My Top 5 Most Disturbing Books

This week’s post is dedicated to the top five most disturbing books I have ever read.

 

 5 – Lolita

Lolita

Nabokov’s ornate masterpiece is about a man’s (Humbert Humbert) infatuation with a twelve-year-old girl. Lolita was regarded as so scandalous that it was rejected by a number of major publishers before its publication in 1955. If you don’t find the subject matter of Lolita disturbing, it would probably be advisable to keep it to yourself.

My Review: The protagonist, Humbert Humbert, is an intellectual with an all-consuming craving for young girls, or nymphets as he refers to them.  After his wife leaves him for … (More)

 

4 – Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero is about a privileged group of L.A. youngsters, who appear on the surface to have an idealistic life, but in reality live unrewarding and superficial existences. Though less violent and graphic than the author’s seminal work, American Psycho, Less Than Zero’s unrelenting bleakness is deeply disturbing, at least in this reader’s opinion.

My Review: Set in nineteen-eighties Los Angeles, the story follows eighteen-year-old Clay, returned home for Christmas from college in New Hampshire. Clay immediately falls back into the L.A. social scene, … (More)

 

3 – Haunted

Haunted

Haunted is a series of short stories, in which the author succeeds in not only amusing, horrifying and disgusting his readers, but also skilfully exploring a variety of themes. One of the short stories ‘Guts’, a tale of violent accidents involving masturbation, is so harrowing that during a 2003 reading by the author, it was reported that over thirty-five people fainted.

My Review: Haunted is about a group of writers, who have been assembled by the conniving Mr Whittier to attend a writers group. The location of the retreat is in an isolated theatre with no access to the outside … (More)

 

2 – American Psycho 

American Psycho

American Psycho is a satire of the yuppies culture of the 1980s. The book caused outrage when it was published due to its explicit violent and sexual content, as well as its perceived misogynistic elements. American Psycho went on to become a cult classic and one of the most influential books of the nineties.

My Review: American Psycho is a highly controversial novel that brought its young author Bret Easton Ellis instant fame. The book is written from the perspective of a young Wall Street financier, Patrick Bateman … (More)

 

 1 – The Killer Inside Me 

The Killer Inside Me

The Killer Inside Me is a thought provoking, suspenseful and unrelentingly bleak first person narrative about a psychopath, in which the author, Jim Thompson, succeeds in engrossing and disturbing the reader through the use of suspense, and realistic, simple prose. It is without doubt the most disturbing work of fiction I have read to date.

My Review: Twenty-nine-year-old Lou Ford is a Deputy Sheriff from the West Texas town of Central City. Lou, who is in a long-term relationship with childhood sweetheart Amy Stanton, … (More)

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21 Comments

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  • Wow Guy, I can see how some of these books have influenced your writing of Necropolis. Undoubtedly the public have an appetite for the shocking and macabre, which must be why so many of these books are adapted into films. 🙂

    • The public certainly seem to have an appetite for the shocking and the macabre Diane. However I think they’d draw the line at a film adaptation of Haunted. Have a good weekend.

  • Cool topic for a post. Haunted is just wrong but it made me laugh. The Killer Inside Me is v.harrowing. It’s the matter of fact way it is narrated and the devious mind of Lou. It doesn’t appear on many ‘Most Disturbing’ lists though. Your reviews are great!

  • This is a thought-provoking selection.
    My own mental makeup is such that I find more subtle stories even more disturbing than shockingly graphic ones. I was more impressed by Straub’s ‘Ghost Story’ than ‘The Shining’ and other King novels, for example. In old movies, ‘The Innocents’ had it over ‘Psycho’.

    • I appreciate what you are saying about subtle stories. Come to think of it some of Steinbeck’s books are fairly disturbing even though they are not shockingly graphic. I am not familiar with Straub’s ‘Ghost Story’ or ‘The Innocents’. Thank you for stopping by.

  • The Innocents is based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, which I would agree is subtly unnerving and dark. Crash by J G Ballard, Naked Lunch or The Soft Machine by Burroughs, and My Idea of Fun by Will Self are of the more graphic variety. I just reread Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground, a sardonic masterpiece that I found personally disturbing as I identified with its wretched narrator a little too much.

    • I liked Junky and Queer, but struggled with the Naked Lunch, and haven’t read The Soft Machine. Crash sounds pretty disturbing. I must get around to reading some Ballard. There’s nothing quite like a wretched narrator. I’ll add My Idea of Fun to my to-read list. Thank you for the comment. Have a good weekend.

  • Nice top 5. I haven’t actually read any of them but I’m familiar with American Psycho at least (thank you Christian Bale!). I looked up your book too and can see you’re on the same page (no pun intended) at Bret Easton Ellis. Finding psychopaths in every day life? I found your blog from ‘disturbing books’ tag. I wrote an article just today regarding my most disturbing book – Let’s Go Play at the Adam’s, you can read about it on my blog http://www.emmakwall.com if you’re interested. So that would definitely be in my own top 5. I read a book a few years ago, it was quite a modern novel and it wasn’t particularly disturbing but at the same time it was if you know what I mean. I can’t remember what it was called but I’m digging around now. The protagonist was very strange and moved into the call centre where he worked, taking a stray cat with him. The cat ended up dying and he ends up sleeping with his odious boss. It was just STRANGE and not right. Mainly the protagonist, he wants’ normal but not in a nice, eccentric way. I’d love to read it again actually but I found it quite depressing. I know what you mean about Steinbeck too, The Grapes of Wrath is a terribly disturbing story really, especially the ending. A book called The Wasp Factory was quite disturbing too, though a bit more standardized I felt. Anyway, ciao for now!

    • The Wasp Factory is indeed quite disturbing Emma. The book about the protagonist moving into the call centre with a stray cat also sounds disturbing. I haven’t come across it before, but will keep an eye out for it. I am pleased to hear that my book Necropolis is on the same page as Bret Easton Ellis – how flattering. Saying that I didn’t particularly like Easton Ellis’s book Lunar Park, which I just finished reading earlier this week. Thank you for following my blog. I’m about to read your post!

      • Thank you, that’s very kind. Also sorry if I made a few typos in my comment, I wrote it very fast and didn’t check afterwards….bad of me.

        Yes reading the synopsis and reviews for your novel (well done by the way, it must be so nice to have something published and people actually enjoying it!) it seemed to be that kind of style, the hidden psychopath, behind closed doors type thing. I’ll try and read it if I can, promise. I’m notoriously bad at reading new books though, I can re-read old favourites all day long!

        I found the call centre book! It’s called 8 Minutes Idle by Matt Thorne. He also wrote a book called Cherry I found quite strange as well. Though judging by Amazon reviews, I was the only person to find 8 Minutes Idle disturbing. They all find it hilarious! I still stand by what I said though 🙂

  • Let’s Go Play At The Adams , Glamorama, Never Let Me Go , The Bible, The Rape Of Nanking , nearly anything Chuck Palahniuk has written , The Deliberate Stranger , Hog , The Painted Bird ( true or not ) , Requiem For A Dream , Five Days In Memorial ( they got away with killing those patients and only one Doctor refused to help them ), Trainspotting , ….. I have read so many

  • I have read that the language and word craft in “Lolita” is beautiful, but the subject matter is so disturbing, that I’m not sure I would find it worth reading.

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