100 books like The Haves and the Have-Nots

By Branko Milanovic,

Here are 100 books that The Haves and the Have-Nots fans have personally recommended if you like The Haves and the Have-Nots. 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 Americanah

Nell Freudenberger Author Of The Limits

From my list on what it’s really like to be a teenage girl.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Los Angeles in the 80s and 90s. I was a shy teenager, an obsessive reader, and a secret writer.  I went to an all-girls high school where we wore uniforms, did a lot of homework, and mostly had no idea how to meet boys. The teen girls I encountered in movies, TV shows, and even literature were sexualized to the point of being unrecognizable to me. Now that I work with teenagers (and am a mom to one), I’m fascinated by the variability of girls this age, their wide-ranging intelligence, passions, and ways of being in the world. I love novels that reflect that complexity.

Nell's book list on what it’s really like to be a teenage girl

Nell Freudenberger Why did Nell love this book?

This book is the best love story I’ve read, full stop. There’s nothing like the first time you fall in love, and Ifemelu and Obinze’s relationship reminded me of that feeling—its paralyzing awkwardness and overwhelming joy.

Before I read this book, I’d never thought about what it must be like for immigrants from Africa to encounter (and enter) the long and tortured story of race in America for the first time, and the novel gave me a lot to think about on that score. I also love a novel that takes me somewhere I’ve never been, and the scenes of contemporary Lagos, where Ifemelu and Obinze are reunited, come alive in Adichie’s precise and brilliant description. 

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Introducing the Collins Modern Classics, a series featuring some of the most significant books of recent times, books that shed light on the human experience - classics which will endure for generations to come.

How easy it was to lie to strangers, to create with strangers the versions of our lives we imagined.

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria. Self-assured Ifemelu heads for America. But quiet, thoughtful Obinze finds post-9/11 America closed to him, and plunges into a dangerous undocumented life in London.

Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria,…


Book cover of The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

Sam Pizzigati Author Of The Case for a Maximum Wage

From my list on why we need a world without billionaires.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in the 1950s next door to Long Island’s iconic Levittown. All my aunts and uncles lived in similar modest suburbs, and I assumed everyone else did, too. Maybe that explains why America’s sharp economic U-turn in the 1970s so rubbed me the wrong way. We had become, in the mid-20th century, the first major nation where most people—after paying their monthly bills—had money left over. Today we rate as the world’s most unequal major nation. Our richest 0.1 percent hold as much wealth as our bottom 90 percent. I’ve been working with the Institute for Public Studies, as co-editor of Inequality.org, to change all that.

Sam's book list on why we need a world without billionaires

Sam Pizzigati Why did Sam love this book?

The British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have an American doctor friend who has a fascinating exercise for his first-year medical school students.

This doctor asks his students to write a speech detailing why the USA has the world’s best health. The students eagerly set about collecting all the relevant data and quickly find themselves absolutely shocked. Among major developed nations, the USA turns out to have the worst health.

Americans also turn out to be up to ten times more likely than people in other developed nations to get murdered or become drug addicts. What’s going on here? Inequality!

The more wealth concentrates at a society’s summit, Wilkinson and Pickett vividly show in this 2009 classic, the worse that society performs on the yardsticks that define basic health and decency. 

By Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Groundbreaking analysis showing that greater economic equality-not greater wealth-is the mark of the most successful societies, and offering new ways to achieve it.

"Get your hands on this book."-Bill Moyers

This groundbreaking book, based on thirty years' research, demonstrates that more unequal societies are bad for almost everyone within them-the well-off and the poor. The remarkable data the book lays out and the measures it uses are like a spirit level which we can hold up to compare different societies. The differences revealed, even between rich market democracies, are striking. Almost every modern social and environmental problem-ill health, lack of…


Book cover of Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Guido Alfani Author Of As Gods Among Men: A History of the Rich in the West

From my list on the rich, the super-rich, and wealth inequality in general.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a student, I have been fascinated with social and economic inequality–the more so because back then, my professors seemed to disregard this subject of study. So, I made it one of my own main areas of research: I simply needed to understand more about the nature and the causes of inequality in human societies. In recent years, I have been busy researching economic inequality in different historical settings, also looking at specific socioeconomic strata. I began with the poor, and more recently, I focused on the rich. In my list of recommendations, I included books that, I believe, are particularly insightful concerning wealth and the wealthy.

