Channeling our lesser natures, we recently launched a series that promises to be wicked good fun: The 7 Deadly Sins Reading List. Mortal sin by mortal sin, we will lead you down the literary path to Hell (don’t worry—it’s paved with good intentions). This week we tackle the favorite transgression of NSFW rap artists and crime writers everywhere: Greed. From the hardboiled to the highbrow, it seems everyone in these novels just wants money, lots and lots of money.
The Wild Ass’s Skin, by Honoré (Harry) de Balzac
Part of Balzac’s Comédie humaine, this 1831 novel skewers bourgeois greed with a story about a magic shagreen that grants all wishes but depletes the wisher’s vitality. “Excess! I want to live to excess!” shouts the greedy little piggy who is given it.
Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol
Whelp, the title is pretty damning. Then again, trying to get rich quick by buying dead serfs and taking a loan out against them is pretty darn low.
The Gilded Age, by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner
Greed and corruption in Washington, D.C. It sounds so familiar…
The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
Just about everyone around Detective Sam Spade dies trying to get their hands on a bird figurine worth…$10,000. Hopefully something is lost in inflation.
The Pearl, by John Steinbeck
Greedy, greedy, greedy Kino just wants a church wedding and an education for his son—and a diamond-encrusted Porsche? A platinum yard yeti sculpture? This burger? Nope? Just the wedding and education? Geez. You guys are tough.
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut
Eliot Rosewater is the opposite of greedy. Unfortunately, he is, according to sources that matter, insane.
The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
Greed, extortion, and double-crossing in L.A. It sounds so familiar…
The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe
Even money can’t save a Master of the Universe from himself.
Good Faith, by Jane Smiley
The heady years leading up to the Savings & Loan Crisis of the ’80s makes the backdrop for Smiley’s morality tale about a small-town realtor drawn in by a money-hungry former IRS inspector with development dreams.
Serena, by Ron Rash
George Pemberton—and his Depression-era Lady Macbeth of a wife, Serena—will stop at nothing to secure their logging empire. You do not want to tangle with this woman (played by JLaw—with Bradley Cooper—in the forthcoming movie version!).
Two of the Deadliest, edited by Elizabeth George
Five out of seven sinners will be disappointed with this anthology of suspense fiction by women writers. The lusty and the greedy, however, will be thrilled.
Ghosts of Manhattan, by Douglas Brunt
A 35-year-old bond trader for Bear Stearns in 2005. I think you see where it’s going from there.
Bad Monkey, by Carl Hiaasen
Spoiler alert: In classic larger-than-life Hiaasen form, Nick Stripling amputates his own arm to get away with Medicare fraud. THAT is priorities.
What’s your favorite sinfully greedy read?