Debt, financial literacy, retirement — these aren’t just personal finance topics, they’re lifelong issues that affect all of us. Money and class are integral to some of the most prominent and influential books in our canon, from contemporary reads to the classics.
If you’re burned out on self-help titles, pick up these memoirs, novels, and short story collections. They give the topic a more human touch and go beyond traditional money lessons.
Table of Contents
- Everybody Rise, by Stephanie Clifford
- Sex and the Single Girl, by Helen Gurley Brown
- Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain
- Refund: Stories, by Karen E. Bender
- The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
- Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash, by Liz Perle
- The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud
- Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
- Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir, by Wednesday Martin, PhD
- The Ten-Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer
- Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel, by Dorothy Allison
- Mambo in Chinatown: A Novel, by Jean Kwok
- The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Negroland: A Memoir, by Margo Jefferson
- The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark, by Meryl Gordon
- Project Girl, by Janet McDonald
- A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories, by Lucia Berlin
- Women, Race, & Class, by Angela Y. Davis
- Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America, by Rachel Hope Cleves
Everybody Rise, by Stephanie Clifford
A young woman does everything she can to up her social (and financial) standing by keeping up with the Joneses.
Sex and the Single Girl, by Helen Gurley Brown
The iconic Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief offers financial advice to unmarried women in 1962. This flashback will give you a sense of how far we’ve come and what’s stayed the same.
Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain
A woman kicks out her philandering husband to become a single mom, and then starts her own business — all during the Depression.
Refund: Stories, by Karen E. Bender
Short stories of con artists, billionaires, debt, and rentals gone awry.
The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
Lily Bart desperately tries to secure her financial future by acquiring a rich husband, but debts and social faux pas get in the way.
Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash, by Liz Perle
Perle takes a long, hard look at her emotional relationship with money — and those of the women around her.
The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud
College friends from privileged backgrounds struggle to place themselves in New York City, despite having parents in high places.
Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
Social climber Ani FaNelli is looking to cement herself to money and status by any means necessary.
Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir, by Wednesday Martin, PhD
Anthropologist Wednesday Martin moves to New York City’s Upper East Side and observes the opulent and dramatic lifestyles and marriages of her new community.
The Ten-Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer
Four women who left their jobs to raise their children struggle with how to re-enter the workforce.
Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel, by Dorothy Allison
A little girl grows up in abject poverty in Greenville County, South Carolina.
Mambo in Chinatown: A Novel, by Jean Kwok
An American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants gets a job as a receptionist at a dance studio. As her worldview is broadened, she faces a clash of old and new.
The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
An impoverished widow and her daughter take boarders into their home to get by in 1922 London. Love, betrayal, and a mystery ensue.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This classic of American literature follows the wealthy Jay Gatsby as he throws lavish parties hoping that love of his life will show up. There’s no better illustration of the Jazz Age’s decadence.
Negroland: A Memoir, by Margo Jefferson
Jefferson narrates growing up in Chicago’s elite black community circa the civil rights movement. She investigates class, race, and privilege in a way you definitely haven’t read before.
The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark, by Meryl Gordon
A wealthy socialite with $50 million to her name becomes a recluse — and finds that her money can’t protect her from shady, manipulative hangers-on.
Project Girl, by Janet McDonald
In this memoir, McDonald recounts her poverty-stricken childhood, ascent into Ivy League education, and entree into a world of unknown privilege.
A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories, by Lucia Berlin
A collection of 43 stories showcasing rich families, struggling mothers, and switchboard operators — to name a few — by a brilliant writer criminally unrecognized during her lifetime.
Women, Race, & Class, by Angela Y. Davis
Angela Davis analyzes the working-class issues within the women’s movement, and how classism and racism hold women back.
Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America, by Rachel Hope Cleves
True story: Two women fall in love in 1809, live together, and start a tailoring business to support themselves.