The best books about American High Society

Why am I passionate about this?

I started my career writing about rock music. Rock stars dated models, and I soon started writing about them, too, which led me to cover the fashion world, where I was often seated near the rich and famous at runway shows in London, Paris, Milan, and New York, and began to study them. Thus began years of reading and writing about Society, first for The New York Times and New York magazine, and later in a series of books on the worlds of the rich and the famous. The latest, Flight of the WASP: The Rise, Fall, and Future of America's Original Ruling Class, will be published this fall.  


I wrote...

Rogues' Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art

By Michael Gross,

Book cover of Rogues' Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art

What is my book about?

Rogues’ Gallery is a biography of a great institution that reveals how the powerful and wealthy use cultural philanthropy to advance their social ambitions. A micro-history of the Metropolitan Museum and those who created, sustained, and run it, it is also a macro-history of the denizens of New York’s Gold Coast and a mega-history of the evolution of American wealth, power, and social status over the last 150 years, as it played out on the stage of the greatest cultural institution in New York, the greatest and richest museum in the world. It reveals how cultural behemoths serve as both great public institutions and private playgrounds of the rich. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Who Killed Society?

Michael Gross Why did I love this book?

How did we get from the Four Hundred to the Kardashians? Amory, a Boston Brahmin and America’s foremost 20th Century social historian, unlocked the secrets of American “Society” from the inside and from the Mayflower to the moment Celebrity conquered all. Amory knew where the bodies were buried and how to pry secrets out of living somebodies. Trenchant and often hysterical, I’ve turned to this book so often for inspiration and information that my copy is totally tattered.

By Cleveland Amory,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Who Killed Society? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Amory, Cleveland


Book cover of "Our Crowd": The Great Jewish Families of New York

Michael Gross Why did I love this book?

After the WASPs of The Social Register, the next great wave of American wealth was generated by the German-Jewish upper class that rose at the end of the 19th Century. Weaving together the stories of the Loeb, Lehman, Lewisohn, Schiff, Seligman, Goldman, Straus, Warburg, and Guggenheim families, Birmingham created a classic of the kind of group biography I aspire to write.  

By Stephen Birmingham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked "Our Crowd" as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They immigrated to America from Germany in the nineteenth century with names like Loeb, Sachs, Seligman, Lehman, Guggenheim, and Goldman. From tenements on the Lower East Side to Park Avenue mansions, this handful of Jewish families turned small businesses into imposing enterprises and amassed spectacular fortunes. But despite possessing breathtaking wealth that rivaled the Astors and Rockefellers, they were barred by the gentile establishment from the lofty realm of "the 400," a register of New York's most elite, because of their religion and humble backgrounds. In response, they created their own elite "100," a privileged society as opulent and exclusive…


Book cover of The Rich and Other Atrocities

Michael Gross Why did I love this book?

I was fortunate to cross paths with Curtis when I went to work for what were called the women’s pages” of The New York Times, which she had written for and edited before rising to the exalted op-ed page. When I got that job, my soon-to-be wife gave me a copy of this book—a collection of Curtis dispatches from the front lines of Society—and said, “This is what you can do if you’re good at it.”

By Charlotte Curtis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rich and Other Atrocities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The rich and other atrocities [Jan 01, 1976] Curtis, Charlotte


Book cover of People Like Us

Michael Gross Why did I love this book?

When I was a boy, I dreamed of writing pop fiction. As a young writer in the 1980s, I was riveted by the novels of Dominick Dunne, a former film and TV producer who’d started covering Society as a journalist for Vanity Fair, but also wrote novels where he told the sort of stories that couldn’t get past fact-checkers and libel lawyers. This one is the most trenchant and revealing book ever written about the “Nouvelle Society” of the Reagan years. It’s as delicious as dinner used to be at Le Cirque.

By Dominick Dunne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked People Like Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before they had Too Much Money, the inhabitants of Dominick Dunne’s glitzy, gossipy New York Times bestselling novels were People Like Us.

The way journalist Gus Bailey tells it, old money is always preferred, but occasionally new money sneaks in–even where it is most unwelcome. After moving from Cincinnati, Elias and Ruby Renthal strike it even richer in New York, turning their millions into billions. It would be impolite for high society to refuse them now. Not to mention disadvantageous. As long as the market is strong, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about–except for those nasty secrets from the past.…


Book cover of Privileged Lives

Michael Gross Why did I love this book?

This one is a bit of an obscurity. Another roman a clef from the 1980s, it’s a murder mystery set in Manhattan Society, only this time, it’s about the ways the high and mighty get down and dirty—and at the time, it was said to be based on several very real Upper East Side New York gentleman whose behavior was anything but gentle. At the time, many knew but no one talked about the sleaze and moral corruption that lurked in the dark corners of the world of wealth. I heard enough and saw enough to think that Stewart knew a lot.  

By Edward Stewart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Privileged Lives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York, its wealth, decadence and crime levels are the subject of this novel which tells the intertwining tales of a rich society queen's sudden recovery from coma and the discovery of a mutiliated corpse. When Lieutenant Vince Cordoza begins to investigate, he gradually finds links between the two seemingly unconnected events. What he finds is dirty, explosive and gruesome and involves not only the society queen's family, but the whole fabric of New York, rich and poor alike.


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Thorn City

By Pamela Statz,

Book cover of Thorn City

Pamela Statz

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Dressed to kill and ready to make rent, best friends Lisa and Jamie work as “paid to party” girls at the Rose City Ripe for Disruption gala, a gathering of Portland's elite.

Their evening is derailed when Lisa stumbles across Ellen, a ruthless politician and Lisa’s estranged mother. And to make matters worse, Lisa’s boyfriend, Patrick, crashes the party to meet his new boss, Portland's food cart drug kingpin. Lisa makes a fateful choice that traps her, Jamie, and Patrick in Ellen’s web. In this gripping thriller, Lisa must reconcile a painful past and perilous present.

Thorn City

By Pamela Statz,

What is this book about?

Suspected murder, eclectic food trucks, and artisanal cocaine: just another day in Thorn City.

It’s the night of the Rose City Ripe for Disruption gala—a gathering of Portland’s elite. Dressed to kill in sparkling minidresses, best friends Lisa and Jamie attend as “paid to party” girls. They plan an evening of fake flirtations, karaoke playlists, and of course, grazing the catering.

Past and present collide when Lisa stumbles across Ellen, a ruthless politician who also happens to be Lisa’s estranged mother. Awkward . . . When Lisa was sixteen, Ellen had her kidnapped and taken to the Lost Lake Academy—a…


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