10 Novels About Lost Wealth and the Great Recession


In a recent Daily Beast/Newsweek poll, 44 percent of respondents reported that their personal economic situation currently makes them upset, while close to a third said it makes them downright angry. It’s been about 2 and a half years since the Great Recession began, and there’s a slew of books you can count on to make your situation seem a little bit better if you’re one of the 9.1 percent of Americans who are still unemployed or if you’re a working stiff who can’t seem to get a break. So enjoy this list, dear readers, because a good novel about the economic slowdown can take the pressure off of another grinding week at the office or on the job hunt.

Model Home by Eric Puchner

When Warren Ziller’s real estate venture becomes a spectacular failure, he and his family move from their idyllic gated community in southern California to a sad little model home in the desert development he originally invested in. Unsurprisingly, no one is happy about this change, and they all have to deal with the shame of failure that results from dropping down a class.

The Craigslist Murders by Brenda Cullerton

This crime novel revels in the pent-up anger of an attractive interior designer working for a series of rich and needy souls who argue about minute fees even as they order another costly renovation project to be done. It’s enough to drive a woman to murder — and Charlotte Wolfe does just that in this hilarious and unsettling novel about class war. Upper East Siders beware…this killer wears Louboutins.

Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

In Adam Haslett’s debut novel, we follow the rise and fall of Doug Fanning, a cocksure banker with a string of bad investments to his name. Fanning, a bachelor, lives alone in a newly-built McMansion near his childhood home — a sign that he has made it in the world. This upwardly mobile trajectory, though, can only end badly once the systems starts to collapse.

This is Where We Live by Janelle Brown

Claudia and Jeremy are both on their way to Making It when they buy their first home in Mount Washington — a gorgeous one-story with great views of LA — with an adjustable rate mortgage. But this was back in 2005. A few years later, their payments become unmanageably high, and their relationship begins to fray.

This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

Maria Semple is best known for her work as a writer for television (e.g., Arrested Development, SNL, and…Ellen) but This One is Mine is her first novel. In it, Violet Parry is the contented wife of a rock mogul but considers giving it all up to be with Teddy Reyes, a “a roguish small-time bass player with a highly-evolved sexuality.” This can’t end well.

Insignificant Others by Stephen McCauley

Richard Rossi is a fiftysomething gay man who works for a terribly-named software company called Connectrix. He compiles an “At Least List,” which organized his “disappointments and betrayals” (e.g., “My funds are going down, but at least I’ve still got money to lose.“) There’s always a silver lining, eh kids?

The Hole We’re In by Gabrielle Zevin

The Pomeroys are a family trying to keep it together as the bills pile up and second notices become final ones, off to a collection agency. How can a churchgoing Texas family survive the credit crunch? You’ll have to read it to find out. Gabrielle Zevin is also the author the YA novel Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, which has a playlist she created for it here.

The Recessionistas by Alexandra Lebenthal

In this novel, the year is 2008 and the main character’s name is Grigsby Somerset; she lives a charming life on the Upper East Side until the day her husband makes a bad deal with a hedge fund associate. By the way, the writer, Alexandra Lebenthal, is the head of the wealth management division of Alexandra & James Inc. Luxist describes it as “like a Gossip Girl for grown-ups.”

The Privileges by Jonathan Dee

In Jonathan Dee’s fifth novel, a young couple named Adam and Cynthia get married and Adam begins his climb up the corporate ladder. As their wealth accumulates, their friendships become few and far between, and the charmed duo view this as ideal. They are a unit without baggage, and increasingly without any code of ethics. As Adam says in the novel, “In the world of finance, the most highly evolved people were the ones for whom even yesterday did not exist.”

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Yes, it was released in the late ’90s, but Palahniuk’s rough, bloody novel about anarchy and liberation from the life of a working stiff resonates even more today, as we become used to working longer hours for less pay. Just remember, kids, “As long as you’re at fight club, you’re not how much money you’ve got in the bank.”