The Natural History of the Rich

A Field Guide

Richard Conniff (Author)

Overview | Inside the Book

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.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • October 2003
  • ISBN 978-0-393-32488-4
  • 5.5 × 8.2 in / 352 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“Clever, perceptive and unfailingly interesting.” — Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

“A clever, invaluable zoomorphic study with a wealth of information on what makes the rich tick.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Amusing and insightful.” — Boston Herald

“Hilarious.” — New York Magazine

“Conniff [is] Truman Capote-and Dominick Dunne-like...a valuable field guide...endlessly fascinating.” — San Diego Union-Tribune

“Conniff manages to pull off the ideal mixture of detached amusement and actual scientific fieldwork.” — The Day

“This book...may change for ever our perception of the urge to make money.” — The Financial Times

“A witty compendium of gossip, anecdotes, history and sociobiological research.” — Town and Country

“A literate, gossipy and altogether engaging romp.” — Smithsonian Magazine

“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.” — Frans de Waal, author of The Ape and the Sushi Master

“A delightful field-study of the habits of the rich and famous, full of acutely observed insights.” — Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape

Also by Richard Conniff All

  1. Book CoverThe Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth


  2. Book CoverSwimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals


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