FINANCE NOVELS

One of my hobbies is reading and, in particular, novels that are related to finance.  I have a fairly large collection and have compiled this list of books with a finance angle.  I should note that I define finance somewhat loosely, to also include closely related aspects of economics and business in general.  The publication dates are, in most cases, for the copy I own, which is often a paperback.  Hardback versions were often published a year or two earlier.

Let me add that an excellent reference book on the role of Wall Street in American literature is Wall Street in the American Novel by Wayne H. Westbrook (1980, New York University).  Professor Westbrook has specialized in finance in literature.  Another good source is Paul F. Jessup, ďFinanciers in Literature,Ē Financial Practice and Education 4 (1994), 73-75.

The following is an excellent link for financial fiction:

http://www.ex.ac.uk/~RDavies/bankfiction

Note:  Roy Davies is the brother of author Linda Davies, who is listed below with her well-known financial novels.

Joe Kolman also has a list at this site.

 You might also enjoy my site with information on finance movies and television series:

http://www.bus.lsu.edu/academics/finance/faculty/dchance/MiscProf/Finance_on_the_Screen.htm

 

 The numbers besides certain novels below are my ratings on a scale of one to ten.  If there is no rating, I have not read the book.
 


Regan Ashbaugh.  A veteran Wall Streeter who retired to Maine to write financial novels that blend Wall Street with firefighting.  If that doesn't get your curiosity up, I don't know what will. 

            Downtick (1998), 9.5*.  A surprisingly great book that got little recognition.
            In the Red (1999), 9.0*  An excellent follow-up to his first book.

Po Bronson.  Bronson is not a Wall Streeter but has some west coast financial experience.

            Bombadiers (1995)

Dave Cornford

           
Cracks in the Ceiling (2012).  Not specifically a novel but a collection of short stories.

David Cudlip.

            Comprador (1984)

Linda Davies.  The former British investment banker, Ms. Davis is the undisputed champion woman writer of financial fiction. 

            Nest of Vipers (1995), 7*
            Wilderness of Mirrors (1996), 6.5*
            Into the Fire
(1999), 7.5*
            Something Wild (2002)

Theodore Dreiser.  A well-known American writer.

            The Financiers (1912)

Frank Drury.

               An Empty Sky (2010) http://www.frankdrury.com/

 Bret Ellis

American Psycho (1991), 7*.  This book is unquestionably one of the most difficult financial novels to read, mainly because it is sadistic and gruesome.  It has only a modest financial aspect and is mostly about the seamy life of a bond trader.  It is, nonetheless, fascinating.

Forrest Evers.  Evers is a journalist with no apparent Wall Street connection, but he knows his stuff.

            Takeover (1998), 9*

Paul Erdman.  The former Swiss banker, who once spent time in a Swiss prison when his bank failed, he has turned international banking into a money-making literary industry.  I would probably call Erdman the father of financial fiction.

            The Silver Bears (1974)
            The Last Days of America  (1981)
            The Billion Dollar Sure Thing
(1982)
            The Crash of 79 (1976), 7*
            The Panic of 89
(1986)
            The Swiss Account
(1992), 7.5*
            Zero Coupon
(1993), 9.5*
            The Set-Up (1997), 9.5*

F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Of course, Fitzgerald was one of Americaís most famous writers of the 20th century.

The Great Gatsby (1925), 5*.  I include this book because it has appeared on other lists.  Gatsby allegedly acquired his fortune as some kind of trader, but the book has little to do with finance.  Frankly, I think itís highly overrated as a work of literature, but what do I know?

Ken Follett.  Follet is a highly successful author of many excellent books outside of the finance area.  His financial novels, however, are not among his better work.  Among his best works is one of my all-time favorite books, The Pillars of the Earth.

            Paper Money (1977), 6.5*
            A Dangerous Fortune (1994)

Stephen Frey.  Former Wall Streeter with a string of hits, but judging from the trend in my ratings, his best work may have run its course.           

            The Takeover (1995), 7.5*
            The Vulture Fund (1996), 8*
            The Inner Sanctum (1997), 8.5*
            The Legacy (1999), 8*
            The Insider (1999), 6*
            Trust Fund (2001), 4*
            The Day Trader
(2002), 6*
            Silent Partner (2003), 9*
            Shadow Account
(2004), 6*
            The Chairman (2005), 4*

John Kenneth Galbraith.  He is undoubtedly one of Americaís most famous economists.  This book is his lone foray into fiction, but frankly I think all of his work is fiction.  But this one is unambiguously fiction and quite good.

            A Tenured Professor (1990), 8.5*

Michael Goodwin.

           When Vultures Dance (2009)

James Grippando

           Need You Now (2012)

Arthur Hailey.  Hailey was a very popular writer in the 70s, who picked out an industry at a time and wrote a novel around it.

            The Moneychangers (1975)

Henrik Ibsen.  Of course, Ibsen was a famous Norwegian writer; I include this classic because it has a banker it it.

            A Dollís House (1879)

Kate Jennings.  New on the scene, Ms. Jennings was a Wall Street speechwriter but from reading this book, itís apparent she had some issues with Wall Street.

            Moral Hazard (2002), 6*

Marshall Jevons.  This is the pen name of two academic economists, William Breit and Ken Elzinga.  The books are based around fictional economist Henry Spearman who solves murders using economic reasoning.  These books are just plain loads of fun and very educational.

            Murder at the Margin (1988), 6*
            The Fatal Equilibrium (1990), 9*
            A Deadly Indifference (1995), 8.5*

Paul Kilduff

            Square Mile (1999), 7.5*

Joe Kolman.  A newcomer to this group, Joe was formerly editor of the excellent trade publication Derivatives Strategy.  He appears set to embark on a new career as a financial novelist.

