Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide

( 1 )


A tantalizing, droll study of the idiosyncratic existence of the very rich, through the unexpected lens of the naturalist.
Journalist Richard Conniff probes the age-old question "Are the rich different from you and me?" and finds that they are indeed a completely different animal. He observes with great humor and finesse this socially unique species, revealing their strategies for ensuring dominance and submission, their flourishes of display behavior, the intricate dynamics of ...

See more details below
Paperback (First Edition)
$19.18 price
(Save 16%)$22.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (37) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $3.40   
  • Used (25) from $1.99   
The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$15.49 price
(Save 32%)$22.95 List Price


A tantalizing, droll study of the idiosyncratic existence of the very rich, through the unexpected lens of the naturalist.
Journalist Richard Conniff probes the age-old question "Are the rich different from you and me?" and finds that they are indeed a completely different animal. He observes with great humor and finesse this socially unique species, revealing their strategies for ensuring dominance and submission, their flourishes of display behavior, the intricate dynamics of their pecking order, as well as their unorthodox mating practices. Through comparisons to other equally exotic animals, Conniff uncovers surprising commonalities.
• How did Bill Gates achieve his single greatest act of social dominance by being nice? • How does the flattery of the rich resemble the grooming behavior of baboons? • What made the British aristocracy the single most successful animal dominance hierarchy in the history of the planet? • How does Old Money's disdain for the nouveaux riches resemble the pig-grunting of mountain gorillas?
This marvelously entertaining field guide captures in vivid detail the behaviors and habitats of the world's most captivating yet elusive animal.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife, award-winning journalist Richard Conniff tracked bloodhounds and bats. Now he turns his keen naturalist's eye on another forbidding species: the very rich. Comparing these bejeweled, opulently clothed creatures to baboons and bull elephant seals. What other book would liken J. P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller to dominant mandrill monkeys or compare disdain for the nouveaux riche to the pig-grunting of mountain gorillas?
Frans de Waal
“In this witty, well-written field guide, Richard Conniff studies the rich as a biologist studies the mighty mountain gorilla. In the process, he brings the rich down to earth as not only merely human, but distinctly animal.”
Desmond Morris
“A delightful field-study of the habits of the rich and famous, full of acutely observed insights.”
Town and Country
“A witty compendium of gossip, anecdotes, history and sociobiological research.”
New York Sun
“Droll and delightful....Conniff's charm and fun-loving approach make his book a pleasure from start to finish.”
New York Times Book Review
“A feast of research findings...[Conniff's] archly comic tone matches his subjects perfectly.”
Boston Herald
“Amusing and insightful.”
Dallas Morning News
“Conniff proves that his naturalist's approach to understanding the rich...really does generate insights and even understanding.”
New York Magazine
San Diego Union-Tribune
“Conniff [is] Truman Capote-and Dominick Dunne-like...a valuable field guide...endlessly fascinating.”
The Day
“Conniff manages to pull off the ideal mixture of detached amusement and actual scientific fieldwork.”
The Financial Times
“This book...may change for ever our perception of the urge to make money.”
Town and Country
“A witty compendium of gossip, anecdotes, history and sociobiological research.”
Smithsonian Magazine
“A literate, gossipy and altogether engaging romp.”
Jonathan Yardley - Washington Post
“Clever, perceptive and unfailingly interesting.”
Dominick Dunne
“As one who has long had a fascination with the idiosyncrasies of the possessors of great wealth, I was intrigued with Richard Conniff's book The Natural History of the Rich. It is anecdotal, witty, and wonderfully informative.”
Washington Post
Clever, perceptive and unfailingly interesting.— Jonathan Yardley
Publishers Weekly
"It might be difficult to see the connection between a rich woman swanning around in her Manolo Blahniks and some underpaid clipboard-wielding biologist slogging through the bush in battered Tevas," Conniff writes, but readers of this unusual and delightful exploration of the richest members of the human species will understand that connection and a whole lot more. Journalist and essayist Conniff compares the super-rich to the animal kingdom in providing a frame of reference for their behaviors and actions. Butterflies and moths, which camouflage their true colors when not with their own kind, provide a context for discussing concealment, display and the "inconspicuous consumption" of those born to money: the signs of wealth are displayed subtly to be recognized by those in the know. Conniff finds an animal model for philanthropy in a bird called the Arabian babbler, which, after forcing a gift of food on a companion, "lift[s] his beak in a special trill... like a socialite posing for an event photographer at the Breast Cancer Awareness barbecue." Other chapters provide insight into mating habits, dominance (the rough way and the nice way) and other rules of social intercourse. A keen observer of both animal and human nature, Conniff who has written about the natural world for National Geographic and about the rich for Architectural Digest neither patronizes nor demeans his subjects (after all, he notes, we all hope to be rich some day). He merely uses them and the natural world to illuminate a class of people and range of behaviors that few among us will ever have the opportunity to observe firsthand. 