Iain Levison, . . Soho, $20 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-56947-280-4

Levison is a "modern-day Tom Joad" who, over the last decade, has worked 42 jobs in six different states, including mover, fish cutter, cook, caterer and cable TV thief. He recalls those jobs in this entertaining, unusual mix of autobiography and social commentary reminiscent of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Levison imagines himself a new breed of itinerant laborer—a college graduate with a $40,000 English degree. His America is a desperate and brutal country, a place where you're hired with a promise of insurance after 90 days, then fired on the 89th; where criminals beat each other to a pulp in Alaska fisheries, and truckers make fraudulent entries in their logbooks in order to keep up with impossible schedules. But Levison's droll sense of humor eases him (and his readers) through the tough times; he recalls catering a party and bleeding into the guests' Merlot, expounds on the definition of "résumé" ("the French term for 'page full of bullshit' ") and proposes a new motto for Dutch Harbor, Alaska ("What fatal flaw in your character made you wind up here?"). As both a writer and an employee, Levison can come off as a trifle obnoxious—some of his workplace misfortune he definitely brings on himself—and he's mercilessly scornful of the corporate yes-men and unscrupulous characters he works with. Yet his moral vision more than makes up for it; he's a sharp-eyed, impassioned critic of the American workplace. (Apr.)

Forecast:Although any book that targets itself toward people without a steady paycheck would seem to be doomed, Levison's just might do well, given today's high unemployment rates and the book's undeniable originality.