100 books like The Bonfire of the Vanities

By Tom Wolfe,

Here are 100 books that The Bonfire of the Vanities fans have personally recommended if you like The Bonfire of the Vanities. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Liar's Poker

By Michael Lewis,

Book cover of Liar's Poker

Amy Myers Jaffe Author Of Oil, Dollars, Debt, and Crises: The Global Curse of Black Gold

From the list on why oil and global banking crises happen at the same time.

Who am I?

I began my career as a business journalist writing about Arab finance and oil at a time when few women were in that industry. Rather improbably, perhaps, I became well-known for correctly predicting trends – geopolitical and geo-economical. In my thirties, I shifted to the academy, becoming a director of energy research at Rice University in Houston and subsequently a sought-after advisor to government, corporations, and financial institutions. I wrote my first paper on oil crises while in high school (winning third prize in a state term paper contest) and have never left the subject. Now more than ever, the public needs to understand the real facts behind oil and financial crises. 

Amy's book list on why oil and global banking crises happen at the same time

Why did Amy love this book?

The one thing I don’t like about most economics books is that they are overly antiseptic and highly divorced from the machismo gambling culture that drives speculative behavior in the first place and leads to the kinds of conditions that eventually create financial catastrophes.

My writing on economics is highly colored by the fact that I worked on Wall Street as a financial journalist at the height of the high-rolling, cocaine-rich, Salomon Brothers 1980s. But pick any subsequent bubble – Enron, Scion, FTX, the tech founder clients of SVB – it ultimately follows the same betting and bluffing storyline.

If you want to understand commodity markets, start by understanding the people who drive them. For that, there’s no better writer than Michael Lewis and no better book than his semi-autobiographical original effort, Liar’s Poker. The reason I prefer Liar’s Poker the most is not only because it covers the period…

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 Quiet American

By Graham Greene,

Book cover of The Quiet American

David Hagerty Author Of They Tell Me You Are Wicked

From the list on political crime fiction.

Who am I?

I grew up in Chicago in the waning days of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s machine, which politicized everything from schools to loading zones. Everyone—whether they were civil servants or small business owners—had to pledge loyalty to Da Boss, Hizzoner, or suffer the consequences. As a result, I’ve always gravitated to crime stories with a political element, one showing the effects of big conflicts on regular people. And I’ve written about the same. 

David's book list on political crime fiction

Why did David love this book?

Before the U.S. entered the war in Vietnam, Graham Greene forecast its disastrous consequences. His love triangle, set amid the escalating conflict, perfectly captures the naiveté of American interventionism overseas. I love the subtext of the tale, which is narrated by an embittered British journalist. Although it’s never spoken, we intuit that he is addicted to opium and living the life of a dissolute expatriate. Fowler watches in horror as a U.S. diplomat tries to steal both the woman and the country he has adopted. He claims impartiality and indifference until he cannot any longer.

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Quiet American as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam

"I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas.

As young Pyle's well-intentioned policies blunder into bloodshed, Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter, finds it impossible to stand safely aside as an observer. But…

The Great Gatsby

By F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Book cover of The Great Gatsby

Libby Sternberg Author Of Daisy

From the list on the tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Who am I?

I’ve loved F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories ever since I read The Great Gatsby as a teenager. After that, I devoured all of his works, thanks to a membership in one of those book subscription services where you have to send back monthly book selections if you don’t want them. I read almost all his short stories, all his novels, including the unfinished The Last Tycoon, and everything I could find on him and his wife Zelda. When The Great Gatsby entered the public domain a couple years ago, I started daydreaming of how I'd love to revisit the story from a fresh perspective, which led me to penning Daisy.

Libby's book list on the tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Why did Libby love this book?

I couldn't leave this important book off this list, especially since my own novel is a refashioning of that story from the woman's point of view!

Fitzgerald's most famous novel, The Great Gatsby, is seen by many as an avatar for the American Dream of the quest for riches and status. But Jay Gatsby is also Scott himself—the man striving to be part of the in-crowd, who conflates wealth with class, and who never, ever gave up on his ultimate goal of reclaiming the great love of his life, Daisy Buchanan.

Short—it clocks it at barely 50,000 words, The Great Gatsby captures the zeitgeist of its time, taking readers back to the heady, post-Great War party of the Jazz Age, where anything seemed possible.

By F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As the summer unfolds, Nick is drawn into Gatsby's world of luxury cars, speedboats and extravagant parties. But the more he hears about Gatsby - even from what Gatsby himself tells him - the less he seems to believe. Did he really go to Oxford University? Was Gatsby a hero in the war? Did he once kill a man? Nick recalls how he comes to know Gatsby and how he also enters the world of his cousin Daisy and her wealthy husband Tom. Does their money make them any happier? Do the stories all connect? Shall we come to know…

The Lincoln Lawyer

By Michael Connelly,

Book cover of The Lincoln Lawyer

James Tarr Author Of Bestiarii

From the list on technically accurate thrillers.

