9 Best Disturbing Books You Should Read

If you’re a book lover, chances are you’ve already read everything you consider “good.” You’re probably looking for something that challenges your beliefs, and pushes you outside of your comfort zone. Disturbing books are the perfect way to do just that. They force readers to confront difficult and uncomfortable topics such as power, control, violence, and abuse. In this article, we’ll explore the best disturbing books you should read.

9 Best Disturbing Books You Should Read

Why Read Disturbing Books?

Before we dive into the list, it’s essential to understand why you should read disturbing books. Reading novels with dark themes can be difficult, but they also offer a unique perspective on the world. You’ll see things from a different angle and potentially discover new ideas. In many ways, they help readers grow emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Reading books with disturbing themes can be an excellent way to challenge yourself and broaden your horizons. It’s important to remember that these books are not for everyone, and it’s okay if they’re not your cup of tea. However, if you’re willing to give them a chance, you might be surprised at what you can learn.

The Appeal of Dark Themes

The reason people read disturbing books is subjective. For some, it’s the intense emotions they evoke. For others, it’s an opportunity to understand the darker side of human nature. For most readers, however, it’s a way to step outside of their comfort zone and experience something new.

Many people find that reading disturbing books helps them confront their fears and anxieties. By exposing themselves to challenging and uncomfortable situations, they can develop a greater sense of resilience and strength.

Exploring the Human Psyche

When you read books with dark themes, you get a glimpse into the complexities of human behavior. You can explore why people behave the way they do and discover what motivates them. Reading disturbing books can help you understand and make sense of the world around you.

For example, a book that explores the mind of a serial killer can help you understand the psychology behind their actions. This knowledge can be valuable in fields such as law enforcement, psychology, and criminology.

Catharsis and Emotional Release

Books with dark themes can be cathartic. They provide an outlet for pent-up emotions and can help you cope with difficult life experiences. These books can be therapeutic, helping you process your emotions and experiences in a safe and controlled environment.

For instance, if you’re going through a tough breakup, reading a book about heartbreak and loss can help you feel less alone. It can also help you process your emotions and come to terms with your feelings.

Overall, reading disturbing books can be a powerful and transformative experience. While they may not be for everyone, they offer a unique perspective on the world and can help readers grow in many ways. So why not give them a try?

The Classics of Disturbing Literature

Now that we’ve explored why you should read disturbing books, let’s get to our list of the 10 best disturbing books. Our first category is classics of disturbing literature. These books have withstood the test of time and remain relevant today.

“1984” by George Orwell

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Orwell’s “1984” is a classic dystopian novel that remains a powerful commentary on totalitarianism, censorship, and propaganda. The novel depicts a society that has been brainwashed into submission by an authoritarian government. The protagonist, Winston Smith, works for the government and begins to question the regime’s policies. As he delves deeper into the truth, he realizes the extent of the government’s control and the dangers of dissent. This novel will force you to consider important questions about power, control, and individuality.

Orwell’s novel is particularly relevant in today’s world, where governments use technology to monitor and control their citizens. The novel’s portrayal of a society where individuality is suppressed and dissent is punished is a warning about the dangers of authoritarianism. It also raises questions about the role of the media in shaping public opinion and the importance of free speech and independent thought.

“A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange

Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange” is a novel about a young man named Alex who is subjected to behavioral conditioning. The book explores themes of violence, free will, and the ethics of rehabilitation. The novel is set in a future society where youth gangs roam the streets, committing acts of violence and terror. Alex is the leader of one such gang and is eventually arrested and subjected to a controversial form of rehabilitation that removes his ability to choose between good and evil.

Burgess’s novel raises important questions about the nature of free will and the ethics of punishment. Is it ethical to force someone to behave in a certain way, even if it is for their own good? Can rehabilitation truly change a person’s nature, or is it simply a form of control? These are questions that are still relevant today, as we grapple with issues of crime and punishment.

“Lord of the Flies” by William Golding

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Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” is a haunting tale about a group of boys stranded on an uninhabited island. The novel explores the ways in which society’s rules and structures break down in the face of adversity. The boys initially try to establish a system of government and order, but as time goes on, their society devolves into chaos and violence.

The novel is a powerful commentary on the human condition and the fragility of civilization. It raises important questions about the nature of power and the role of leadership in society. It also explores the darker aspects of human nature, such as violence and cruelty. Golding’s novel is a warning about the dangers of unchecked power and the importance of maintaining social order.

Overall, these classic works of disturbing literature are still relevant today and offer important insights into the human condition. They force us to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and our society, and they challenge us to think critically about issues of power, control, and morality.

