A book called Malled, by Caitlin Kelly, has been getting a lot of (undeserved) press lately. Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed is far more authentic, readable, and worthy. In fact, at this time of economic woe, it is highly recommended--truly essential.
Ehrenreich gets her information the hard way; by actually experiencing what so many academics only write about. The war on the middle and working class is the subject of this searing expose of working conditions and the struggle to make ends meet for those toiling as wage slaves in the "Land of Opportunity".
It is impossible to read this book and not suddenly become more aware of the daily struggles of everyone around you. You really see the disparities between classes through one heart wrenching story after another of the working class.
Chonicles the day to day struggles of people trying to make ends meet and support families in various minimum wage positions. The author embeds herself in real jobs- WalMart stocker, house cleaner, etc. and details the near impossibility of feeding and clothing herself on the subsequent earnings. Guaranteed to generate empathy if you have an ounce of blood in your heart.