Good Minds Suggest: Lionel Shriver's Favorite Books About Money

Posted by Goodreads on June 6, 2016
Lionel Shriver

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What do we hold dear? American novelist Lionel Shriver has spent the past three decades exploring that question in her books, teasing out answers via one unforgettable character after another. In her Orange Prize-winning bestseller, We Need to Talk About Kevin, the focus was family as a mother grappled with her son's terrifying darkness. In The Post-Birthday World, the spotlight was on love, played out in two competing, parallel lives. In Shriver's new book, the near-futuristic family saga The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, it's about money—or, more precisely, the lack of it. Expat Nollie, precocious teen Willing, and the rest of the Mandible clan are all banking on their share of the family fortune…until the economy collapses in cataclysmic fashion and civilization begins to break down. Without a safety net, the family struggles to make sense of who they are and who they might become. Shriver shares her favorite books that use money to reveal deeper truths about our society, our fears, and our desires.

Money by Martin Amis
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"This madcap satire sends up the hedonism, consumerism, and excess that typified the decade in which it was written, and it resonates with controversy over the superrich today—whose scale of spending admittedly dwarfs the comparatively petty indulgences of the 1980s. Eternally drunk, the protagonist John Self gets involved with a film project that's catastrophic from the get-go. Money remains one of Amis's best and funniest novels."

Capital by John Lanchester
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"Along a fictional street in London, where property values have all too typically skyrocketed, residents begin receiving anonymous postcard warnings: 'We want what you have.' A declaration bound to send a shiver through any affluent spine. Lanchester began the novel before the Great Recession of 2008, about which his story is eerily prescient. A large cast of characters at varying levels of income provides a panoramic snapshot of what it's like to survive in one of the world's greatest but most expensive cities. Charming and great fun; translated into a fine miniseries as well. Lanchester has also written engagingly about economics in nonfiction: How to Speak Money and I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay."

The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
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"A French investment banker in Dublin is beguiled by a writer who improbably wants to employ the banker—whose profession used to be considered soporifically dull—as his Everyman protagonist. Murray is especially entertaining in his capitulations of complex, fundamentally corrupt financial practices in the lead-up to Ireland's catastrophic banking collapse, which required a massive state bailout. It's not easy to make this stuff hilarious, but Murray is both witty and perceptive about the casino high jinks of his overcompensated characters."

The Devil I Know by Claire Kilroy
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"Also set in Ireland, and darker in texture than The Mark and the Void, Kilroy's novel takes on the property craze that inflated the entire national economy into a bubble. Like the end of a game of Old Maid, its bursting left countless individuals and companies holding suddenly near-worthless houses, half-built high-rises, and tracts of dismal farmland for which they'd paid a king's ransom, in the expectation of flipping the properties for a quick profit. Kilroy sets up a clear thematic parallel between the addictive greed of Celtic-Tiger Ireland and the alcoholism her protagonist is seeking to defeat. Very well written, too."

Carousel Court: A Novel by Joe McGinniss Jr.
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"Hot off the presses! This novel, about a couple in over their financial heads once their mortgage exceeds the value of their house in California, is released in August. The husband brings home the bacon by helping turf out other people's possessions in foreclosed properties. McGinniss has a great deadpan style, sending up the absurdities of the collapse of the housing market with a straight face. All very funny-but-not-really."

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Books About Money

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