100 books like The Emperor's Children

By Claire Messud,

Here are 100 books that The Emperor's Children fans have personally recommended if you like The Emperor's Children. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Bonfire of the Vanities

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been captivated by interesting people since I was a kid. Family members always thought I asked too many questions of people, trying to learn more about who they are. For that reason, when I started reading fiction, I looked for characters with originality who opened new horizons and who I wanted to hang out with. (That’s also why I host the Novelist Spotlight podcast.) I agree 100 percent with novelist Larry McMurtry, who said: “For me, the novel is character creation. Unless the characters convince and live, the book’s got no chance.” The books I placed on my list reflect this belief. I hope you dig them.

Mike's book list on character-driven books with colorful, eccentric and dysfunctional protagonists and antagonists

Mike Consol Why did Mike love this book?

I love energetic and creative writing, and Bonfire of the Vanities is a high-voltage novel in both of those regards.

It’s a classic big-city novel set in New York and deals with both ends of the economic spectrum, from the rich world of high finance in Manhattan to the powerless lives of black young men living in the Bronx. One of the best scenes I’ve ever read was when the main character, Sherman McCoy, gets lost in the Bronx driving his BMW and ends up being accosted. It is the match that lights the ensuing story.

By Tom Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

6 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…


Book cover of The Snakes

Jillian Medoff Author Of When We Were Bright and Beautiful

From my list on very rich families with very dark secrets.

Why am I passionate about this?

According to Entertainment Weekly, I’m a “bestselling author who has made a name for [myself] with uncannily insightful takes on the dark side of family institutions.” But really, I’m just a novelist who has always been fascinated by the myriad ways we play out our unresolved issues from childhood, again and again, over the course of our lives. Although my books are very different from each other, they all focus on the interrelationships among family members (traditional families, work families, etc.). In my most recent novel, When We Were Bright and Beautiful, I look at how wealth, privilege, and power can corrupt even the most loving relationships.

Jillian's book list on very rich families with very dark secrets

Jillian Medoff Why did Jillian love this book?

A dark psychological thriller, The Snakes is a study of greed, and how feelings of deprivation and jealousy can infect a family and destroy each of its members slowly and painfully, from the inside out. The novel is a slow-burn character portrait (versus, say, plot-driven adventure), but Sadie Jones does a terrific job of pulling you into the story and ratcheting up the tension. In the novel, a recently married couple rents out their London apartment to escape for a few months. Driving through France, they visit the wife’s brother at a hotel he runs. When their parents make a surprise visit, the story—and the family—unravels brilliantly until the final delicious, electrifying ending.

By Sadie Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Read the all-consuming story of a family whose worst sins come back to bite them from the #1 Sunday Times bestselling author of The Outcast

'A menacing beautifully written novel' Guardian

'Unsettling, thought-provoking' Heat

Bea and Dan, recently married, rent out their tiny flat to escape London for a few precious months. Driving through France they visit Bea's dropout brother Alex at the hotel he runs in Burgundy. Disturbingly, they find him all alone and the ramshackle hotel deserted, apart from the nest of snakes in the attic.

When Alex and Bea's parents make a surprise visit, Dan can't understand…


Book cover of The Darlings

Jillian Medoff Author Of When We Were Bright and Beautiful

From my list on very rich families with very dark secrets.

Why am I passionate about this?

According to Entertainment Weekly, I’m a “bestselling author who has made a name for [myself] with uncannily insightful takes on the dark side of family institutions.” But really, I’m just a novelist who has always been fascinated by the myriad ways we play out our unresolved issues from childhood, again and again, over the course of our lives. Although my books are very different from each other, they all focus on the interrelationships among family members (traditional families, work families, etc.). In my most recent novel, When We Were Bright and Beautiful, I look at how wealth, privilege, and power can corrupt even the most loving relationships.

Jillian's book list on very rich families with very dark secrets

Jillian Medoff Why did Jillian love this book?

From the first scene of The Darlings, Christina Alger plunges you into the lives of the fabulously wealthy. The daughter of a Wall Street financier, Alger grew up in this world, and her experience and insight make the book sing. The Darlings is fast-paced and compulsively readable, and the characters are well-drawn and authentic. This novel includes everything I love: financial crimes, shocking scandals, lots of details, and terrific storytelling. 

By Cristina Alger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Cristina Alger's debut novel offers a fresh and modern glimpse into New York's high society. I was hooked from page one' Lauren Weisberger, author of The Devil Wears Prada

From the author of The Banker's Wife and Girls Like Us comes an explosive drama about family, greed and high society scandal.

The Darlings of New York are untouchable. But no one is safe from a scandal this big.

