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

The Books I Picked & Why

Less Than Zero

By Bret Easton Ellis

Book cover of Less Than Zero

Why 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.

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Bonfire of the Vanities

By Tom Wolfe

Book cover of The Bonfire of the Vanities

Why 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. 

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Rogue Trader

By Nick Leeson

Book cover of Rogue Trader

Why 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. 

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Liar's Poker

By Michael Lewis

Book cover of Liar's Poker

Why 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.

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler

Book cover of The Big Sleep

Why 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.

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists