I want to read things that squick me out, but are still well written.
June 20, 2013 6:23 PM   Subscribe

I would like to read some truly disturbing novels. Give me some recommendations, AskMetafilter.

What I am looking for: books that create lots of tension and make your skin crawl on. Think Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho, A.M. Home's The End of Alice, or Jose Saramago's Blindness.

What I am most definitely NOT looking for: anything by Chuck Palahniuk. I am just not a fan, sorry. Or anything that is stupid or is based on stupid gross outs/gore.

Thanks in advance for any recommendations!
posted by SkylitDrawl to Writing & Language (112 answers total) 204 users marked this as a favorite
 
Random Acts of Senseless Violence, by Womack. Deeply disturbing, not gory, brilliant use of language.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:25 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, the History of Luminous Motion by Bradfield.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:26 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe slightly different but very, very weird and creepy: KJ Bishop's The Etched City.
posted by WidgetAlley at 6:26 PM on June 20, 2013


Ian McEwan's The Innocent. Both very disturbing reading and historically fascinating.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:27 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Wasp Factory and Complicity by Iain Banks
posted by biscotti at 6:27 PM on June 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I would recommend :

- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, and
- Perfume, by Patrick Suskind
posted by barnoley at 6:27 PM on June 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks.
posted by Susan PG at 6:28 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe a little obvious, but have you read Stephen King? He's a master of both voice and spookiness. Dolores Claiborne is a great example.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:29 PM on June 20, 2013


We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.
posted by just_ducky at 6:33 PM on June 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I own and have read everything King has ever written, and he's a favorite of mine. So is his son, Joe Hill. I guess something important to throw in here is that I'm not looking for supernatural horror as much as I am real life horrors, although a little bit of the supernatural is all right sometimes. Just no vampires or werewolves, please.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 6:34 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. An incredible, fluid, prose style; powerful, poetic language; a unique and memorable authorial voice; fascinating characters; a careful examination of a largely overlooked period of American and Mexican history. Probably destined to be remembered as one of the Great American Novels of the 20th century. And it's just horrifying.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:35 PM on June 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


I was gonna say The Wasp Factory. I'm not sure exactly what counts as disturbing for you, but I have always found Aharon Appelfeld's novels to be quite disturbing. They are about, generally, being Jewish in Europe at the start of the Holocaust. They are not graphic, but are about living in a time, and making choices in a time, when the world is about to radically change the meaning of those choices. In one, for instance, a young man, who manages to not be put on a train to a death camp, decided that he is lonely and that he has missed the train rather than been spared. He flags down a train to get on.
posted by OmieWise at 6:35 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Truly disturbing? A short list for me, but 2666 by Roberto Bolaño would be at the top.
posted by Lorin at 6:37 PM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Gone Girl
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 6:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Spatterjay series by Neal Asher.
posted by sninctown at 6:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Truman Capote's In Cold Blood made my skin crawl.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:40 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are parts of the Wind Up Bird Chronicle that will serve.
posted by lilnublet at 6:43 PM on June 20, 2013


Seems "Frisk" by Dennis Cooper should get a mention.
posted by rhizome at 6:45 PM on June 20, 2013


Splatterpunks was the first (that I know of) anthology (of short stories) to treat this kinda stuff seriously, so it might provide leads….
posted by kimota at 6:48 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Graphic Novels: Anything by Daniel Clowes, My Friend Dahmer, Jar of Fools, Low Moon, A.L.I.E.E.E.N..

Books: Geek Love, Shutter Island, Perdido Street Station, We Were the Mulvaneys, The Reader

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is also a personal favorite.
posted by jessamyn at 6:53 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]




The Red Dragon
and it's sequel
Silence of the Lambs
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:57 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And if somehow you have missed all the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books, try them as well.
posted by jessamyn at 7:01 PM on June 20, 2013


Michel Houllebecq, The Elementary Particles
posted by mdn at 7:04 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis. I can't even put into words why this book disturbed me so much.
posted by workerant at 7:04 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Days of Atonement by Walter Jon Williams, a thoroughly creepy book.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:04 PM on June 20, 2013


Room.
posted by chiababe at 7:05 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mo Hayder's books are creepy to the max. The first one in her main series is Birdman, but it was The Treatment that kept me up at night the most.
posted by something something at 7:05 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


John Shirley's Wetbones.
Conrad Williams' The Unblemished.
Kathe Koja's The Cipher.
Will Self's My Idea of Fun.
Rupert Thomson's The Insult would make an excellent companion piece to Blindness.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:09 PM on June 20, 2013


House of Leaves.
The full color version, if possible.
posted by Adridne at 7:10 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's not a novel, but So Brilliantly Clever is about the Parker-Hulme matricide in New Zealand, the same true story that Peter Jackson's movie Heavenly Creatures was based on.

(Note that the publisher changed the title of the book to capitalize on the revelation that famed crime novel author Anne Perry was actually Juliet Hulme, one of the girls involved in the murder.)
posted by The Deej at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Platform by Michel Houellebecq and Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer
posted by sweetkid at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Half Life by Shelley Jackson

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
posted by Capri at 7:18 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


seconding Geek Love, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and Blood Meridian. All highly disturbing in very different ways.
posted by emd3737 at 7:25 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie. Written in the first person of a mentally stunted serial killer. I was too creeped out to finish it, even though it was well written. And I have a fairly high tolerance for this stuff.
posted by Zosia Blue at 7:31 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seconding My Idea of Fun by Will Self. And while we are mentioning Cormac McCarthy, The Road was no picnic to read, either.
posted by fikri at 7:31 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seconding Perdido Street Station.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:32 PM on June 20, 2013


I did not actually enjoy this book (mostly because it was too disturbing/gross for me), but I think The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock fits what you're looking for. It's definitely well-written.
posted by Asparagus at 7:32 PM on June 20, 2013


Liminal States by Zack Parsons.
posted by trunk muffins at 7:35 PM on June 20, 2013


Not exactly fiction, but Peter Levenda's Sinister Forces trilogy is one of the most entertaining...things of all time. It's an exhaustive history of occult forces lurking behind American politics. It's so good. SO GOOD. And so creepy.

Oh! I almost forgot! I am actually legally obligated to mention the work of Thomas Ligotti during times like these. He's like H. P. Lovecraft meets Jorge Luis Borges meets Bruno Schulz. Not gruesome. Pure, all-enveloping ontological terror.

Also, from the universe of manga, check out Uzumaki and The Drifting Classroom.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:37 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. Don't let its designation as YA fool you. It's a steady, sad, and slow meditation on the normalization of pedophilia and the ways in which people refuse to really "see" each other.

Honestly, I read it maybe 2 yrs ago and it still haunts me.
posted by spunweb at 7:37 PM on June 20, 2013


YES AND LIMINAL STATES BY ZACK PARSONS OH MY GOD YES
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:37 PM on June 20, 2013


William Sleator's House of Stairs is disturbing in a non-gory way. A group of 16-year old orphans subjected to a chilling psychological experiment. No walls, no floor, no ceiling that can be discerned; just endless stairs and landings. And the machine.
posted by fikri at 7:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Cockpit", Jerzy Kosiński
posted by thelonius at 7:40 PM on June 20, 2013


Definitely agree about We Need To Talk About Kevin.
posted by radioamy at 7:40 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Road by Cormac McCarthy was the bleakest, most cringe-inducing book I have ever read.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:45 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


James Ellroy's novels have some serious creep/disturbance factor to them; his L.A. Quartet is arguably his four best, starting with his take on the Black Dahlia murder (itself plenty creepy to begin with).
posted by scody at 7:45 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]




I'm currently getting creeped out by H.P. Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward".

Also: "At the Mountains of Madness" by the same author - much tension and squickiness in this one.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:51 PM on June 20, 2013




The Wolfen. The only werewolf book that ever got to me.

Nthing: Anything by Lovecraft. Creepy as hell.
posted by Michele in California at 7:54 PM on June 20, 2013


Oh, god... 'I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream' reminded me of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun. Which, I just... Harrowing is all I can say.
posted by fikri at 7:59 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me.
Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:01 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Come for the Swedish child vampires, stay for the empathetic portrayal of all its POV characters, even as they do and experience horrific things.

It's not a novel, but Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragaso is the most exquisitely written account ever published on pedophilia and sexual abuse from the survivor's perspective

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:04 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Perhaps the single squickiest book I've read in a body horror sense is The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus.

Yoko Ogawa writes amazing stuff that's somewhere between squicky and existentially disconcerting. Start with The Diving Pool; I haven't read her new one, "Revenge," but it looks promising.

(Her "The Housekeeper and the Professor" is a much fluffier/happier book.)
posted by Jeanne at 8:06 PM on June 20, 2013


James Ellroy and Jim Thompson, perhaps? Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden is like a sparely written Flowers in the Attic.
posted by ifjuly at 8:15 PM on June 20, 2013


Child of God by Cormac McCarthy is also very, very disturbing.

Charles Burns for comics. Black Hole, for example.
posted by furiousthought at 8:21 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Last Days by Brian Evenson. The blurb called it "intense and profoundly upsetting" and I have to agree.
posted by mogget at 8:22 PM on June 20, 2013


I don't want to sound dismissive; many of the books mentioned above will probably disturb you to some degree.

Jack Ketchum's The Woman will make you wish you never asked this question. Because you'll be so engaged and titillated by the vilest fictional depravity that you'll doubt your own decency.

And his The Girl Next Door will make you wish you never learned to read... because it's sicker... it's even more engaging... and it's true.
posted by nicwolff at 8:23 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and when you recover from those and want a little lighter reading, Gillian Flynn's first two books, Dark Places and Sharp Objects, are much creepier than Gone Girl, although less structurally twisted.
posted by nicwolff at 8:27 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


In The Prague Cemetery, Umberto Eco set out to create the most despicable protagonist possible in order to tell a horrifying, yet true, historic tale of hate, deception, and destruction. He succeeded.
posted by The World Famous at 8:29 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I will never, ever read it again. In The Cut by Susanna Moore. I threw it behind the couch when I was done reading it and then retrieved it, reread the last page and threw it back behind the couch. Where it stayed until I had to return it to the library.

Someone above mentioned McCarthy's The Road. I read really quickly and it took me a month to read that book because I could only read a few pages at a time before setting it down and walking away.

And I agree with nicwolff: do any amount of reading about the Sylvia Likens case, fictional or non. Squicked is not the word for it.
posted by Aquifer at 8:30 PM on June 20, 2013


Yes, I was just coming in here to urge you to NOT read Jack Ketchum, despite the fact that he's an obvious answer to this question. A low point of humanity. A mental stain you might not ever wash off.

Also, if you're willing to expand your circle to include novel-like non-fiction, there is a sequence in "Under the Banner of Heaven" that still haunts me.
posted by jbickers at 8:32 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
posted by fuse theorem at 8:42 PM on June 20, 2013


Anything by Caitlin Kiernan. I haven't read the newer stuff but her Birmingham books will haunt me forever, I'm afraid. And I'm going to second Lives of the Monster Dogs, which I couldn't even get through. Also, an oldie: High Wind in Jamaica -another that I was unable to finish due to the overwhelming creepiness factor.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:45 PM on June 20, 2013


If you like The Stand you might like McCammon's Swan Song.
posted by maggieb at 9:17 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aren't all of you forgetting "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov?
posted by chrchr at 9:21 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seone already mentioned Dennis Cooper but seriously, The Marbled Swarm. I have a hard time even looking at the book as an innocent object. In addition to its deeply disturbing content, it also features the most accurate and hilarious description of Leonardo DiCaprio's facial features I've ever heard.
posted by Lieber Frau at 9:24 PM on June 20, 2013


I'm a poor judge of what should be disturbing, but judging by the reaction of friends, Coin Locker Babies and anything by J. T. LeRoy are worth a try.
posted by eotvos at 9:54 PM on June 20, 2013


Apparently I answer every book question with "A.L. Kennedy", but her books are perfect for this. Not supernatural at all, just a sense of horrible dread that hangs over most everything, and so well written.
posted by outfielder at 9:57 PM on June 20, 2013


THE VORRH
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:57 PM on June 20, 2013


High Rise, J. G. Ballard

The Road, mentioned above, left me feeling empty inside. In the best possible way.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:19 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry by Zoran Drvenkar.
posted by mlis at 10:39 PM on June 20, 2013


Also "The Painted Bird" by Jerzy Kosinski.
posted by Rash at 10:46 PM on June 20, 2013


A friend of mine describes Flowers for Algernon as "deeply disturbing", to the extent that I've been avoiding reading it.
posted by yohko at 10:54 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Our Guys by Bernard Lefkowitz.
posted by Rash at 10:55 PM on June 20, 2013


Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z Brite's a bit of a squickout.

Let the Right One In is fantastic, but if you want some serious squick go for Lindqvist's follow up Handling the Dead. Much squickier and less psychological.

Jess Bullington's The Enterprise of Death is also amazingly good, but with some seriously squicky bits.
posted by Jilder at 2:06 AM on June 21, 2013


Came in to suggest the obvious Lolita (sooo beautifully written), but as that's been recommended, I'd say Elfriede Jelinek's The Piano Teacher would likely fit your requirements. Pretty sure I lack the stomach for it, but it's supposed to be remarkable.
posted by tiger tiger at 3:48 AM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I strongly recommend Blindsight by Peter Watts (available online for free).

If you're open to non-fiction, Devil in the White City will leave a mark, particularly with the descriptions of the custom-built 'Murder Castle'. The non-disturbing parts are also great.
posted by inire at 4:04 AM on June 21, 2013


Came in to suggest The Wasp Factory and Geek Love. Glad to see all I need to do is strongly second both.
posted by flabdablet at 4:31 AM on June 21, 2013


Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin, more disturbing than the very disturbing movie.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, ditto.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:31 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you can handle Scottish dialect How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman is excellent. It tells the story of a minor crim who goes blind, written in first person almost stream of consciousness. I was with that character for the entire way. I've re-read it a few times over the years and it is almost as disturbing every time.

The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe is the story of a boy who slowly but inexorably goes mad. Told in first person Irish dialect, it is my favourite book of all time. Incredibly disturbing. "The Dead School" by the same author is also worth reading, and "Breakfast on Pluto". Pretty much all of his books, actually.
posted by h00py at 5:49 AM on June 21, 2013


A Clockwork Orange
posted by Cygnet at 5:51 AM on June 21, 2013


The Burke series of novels (Hard Candy, Down in the Zero, etc.) by Andrew Vachss deals pretty bluntly with some dark, below-the-underbelly-of-society stuff.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:52 AM on June 21, 2013


Seconding 'Blood Meridian'. The Judge. Jesus that guy. Also 'House of Leaves' has the scariest, loneliest psychological moment that pure text has ever given me.
posted by umberto at 6:11 AM on June 21, 2013


Brief Interviews with Hideous Men? Not quite suspenseful but very disturbing, at least to me (and thought-provoking and well-written).
posted by mlle valentine at 6:27 AM on June 21, 2013


ctrl+f for "unsettling" and "disturbing" in my LibraryThing reviews gives me these:
Threats by Amelia Gray
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann
nthing Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
Maybe Patricia Highsmith in general? I'm reading The Price of Salt right now, which is much, much more disturbing than I'd anticipated.

In a lot of these, the disturbing aspect is built from the tension of reading about a sociopathic or otherwise frightening person as though the writer wants you to identify with or admire them. I love this stuff, so I'll keep an eye on everyone else's responses.
posted by libraritarian at 7:00 AM on June 21, 2013


Not a novel, but Shot In The Heart, by Mikal Gilmore, is a hauntingly disturbing book.
posted by newmoistness at 7:47 AM on June 21, 2013


The Factory series by Derek Raymond. Bleak and squalid but beautifully written.
posted by epo at 8:11 AM on June 21, 2013


For anyone like me (voracious readers? The not-easily-disturbed? Sick fucks?), who has been utterly delighted by this thread, here are the numbers thus far:

Books Recommended Most Often:
The Road - 4
The Wasp Factory - 4
We Need to Talk About Kevin - 4
Blood Meridian - 3
Geek Love - 3
House of Leaves - 2
Liminal States - 2
Lives of the Monster Dogs - 2
Lolita - 2
My Idea of Fun - 2
Perdido Street Station - 2
We Have Always Lived in the Castle - 2

Authors Recommended Most Often:
Cormac McCarthy - 9
Iain Banks - 5
Lionel Shriver - 4
Gillian Flynn - 3
Jack Ketchum - 3
Katherine Dunn - 3
Patrick McCabe - 3
China Miéville - 2
Dennis Cooper - 2
H.P. Lovecraft - 2
Ian McEwan - 2
James Ellroy - 2
Jerzy Kosinski - 2
Jim Thompson - 2
John Ajvide Lindqvist - 2
Joyce Carol Oates - 2
Kirsten Bakis - 2
Mark Z. Danielewski - 2
Michel Houellebecq - 2
Mo Hayder - 2
Shirley Jackson - 2
Thomas Harris - 2
Vladimir Nabokov - 2
Will Self - 2
Yoko Ogawa - 2
Zack Parsons - 2
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:18 AM on June 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


Aztec by Gary Jennings is disturbing in multiple ways. It's not particularly suspenseful but damn, if you want to get dragged into a world that's your book (ignore all "sequels").
posted by h00py at 8:27 AM on June 21, 2013


Disturbing in various ways:

John Fowles' The Collector.

Ted Chiang: Stories of Your Life and Others, particularly 'Story of Your Life'.

Flannery O'Connor's short stories are a lot of things, but disturbing is certainly among them.

Kobo Abe's The Woman in the Dunes.
posted by Bourbonesque at 8:27 AM on June 21, 2013


Also by John Fowles: The Magus
posted by seemoreglass at 9:07 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, from the universe of manga, check out

...anything by Tatsumi
posted by Rash at 9:42 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Player of Games or Use of Weapons, both by Iain M Banks. Sadly missed.
posted by w0mbat at 9:55 AM on June 21, 2013


God is a Bullet. I couldn't finish it.

Mortality Bridge.
posted by xedrik at 10:00 AM on June 21, 2013


Plus, I gotta say, it's hard to find anything squickier than American Psycho.
posted by umberto at 10:27 AM on June 21, 2013


Try The Orphan Master's Son if you haven't already. The author, Adam Johnson, won a Pulitzer. I read it based on the thread earlier this month about the sushi chef for Kim Jong Il. It is disturbing, and uplifting, and might be a nearly true representation of life in North Korea.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:29 AM on June 21, 2013


In a Shallow Grave - James Purdy

Crash - J.G. Ballard (High Rise works too)

I'm not a big horror reader, but some Clive Barker definitely works. I still remember the story "In the Hills, the Cities" being pretty memorable.

Some stories in Barry Hannah's Airships are really dark, others are funny, all are good.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 1:59 PM on June 21, 2013


I'm a new member, so I'm still learning how to navigate. If someone already posted this response, I'm sorry! I'll get better with time. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami...the whole book itself isn't gross, but there's one section of very realistic and vividly disturbing. It also draws out for pages and pages. It made my skin crawl and gave me nightmares.
posted by MyOwnOpus at 4:12 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
When The Tree Sings
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:23 AM on June 22, 2013


You guys are the best. I marked some best answers, but those are just the books I am going to track down and read first. I expect I will be returning to this list a lot in the months to come, and will hopefully at some point have read all these books. Thank you so much for all your help, you guys really came through for me.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 2:18 PM on June 22, 2013


Hey, AskMePeeps... I've been keeping track of all the recommendations in this thread (since so many of them are deeply, deeply up my alley), and now that the pace has slowed a bit, I figured I'd share the full list with y'all:

