Dark Satire Thrillers: The 20 Best Books Like American Psycho

American Psycho is one of the most popular books and subsequent films of all time. Written by Bret Easton Ellis in 1991, the story tells of a strange, multidimensional man working on Wall Street.

Dark Satire Thrillers: The 20 Best Books Like American Psycho

While he seems the same as all the other bright, smartly-dressed investment bankers working in Manhattan, there is much more to Patrick Bateman than meets the eye.

Providing insights into his work and private life respectively, Ellis builds one of the most complex characters in literature that has drawn the attention of millions of readers and viewers.

Not only does Bateman make his life complicated through his marriage and affairs but by night, he works as a serial killer. 

This story tells of the twisted, dark side of the average man, outlining what people are capable of and how some think. It delves deep into the human psyche, explaining Bateman’s priorities, desires, and thoughts. 

The novel is written through an intensely satirical narrative that reveals the true purpose of the text – the mocking of successful wall street workers with seemingly perfect lives. Ellis jibes at the mental sacrifice some make for money and mocks the immorality of wealthy lifestyles.

This psychological thriller will have you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire read and the accompanying film, made in 2000 and starring Christian Bale, Jared Leto, and Willem Dafoe is a brilliant watch – after you’ve finished the book of course!

Between the two texts, this story has generated millions of dollars, won a string of well-deserved awards, and remains a modern classic among literature and film lovers alike. 

If you’ve read and enjoyed American Psycho, or you’re just intrigued by the synopsis, here are 20 similar books to add to your reading list.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club: A Novel

This book is equally as thrilling and disturbing as American Psycho. The message of the book advocates for personal growth. It uses graphic, violent, and dark descriptions of psychological development and decline to emphasize that people must hit rock bottom before they can begin growing again.

This book is fast-paced and gripping and involves a huge amount of violent fighting (hence the name). If you enjoyed American Psycho you will certainly love Fight Club. It delves directly into the mentality of youths and provides an enthralling story of psychological development during adolescence and early adulthood.

The film adaptation directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, and Jared Leto was a massive success, raking in millions of dollars and remaining a classic modern film today.

Consider giving this a miss if you’re a parent of a teen or young adult – it may be enlightening in all the wrong ways!

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

First published in 1962, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a novel set in a psychiatric hospital in Oregon. It is narrated by a patient from within this hospital and tells of the issues with psychiatric treatment in America during the ‘50s and 60s

One of the most gripping parts of the novel is the narration – because it is written by a character who has been determined criminally insane, the reader never fully knows whether or not to trust him.

The protagonist provokes a rebellion with a group of patients and attempts to escape after concluding that their authoritative nurse is taking advantage of their vulnerabilities and is part of a larger scheme to keep them under control. 

This book was made into a successful film adaptation in 1975 and is a classic narrative telling of psychological trauma, vulnerability, and control.

Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter)

This novel is one of the most-read novels in the genre. Silence of the Lambs follows criminal mastermind Hannibal Lecter during his time in a highly-secure prison. 

He is a twisted and incredibly intelligent psychopath who provides FBI agent Clarice Sterling with an insight into the strategic mind of a criminal in order to find and arrest a serial killer. 

This book will have you gasping every page turn, you never know where you stand with Mr. Lecter. 

Layer Cake by J.J. Connolly

Layer Cake

Set in London in the 1990s, Layer Cake tells the story of an unnamed drug dealer, whose story exposes the multidimensional ‘layers’ of the drug world. 

Filled with twists and turns right until the very end, this novel will have you gripped the entire way through. It divulges into the psyche of those at the top of the drug chain, juxtaposing these figures with the desperation of their addicted clients.

This novel was made increasingly popular by the film adaptation of the same name, starring Daniel Craig, Michael Gambon, and Tom Hardy. 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange

This book follows many of the same gritty themes explored in American Psycho but adds an interesting dystopian feel. Set in a futuristic, totalitarian city where youth violence dominates the streets, Burgess tells the story of a juvenile delinquent who receives psychological treatment, funded by the state, as a result of his uncontrolled behavior.

A Clockwork Orange interestingly mixes the dramatic psychological elements of all the books listed thus far but weaves them into a satirical narrative mocking the control and authority modern-day governments have. 

Fantastically intriguing, brilliantly violent, and thought-provoking. This one is not one to miss!

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk


Another novel by Chuck Palahniuk just demonstrates how talented this author is within the criminal/psychological/thriller genre.

This protagonist is a sex-obsessed psychopath and con man, who is only able to pay for his mother’s hospital care by eating at various restaurants and pretending to choke. 

There reaches a point at which the protagonist, Victor Mancini, reflects on his early life and decisions, forcing him to delve deep into his psyche to uncover how he became a sex addict, criminal, and psychopath.

Choke is brilliantly written and will immerse you in a new mindset.

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men

This 2005 bombshell centers around the events following a failed drug deal. It uncovers many of the ugly secrets of modern life and follows the man who accidentally witnesses the scene. 

After being in the wrong place at the wrong time, our protagonist gets followed and harassed by a sociopathic hitman. 

No Country For Old Men uncovers murder, drug hauls, manipulation, violence, and threat – not one for the faint-hearted.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov


This Russian classic is the ultimate unreliable narrator story. Lolita is a tale of violence, sex, and twisted psychology that will keep you guessing through every chapter.

It follows the literature professor who uses a pseudonym in his own narration (already rings alarm bells), who becomes infatuated with 12-year-old Dolores Haze. He kidnaps, sexually assaults, and manipulates her – and this is his autobiography written during his time in a psychological institute and prison. 

