A Guide To Tom Wolfe

"Tom Wolfe is a groove and a gas. Everyone should send him money and other fine things."

–Terry Southern

 Books A Man In Full through The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby

 Movies (based on the books)



 Vote for your favorite Tom Wolfe book


Movies (from the books)


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Web site by Greg Oshel.

A Man In Full (1998)

Another big success, this novel is not as funny as Bonfire but still quite interesting, showing many sides of American life. This was hailed as one of the best books of 1998, if not the best (a National Book Award finalist). It was also Amazon.Com's best-selling book of 1998. And a really neat cover, too. Still, couldn't there be a better ending?

New York Times Review

TIME Article

Buy It Now From Amazon.Com! The book everyone's been talking about

The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987)

This novel, Wolfe's first, was a mammoth success (and rightly so). Entertaining from the beginning to the end, fascinating and funny. One mistake can lead you down a wild road… A #1 New York Times bestseller.

New York Times Review

The movie

 Buy It Now From Amazon.Com

The Purple Decades

Includes previously published material from The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby, The Pump House Gang, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine, Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, The Painted Word, From Bauhaus to Our House, and The Right Stuff. Included are also a lot of sketches by Tom Wolfe.

The Right Stuff (1979)

A fascinating account of the early days of American space flight, primarily the Mercury astronauts. Full of insider information, it's a thrilling read. Wonderfully written.

For those interested, Wolfe wrote an article in a similar vein for the October 1981 issue of National Geographic.

The movie

Buy It Now From Amazon.Com.

From Bauhaus To Our House (1981)

A semi-sequel to The Painted Word, this book deals with modern architecture. It's not as good as The Painted Word (and also not as funny) but still interesting, especially for people interested in architecture. It sort of misses the mark. There are a few black and white pictures of the buildings described.

Buy It From Amazon.Com

The Painted Word (1975)

This is a great, hilarious book where Wolfe skewers the modern art world. It is a rare non-fiction that makes me laugh out loud. This one does, several times in fact! Short and easy to read, with lots of helpful pictures (though in blank and white) of the art being described.

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Mauve Gloves and Madmen, Clutter and Vine (1976)

This is a collection of several interesting and good essays; nothing brilliant, though "Street Fighters" is quite funny. Some sketches by Tom Wolfe, too. On an interesting note, this book contains Tom Wolfe's first piece of published fiction before The Bonfire of the Vanities, a short story called "The Commercial."

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Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (1970)

Both of these essays are masterpieces. "Radical Chic" details Leonard Bernstein's cocktail party for the Black Panthers, a truly bizarre event. "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers" is no less funny. The book is well-worth reading and still important today. Note: both "Radical Chic" and "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers" are also in The Purple Decades.

Buy It Now From Amazon.com.

The Pump House Gang (1968)

Many interesting essays, nothing really exceptional but still quite a good read.

Buy It Now From Amazon.Com.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)

This is a great book that is really a page-turner for a non-fiction book. Wolfe details the exploits of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Wolfe really gets inside the whole thing.

"Tom Wolfe is more than brilliant…he is more than urbane, suave, trenchant, Tom Wolfe is a goddamn joy…also, not to insult him, he writes like a mater." –Book World.

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 The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby (1966)

This was Tom Wolfe's first book, which introduced him to people who didn't read Esquire or the New York Hearld Tribune. The title story introduced "New Journalism" (which hadn't yet been perfected). Many of the essays in here are also in The Purple Decades. There are many interesting essays, though nothing really great.

Buy It Now From Amazon.Com

In Our Time

A collection of sketches by Wolfe. A lot of them have appeared in previous books.


The Bonfire of the Vanities (The Movie)

It isn't very good at all. Tom Hanks is okay, Melanie Griffith isn't very good, Bruce Willis is annoying. It's hard to ruin such a good novel, but they manage to! Many of the novel's best scenes are deleted, significantly altered, or shortened.

Buy It Now From Amazon.Com (though I'm not sure why you'd want to…)

Internet Movie Database entry

Roger Ebert's review

Buy "The Devil's Candy", a interesting book by Julie Salamon about the movie, from Amazon.Com

The Right Stuff (The Movie)

It's long, but it's good. Well worth seeing, it's very interesting and never boring. It Won several Academy Awards and rightly so.

"The movie of the year." —Newsweek.

Buy It Now From Amazon.com on VHS or DVD

Internet Movie Database entry


Tom Wolfe was born on March 2, 1931 in Richmond, Virginia. He attended Washington and Lee University and then got a Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale. He then worked for the Springfield (Massachusetts) Union and The Washington Post as a Latin American correspondent. He then worked at the New York Herald Tribune and published The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, which introduced "New Journalism." In November 1965, there was a one-man exhibition of his sketches (there was another one in 1974). In 1978 he married Sheila Berger, and now has two children. In 1987 The Bonfire of the Vanities, his first novel, was published.

Wolfe has also coined several phrases, including "The Me Decade," "Master of the Universe," "Radical Chic," and "The Right Stuff."


In 1997 Ambush At Fort Bragg, a novella serialized in Rolling Stone magazine, was released on audio-only. Buy it from Amazon.Com

Buy "Conversations With Tom Wolfe", a book containing interviews with Wolfe from throughout his career

By Greg Oshel.

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