8 pages of b&w illus. (Oct. 21) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Conniff takes on lifestyles of the rich (and variably famous) for the bookish and hip, that is, for an audience receptive to his jokes. And the jokes fill every page of the very funny, vaguely nausea-inducing travels he makes through the realms of the extremely wealthy, who do, of course, turn out to be very different from you and me. As Conniff finally has it, we are all pretty much the same, except that the billionaires beat us in every category, including access to sex, overhousing, and general nastiness. Conniff (Spineless Wonders: Strange Tales from the Invertebrate World), a respected freelance journalist on the popular natural world beat, here extends to book length a piece he did on the culture of Monaco for National Geographic a few years back. Most conventional of the allegedly wise ideas he gleefully whacks are that old money is classier than new and that the rich mean it when they say there is more to their lives than money and power. Recommended for libraries of all types, with two caveats: Conniff is not immune to small errors of detail, and some of his humor is too deadpan to let readers distinguish outrageous hyperbole from assertion of fact. Even so, most will find this a fast-moving, instructive read.-Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Conniff, who specializes in the animal world (Every Creepy Thing, 1998, etc.), casts an inquisitive eye on the human race's big dogs in their diverse habitats, from the Breakers to Blenheim. Rich folk have bigger parties and better tchotchkes; they also live longer than the rest of us. "It's good to be king!" observed the great philosopher Mel Brooks, and Conniff uses many parallels in the animal world to show just how good it is, explaining as well how the feral people in charge got that way. Chimps and champs, of course, have essentially the same DNA, and even rats and plutocrats possess pretty much the same genome. What's true of gibbons and gorillas is true of CEOs and movie stars. Messrs. Gates, Turner, and Murdoch compete in scent-marking territories. Benevolent pro bono show-offs are much like simian bonobo show-offs, but the human alphas outdo their animal cousins when it comes to hoarding in a world where "more" always beats "enough, already." The author surpasses Veblen in his analysis of the habits of the seriously affluent in matters of food, hobbies and sex, travel, nesting and sex, high jinks, foibles, inbreeding and sex. As with lesser fauna, size matters, and so does body language. The animal illustrations are entertaining, and the fun is equaled by illustrative chitchat about people from the venerable Churchills we have read about in Burke's Peerage to the new Internet maharajas we have read about in supermarket tabloids. A limited gene pool, thin women, fat wallets, and flattery separate these special individuals from common folk. Amusing anecdotes about nouveau riche with a penchant for ballooning, and old aristocracy who "grew up with servants and practiced beingincompetent from birth," serve to illustrate Conniff's point that among the truly loaded, "even the sane ones often had a special relationship to reality." A clever, invaluable zoomorphic study with a wealth of information on what makes the rich tick. (Photo insert) Author tour
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393324884
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/19/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 346
  • Sales rank: 803,138
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Coniff, a Guggenheim Fellow and winner of the National Magazine Award, writes for Smithsonian and National Geographic and is a frequent commentator on NPR's All Things Considered and a guest columnist for the New York Times. His books include The Natural History of the Rich, Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time, and The Species Seekers. He lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7
Introduction: Naturally Rich? 9
Ch. 1 Scratching with the Big Dogs: How Rich Is Rich? 23
Ch. 2 The Long Social Climb: From Monkey to Mogul 39
Ch. 3 Party Time: The Dawn of the Plutocrat 57
Ch. 4 Who's in Charge Here? Dominance the Rough Way 72
Ch. 5 Take This Gift, Dammit!: Dominance the Nice Way 100
Ch. 6 The Service Heart: Subordinate Behaviors 117
Ch. 7 Why Do Rich People Take Such Risks?: Display by Grandstanding 144
Ch. 8 Inconspicuous Consumption: Display by Muted Extravagance 157
Ch. 9 Living Large: The Habitats of the Rich 191
Ch. 10 The Temptation of Midnight Feasts: Sex, Anyone? 224
Ch. 11 Family Business: Caught in the Perpetual Dynasty-Making Machine 257
Epilogue: A How-To Guide for Alpha Apes 289
Notes 299
Bibliography 317
Permission Credits 327
Index 329
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 1
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2013

    Don't waste your money

    This book is suerficial and boring

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)