Who am I?

For people who know something about a technical field, there is nothing that can ruin a book or movie faster than inaccuracies about that field. I’ve worked as an armored car driver, police officer, and private investigator in and around Detroit, and have been writing for outdoor magazines for close to twenty years, so not only do I know a lot about the featured subjects/characters of most thrillers, I care about how accurately they’re portrayed, and have brought that passion to my writing. I’ve written five thrillers set in Detroit, many of them featuring a private investigator, and when writing Bestiarii and its sequels did extensive research on dinosaurs.

James' book list on technically accurate thrillers

Why did James love this book?

Having worked as a police officer, process server, and private investigator, I find most books featuring characters with those occupations unrealistic and not entertaining. 

Michael Connelly spent time working for the L.A. Times as a crime reporter, so he knows reporters, cops, and lawyers.  He’s seen greater success with his Harry Bosch series, but The Lincoln Lawyer was the debut novel featuring defense attorney Mickey Haller, and it’s great. 

Not only does the plot keep you guessing, but the realistic grit of the Los Angeles courts gives this book an authenticity you rarely find.

By Michael Connelly,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Lincoln Lawyer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They're called Lincoln Lawyers: the bottom of the legal food chain, the criminal defence attorneys who operate out of the back of a Lincoln car, travelling between the courthouses of Los Angeles county to take whatever cases the system throws in their path.

Mickey Haller has been in the business a long time, and he knows just how to work it, how to grease the right wheels and palms, to keep the engine of justice working in his favour. When a Beverly Hills rich boy is arrested for brutally beating a woman, Haller has his first high-paying client in years.…

Book cover of Notes from a Small Island

Karen Gershowitz Author Of Wanderlust: Extraordinary People, Quirky Places, and Curious Cuisine

From the list on making you want to travel.

Who am I?

I’ve been traveling since age seventeen when I boarded a plane and headed to Europe on my own. Over the next three years I lived in London, took weekend jaunts across the continent, and became completely bitten by the travel bug. Since then, I’ve traveled to more than 95 countries. I’ve lost and gained friends and lovers and made a radical career change so that I could afford my travel addiction. Like my readers, I am an ordinary person. Through travel I’ve learned courage and risk-taking and succeeded at things I didn’t know I could do. My goal in writing is to inspire others to take off and explore the world.

Karen's book list on making you want to travel

Why did Karen love this book?

Shortly after it was first published, I picked this book up in the bookstore at Heathrow on my way home from a business trip. I spent the entire flight glued to it and laughing out loud.

This was Bryson’s first travel book and one that changed my perception of what travel writing could be. It is perceptive, irreverent, and focuses on the small, often quirky, details that make travel so interesting. I am now a huge fan of all of Bryson’s books, but this was the one that got me hooked.

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Notes from a Small Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1995, before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire to move back to the States for a few years with his family, Bill Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock of the nation's public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite; a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named…

Less Than Zero

By Bret Easton Ellis,

Book cover of Less Than Zero

Nash Jenkins Author Of Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos

From the list on teenage sentimentality.

Who am I?

I do not remember a time when I wasn’t captivated by stories about adolescence. This was the case when I myself was a teenager—when I sought in these overwrought sagas the sort of sentimental melodrama that eluded the banality of my own life—but curiously it’s no less true at thirty, for reasons that are fundamentally the same but somehow more urgent. Becoming an adult is an exercise in hardening; to grow up is to forget what it’s like to be beholden to one’s own autobiographical romance. The following titles offer a respite from the cynicism that is adulthood; as a writer and a human, I'm forever in their debt.

Nash's book list on teenage sentimentality

Why did Nash love this book?

“Sentimental” is maybe the last word you’d use to describe Ellis’ fiction, but Less Than Zero is an elegant proof that form needn’t follow function.

For all the sparseness of its language and pitilessness of its characters, there is a profound empathy for its narrator Clay, a pensive college freshman who’s returned home to California for Christmas break. Clay expends no outward moral judgment on the depravity of those who populate his very Gothic Los Angeles, but we come to intuitively understand his reticence as less a disposition than a defense.

It is precisely in how he understates his pain that we feel just how total it is.

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,…

The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler,

Book cover of The Big Sleep

Ron Base Author Of Scandal at the Savoy: A Priscilla Tempest Mystery, Book 2

From the list on combining mystery and suspense into something magical.

Who am I?

