T Book Club

Book Club

Join the editors and writers of T Magazine as we read works of classic American literature.

Next Up


By Nella Larsen

For the third installment of T Book Club, we’re reading Nella Larsen’s “Passing” (1929), in which old friends, both Black women, reunite in 1920s Harlem, despite the fact that one of them is living as a white person. Written from the perspective of Irene Redfield, who finds herself both drawn to and repelled by her elegant childhood companion Clare Kendry, who is concealing her heritage from her husband, the work follows the two protagonists’ increasingly fraught entanglement in each other’s lives as they reckon with the costs of deception and frustrated desire. Critically acclaimed at the time of its publication, the novel captures the social anxieties that plagued America during the Great Migration and remains a resonant portrait of a fractured nation.

Check this page in the weeks ahead to find additional reading material about the book’s exploration of race, class and self-presentation, and click below to R.S.V.P. to a virtual conversation about the work and its author, to be led by the novelist Brit Bennett and held on March 9.


‘The Custom of the Country’

By Edith Wharton

For our second book, we read “The Custom of the Country” (1913), in which Edith Wharton explores, with an unflinching eye for detail, social ambition at its most unrelenting. Considered a tragicomedy of manners, the novel centers on the infamous antiheroine Undine Spragg, a young Midwestern woman who, upon arriving in New York City, becomes obsessed with acquiring both clout and wealth through a series of advantageous marriages, no matter the cost.

How Can We Read Edith Wharton Today?

By Claire Messud

Published in 1913, “The Custom of the Country” follows the social rise of Undine Spragg, a fictional character who, in many ways, feels very modern.

Undine Spragg’s Life in Objects

By Samuel Rutter

Beauty, charm and luck all factor into the social ascent of Edith Wharton’s ambitious protagonist — but money, crucially, matters the most.

A Conversation on ‘The Custom of the Country’

The novelist Claire Messud speaks about Edith Wharton’s 1913 classic.

Photos: Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, Jack Manning/The New York Times, Ruby Washington/The New York Times, Ira Wyman/The New York Times. Ralph Gatti/AFP/Getty Images; Evening Standard/Getty Images; Dave Pickoff/AP Photos; Byron Company/The Museum of the City of New York/Art Resource, NY

Book covers: Courtesy of Bantam Classics; Broadview Press; Everyman's Library; the Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home, Lenox, Mass.; Oxford University Press; Scribner; Vintage Books; Penguin Random House; and Penguin Modern Classics

Digital production and design by Nancy Coleman, Katie Cusumano, Jacky Myint, Caroline Newton and Daniel Wagner.