The Compleat Squicky:
Abe, Kobo - The Woman in the Dunes
Appelfeld, Aharon - [All Works By Author]
Asher, Neal - The Spatterjay Series
Atwood, Margaret - The Handmaid's Tale
Backderf, Derf - My Friend Dahmer
Bakis, Kirsten - Lives of the Monster Dogs
Ballard, J.G. - Crash; High Rise
Banks, Iain - Complicity; The Player of Games; The Wasp Factory; Use of Weapons
Barker, Clive - In the Hills, In the Cities
Bishop, KJ - The Etched City
Blatty, William Peter - The Exorcist
Bolano, Roberto - 2666
Boyett, Steven - Mortality Bridge
Bradfield, Scott - History of Luminous Motion
Brite, Poppy - Exquisite Corpse
Bullington, Jess - The Enterprise of Death
Burgess, Anthony - A Clockwork Orange
Burns, Charles - Black Hole
Cain, Chesea - Heartsick
Capote, Truman - In Cold Blood
Catling, Brian - The Vorrh
Cave, Nick - And The Ass Saw The Angel
Chiang, Ted - Stories of Your Life and Others
Clowes, Daniel - [All Works By Author]
Cooper, Dennis - Frisk; The Marbled Swarm
Danielewski, Mark - House of Leaves
Donoghue, Emma - Room
Drvenkar, Zoran - Sorry
Dunn, Katherine - Geek Love
Dyer, Geoff - Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
Eco, Umberto - The Prague Cemetery
Ellroy, James - L.A. Quartet
Evenson, Brian - Last Days
Flynn, Gillian - Dark Places; Gone Girl; Sharp Objects
Fowles, John - The Collector; The Magus
Fragaso, Margaux - Tiger, Tiger
Gilman, Charlottle Perkins - The Yellow Wallpaper
Gilmore, Mikal - Shot in the Heart
Graham, Peter - So Brilliantly Clever
Gray, Amelia - Threats
Hannah, Barry - Airships
Haviaras, Stratis - When the Tree Sings
Hayder, Mo - Birdman; The Treatment
Highsmith, Patricia - The Price of Salt; The Talented Mr. Ripley
Houellebecq, Michel - Platform; The Elementary Particles
Hughes, Richard - High Wind in Jamaica
Ishiguro, Kazuo - Never Let Me Go
Ito, Junji - Uzumaki
Jackson, Shelley - Half Life
Jackson, Shirley - We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Jason - Low Moon
Jekkings, Gary - Aztec
Jelinek, Elfriede - The Piano Teacher
Johnson, Adam - Orphan Master's Son
Kelman, James - How Late It Was, How Late
Kennedy, A.L. - [All Works By Author]
Ketchum, Jack - The Girl Next Door; The Woman
Keyes, Daniel - Flowers for Algernon
Kiernan, Caitlin - [All Works By Author]
Koja, Kathe - The Cipher
Kosinski, Jerzy - Cockpit; The Painted Bird
Krakauer, Jon - Under the Banner of Heaven
Larson, Erik - Devil in the White City
Larsson, Stieg - Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Lefkowitz, Bernard - Our Guys
Lehane, Dennis - Shutter Island
LeRoy, J.T. - [All Works By Author]
Levenda, Peter - Sinister Forces Trilogy
Levin, Ira - Rosemary's Baby
Ligotti, Thomas - [All Works By Author]
Lindqvist, John - Handling the Dead; Let the Right One In
Lovecraft, H.P. - The Case of Charles Dexter Ward; At the Mountains of Madness
Lutes, Jason - Jar of Fools
Marcus, Ben - The Flame Alphabet
McCabe, Patrick - Breakfast on Pluto; The Butcher Boy; The Dead School
McCammon, Robert - Swan Song
McCann, Maria - As Meat Loves Salt
McCarthy, Cormac - Blood Meridian; Child of God; The Road
McEwan, Ian - The Cement Garden; The Innocent
Mieville, China - Perdido Street Station
Moore, Susanna - In The Cut
Murakami, Haruki - Wind Up Bird Chronicle
Murakami, Ryu - Coin Locker Babies
Nabokov, Vladimir - Lolita
Oates, Joyce Carol - We Were the Mulvaneys; Zombie
Ogawa, Yoko - Revenge; The Diving Pool
Parsons, Zack - Liminal States
Pears, Iain - An Instance of the Fingerpost
Pollock, Donald Ray - The Devil All the Time
Purdy, James - In a Shallow Grave
Raymond, Derek - The Factory Series
Sammon, Paul - Splatterpunks
Schlink, Bernhard - The Reader
Scott, Elizabeth - Living Dead Girl
Self, Will - My Idea of Fun
Shirley, John - Wetbones
Shriver, Lionel - We Need To Talk About Kevin
Sleator, William - House of Stairs
Strieber, Whitley - The Wolfen
Suskind, Patrick - Perfume
Tatsumi, Yoshihiro - [All Works By Author]
Teran, Boston - God is a Bullet
Thompson, Jim - The Killer Inside Me
Thomson, Rupert - The Insult
Trondheim, Lewis - A.L.I.E.E.E.N.
Trumbo, Dalton - Johnny Got His Gun
Umezu, Kazuo - The Drifting Classroom
Vachss, Andrew - The Burke Series
Wallace, David Foster - Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Waters, Sarah - A Little Stranger
Watts, Peter - Blindsight
Williams, Conrad - The Unblemished
Williams, Walter Jon - Days of Atonement
Womack, Jack - Random Acts of Senseless Violence
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:19 AM on June 24, 2013 [23 favorites]


