The best novels to help you understand the rich and dysfunctional

Andreas Clenow Author Of A Most Private Bank: Five days of greed, lies and murder in the Swiss world of hidden money
By Andreas Clenow

Who am I?

I have spent the past twenty-five years managing money for the world’s wealthiest individuals and swam in the shark-invested waters of high finance. It has always fascinated me how differently people react to having money, be it self-made or not. Lincoln once famously said that if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. While very much true to this day, you don’t even need to go as far as to actually give the power. All you need to do to test a man’s character is to dangle power in front of him and see how far he will go to grab it.

I wrote...

A Most Private Bank: Five days of greed, lies and murder in the Swiss world of hidden money

By Andreas Clenow,

Book cover of A Most Private Bank: Five days of greed, lies and murder in the Swiss world of hidden money

What is my book about?

A decade after Jim Dixon's fall from grace, after the events that burnt his career on Wall Street, his past is catching up to him. Zurich had been the perfect place for a fresh start, a place where he could be a big fish in a small pond. The secretive world of Swiss high finance, a world of deception, greed, and excess, where everyone lies for one or another reason, provided the perfect cover. Until she showed up.

Caught between unscrupulous bankers, hedge fund managers, organized crime, state actors, and law enforcement, Jim is left with no choice. One way or another, it will be over before the end of the week. This week would see careers destroyed, lives lost, and fortunes made. 

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The books I picked & why

Less Than Zero

By Bret Easton Ellis,

Book cover of Less Than Zero

Why did I love this book?

Most people know Brett Easton Ellis as the author behind American Psycho, the brilliant and often misunderstood satire about the nihilism of Wall Street culture. With all the controversy and misconceptions around that book, all too many readers neglect to read his first masterpiece, Less than Zero.

Ellis wrote this book when he was twenty years old, which is an incredible feat. As someone who has seen the corrupt, nihilistic, and cynical world of the rich and dysfunctional from the inside, I find this book to be not only spot on but exceedingly frightening. The world that he describes is very much based on the one where he grew up, a world where nobody really cares about anything or anyone, and where the only thing that matters is your trust fund and your drugs.

By Bret Easton Ellis,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Less Than Zero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The timeless classic from the acclaimed author of American Psycho about the lost generation of 1980s Los Angeles who experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age. • The basis for the cult-classic film "Possesses an unnerving air of documentary reality." —The New York Times
They live in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money in a place devoid of feeling or hope. When Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college, he re-enters a landscape of limitless privilege and absolute moral entropy, where everyone drives Porsches,…

Book cover of The Bonfire of the Vanities

Why did I love this book?

Wolf did an amazing job at describing the type of personality disorder that is all too common on Wall Street. It’s a deeply troubling story in itself, but even more so on a broader scale, where individuals such as Sherman McCoy are ubiquitous in leadership positions, and their behavior rewarded and encouraged. A hard-hitting insight into wealth, privilege, and the people it creates.

Don’t make the mistake of watching the sub-par film based on this novel, with the severely miscast Tom Hanks. 

By Tom Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Bonfire of the Vanities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An exhilarating satire of Eighties excess that captures the effervescent spirit of New York, from one of the greatest writers of modern American prose

Sherman McCoy is a WASP, bond trader and self-appointed 'Master of the Universe'. He has a fashionable wife, a Park Avenue apartment and a Southern mistress. His spectacular fall begins the moment he is involved in a hit-and-run accident in the Bronx. Prosecutors, newspaper hacks, politicians and clergy close in on him, determined to bring him down.

Exuberant, scandalous and exceptionally discerning, The Bonfire of the Vanities was Tom Wolfe's first venture into fiction and cemented…

Rogue Trader

By Nick Leeson,

Book cover of Rogue Trader

Why did I love this book?

Would you like to know how it feels to be a celebrated star trader, while you’re actually hiding a secret and illegal loss of hundreds of millions of dollars? Rogue Trader is a stomach-turning account of how far someone might go to fit in and avoid being seen as a failure. This is a true story of how Leeson hid a small loss rather than admitting a mistake, and how that small loss grew into the secret 800 million dollar loss account which brought down one of the world’s oldest banks. 

In a world where the old school tie and family pedigree are paramount, maintaining the image of a successful star trader was his only way of fitting in, and with the substantial paper profits he posted, no one wanted to question him. Not until it was too late to save the bank. 

By Nick Leeson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Leeson was arrested in 1995 for bringing Barings Bank to its knees, it initially seemed as if he had single-handedly crushed the company. Indeed, it was he alone who found himself in the dark confines of a Singapore jail, from where he wrote Rogue Trader. Now updated for the twentieth anniversary of the collapse of Barings, this is his story of a broken system; of a cast of characters blind to anything but profits - whatever the cost.

Leeson's tale of boom and bust is an important reminder of the immense power the banking system held and, worryingly, still…

Liar's Poker

By Michael Lewis,

Book cover of Liar's Poker

Why did I love this book?

Before Lewis became a bestselling author of The Big Short and Moneyball, he was an investment banker. If you wish to understand banking culture, the reason why they do seemingly irrational things, or behave in ways that would be reprehensible to the general public, this account of Lewis’ time as a junior banker explains it all in vivid detail. 

It details his rise from a trainee, having food and phones thrown at him on the trading floor, to the banking art of getting a million-dollar bonus and pretending to be unhappy about it.

By Michael Lewis,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Liar's Poker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Michael Lewis was fresh out of Princeton and the London School of Economics when he landed a job at Salomon Brothers, one of Wall Street's premier investment firms. During the next three years, Lewis rose from callow trainee to bond salesman, raking in millions for the firm and cashing in on a modern-day gold rush. Liar's Poker is the culmination of those heady, frenzied years-a behind-the-scenes look at a unique and turbulent time in American business. From the frat-boy camaraderie of the forty-first-floor trading room to the killer instinct that made ambitious young men gamble everything on a high-stakes game…

The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler,

Book cover of The Big Sleep

Why did I love this book?

A true classic by one of the greatest authors of all times, The Big Sleep is a hard-boiled novel in the series following detective Philip Marlowe. The core of the story revolves around the wealthy Sternwood family, and what their wealth has made them become. 

Growing up with generational wealth and excess affects people differently, and often not in the way that outsiders may expect. Even though this book was written over eighty years ago, it is just as relevant today, and like a bottle of good wine, the novel has aged well.

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Big Sleep as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Raymond Chandler's first three novels, published here in one volume, established his reputation as an unsurpassed master of hard-boiled detective fiction.

The Big Sleep, Chandler's first novel, introduces Philip Marlowe, a private detective inhabiting the seamy side of Los Angeles in the 1930s, as he takes on a case involving a paralysed California millionaire, two psychotic daughters, blackmail and murder.

In Farewell, My Lovely, Marlowe deals with the gambling circuit, a murder he stumbles upon, and three very beautiful but potentially deadly women.

In The High Window, Marlowe searches the California underworld for a priceless gold coin and finds himself…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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