Share How the Other Half Reads: 11 Novels About the Rich & Powerful

How the Other Half Reads: 11 Novels About the Rich & Powerful

Julianna Haubner joined the editorial team at Simon & Schuster in September 2014. A lifelong reader, she is most drawn to literary fiction, biography, cultural history, and narrative non-fiction; it’s her firm belief that every human should own a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, and Empire Falls is the book that changed her life. When Julianna’s not reading and reviewing, she’s downloading podcast episodes as if there are more than 24 hours in a day, watching Bravo, baking, and running the Off the Shelf Instagram. You can follow her on Twitter @jhaubner2.

Whether we like it or not, books about the rich and powerful always seem to hook us from the start. There’s just something, perhaps, about sitting in a crowded subway car, reading about a world where people travel by private plane, where charity balls replace book clubs, and where drama is just as prevalent as designer handbags. Here are 11 of our favorite economically escapist reads.

by Julian Fellowes
In SNOBS, the creator of “Downton Abbey,” Julian Fellowes, brings the reader into the class-divided world of contemporary England. Edith Lavery, the daughter of a mildly successful accountant, meets Charles, the heir to an estate—but is she really in love with him, or with all that he offers financially? A portrait of aristocrats, actors, and ambition, it’s the perfect novel for fans of the Crawleys.

Rules of Civility
by Amor Towles

On the last night of 1937, Katey Content encounters Tinker Grey in a Greenwich Village jazz bar. Though they come from completely different worlds, they forge a friendship that will last decades and bring Katey, with her sass, smarts, and sincerity, to the heights of New York society.

Read a review of RULES OF CIVILITY here.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue
by Melanie Benjamin
Many know about Truman Capote’s books, but few know about his “Swans,” the rich New York socialites he befriended, led by the glamorous Babe Paley. In this novel, as he rises from magazine writer to bestselling novelist and notorious partygoer, Truman’s relationship with Babe rises and falls, culminating in his infamous Black and White Ball, and a decision that will change both their lives forever.

Crazy Rich Asians
by Kevin Kwan
When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, she expects to encounter his humble beginnings. Instead, she discovers private planes, a giant house, and a surprise: he’s the country’s most eligible bachelor. Kevin Kwan’s novel is a master class in comedy, manners, money, and chaos.

The Hopefuls
by Jennifer Close
It wouldn’t be a list about powerful social circles without mention of D.C. Jennifer Close’s novel THE HOPEFULS offers a humorous take on a city filled with affluent and power-hungry people who just might use you as a step as they climb the political ladder. Beth hates everything about the Capitol when she moves there with her husband, Matt, a White House staffer for the charismatic president-elect. That is, until she meets Jimmy and Ashleigh, a couple from Texas who are also politically involved. The four become inseparable, until ambition threatens to drive them apart.

Everybody Rise
by Stephanie Clifford
EVERYBODY RISE has been called BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES for the twenty-first century, Stephanie Clifford’s debut novel follows Evelyn Beegan, who lands a job at a social network start-up but somehow can’t escape the social-climbing habits of her blue-collar mother. Intoxicated by the wealthy world she enters through her work, Evelyn starts to pretend she’s “old money,” with disastrous—and realistic—consequences.

Good Hair
by Benilde Little
Alice Andrews is a Newark-bred reporter living in Manhattan when she meets Jack Russwom, a handsome, Harvard-educated doctor whom she believes is “The One.” Their romance is straight out of a storybook, but as it gets more and more serious, the couple’s different backgrounds begin to emerge.

The Dollhouse
by Fiona Davis
In the 1950s, the place for young women in New York to live was the Barbizon Hotel for Women, a luxurious dormitory in the heart of the Upper East Side filled with aspiring models, secretaries, and editors. The narrative alternates between Esme, a Barbizon maid in the 50s who’s introduced to glitz, glamor, romance, and jazz, and Darby, a present-day reporter and resident of the converted Barbizon condos, who hopes to solve a decades-old mystery.

Rich and Pretty
by Rumaan Alam
Sarah and Lauren have been inseparable since high school, but as they settle into their postgrad lives, things start to change. In RICH AND PRETTY, Rumaan Alam masters not just the characters but the questions every twentysomething asks: is it possible for best friends to stay that way? Is it connection, or force of habit, that keeps us together?

The After Party
by Anton DiSclafani
As the saying goes, everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes the glamour and drama in Anton DiSclafani’s newest novel, which centers around the friendship between Joan Fortier, the queen of the 1950s Houston social scene, and Cece Buchanan, her partner-in-crime since childhood. When Joan’s radical and unpredictable behavior begins to escalate, it’s Cece who brings her back from the brink, ultimately forcing a choice that will change things forever.

& Sons
by David Gilbert

David Gilbert’s tale of family, fiction, and friendship begins, interestingly, with a funeral. Charles Topping’s body lies in a casket when his lifelong friend, the reclusive author A. N. Dyer, gives the eulogy and steals the show. As the novel unfolds in the privileged world of Upper East Side society and the New York literary scene, family secrets are revealed through the eyes of Topping’s and Dyer’s sons.

Read a review of & SONS here.

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