Modern Disturbing Masterpieces

Our second category is modern disturbing masterpieces. These books were written more recently but are already considered classics of disturbing literature.

“American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho (Vintage Contemporaries)

Ellis’s “American Psycho” is a dark and disturbing novel about a successful businessman who is also a psychopath. The novel is filled with graphic descriptions of violence and torture, but it’s also a commentary on the shallow and vapid nature of modern society. The novel is set in the 1980s, a time when greed and materialism were at their peak, and the protagonist, Patrick Bateman, embodies this ethos to the extreme. Bateman is a wealthy investment banker who spends his days obsessing over his appearance, his possessions, and his social status. However, beneath the surface, he is a sadistic killer who preys on women and the homeless. The novel’s violent and disturbing content has made it controversial, but it’s also a powerful critique of the excesses of capitalism and the emptiness of modern life.

The novel has been adapted into a film and a stage play, both of which have been met with controversy and critical acclaim. The film, directed by Mary Harron and starring Christian Bale as Bateman, was released in 2000 and was praised for its dark humor and satirical edge. The stage play, which premiered in London in 2013, was also well-received and featured a rotating cast of actors in the lead role.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: A Lisbeth Salander Novel (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Series Book 1)

Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a thrilling and disturbing mystery novel about a journalist and a young computer hacker. The novel explores themes of violence, power, control, and social justice. The novel’s protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, is a journalist who is hired to investigate the disappearance of a wealthy industrialist’s niece. He enlists the help of Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant and troubled computer hacker, to uncover the truth. The novel is set in Sweden and deals with issues of corruption, misogyny, and sexual violence.

The novel was a bestseller and has been adapted into several films and a television series. The first film adaptation, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and starring Noomi Rapace as Salander, was released in 2009 and was praised for its gritty and realistic portrayal of violence against women. The novel’s popularity has also sparked controversy, with some critics accusing Larsson of exploiting the trauma of sexual violence survivors for entertainment.

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl: A Novel

Flynn’s “Gone Girl” is a dark and twisted psychological thriller about a man whose wife disappears. The novel explores themes of marriage, trust, manipulation, and the complexity of the human psyche. The novel’s protagonist, Nick Dunne, is a former writer who is struggling to make ends meet. When his wife, Amy, goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary, he becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance. As the investigation unfolds, Nick’s innocence is called into question, and he must navigate a web of lies and deceit to clear his name.

The novel was a bestseller and has been adapted into a film directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. The film was praised for its dark and suspenseful atmosphere and its exploration of gender roles and societal expectations. Flynn’s novel has been criticized for its portrayal of female characters, with some critics arguing that it perpetuates harmful stereotypes about women as manipulative and deceitful.

Lesser-Known Gems of Disturbing Fiction

Our final category is lesser-known gems of disturbing fiction. These books may not be as well-known as our previous entries, but they are just as powerful and thought-provoking.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Shriver’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is a disturbing and powerful novel about a mother struggling to come to terms with her son’s violent behavior. The novel explores themes of motherhood, guilt, and the nature of evil. This novel is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the darker aspects of parenthood and human behavior.

“The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks

The Wasp Factory: A Novel

Banks’s “The Wasp Factory” is a disturbing and surreal novel about a young man living in seclusion in Scotland. The novel explores themes of identity, violence, and the supernatural. This novel is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the darker aspects of identity and what it means to be human.

“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” by Patrick Süskind

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Vintage International)

Süskind’s “Perfume” is a disturbing and beautiful novel about a young man with an exceptional sense of smell. The novel explores themes of obsession, desire, and beauty. This novel is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the darker aspects of passion and what it means to be human.


Disturbing books are not for everyone, but for those willing to take the plunge, they can be incredibly rewarding. They challenge our beliefs, push us outside of our comfort zone, and help us understand the complexity of the human psyche. In this article, we explored the 10 best disturbing books you should read, including classics of disturbing literature, modern disturbing masterpieces, and lesser-known gems of disturbing fiction. So what are you waiting for? Dive into one of these books today.


What genre do disturbing books belong to?

Typically, disturbing books belong to the horror genre. However, there are several psychological thrillers and dark fantasy novels that also meet the criteria of disturbing fiction.

Why do people enjoy reading disturbing books?

Disturbing books provide a safe space in which both readers and writers can explore darker, more sinister themes. Confronting these issues in fiction, through metaphors and abstract imagery, makes it easier to process them in day-to-day life.

What age range are disturbing books suitable for?

Disturbing fiction is normally reserved for adult readers due to the dark, unsettling themes it explores. Some YA fiction may begin to explore sinister themes without delving into them as deeply.

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Eddison Monroe
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