Book Club / Culture

Books to read if the ‘Succession’ finale left you feeling bereft

succession books

I doubt anyone who has followed Succession across its four seasons are going to shake off the Roy family straight away, if at all. Some will give it a month before watching the series from start to finish. Others might continue to gorge on similar themes via other TV shows. There's a third option, although it's less obvious than the others. To continue what Jesse Armstrong started by taking a journey through the literary world's own contemptible families and powerful circles. I mean, given that we've just witnessed some of the best TV writing this millennium, it's only natural to rollover into the land of books. So what to read if you're feeling bereft of Succession?

Persuasion, Jane Austen

If there's one thing about Succession, it's that the show is completely unsentimental. Every hug, smile, warm bond is hard won and easily dissolved. Which is kind of similar to the romantic relationship at the heart of Jane Austen's final novel. After rejecting Frederick Wentworth at her family's behest (he has no money), Anne Elliot spends the next eight years pining over him, during which time her family has squandered their own fortune and Wentworth had accumulated his own. Unlike Succession, all ends well, but if you're not keen on reading the book, the good thing about anything Austen is that there's a million adaptations to crack into instead.


Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights has a reputation for being kind of miserable and like the "poison" Kendall speaks of in Succession season four, episode eight, that misery drips through. Each generation to arrive after Cathy and Heathcliff's torrid love affair is subjected to the same battery and bruising that follows Logan's own reign of terror.


One Hundred Years of Dirt, Rick Morton

Australian journalist Rick Morton writes in this book chronicling his family's violent history (and more) that "to understand a person you must understand his father". This sentence can also be applied to each of the Roy children. As we know, a fish rots from the head, and in the world of Succession, Logan Roy is the puppet master patriarch. One Hundred Years of Dirt catalogues how an Australian cattle station empire, that equated roughly to the landmass of Belgium, was lost in one generation. Sound familiar?


The Loudest Voice in the Room, Gabriel Sherman

You probably know of the series, led by Russell Crowe, but have you heard of the book that The Loudest Voice originated from? Authored by prolific American journalist Gabriel Sherman, the book is the result of hundreds of interviews with Fox News insiders and covers Roger Ailes rise to prominence as Murdoch's right hand man and the many controversies that followed in his bid for power. The link to Succession is obvious.


King Lear, Shakespeare

succession books

The parallels between Succession and King Lear are more deliberate than uncanny. In fact, this Shakespeare play is part of the DNA of the series, a comparison that has surfaced season after season, with the addition of late stage capitalism, big media and the corruption of power. Why not return to the source material?


Capote's Women, Laurence Leamer

succession books

We've all heard about Truman Capote's unfinished final novel. After publishing a few damning chapters in Esquire, Capote was ousted from the high society he inhabited and shut out from the powerful women he nicknamed his "swans". Most of us will never step foot in the kind of circles in Succession, and thank god for that, but part of what made the series so delicious was Greg's outsider presence, AKA the audience surrogate. Capote almost gave the world a glimpse into those cordoned off spaces with Answered Prayers, Laurence Leamer is here to finish the job. Or at least tell the story of why he stopped. And if you can't be bothered with the book, Ryan Murphy is making a series out of it starring Chloe Sevigny.


Howard's End, E.M Forster

succession books

In Howard's End, the story sets you up with two families not unlike the politically opposed Roy and Pierce tribes. One stands for culture, the other business, and throughout the book E.M Forster questions the symbiotic relationship between those values, and the tension of living a moral and worthwhile life under an unequal system.


Spare, Prince Harry

succession books

Imagine if Kendall or even Roman published a tell-all autobiography? Think of all the dirty secrets that would stumble out. We'll just have to stomach Prince Harry's for now.


Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray

succession books

Self delusion? Titanic egos? Vanity Fair is a well-matched companion for Succession. The story revolves around high society before the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. There's social faux pas to rival any ludicrously capacious handbag, self-important heirs that would put Kendall, Roman and Shiv to shame, inferior interlopers that could show Tom a thing or two. Vanity Fair walked so the Waystar Royco family and its sycophants could run.


Mayhem, Sigrid Rausing

succession books

A revealing memoir from Sigrid Rausing, Swedish philanthropist, Granta books owner and granddaughter of Tetra Pak founder Ruben Rausing. From her billionaire's seat, Rausing witnessed the public decline of her brother Hans and his late wife Eva caused by addiction and reflects on her own action and inaction. Mayhem straddles the intersection of privilege, extreme wealth and its power to isolate.


Nicholas II, The Last Tsar, Michael Paterson

succession books

If we think of the story of Succession as one that follows the decline and fall of an empire, then why not ruminate on the end of another dynasty. Tsar Nicholas, like Kendall, was often thought to be ill-equipped for the top job, the former a sentimental family man lacking a military mindset, and the latter a reformed family man who lacked the "killer" instinct. Let's hope for Kendall's sake it works out better for him than it did for poor old Nicholas.


The Godfather, Mario Puzo

Same city, different family, with all the familiar tactics. The Godfather does not need an introduction. But it can come with a short explanation. Logan Roy is the corporate world's Don Corleone; he's pulling the strings, double-dealing, covering up murder, sexual assault and more, all under the flimsy guise of family values.


The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro

succession books

Stevens is a far better head to inhabit than Greg, if it's an outsider we're dealing with. In explicit detail, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall embarks on a gentle holiday as he nears the end of his long tenure. Across six days, Stevens reflects on the highfalutin family he's served as he travels from Oxfordshire to Cornwall, where the former housekeeper Miss Kenton lives, and of whom he is hoping to convince to return with him to Darlington Hall.


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams

In Williams' mind, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was the best thing he wrote. The play, which takes place in the Mississippi Delta, focuses its gaze on a wealthy southern family as the patriarch approaches his 65th birthday, not unlike the way the series opens on Logan's own birthday gathering. 'Big Daddy' Pollitt's two sons are vying to inherit the family fortune, one built from planting cotton, and as the family congregates knives come out, ugly truths are told, suppressed sexual desires come to light and a family dynasty is turned on its head.


White Teeth, Zadie Smith

For her wildly successful first book, Zadie Smith penned a tale of three families across three generations who must all come to face the seeds sown by their ancestors.


East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Another brutal family drama, where hurt is knitted into the family fables and threatens to spill our across generations to come. John Steinbeck takes the biblical tale of Cain and Abel and applies it to a Californian context.

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