I think I mentioned that I’m on a bit of a kick for books about Crazy Rich People and Their Big Houses. It started with Empty Mansions and continued with The Secret Rooms. It’s even bleeding into my fiction reading with The Emperor’s Children, which has its fair share of rich people craziness.
Not one to ignore a reading trend, I went looking for more books on this theme. No surprise, there are a ton to choose from. Here are a few that caught my eye:
740 Park by Michael Gross
Rich people live in nice houses. One of the ritziest apartment buildings in Manhattan is 740 Park Avenue, which has been home to old money legends like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers and remains the address of choice for the wealthy today. In 740 Park, Michael Gross looks at the history of the building and offers a “social history of the American rich.” And how about this for a “fun” fact about the building: “After World War II, the building’s rulers eased their more restrictive policies and began allowing Jews (though not to this day African Americans) to reside within their hallowed walls.” I must read this.
When the Astors Owned New York by Justin Kaplan
The Astors made their fortune by turning a fur trading monopoly into a real estate empire in Manhattan. In the Gilded Age, cousins John Jacob Astor IV and William Waldorf Astor used their fortunes to build the grandest hotel in New York, the Waldorf-Astoria, as well as other grand hotels. Apparently, the cousins were so argumentative that the hotel was actually two connected buildings that could be sealed off from each other — fun facts from When the Astors Owned New York. Family drama + money = my genre kryptonite.
Fortune’s Children by Arthur Vanderbilt II
I will pick up any book with a subtitle that discusses the fall of a famous person or family — it’s schadenfreude, not my best quality. But whatever! Fortune’s Children is the story of the Vanderbilt family. Patriarch Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt made his fortune in shipping and railroads, becoming the richest man in the world by 1877. Forty-eight years after his death, one of his descendants died penniless as part of the fall of the house of Vanderbilt.
The Phantom of Fifth Avenue by Meryl Gordon
If you can’t get enough of Huguette Clark, make sure to look for The Phantom of Fifth Avenue, which is coming out on May 27 from Grand Central Publishing. Based on the description, it sounds like this one will focus more on Huguette than her father, W.A. Clark, than Empty Mansions did. The marketing also claims that the author will “finally solve the mystery of what turned a Jazz Age socialite into an Internet Era recluse,” which intrigues me.
House of Outrageous Fortune by Michael Gross
Not one to stop at one book, Michael Gross will be back on March 11 with a new book on the rich and their crazy houses, House of Outrageous Fortune. In this book he’ll be taking a look at 15 Central Park West, a “new-moneyed wonderland that’s sprung up on the southwest rim of Central Park.” Tenants include actors, athletes, top executives and hedge fund heads. I’m sensing a Rich People Houses tour during Book Expo America this year?
Actually, I could have just made a list of Michael Gross’ books, which include titles like Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Unreal Estate: Money, Ambition, and the Lust for Land in Los Angeles and Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women. Dang!