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7 Books to Get You Through Unemployment

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It’s no exaggeration to say that 2020 has been one of the toughest years in living memory. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating medical impact, and a knock-on economic impact that the world will be feeling for a while to come. Many people have lost their day jobs as a result of the crisis – this Rioter included. In troubled times, I turn to books, and have found that there are a huge number of books to help you through unemployment. Here are some of the books that I’ve found useful, reassuring, or inspiring while I’ve been unemployed.

The Unemployment Guide cover

The Unemployment Guide: How a Setback Can Launch Your Career by Melissa Fleury

Fleury draws on her own experience of being unexpectedly laid off to create this guide on how to turn the shock of unemployment into a plan to work on changing your life. Initially, I was skeptical (disaster rarely actually feels like opportunity), but Fleury’s optimistic, no-nonsense style helps you see the best in the worst situation.

For Every One cover

For Every One by Jason Reynolds

This book is a teeny-tiny perfect stocking filler, and a great inspiration boost for anyone who’s been working on a project or striving towards a dream for a long time, and needs a little reminder on why to keep going. Written by award-winning author Jason Reynolds, For Every One is a letter in book form that will give hope to anyone who needs it.

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Gainfully Unemployed: 17 Ways to Maintain Your Sanity While Looking for Work by Jonathan Wade

There are lots of guides to looking for work, revamping your resume, or starting your own business, but what about the day-to-day of keeping going when you’re unemployed? In this book, Jonathan Wade gives hints and tips on how to keep yourself in a routine and live a happy life while you’re working towards finding your next job.

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168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

While not specifically aimed at people dealing with unemployment, Vanderkam’s time-management guide 168 Hours is a great resource for finding ways to keep structure in your day. When I was newly unemployed, I found that time either completely dragged, or sped by – and either way, I didn’t feel like I was achieving anything. Breaking the day down, sorting out my priorities, and making sure I knew what I was working on helped – and Vanderkam’s book shows you how to do this so easily that it soon becomes a habit.

Smashing It

Smashing It: Working Class Artists on Life, Art and Making It Happen by Sabrina Mahfouz

The working world has never been overly accessible to marginalised people, particularly those with multiple marginalisations, and the current economic situation has made things that much harder. This collection of essays and short pieces by 31 working-class artists, including Riz Ahmed, Maxine Peake, and Bridget Minamore, is a fascinating and inspirational read for anyone who’s been knocked back by 2020.

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How to Be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest by Sarah Corbett

Despite there being some uplifting news towards the end of this year, there’s still a lot left to fix. Corbett’s book on craftivism gives readers tips and ideas on how to carry out ‘gentle, effective protest’ and do small things that build up to great good. If unemployment has you feeling helpless and frustrated, working on a craftivist project could be a useful form of self-care, as well as helping create a better world.

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And Then I Got Fired: One Transqueer’s Reflections on Grief, Unemployment & Inappropriate Jokes About Death by J Mase III

This frank, funny memoir on unemployment and other parts of life isn’t just a reassuring and often hilarious read – Mase also gives the reader guidance on ways to deal with difficult experiences and move forwards. Poetry lovers will particularly enjoy the poems that Mase sprinkles throughout this unmissable book, along with a generous helping of bad jokes that will have you smiling no matter how trying things seem.


Whether you’re newly unemployed, dealing with long-term unemployment, or worried about the future of your current job, these books will hopefully help you make your way through the worst and start building towards something better.

If you want to take a break from job-hunting and sink into some light escapism, try our list of 21 Cozy Mysteries. To dip into some employment-related fiction, check out 5 Novels About Work.

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