of this in the hope of obtaining a job recommendation from fashion’s most influential woman?hopefully resulting in a job at The New Yorker . Meanwhile, her personal life unravels, as her demanding job zaps her relationships with best friend, boyfriend, and family.

Will Andrea continue to put up with Miranda’s slave-driving? What will become of her persona if she does? And what will become of her if she doesn’t, thereby incurring the wrath of one of the demi-goddesses of NYC? These are the questions that keep the reader turning the pages in this funny, sometimes outrageous novel.

Weisberger’s witty writing is, first and foremost, pure entertainment. Whether you’re a recent college grad serving as a latte lackey yourself, or your nightmarish first job is a not-quite-distant memory, Devil will remind you to seek humor in even the direst of professional situations. Andrea’s professional debacle is also a gentle reminder not to neglect the people we love while focused on moving up in the world.