Spoiled Rich Kids: A Reading List

Last week, New York published a profile of Lilli Hymowitz, the “prom queen of Instagram” and a native New Yorker who likes to hang out at her dad’s house in the Hamptons and party with Spike Lee’s son. 

Some decried it as yet another trend piece bemoaning teen girls these days with their gosh-darned selfies, but as a vocal hater of snake people doomsday prophecies, I prefer to think of Reeves Wiedeman’s piece as something I’m much more fond of: the Rich Kid Hate-Read, which came before snake people and will hopefully endure long after. So for your weekend reading pleasure, here’s a list of some of the best, from Nancy Jo to the New York Times. 

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Image Credit: Susanna Howe

“The Suspects Wore Louboutins,” by Nancy Jo Sales

Before there was the greatest phone call in the history of reality television, there was Sales’ Vanity Fair article turned book turned Sofia Coppola movie. It’s an insane story of mid-aughts consumerism and celebrity culture gone awry, elevated from the typical look-at-these-brats voyeurism of Sales’ oeuvre (not that we don’t love it) by the presence of an actual crime ring. Don’t miss VICE’s follow-up interview with Alex Neiers, though — it’s a humanizing portrait of life after, and during, reality TV.

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“Prep School Gangsters,” by Nancy Jo Sales

Sales’ typical fare, however, could make up this entire list. Instead of the Ballad of Ben and Dara or this fantastic joint profile of the Brothers Brant, though, we’ll go with this story of the unholy alliance between private schoolers and the less-advantaged peers whose street cred they appropriated. Come for the dated ’90s hip-hop slang, stay for the hilarious boasts about “ill weed” that’s “so strong, if you’ve never smoked it before you can start hallucinating.”

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Image Credit: Nicole Bengiveno

“When the 13-Year-Old Picks a $14 Million Condo,” by Joanne Kaufman

Because “literally the entire New York Times Real Estate section” would be too broad, if entirely accurate, we picked the most egregious offender in recent memory (though “For Starters, the Upper East Side” came in a close second). It begins with a tween named Skye van Merkensteijn announcing, “We’re moving and this is the place we’re moving to,” and only goes downhill from there.

Image Credit: Susan Meiselas
Image Credit: Susan Meiselas

“The Shit-Kickers of Madison Avenue,” by Lillian Ross

An oldie but goodie from a writer who was then five decades into her tenure at The New Yorker. Ross quite literally lets her Upper East Side private schoolers speak for themselves, letting their nonstop swearing and party planning and cigarette smoking make her point about feigning adulthood for her. Predating the Gossip Girl books by a solid decade, “Shit-Kickers” is an early classic of the genre.

Image Credit: Gillian Laub
Image Credit: Gillian Laub

“Is This the Best Education That Money Can Buy?” by Jenny Anderson

What’s more exasperating than stories of good ol’ fashioned private school debauchery? The story of an attempt to make a private school that’s somehow exempt from said debauchery, despite costing tens of thousands of dollars a year and decorating its hallways with artwork from Chuck Close and Sol LeWitt. Anderson’s account of Avenues, a new school in Chelsea, is more about the parents — the kind who worry over whether their children’s cafeteria food is “sufficiently organic” and hope speaking Mandarin will give them a “leg up” — than the pupils, but it still reads like the origin story of a certain kind of post-Bloomberg rich kid.

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“The Children of the Yuan Percent,” by Chris Beam

Obnoxious rich kids: not just an American thing! With new money comes the progeny of new money, and Chris Beam’s group profile in this week’s Bloomberg Business does a masterful job of walking the line between reader schadenfreude for China’s trust-funders (one fuerdai, or “second-generation rich,” posts a picture of his dog wearing an Apple Watch on each paw) and genuine empathy for the soul-searching and ennui that can come with inherited wealth.

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Image Credit: Antonio Bolfo

“Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy,” by Janet Reitman

Nothing inspires morbid fascination in the American public like Ivy League societies, those exclusive clubs within exclusive clubs, and their shady goings-on. (See: The Social Network, all those gross Skull and Bones scenes from The Good Shepherd.) Hence the popularity of Andrew Lohse’s Rolling Stone tell-all and its horrific stories of hazing in the name of gaining access to a shortcut into the American elite, no matter how hotly contested its accuracy. You’ll never look at a kiddie pool the same way again.