When Carter Darling's business partner commits suicide, it triggers a huge financial investigation.

The allegations are serious. The danger of it exposing their private lives is equally threatening.

In times of crisis,…


Rewriting Illness

By Elizabeth Benedict,

Book cover of Rewriting Illness

Elizabeth Benedict

New book alert!

What is my book about?

What happens when a novelist with a “razor-sharp wit” (Newsday), a “singular sensibility” (Huff Post), and a lifetime of fear about getting sick finds a lump where no lump should be? Months of medical mishaps, coded language, and Doctors who don't get it.

With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling artistry of an acclaimed novelist, Elizabeth Benedict recollects her cancer diagnosis after discovering multiplying lumps in her armpit. In compact, explosive chapters, interspersed with moments of self-mocking levity, she chronicles her illness from muddled diagnosis to “natural remedies,” to debilitating treatments, as she gathers sustenance from family, an assortment of urbane friends, and a fearless “cancer guru.”

Rewriting Illness is suffused with suspense, secrets, and the unexpected solace of silence.

Rewriting Illness

By Elizabeth Benedict,

What is this book about?

By turns somber and funny but above all provocative, Elizabeth Benedict's Rewriting Illness: A View of My Own is a most unconventional memoir. With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling skills of a seasoned novelist, she brings to life her cancer diagnosis and committed hypochondria. As she discovers multiplying lumps in her armpit, she describes her initial terror, interspersed with moments of self-mocking levity as she indulges in "natural remedies," among them chanting Tibetan mantras, drinking shots of wheat grass, and finding medicinal properties in chocolate babka. She tracks the progression of her illness from muddled diagnosis to debilitating treatment…


Book cover of Very Cold People

Jillian Medoff Author Of When We Were Bright and Beautiful

From my list on very rich families with very dark secrets.

Why am I passionate about this?

According to Entertainment Weekly, I’m a “bestselling author who has made a name for [myself] with uncannily insightful takes on the dark side of family institutions.” But really, I’m just a novelist who has always been fascinated by the myriad ways we play out our unresolved issues from childhood, again and again, over the course of our lives. Although my books are very different from each other, they all focus on the interrelationships among family members (traditional families, work families, etc.). In my most recent novel, When We Were Bright and Beautiful, I look at how wealth, privilege, and power can corrupt even the most loving relationships.

Jillian's book list on very rich families with very dark secrets

Jillian Medoff Why did Jillian love this book?

Very Cold People is an atmospheric, sharply observed coming-of-age novel set in an old money town called Waitsfield, outside Boston. Ruthie, the narrator, is not wealthy at all, and her story is one of slights, deprivation, and wanting. Everyone is hiding something, including Ruthie and her family, and Sarah Manguso ratchets up the tension as the book unfolds, and their secrets are revealed. 

By Sarah Manguso,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The masterly debut novel from “an exquisitely astute writer” (The Boston Globe), about growing up in—and out of—the suffocating constraints of small-town America.
 
“Compact and beautiful . . . This novel bordering on a novella punches above its weight.”—The New York Times

“Very Cold People reminded me of My Brilliant Friend.”—The New Yorker

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, NPR, Good Housekeeping

“My parents didn’t belong in Waitsfield, but they moved there anyway.”

For Ruthie, the frozen town of Waitsfield, Massachusetts, is all she has ever known.

Once home to the country’s oldest and most…


Book cover of The Submission

Rohit Prasad Author Of The Pilgrim: Inferno Redux

From my list on the aftermath of 9/11 on people’s everyday lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have lived in the US, and particularly lived and worked in New York, for many years. How the events of 9/11 changed the city, its people, and the perceptions of the people all around the country and the world has always intrigued me. 9/11 has put up a prism through which experiences have emanated out in a kaleidoscopic range of stories. A banker by day and a cynical blogger by night, I have traveled the world and have met many interesting people with compelling backgrounds and have experienced many peculiar and beautiful things. I love to explore the confluence of fascinating narrative arcs and life-altering events. 

Rohit's book list on the aftermath of 9/11 on people’s everyday lives

Rohit Prasad Why did Rohit love this book?

An American Muslim is chosen blindly by a jury to design a memorial to the 9/11 victims, opening it up to vociferous debates and dissensions, much like the Ground Zero Mosque controversy.

The author uses her vast experience as a New York Times journalist to eloquently describe the warps and wefts of the fabric of New York society, and starts tugging at several threads as it all unravels. The players’ tug-of-war is well portrayed in rich texture, while the politicians’ intent on not letting a good crisis go to waste adds satirical color to the expansive tapestry.

As a creator, one feels that art has no religion and has no boundaries. The axiom is severely tested in the face of rabid nationalism, parochial intolerance, and a media free-for-all.

