Chosen by Kevin Kwan
All three novels in Kevin Kwan’s best-selling Crazy Rich Asians trilogy are now available in paperback, and a movie adaptation of the first book is due in August. Below, Kwan names his six favorite social satires.
Snobs by Julian Fellowes (St. Martin’s, $17). This elegant skewering of the modern-day English aristocracy was an inspiration as I wrote Crazy Rich Asians. Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, introduces us to attractive but common Edith Lavery, who marries into a titled family but sets off a series of earthquakes when she realizes that living the life of those “to the manor born” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (Vintage, $12). Nothing about Undine Spragg—the most ambitious social climber New York has ever seen—seems dated at all. Change Spragg’s outfits and substitute Cadillac Escalades for carriages, and Wharton’s brilliantly astute Gilded Age saga feels more current than an episode of Gossip Girl—and way more addictive.
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh (Back Bay, $16). The name Evelyn Waugh might bring to mind Brideshead Revisited seriousness. But his early works were wickedly hilarious. This romp about the Bright Young Things—a decadent subset of 1920s London high society—had me laughing so hard I almost fell out of bed.
People Like Us by Dominick Dunne (Ballantine, $17). To me this is the ultimate New York novel and one of the reasons I moved to the city. Dunne managed to do in 1988 what Truman Capote couldn’t do a decade earlier: He wittily eviscerated Manhattan’s nouvelle society, thinly disguising the names of the elite, but was still invited to all the right parties afterward.
Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope (Wordsworth, $9). If you ever thought that Trollope, the greatest chronicler of the Victorian age, might be too stuffy, read this deliciously captivating page-turner. An heir to a noble but cash-strapped family is told from the day he is born that he “must marry money!” Naturally, he falls in love with a girl of no fortune and a dubious pedigree.
The Windfall by Diksha Basu (Broadway, $16). Basu’s recent novel is one of the most laugh-out-loud funny books I’ve read in ages. Following a newly moneyed family trying desperately to fit in after moving to one of Delhi’s poshest neighborhoods, it offers a clever glimpse into the intricate aspirations and machinations of India’s 1 percent. ■