• by Nikil Saval
  • Narrated by Stephen Hoye
  • 12 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

You mean this place we go to five days a week has a history?Cubed reveals the unexplored yet surprising story of the places where most of the world's work - our work - gets done. From "Bartleby the Scrivener" to The Office, from the steno pool to the open-plan cubicle farm, Cubed is a fascinating, often funny, and sometimes disturbing anatomy of the white-collar world and how it came to be the way it is - and what it might become.
In the mid-nineteenth century clerks worked in small, dank spaces called “counting-houses.” These were all-male enclaves, where work was just paperwork. Most Americans considered clerks to be questionable dandies, who didn’t do “real work.” But the joke was on them: As the great historical shifts from agricultural to industrial economies took place, and then from industrial to information economies, the organization of the workplace evolved along with them - and the clerks took over. Offices became rationalized, designed for both greater efficiency in the accomplishments of clerical work and the enhancement of worker productivity. Women entered the office by the millions, and revolutionized the social world from within. Skyscrapers filled with office space came to tower over cities everywhere. Cubed opens our eyes to what is a truly "secret history" of changes so obvious and ubiquitous that we've hardly noticed them. From the wood-paneled executive suite to the advent of the cubicles where 60% of Americans now work (and 93% of them dislike it) to a not-too-distant future where we might work anywhere at any time (and perhaps all the time), Cubed excavates from popular books, movies, comic strips (Dilbert!), and a vast amount of management literature and business history, the reasons why our workplaces are the way they are - and how they might be better.


What the Critics Say

"...An entertaining read... Saval's readings of pop culture representations of the office and its workers add a lively and ironic perspective." (Publishers Weekly)
"Ferociously lucid and witty." (Kirkus Reviews)
“Why did no one write this necessary book before now? Never mind: It wouldn’t have been as good. Cubed has that combination of inevitability and surprise that marks the best writing - and thinking.” (Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision)
“Required reading for anyone who works in an office, and for those fortunate enough to have escaped.” (Ed Park, author of Personal Days)
"Nikil Saval is a superstar! He does for offices what Foucault did for prisons and hospitals, transforming a seemingly static, purely functional, self-evident institution into a rich human story, full of good and bad intentions, chance, and historical forces. Reading Cubed is like watching an amazing magic trick where the very boringness of the office turns out to be what is the most interesting. I found myself wishing he would do waiting rooms next." (Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Did not learn a thing ...

in the first half of the book. Out of a few hundred audiobooks, I've only been unable to complete a book a couple of times. Horrible narration. Content was lacking any importance or of any interest.

How did Cubed get published? The author must be a good salesman. I suggest a career change.
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- Darren

Decent from a historical perspective but retelling of Hollywood movie plots negatively affects overall quality

This book piqued my interest because our company was in the midst of moving our headquarters from an outdated cubicle laden office to a new state of the art office utilizing open, shared workspaces.

The good: there are some fascinating historical nuggets on the evolution of the office that you probably won't find agglomerated in one singular text anywhere else.

The bad: the evolutionary tale of the office is littered with the author's penchant for frequently summarizing the plots of Hollywood films based in office settings. This was a perplexing move considering that I found the historical information quite interesting. The recanting of storylines from multiple films muddied what would have otherwise been easy to follow linear storytelling and I often fast forwarded the movie portions @ 3x speed to get to the historical parts. All in all an average read on how the office as we know it came to be. The rating would have been better if the author edited out the useless retelling of Hollywood movie plots... Which would have made it a third shorter too.
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- Julian M. De Luca

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-22-2014
  • Publisher: Random House Audio