By Amy Waldman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Submission as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner's name - and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam.

The memorial's designer is Mohammad Khan, an enigmatic, ambitious architect. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, Claire finds herself under pressure…


Book cover of Manhattan Memoir: American Girl; Manhattan, When I Was Young; Speaking with Strangers

Kay Xander Mellish Author Of How to Work in Denmark: Tips on Finding a Job, Succeeding at Work, and Understanding your Danish boss

From my list on women leaving home to find success in the big city.

Why am I passionate about this?

I left my hometown of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, at age 18 to attend university in Manhattan, where I started my career in journalism and the media. Since then, I’ve lived in Berlin, Germany; Hong Kong; and now Copenhagen, Denmark, generally moving to advance my career and explore new worlds. Whenever you move to a new place and establish yourself in a new culture, there’s always a learning curve. Helping other women (and men!) adapt to their new environment is why I started the “How to Live in Denmark” podcast, which has now been running for more than 10 years. 

Kay's book list on women leaving home to find success in the big city

Kay Xander Mellish Why did Kay love this book?

This trilogy about a girl who leaves a small New England town to work at a glossy magazine in Manhattan in the 1950s helped me understand the roots of the 1960s feminist culture. Men, including the man she ultimately marries, are simply seen as the authority based on their gender.

I’ll never forget the scene where the protagonist is trying desperately to have a baby, goes to a replacement doctor during summer vacation, and finds out that her primary doctor has been giving her birth control pills disguised as other prescription medicine. “I didn’t think you were ready to be a mother,” the primary doctor tells her later. 

By Mary Cantwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The New York Times said that Mary Cantwell, in telling the story of her life, "Makes you discover yourself." Now, gathered in a single volume, are her three beautifully etched, unflinchingly honest memoirs. Cantwell's first book, American Girl, evoked the delights of her youth in a small New England town; her second, Manhattan, When I Was Young, told of her blossoming career in New York, her marriage and her children, and that marriage's decline. Speaking with Strangers finds Cantwell alone, a single mother struggling in the big city, bereft of her husband but bolstered by friends, thriving in her career…


Book cover of Manhattan, When I Was Young

Amanda Schuster Author Of Signature Cocktails

From my list on making it there from anywhere in New York City.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a lifelong New Yorker and author of two books about drinking in the city—New York Cocktails and Drink Like a Local New York—these are the books about bygone days of city living that I would tell you to read if we met in a bar. You already know the ones by E.B. White, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, or possibly Pete Hamill or Walt Winchell. Those books are fantastic, but these are some “deep cuts” New York City appreciation books that you should also get to know.  

Amanda's book list on making it there from anywhere in New York City

Amanda Schuster Why did Amanda love this book?

The book is an engaging memoir about what it was like in the 1950s for a single woman just out of college to balance life and relationships while starting a career in magazine publishing in the Big Apple and follows her career and family relationships through to the 1970s.

Though things like finding an apartment in a trendy neighborhood back then were significantly easier than they are in modern day, the hilarious accounts about the challenges of adapting to small living conditions still ring true.

It’s an entertaining glimpse into the golden age of the print magazine industry, but it’s also a brutally honest account of women’s mental health issues, and what it’s like to seemingly have it all but still feel the constraints imposed by choosing to live in NYC. Any aspiring writer should read this book. 

By Mary Cantwell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Manhattan, When I Was Young as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mary Cantwell arrived in Manhattan one summer in the early 1950s with $80, a portable typewriter, a wardrobe of unsuitable clothes, a copy of The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, a boyfriend she was worried might be involved with the Communists and no idea how to live on her own. She moved to the Village because she had heard of it and worked at Mademoiselle because that was where the employment agency sent her.

In this evocative unflinching book Cantwell recalls the city she knew then by revisiting five apartments in which she lived. Her memoir vividly recreates both a…


Book cover of Dry: A Memoir

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor Author Of Drunk-ish: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving Alcohol

From my list on addiction books that will make you feel less alone.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a memoir writer whose latest book, Drunk-ish, chronicles my experience getting sober. Before quitting drinking and after, I devoured all the "quit lit" books I could get my hands on despite not being entirely convinced I had an issue. I read to bond and identify with the authors, and the books I'm recommending are a few of my very favorites on the topic of addiction. On my podcast, "For Crying Out Loud," I often share about quitting drinking and addiction in general, and when I do, I find those are some of the most popular episodes. If you're sober, thinking about quitting, or even just like reading books about messed-up boozers, these books are for you.

Stefanie's book list on addiction books that will make you feel less alone

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor Why did Stefanie love this book?