As readers may have gathered from the five books I’ve chosen, my childhood obsessions and passions have had an immense influence on my later writing life. Somewhat to my surprise, I must say. I’ve been a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, movie critic, and have written screenplays. But returning to novels, first with the Sanibel Sunset Detective series and lately with Death at the Savoy and Scandal at the Savoy, I am, in effect, reliving my childhood, using it to write these books. What a joy to be looking back as I move forward—and you always keep the plot moving forward!

Ron's book list on combining mystery and suspense into something magical

Why did Ron love this book?

Chandler’s novel, first published in 1939, is a touchstone for anyone writing detective fiction.

Never mind that private detective Philip Marlowe never actually solves anything.

In addition to the famously unsolved murder that Chandler brushed off when told about it, there are plot holes you could drive a Buick Roadmaster through, and prose occasionally edged in purple. Never mind its shortcomings, The Big Sleep overall remains intoxicatingly hard-boiled, a much-imitated classic of the genre.

I have gone back to it many times since I first read it, seeing its flaws but loving its tough-as-nails sensibility. It played an important part in setting me on the road to writing not only the Priscilla Tempest novels but also the Sanibel Sunset Detective mysteries.

Like everyone else who writes this stuff, I owe Chandler a lot.

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

17 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…

The Kill Artist

By Daniel Silva,

Book cover of The Kill Artist

Jonathan Payne Author Of Citizen Orlov

From the list on spy thrillers for readers of literary fiction.

Who am I?

I’m a reader and writer of thrillers, especially espionage, but I also love literary fiction, including contemporary writers like Kazuo Ishiguro, Mohsin Hamid, and Amor Towles. And I enjoy reading classic writers including Gogol, Dostoyevsky, and Kafka. So, when it comes to reading thrillers, I gravitate towards those that are very well written, with precise prose and evocative imagery. This is my crossover list of the best five spy thrillers for readers of literary fiction. If you’re a literary reader interested in dabbling in a bit of espionage, these five books would be a great place to start.  

Jonathan's book list on spy thrillers for readers of literary fiction

Why did Jonathan love this book?

Silva’s novels about Gabriel Allon—a reluctant Israeli secret agent posing as an Italian art restorer—are my current favorite read and a serious contender for the best spy thrillers by a contemporary writer.

Each of the novels in the series works as a separate episode; in this case, Allon is lured into action to track down a Palestinian assassin.

But Allon is brought to life by recurring themes across the series, including the fact that his traumatized wife is permanently assigned to a psychiatric hospital by the car bomb that killed their son.

Silva’s meticulous writing and ingenious mixing of historical fact and fiction will appeal to literary readers. 

By Daniel Silva,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Wily old Israeli intelligence chief recalls former agents in order to eliminate top Palestinian terrorist. One agent is now an art restorer, the other a fashion model. Ten years before on a mission to destroy the Arab Black September group they were briefly lovers. Now their pasts and their enemies come back to haunt them, as the terrorist murders ambassadors in Paris and Holland. Will the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks be his next target? And what motivates the terrorist? Is it politics, or is it possibly personal? Set mainly in London, but with forays into Paris, Amsterdam, the Middle East and…

Rogue Trader

By Nick Leeson,

Book cover of Rogue Trader

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

From the list on to help you understand the rich and dysfunctional.

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.

Andreas' book list on to help you understand the rich and dysfunctional

Why did Andreas 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…

An American Tragedy

By Theodore Dreiser,

Book cover of An American Tragedy

William Breedlove Martin Author Of Expense of Spirit

From the list on the allure of wealth, status, and illicit romance.

Who am I?

I was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1942. My father was a druggist and my mother a housewife until his illness put her to work as a newspaper reporter and eventually as a school teacher. After spending four years in the U.S. Air Force I earned a B.A. and a M.A. in English. After teaching English for thirty-one years, I retired in 2006. My wife and I live in Savannah and have two daughters, five grandchildren, and a black Lab. Among the many novels that I taught during my years as an English professor, the five on my list were invariably the ones to which my students most actively responded.

William's book list on the allure of wealth, status, and illicit romance

Why did William love this book?

Also by Dreiser, An American Tragedy, 1925, is the slow-moving and heavy-handed but steadily engrossing and ultimately overwhelming account of a poor boy so bewitched by a beautiful rich girl that he commits literal murder and loses his own life in his struggle to have her.

By Theodore Dreiser,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked An American Tragedy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This landmark 1925 novel about a social climber who murders his pregnant lover is both a riveting crime story and a devastating commentary on the American dream. A VINTAGE CLASSIC.

Theodore Dreiser was inspired by a true story to write this novel about an ambitious, socially insecure young man who finds himself caught between two very different women--and two very different visions of what his life could be. Clyde Griffiths was born poor and is poorly educated, but his prospects begin to improve when he is offered a job by a wealthy uncle who owns a shirt factory. Soon he…

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