This fascinating but harrowing novel provides an awful insight into the pedophilic mindset, as this perverted character realizes his wrongdoings and reflects on his previous actions and thought processes.

This will be an uncomfortable read for many, but the themes of violence, horror, reflection, and psychology earned this book’s place on this list.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh


This brilliantly written, gritty, and violent book uncovers the trauma and harrowing experience of drug addiction. The story follows a group of heroin addicts as they all tackle the financial, emotional, and relational impacts of drug use.

Trainspotting is a story of desperation, recovery, and relapse and is one of the few texts out there that really encapsulates what addiction is like and how it affects the mind. 

The Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. 

Last Exit to Brooklyn (Evergreen Book)

This 1958 novel is set in 1950s Brooklyn and reveals the underbelly of life in New York City. It follows the lives of neighboring residents and interpolates crime, poverty, violence, sexual abuse, prostitution, assault, and drug use. 

The Last Exit to Brooklyn is a tragic, authentic, and unfiltered story that captures the desperation and trauma experienced by the New York lower classes.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Girl, Interrupted: A Memoir

Girl Interrupted is a 1993 best-selling memoir, which tells of Kaysen’s experiences in a psychiatric hospital during the 1960s. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and goes into great detail about her mental illness, how it felt to live with a mental disorder and her experiences inside a psychiatric hospital.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar (Modern Classics)

This is one of the best-selling feminist novels of all time and for good reason. Protagonist Esther Greenwood struggles with the pressures of adolescence, finding her passion, and fulfilling her dream to become a poet. 

She has a brilliant mind, but when she begins struggling with identity issues and cannot face the pressures of female societal expectations, she is forced into a psychiatric hospital.

Told from one of the best writers in her generation and by a writer who personally struggled with mental health issues until her suicide in 1963, The Bell Jar provides an accurate insight into the mind of the mentally ill.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks


Narrated by 16-year-old Frank, The Wasp Factory provides insight into the mind of a childhood murderer. 

Frank claims he killed 3 of his relatives under the influence of The Wasp Factory, who told him how to kill his victims. As a 16-year-old, he now lives isolated on an island and tells the story of control, dictation, and uncontrollable violence.

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Tender Is the Flesh

Tender is the Flesh tells the story of a highly contagious virus that wipes out the consumption of all meat. The story, set some time in the future, tells of the human decline to cannibalism and through violence, psychology, and murder, details the extent of human desperation.

Brightness Falls by Jay McInerney

Brightness Falls

If you loved the paradox created in American Psycho between the seemingly perfect lives and the devastating psychological impacts of Wall Street careers, this book is for you.

Brightness Falls portrays the lives of characters who have found success on Wall Street and then lose sight of priorities, wealth, and morality later in life.

Details of marriage, loss, alcoholism, violence, manipulation, and greed run throughout to create this fantastically honest and thought-provoking text.

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo


Cosmopolis meticulously details the harrowing experience of insomnia. It follows a 28-year-old billionaire whose insular life of technology, money, and greed has disconnected him from reality.

Intertwining crime, murder, sex, violence, and psychology, this novel is a fantastic, toned-down version of American Psycho for those who loved the concept and themes but could not stomach the graphic descriptions.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient

This best-selling novel tells the story of Alicia, who murders her husband and becomes silent during psychological treatment and criminal interviews. 

Her doctor, Theo, becomes obsessed with unearthing the truth behind the case and dedicates his life to finding out her motive.

A story of obsession, psychological decline, murder, and marriage, The Silent Patient is deserving of all the praise.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

After taking the same train every morning, Rachel becomes accustomed to the regulars, including one married couple she takes a particular interest in. 

When she uncovers more about this couple and witnesses their toxic relationship, she becomes far too involved. 

This is the story of what psychologically drove Rachel to uncover secrets and resolve mysteries that have nothing to do with her. The Girl on the Train maintains a very good reputation and is one of the top psychological and crime thrillers out there.

Misery by Stephen King

Misery: A Novel

A car crash leads famous novelist Paul Sheldon to the home of his top fan Annie Wilkes. But what first seems like a brave rescue, soon turns into a horror story. 

Annie quickly reveals herself as a psychopath and Paul is trapped. The story tells of deep psychological issues, torture, and twisted fantasies. Misery is one of King’s best novels.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Another McCarthy favorite. Blood Meridian tells the story of a 14-year-old who joins a ruthless gang filled with mysterious and dangerous criminals. 

This novel is cut-throat and violent but brilliantly written, bound to keep any American Psycho fan satisfied.

Final Thoughts

Any of these 20 books will give you the same psychological, criminal thrill you loved in American Psycho. Gritty, violent, and satirical, these thrillers all deserve every positive review.

Frequently Asked Questions

Was American Psycho banned?

In the 90s following the release of the book, it was named the 53rd most banned book, claiming to be ‘harmful’ to minors.

Is American Psycho a difficult book to read?

In terms of language, the book is no different from any other contemporary novel. However, thematically, the book is challenging because the reader has to absorb graphic descriptions of violence, sex, drug use, mental illness, and gore. If you are sensitive to any of these topics or may find any of them triggering, please consider reading another book instead.

What is the most graphic part of American Psycho?

Many readers have claimed one particular scene as the hardest to read. At one point, the protagonist sexually tortures an ex-girlfriend. This will be extremely hard for some people to read and we recommend reading with caution or skipping this book out completely if you struggle with these themes.

What does American Psycho criticize?

The way in which people are consumed by capitalism and the influence capitalism has on our humanity.

How old should you be to read American Psycho?

This book, or the film adaptation, should not be read or watched by children under the age of 18. If you are an adult who may find some of the themes mentioned triggering, you may want to give this one a miss too.

YouTube video
Colton Cowie