When we think of work most of us conjure up the picture of a soulless, harshly lit cubicle city, something straight out of Office Space or The Office. Of course, numerous jobs take place in other environments, and countless people toil in arduous, often thankless jobs that many of us ignore, whether it be construction, sanitation, hospitality, agriculture, or even sex work. For this inaugural Work Issue, I’m highlighting five books about important work that often flies under the radar.

The hospitality industry is perhaps the most visible yet widely misunderstood arena of contemporary work. In his debut book, A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City (Pegasus, Sept. 6), Edward Chisholm reveals the underbelly of the oft-romanticized Paris dining scene. “In this revealing social commentary,” notes our review, “Chisholm shares the appalling working conditions that he and his co-workers faced behind the facade of fine French dining.” While many books have taken us behind the scenes of celebrated restaurants, Chisholm’s portrait of Paris is uniquely insightful, portraying not just the grueling hours and poor treatment from managers, but also broader social concerns for the service staff.

In Pig Years, Ellyn Gaydos (Knopf, June 14) chronicles her experiences as a farmhand. Our reviewer wrote that the author “describes the realities of farm life with honest precision, neither indulging in unnecessary dramatizing nor shying away from the numerous harsh realities.” Most of us understand the physical labor involved in farming, but Gaydos gives us the details, providing “a complex and fraught portrait of a lifestyle that is simultaneously protective, precarious, and resistant to change.”

Caregiving is yet another overlooked job, and it’s arguably the most physically and emotionally stressful. Lynne Tillman’s latest book, Mothercare: On Obligation, Love, Death, and Ambivalence, (Soft Skull, Aug. 2), is “an extended essay [that] plumbs the effects of aging and illness on patient and caregivers alike.” In characteristically incisive prose, the author explores her mother’s experience with “normal pressure hydrocephalus, a condition virtually unknown then—and one that remains poorly understood today.” In this slim yet potent book, Tillman “painstakingly catalogs the numerous challenges of illness, not only for the patient, but also for those around her, including the frustrations of finding good or even adequate care.”

Though the consumption of pornography is widespread across the spectrum of society, performers in the industry are often ignored, their work dismissed or even attacked. Maitland Ward fights against this ignorance in Rated X: How Porn Liberated Me From Hollywood (Atria, Sept. 6), a personal chronicle of her journey in the porn industry. “Throughout the narrative,” notes our critic, “the author is clear and engaging in her frank discussions of sex and womanhood.” It’s a remarkably refreshing narrative in which the author “expresses herself with effortless honesty and humor about the support and creativity she found in an industry where the creators ‘are all too often forgotten about as being human and deserving of anyone’s real help.’ ” Contrary to what some may believe, sex work is real work, which Ward makes abundantly clear.

Though she took a decidedly different path than Ward, Chris Belcher explores similar themes of sex, sexuality, and self-discovery in Pretty Baby: A Memoir (Avid Reader Press, July 12). The author, a professor of gender studies, “reflects on the life path that led her into part-time sex work as a professional dominatrix.” She is never less than fully open and honest, bringing into the light many issues that demand continued attention. “As it explores issues of class, gender, and sexuality,” noted our review, “this refreshingly bold, boundary-breaking book reveals that no matter how formidable a woman is, she is still subject to the ever present threat of patriarchal brutality.”

Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.