eponysterically, i specialized in this literature growing up.

A few authors that weren't mentioned:

Irvine Welsh: Filth and Marabou Stork Nightmares (and several others) likely apply here.

Richard Grossman: The Alphabet Man

Matthew Stokoe - Cows, High Life

William Burroughs: Naked Lunch

Also, I dunno, but I was reading Toni Morrison's Beloved in a big, empty house in the middle of the night all alone and I got to the part with the baby ghost and it was pretty scary!

... GoodReads has a decent list of 500 picks. Most of these are on there. (As is the Holy Bible. Several times. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:43 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Linda Barry's Cruddy is the best thing I've read so far this year. As I told a fellow Mefite a few weeks ago, it's sort of like if Judy Blume wrote Natural Born Killers. Barry's got just the right touch with the voice of the teenage narrator--funny and believable but not too much that it gets irritating.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:52 PM on June 26, 2013


How could I have forgotten -- Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.
posted by Rash at 5:16 PM on July 3, 2013


I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier haunted me for weeks after reading it. Actually, just thinking about it makes me want to shudder and it's been years since I read it. It's another YA book but it's definitely worth reading.
posted by kassila at 11:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Marcus, Ben - The Flame Alphabet

Wow. That's a well written book with a lot of interesting things to say, but yeah, it was tough for me to read (got it from my online library).

It wasn't the body horror so much (tho I can understand that), it was the father-daughter relationship and all of its attendant horrors. As a parent of two young girls, it was crushing (though not nearly as bad as I expected the ending to be -- Child's Play, indeed.)

Also, I wanted more of a payoff. In that way, it reminded me of Immobility by aforementioned Brian Evenson. It was disturbing, but I can't recommend it.

I thought of another one that's borderline candidate:

The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns. I wouldn't have thought it was disturbing but describing the plot and events to my wife she said "ew." The payoff is *almost* as predictable as those above, but maybe just not enough to make it OK. And the pace/plot/dialogue are better than most (if a bit movified.)
posted by mrgrimm at 2:58 PM on July 9, 2013


Wanted to come in and suggest a book to all of you: Tampa by Alissa Nutting
posted by SkylitDrawl at 6:09 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Julthumbscrew thank you so much for the list! My tastes run in this direction too so I've ordered a bunch from Amazon and they're now starting to arrive :-)
posted by Susan PG at 11:20 AM on August 2, 2013


SkylitDrawl, I just started Tampa last night, and oh boy. Squick city, but well done.
posted by palomar at 3:05 PM on November 8, 2013


This is several months late, but I cannot believe that no one suggested The End of Alice by AM Homes. I have an extremely strong stomach, but this book -- and the previously mentioned American Psycho -- succeeded in turning it.
posted by houndsoflove at 9:02 PM on June 13, 2014


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