This is one of my all-time favorite books about alcoholism because it’s hilarious. The title has a double meaning because the book is about the author’s attempt to stop drinking but also because Augusten’s humor is incredibly dry.

I found this book before I ever even entertained the notion that I, too, might have an issue with alcohol, and yet, I loved it. I’ve probably read this book at least 10 times, and it still makes me laugh despite the fact that it’s become all too real for me. 

By Augusten Burroughs,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times Bestselling author of Running With Scissors comes the story of one man trying to out-drink his memories, outlast his demons, and outrun his past.

“I was addicted to “Bewitched” as a kid. I worshipped Darren Stevens the First. When he’d come home from work and Samantha would say, ‘Darren, would you like me to fix you a drink?’ He’d always rest his briefcase on the table below the mirror in the foyer, wipe his forehead with a monogrammed handkerchief and say, ‘Better make it a double.’” (from Chapter Two)

You may not know it, but…


Book cover of This Beautiful Life

Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg Author Of The Nine

From my list on campus novels for the 21st century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an award-winning author of two novels, the most recent of which, The Nine, is set on a fictional New England boarding school campus. Although a secret society’s antics and a scandal on campus keeps readers turning the page, at the heart of the novel is the evolution of a mother-son relationship. Even before my three children began considering boarding schools, I was a fan of the campus novel. Think classics like A Separate Peace or Catcher in the Rye. My fascination surrounding these little microcosms—their ideals, how they self-govern, who holds power—only increased after experiencing their weird and wily ways as a mother. 

Jeanne's book list on campus novels for the 21st century

Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg Why did Jeanne love this book?

A painful examination of all that’s at stake when kids make bad decisions, This Beautiful Life made me reflect on the pressure contemporary kids feel to be beyond reproach while growing up amid the instant connectivity and permanent consequences of the internet age. Like Testimony, Schulman’s novel begins with a video, this time one whose ramifications are amplified and complicated as it goes viral in a matter of hours.

A gripping early scene dramatizes the split second when fifteen-year-old Jake Bergamot makes the fateful choice to forward a video he’s received to a friend. The scandal that ensues threatens not only Jake, but his entire family’s “beautiful life.” Rather than a boarding school, this novel is set at an elite Manhattan private school where the social strata among parents are even more painfully felt. As the story unfolds, this book takes readers even deeper into the mom’s head—a delightful place…

By Helen Schulman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Beautiful Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"ThisBeautiful Life is a gripping, potent and blisteringly well-written story offamily, dilemma, and consequence. . . . I read this book with white-knuckledurgency, and I finished it in tears. Helen Schulman is an absolutely brilliantnovelist." —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
 

Theevents of a single night shatter one family’s sense of security and identity inthis provocative and deeply affecting domestic drama from Helen Schulman, theacclaimed author of A Day at the Beach and Out of Time. In thetradition of Lionel Shriver, Sue Miller, and Laura Moriarty, Schulman crafts abrilliantly observed portrait of parenting and modern life, cunningly exploringour most…


Book cover of Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City

Thomas Hynes Author Of Wild City: A Brief History of New York City in 40 Animals

From my list on the surprising history of New York City wildlife.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was drawn to the topic because I love everything about New York City. But, I also loved how the topic seemed at odds with itself. New York City wildlife felt like a contradiction of terms. Sure, there might be some rats, pigeons, and cockroaches here, but that was it. Well I was very wrong. Learning about the city’s natural history and legacy of wildlife allowed me to learn about the city in a whole new way. It’s also a great comeback story and it has been so inspiring to learn – and see! – how effective a few short decades of environmental regulations have been in making this a greener city. 

Thomas' book list on the surprising history of New York City wildlife

Thomas Hynes Why did Thomas love this book?

This book revealed a pastoral Manhattan few of us could imagine, including feral pigs that roamed the streets, and horses that transported everything and everyone around town. Set in the transformative 1800s when New York City underwent unprecedented urbanization, this book shows how farmers and other New Yorkers who worked the land were ultimately squeezed from Manhattan for more profitable tenants, and how Central Park, and other open spaces, sought to replicate all that recently displaced nature.   

By Catherine McNeur,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

George Perkins Marsh Prize, American Society for Environmental History
VSNY Book Award, New York Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America
Hornblower Award for a First Book, New York Society Library
James Broussard Best First Book Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

With pigs roaming the streets and cows foraging in the Battery, antebellum Manhattan would have been unrecognizable to inhabitants of today's sprawling metropolis. Fruits and vegetables came from small market gardens in the city, and manure piled high on streets and docks was gold to nearby farmers. But as Catherine McNeur reveals in this…


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Interested in New York State, Manhattan, and September 11th?

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