        Naked Option (2007).  6.5*.  A derivatives slant with some mild erotica.  But don't let either scare you off. 

Emma Lathen.  This is the pen name of Martha Hennisart, a lawyer, and the late Mary Jane Latsis, an economist.  Their long list of financial novels are light and moderately entertaining, but in all honesty, their more like Ellery Queen or Nero Wolfe novels, in a business setting.  Many are centered around John Putnam Thatcher, an investment banker who solves murders.

            A Shark Out of Water (1997)
            Brewing Up a Storm (1996)
            Right on the Money (1993), 5*
            East is East (1991), 5*
            Double, Double, Oil and Trouble
(1990)
            Something in the Air
(1989)
            Ashes to Ashes (1988)
            Green Grow the Dollars (1982)
            Going for the Gold (1981)
            By Hook or Crook
(1975)
            Sweet and Low (1975)
            Murder Without Icing (1972)
            The Longer the Tread
(1971)
            Pick up Sticks (1970)
            When in Greece (1969)
            Murder to Go (1969)
            Come to Dust (1968)
            A Stitch in Time
(1968)
            Murder Against the Grain (1967)
            Murder Makes the Wheels Go ĎRound (1966)
            Death Shall Overcome (1966)
            Accounting for Murder (1964)
            A Place for Murder (1963)
            Banking on Death (1961)

David Liss.  Both of these are financial mysteries set in 18th century England. 

A Conspiracy of Paper (2000), 3*.  This is a very well-written book that seems to really capture the era.  The story is a murder mystery entwined with the notorious South Sea Bubble.  But I give it only three stars, because frankly, I just found it laborious to read.  I really wish I had liked this book.  I read 100 pages and gave up on it.  Upon a friend's recommendation, I started it all over again a couple of years later.  I made it to the finish.  That's about all I can say.  Even though the book is not excessively long, it was like running a marathon.

The Coffee Trader (2003)

Brad Meltzer.  Meltzer has had several successful books, but I didn't much care for the one listed below.  However, I can certainly see that some might like it.

    The Millionaires (2002), 5*

Katherine Neville.  A former bank computer expert, Neville absorbed enough in her experience to put together an interesting story.  But I prefer her book The Eight, which is not financial.  She tends to specialize in novels with two themes, each occurring centuries apart, running side by side, and then linked at the end.  I used to live near Neville and once had her speak to my class. 

            A Calculated Risk (1992), 8*

Frank Norris.  Frank Norris was a little-known American writer who set out to write a trilogy on the wheat industry.  Sounds boring?  Not so fast.  The Pit is an outstanding piece of literature.  For those fascinated with the Chicago futures markets, itís your book.  And itís a great love story too.  Unfortunately, Norris died young and didnít finish the third book.

            The Pit:  A Story of Chicago (1902), 8*
            The Octopus (1901)

James Patterson.  Yes, this is the the James Patterson of Alex Cross and Along Came a Spider (and others) fame.  One of Americaís most famous contemporary writers; Black Friday is not up to his normal quality, but not a bad book.

            Black Friday (1986), 7*

Allison Pearson.  A woman's take on Wall Street life.

I Donít Know How She Does It:  The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother (2003)

Christopher Reich.  Drawing on his experience in the Swiss banking industry, Reichís first novel was excellent.  I wasnít as impressed with the second..

            Numbered Account (1998), 9*
            The First Billion (2002), 6*
            The Devilís Banker (2003)

Stephen Rhodes.  Rhodes is proof that you donít have to be an ex-investment banker to write a good Wall Street novel.

            The Velocity of Money (1997), 8.5*

Michael Ridpath.  The British former investment banker turns out solid work.

            The Marketmaker (1999), 8.5*
            Trading Reality (1997), 7*
            Free to Trade
(1995), 7*

Ernesto Robles.  A former economist and investment banker.

The Malthusian Catastrophe (2009).  This is a very good book that tells the story of a recent MBA who fails to get a job on Wall Street and goes to work with at an herbal supplement company that develops a drug that is alleged to provide immortality.  The story has a great deal to say about the old but always-fascinating theme of the dangers of tampering with life.  I like the fact that there are short chapters, as I tend to read for a few minutes and then put the book down.  I ended up reading this one pretty quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The author may be hard pressed to come up with a second offering this good but I hope he will try.  [By way of full disclosure, the author brought this book to my attention and sent me a copy.  I probably would not have been aware of it otherwise, but I am really glad I read it.]

Russell Roberts.  Roberts is an academic economist of some note and an economists commentator.

 The Invisible Heart:  An Economic Romance (2001), 8*.  Die hard free marketers and libertarians:  this is your book.  Liberals:  donít read it or youíll change your views.  A really good story of economics and love, if you can imagine connecting those two themes.

Michael Thomas.  Thomas is another former investment banker.  His books are solid but not quite at the top.

            Bakerís Dozen (1996)
            Black Money (1994), 7*
            Hanover Place (1990), 6*
            The Robespinner Conspiracy
(1987)
            Hard Money (1986)
            Someone Elseís Money (1982)
            Green Monday (1981)

Tom Wolfe.  One of Americaís most famous but least prolific writers, famous for his pastel suits and The Right Stuff.

 The Bonfire of the Vanities (1988), 9*.  A contemporary classic but skip the movie.  Willis, Hanks, and Griffin (and Morgan Freeman before he was a star) arenít enough to save this dud.

Emile Zola.  One of France's most famous writers.

               L'Argent (1841).  I haven't read this one but have heard that it is about money and finance.

 

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Last updated:  May 31, 2012