Guido's book list on the rich, the super-rich, and wealth inequality in general

Guido Alfani Why did Guido love this book?

This is a book that truly transformed the field of inequality studies by bringing wealth inequality to the fore of the debate–both within the academy and across civil society. It is also a very readable book, packed with interesting examples and useful and relevant information.

Although I have always thought (and I am in very good company…) that it could have been a bit shorter, it is very well worth the effort of going through its about seven hundred pages.

By Thomas Piketty, Arthur Goldhammer (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Capital in the Twenty-First Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times #1 Bestseller
An Amazon #1 Bestseller
A Wall Street Journal #1 Bestseller
A USA Today Bestseller
A Sunday Times Bestseller
A Guardian Best Book of the 21st Century
Winner of the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
Winner of the British Academy Medal
Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award

What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard…


Book cover of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students

D. Sánchez-Ancochea Author Of The Costs of Inequality in Latin America: Lessons and Warnings for the Rest of the World

From my list on inequality as one of our significant challenges.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a political economist committed to building a better world for all. In my academic work, I explore the obstacles to human flourishing and the best policies to promote more equitable development. The growing concentration of wealth among a small elite have become one of our most significant challenges to create better societies. In a growing number of countries, the wealthy control more than a third of all the income generated every year, contributing to social discontent and reducing the opportunities for the majority. I want to convince everyone out there about the urgency of understanding why inequality takes place, why it is costly and how we can fight against it is.

D.'s book list on inequality as one of our significant challenges

D. Sánchez-Ancochea Why did D. love this book?

US elite universities are both an engine of inequality and an environment where inequality is particularly evident. 

In this book Harvard professor Abraham Jack explores how low-income students fare when accepted to a prestigious and expensive college.

The book distinguishes between the “privileged poor” who attended private high schools before arriving to campus and the “double disadvantaged” which come from underfunded, state schools. 

Through many interviews and everyday examples, Abraham Jack shows how inequality is both about income and social capital and demonstrates the complexity of creating a more just society in a country like the United States. 

Although the book is less relevant to understand other countries, this is social science at its best.

By Anthony Abraham Jack,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An NPR Favorite Book of the Year

"Breaks new ground on social and educational questions of great import."
-Washington Post

"An essential work, humane and candid, that challenges and expands our understanding of the lives of contemporary college students."
-Paul Tough, author of Helping Children Succeed

"Eye-opening...Brings home the pain and reality of on-campus poverty and puts the blame squarely on elite institutions."
-Washington Post

"Jack's investigation redirects attention from the matter of access to the matter of inclusion...His book challenges universities to support the diversity they indulge in advertising."
-New Yorker

The Ivy League looks different than it used…


Book cover of Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class

D. Sánchez-Ancochea Author Of The Costs of Inequality in Latin America: Lessons and Warnings for the Rest of the World

From my list on inequality as one of our significant challenges.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a political economist committed to building a better world for all. In my academic work, I explore the obstacles to human flourishing and the best policies to promote more equitable development. The growing concentration of wealth among a small elite have become one of our most significant challenges to create better societies. In a growing number of countries, the wealthy control more than a third of all the income generated every year, contributing to social discontent and reducing the opportunities for the majority. I want to convince everyone out there about the urgency of understanding why inequality takes place, why it is costly and how we can fight against it is.

D.'s book list on inequality as one of our significant challenges

D. Sánchez-Ancochea Why did D. love this book?

Frank is, in my view, one of the most engaging writers on inequality. 

He has developed interesting insights like the “winner takes-all society”: the idea that we live in a world in which a small group of people reaps most of the benefits in all markets from sports to music or academia. 

In Falling Behind, Frank shows how inequality does not only harm the poor but the middle class as well.

I like how he combines economic data with many examples to show how consumption patterns among the wealthy lead to an “expenditure cascades” that force the middle class to borrow too much money and consume more than it should. 

The book is a reminder that inequality must be explored from many dimensions and its solution will require a lot of creativity.

