Both serious and highly entertaining, The Natural History of the Rich is a field guide like no other. Richard Conniff sees the very rich as human, except more so; genetically identical to ordinary people, they nonetheless display exaggerated and extreme behaviours, a result of exposure to excessive resources. The very rich display all the hallmarks of a dominant animal: even at their most leisurely they show an extraordinary evolutionary urge to achieve and sustain status, prime habitat, reproductive success and wasteful display. Conniff explains why Aristotle Onassis had the stools of his private bar covered with whale scrotums; why serial monogamy is seen as the key to business success by Donald Trump and Jean Paul Getty; and what the selective display of certain moths and butterflies, disguising themselves as everything from twigs to bird droppings, can reveal about the incognito rich, with their elaborate codes of references that only those deemed worthy can understand.
Richard Conniff is one of the most talented of the younger generation of American science and natural history writers. His previous books, on insects and invertebrates, have been published in the UK by Souvenir. This is his first book on humans.