Take the 2,477,000 corporations in the United States, winnow out the 2,476,900 sweatshops and soul-crushers, and you are left with 100 swell places to work. That, in essence, is the premise of a new book, called The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America (Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Reading, Mass., $17.95).

Each company in this rather anecdotal survey receives a one- to five-star rating in five categories: pay, benefits, job security, chance to move up, and ambiance. Several of the companies are young and fast growing -- Celestial Seasonings, W. L. Gore & Associates, People Express Airlines, and Quad/Graphics, to name four -- although there are a few more established names as well, such as Exxon, IBM, General Electric, and J. P. Morgan.

"We found, in general, that small companies are better than big companies as places to work," conclude the authors, Robert Levering, Milton Moskowitz, and Michael Katz, who previously collaborated on Everybody's Business Almanac. "The big companies on our roster have maintained many small company traits: They break down their operations into small units, they push responsibility down into the ranks, they don't mangle people."