By Robert Frank,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Although middle-income families don't earn much more than they did several decades ago, they are buying bigger cars, houses, and appliances. To pay for them, they spend more than they earn and carry record levels of debt. In a book that explores the very meaning of happiness and prosperity in America today, Robert Frank explains how increased concentrations of income and wealth at the top of the economic pyramid have set off "expenditure cascades" that raise the cost of achieving many basic goals for the middle class. Writing in lively prose for a general audience, Frank employs up-to-date economic data…


Book cover of Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family

Guido Alfani Author Of As Gods Among Men: A History of the Rich in the West

From my list on the rich, the super-rich, and wealth inequality in general.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a student, I have been fascinated with social and economic inequality–the more so because back then, my professors seemed to disregard this subject of study. So, I made it one of my own main areas of research: I simply needed to understand more about the nature and the causes of inequality in human societies. In recent years, I have been busy researching economic inequality in different historical settings, also looking at specific socioeconomic strata. I began with the poor, and more recently, I focused on the rich. In my list of recommendations, I included books that, I believe, are particularly insightful concerning wealth and the wealthy.

Guido's book list on the rich, the super-rich, and wealth inequality in general

Guido Alfani Why did Guido love this book?

I wanted to include in my list a book of fiction, and I quickly realized that there were no better alternatives than Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks.

First published in 1901, the book is an absolute classic of world literature–and it is also the finest example of a fictional history of a wealthy family dynasty, from its rise in the early nineteenth century to its final decline.

A very insightful take on the issues of wealth, inheritance, and the related family dynamics. Also, a great case study of the ultimate impossibility of buying happiness with money.

By Thomas Mann, John Edwards (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discover Mann's Nobel Prizewinning semi-autobiographical and sweeping family epic.

The Buddenbrook clan is everything you'd expect of a nineteenth-century German merchant family - wealthy, esteemed, established. Four generations later, a tide of twentieth-century modernism has gradually disintegrated the bourgeois values on which the Buddenbrooks built their success.

In this, Mann's first novel, his astounding, semi-autobiographical family epic, he portrays the transition of genteel Germanic stability to a very modern uncertainty.

'Perhaps the first great novel of the 20th century' New York Times


Book cover of The Rich: From Slaves to Super-Yachts: A 2,000-Year History

Guido Alfani Author Of As Gods Among Men: A History of the Rich in the West

From my list on the rich, the super-rich, and wealth inequality in general.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a student, I have been fascinated with social and economic inequality–the more so because back then, my professors seemed to disregard this subject of study. So, I made it one of my own main areas of research: I simply needed to understand more about the nature and the causes of inequality in human societies. In recent years, I have been busy researching economic inequality in different historical settings, also looking at specific socioeconomic strata. I began with the poor, and more recently, I focused on the rich. In my list of recommendations, I included books that, I believe, are particularly insightful concerning wealth and the wealthy.

Guido's book list on the rich, the super-rich, and wealth inequality in general

Guido Alfani Why did Guido love this book?

Among all recent non-academic books on the lives, deeds, and misdeeds of the super-rich across history, John Kampfner’s book is, in my view, the best.

Kampfner selects fascinating examples, ranging from the Classical Age until today, and does not limit himself to the West. His narrative is engaging and often witty.

This is not an academic book, but it is pretty well-researched. Although it makes some concessions to the “eat the rich” tendencies of our times, overall, the book provides a convincing and valuable picture of the sins (and less so, of the virtues) of the most affluent across history.

By John Kampfner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the Orwell Prize shortlisted author of Freedom for Sale, The Rich is the fascinating history of how economic elites from ancient Egypt to the present day have gained and spent their money.

Starting with the Romans and Ancient Egypt and culminating with the oligarchies of modern Russia and China, it compares and contrasts the rich and powerful down the ages and around the world. What unites them? Have the same instincts of entrepreneurship, ambition, vanity, greed and philanthropy applied throughout?

As contemporary politicians, economists and the public wrestle with the inequities of our time - the parallel world inhabited…


Book cover of The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century

Guido Alfani Author Of As Gods Among Men: A History of the Rich in the West

From my list on the rich, the super-rich, and wealth inequality in general.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a student, I have been fascinated with social and economic inequality–the more so because back then, my professors seemed to disregard this subject of study. So, I made it one of my own main areas of research: I simply needed to understand more about the nature and the causes of inequality in human societies. In recent years, I have been busy researching economic inequality in different historical settings, also looking at specific socioeconomic strata. I began with the poor, and more recently, I focused on the rich. In my list of recommendations, I included books that, I believe, are particularly insightful concerning wealth and the wealthy.

Guido's book list on the rich, the super-rich, and wealth inequality in general

Guido Alfani Why did Guido love this book?

In this book, Walter Scheidel proficiently exploits the new information that we now have available about wealth inequality in the past to make one bold claim: across history, only catastrophes and large-scale violence (the “Great Leveler”) could significantly reduce economic inequality. Otherwise, the concentration of political power and of coercive force in a few hands also led wealth to become ever more concentrated.

This is a rather depressing view, with which I partially disagree for scientific reasons (as it downplays the importance of human agency and of our collective choices).

Nevertheless, I love this book for its scope, its ambition, and the treasure trove of information about the Classical Age and non-Western societies and cultures that it brings to the debate on wealth inequality in human history.

By Walter Scheidel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes. Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that it never dies peacefully. The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world. The "Four Horsemen" of leveling-mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues-have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich. Today, the violence that reduced inequality…


Book cover of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor

Liah Greenfeld Author Of The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth

From my list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth is the second volume of my nationalism trilogy. When I published the first volume, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, the accepted view on the subject of nationalism was that it is a product of economic development, specifically, of industrialization and capitalism. On the basis of historical evidence, I proved that its emergence had nothing to do with these economic phenomena: in fact, it preceded both. Reviews of Nationalism, noting that, for this reason, economic developments could not have caused nationalism, raised the question what relationship, then, did exist between nationalism and the economy, and this led me to investigate it. 

Liah's book list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism

Liah Greenfeld Why did Liah love this book?

This book is a rare attempt by an eminent economic historian to examine cultural determinants of economic growth and answer the question why it happens, which distinguishes it sharply from the discipline’s exclusive focus on how it proceeds.

Landes, in other words, disentangles the explanation of causes from the preoccupation with the process, which is why I recommend this book.

By David S. Landes,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Wealth and Poverty of Nations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now that the old division of the world into the two power blocs of East and West has subsided, the great gap in wealth and health that separates North and South remains the single greatest problem and danger facing the world of the Third Millennium. The only challenge of comparable scope and difficulty is the threat of the environmental deterioration, and the two are intimately connected, indeed are one. David Landes argues that the North-South division is the great drama of our times, and that drama implies tension, passion, conflict and disappointment as well as happy outcomes. While Landes does…


Book cover of The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate

Clifford F. Thies Author Of Global Economics: A Holistic Approach

From my list on the global economy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the Eldon R. Lindsey Chair of Free Enterprise and Professor of Economics and Finance at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. Most of my writing is academic, including in the Independent Review, Journal of Markets and Morality, and Presidential Studies Quarterly recently. Before pursuing my doctoral degree, I served in the U.S. Army and worked for an insurance company.

Clifford's book list on the global economy

Clifford F. Thies Why did Clifford love this book?

This recommendation is more technical than my previous recommendations.

The authors reconstruct many measures of income and income inequality to show that the widening gap indicated by official statistics is an artifact of certain assumptions underlying these statistics.

First, and most importantly, regarding those who are dependent on the social safety net, "income" includes only cash benefits dispensed by the government, not the cash value of non-cash benefits; and, for those who are taxpayers, "income" is defined as before-tax income, not after-tax income.

Second, monetary values are incorrectly corrected by the CPI (the authors propose using the chained-linked CPI).

The book might be considered to present an agenda for further research on the specifics it addresses and similar concerns.

By Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund, John Early

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2022: Politics

Everything you know about income inequality, poverty, and other measures of economic well-being in America is wrong. In this provocative book, a former United States senator, eminent economist, and a former senior leader at the Bureau of Labor Statistics challenge the prevailing consensus that income inequality is a growing threat to American society. By taking readers on a deep dive into the way government measures economic well-being, they demonstrate that our official statistics dramatically overstate inequality. Getting the facts straight reveals that the key measures of well-being are greater than the…


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