One of the most common themes looked for in different media forms is violence. Whether they’re looking to watch a film, read a book, or play a video game, a lot of people will actively search for something with a violent nature.
Whether it’s the thrill that comes with action-packed fight scenes or the anticipation and excitement that comes with gore, there’s no doubt that violence is among one of the favorite themes in film and literature.
With that being said, there’s no wonder that Fight Club in both its literary and film varieties, was so popular and became an immediate classic. Chuck Palahniuk sold 605,197 copies according to his publisher and when the film adaptation was released in 1999, starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, it allowed a whole new audience to devour the story and attracted some back to the original book.
The book is a quick read, mainly because of its fast-paced nature and gripping plot lines, and follows an unnamed protagonist who suffers from insomnia. It’s a story that follows his downfall and in desperation and out of boredom, he and an unlikely friend set up a ‘fight club’ through which they fight others who are bored with their normal lives and experiment with drugs.
The novel is a gripping action thriller that follows the psychology of the protagonist, through mental conditions, drugs, and fights. The main message of the book advocates for personal growth, highlighting that you must hit rock bottom before you get better.
Fight Club is openly satirical of masculinity and capitalism, using hyper masculine characters to emphasize the absurdity of aggressive behavior. Dark humor runs throughout which helps to shine a light on the social commentary, making for a hilarious, gripping read.
If you haven’t already read or watched Fight Club we recommend doing so, especially if you’re a fan of violent psychological thrillers. Both texts are well done and highly rated and will leave you assessing the social and individual criticisms.
If this sounds up your street, take a closer look at the 20 books on this list. All of these are fantastic novels and are sure to make you laugh, shiver, and cringe.
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
This book was published in 1934 and banned quickly afterward in the U.S. and UK after being labeled pornographic and vulgar.
It provides a very real and candid portrait of American society. The premise was simple – it follows an American writer who lives a chilled-out, gritty life filled with drugs, prostitutes, artists, and pimps.
Tropic of Cancer is not as violent as Fight Club, but its gritty portrayal of the American underbelly that serves as the reality of so many citizens is unmatched. The novel was smuggled into the U.S. and the UK after continuing to be distributed around France. Be sure to see what all the fuss was about, you won’t be disappointed.
Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr.
This is a brilliantly written story that hones in on the life of drug obsession. What starts originally as a money-making idea involving a lump of heroin, soon becomes the tragic story of how drugs consume people; how addiction can ruin lives physically and mentally, how drugs can have devastating effects on behavior, corrupt your priorities, and unleash violence you never knew you had.
Requiem for a Dream is one of the most brutally honest depictions of drug abuse out there. Its graphic detail and vivid descriptions are toe-curling and its psychological insights are eye-opening.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
This is one of the best-selling novels and highest-grossing films of all time, proving that the story is worth reading.
The story follows Patrick Bateman, a young, good-looking man full of potential. He has recently moved to the exciting and glamorous city of Manhattan, which in the 1980s held the reputation as the ‘city of dreams’.
He earns millions working on Wall Street and is seemingly one of the best in the business. But Bateman’s life is double-sided. He is also a psychopath. This side of him is willing to torture, torment, and kill.
American Psycho is one of the most violent stories out there, known for its graphic depictions of drug use, torture, murder, and sex.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Based on a true story, Blood Meridian tells of the horrendous crimes committed on the American-Mexican border during the 1850s, as native Indians were brutally murdered.
This gruesome tale is very graphic in its description of murder and scalpings but tells of the true, violent nature of the American West, which is too often romanticized in literature and film.
Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
From the same author who wrote Fight Club is this innovative novel, which intends to criticize the shallow nature of society and shine a light on the superficiality of beauty.
Invisible Monsters follows a young, beautiful fashion model, who has the perfect life – every man wants her and every woman wants to be her.
Until she is involved in a brutal accident that leaves her deformed, unrecognizable, and entirely different. As her looks disappear, so do those that admire her and we are left with the monster that resides underneath.
Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
This is one of the most popular psychological thrillers ever written and since the film adaptation was released in 1991 starring Anthony Hopkins and Josie Foster, the popularity of the original novel has only increased.
The story follows Clarice, an FBI agent tasked with interviewing criminal mastermind and sociopath Hannibal Lecter in order to help track down and better understand a new serial killer on the scene.
Silence of the Lambs is a fantastic novel about the complexity of the human brain, detailing how Lecter utilizes his unfathomable intelligence to manipulate Clarice from behind bars.
2666 by Robert Bolaño
2666 was inspired by Ciudad Juarez in Mexico and its reputation for gory, brutal, and unsolved murders.
Violence is core to this book and follows the intense and savage serial killings of hundreds of women. With vivid descriptions, graphic scenes, and a strong element of twisted psychology, this book is perfect for Fight Club fans seeking a little more violence.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
This is an undeniable classic written by one of the most well-recognized Russian authors of all time.
Lolita is a twisted story that follows Humbert Humbert’s obsession with a young girl. This may be an uncomfortable read for many, as it provides graphic and detailed insight into the mind of a pedophile, and depicts psychological illness and hallucination in a brilliantly horrific way. Despite all this, it will certainly be one of the most gripping books you’ll read this year.
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
This book was made into the quirky, gritty film adaptation starring Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle. Both the book and film versions have been extremely popular, and have been recognized as some of the only texts that graphically and honestly portray life dominated by drug addiction.
Trainspotting is gruesome, hard-hitting, and at times, tragic. A brilliant read if you can work your way around the strong Scottish dialect.
Flowers for Algernon by David Keyes
This award-winning novel details the journey undertaken by Charlie, a boy born with an unusually low IQ.
With nothing to lose, he chooses to volunteer for an experimental surgery that will hopefully increase his intelligence.
His experiment runs parallel to the same done on a lab mouse named Algernon. Charlie is hopeful that the procedure will work considering the success of Algernon’s but when the mouse suddenly deteriorates, it looks like Charlie might be next.
Flowers for Algernon flirts with the boundary between intelligence and madness, incorporating violence, social interaction, and medical failure to create a hugely successful novel that has been enjoyed by millions across the globe.
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
This frequently overlooked novel written by the brilliant mind who produced the dystopian giant The Handmaid’s Tale follows a young couple whose lives are continuously manipulated by political and urban issues.
The Heart Goes Last follows these two as they experience a plethora of social turbulence that gets thrown their way. This novel provides a sound social commentary while giving insight into the realities of the urban working class, including vulnerability to violence from gangs, lack of personal agency, and surveillance.
The Contortionist’s Handbook by Craig Clevenger
The Contortionist’s Handbook is a brilliantly-constructed novel that follows Johnny, who assumes numerous identities to avoid serving time in jail. He cleverly manipulates psychological tests and legal assessments that allow him to live as his facade.
As Johnny’s web of lies becomes more complex, the reader is allowed access to his inner thoughts – thoughts that tell us about the real him, his past, and what dark secrets and violent experiences have driven him to lead a false life.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
This iconic novel focuses on the famous bombings of Dresden during the Second World War, including graphic depictions of destruction, death, and injury.
Slaughterhouse-Five questions the morality of conflict, comparing the larger international acts of war with personal snippets of pain and suffering. The novel is set out like a biography, following the life of Billy Pilgrim, who worked as a soldier during World War II.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
This excellently-written novel perfectly captures the life and experiences of those living on the edge of the law. It follows the protagonist, Raoul Duke, and his attorney as they both attempt to earn big in Las Vegas, with a view to indulge in the American Dream.
Exploring drugs, violence, sex, and everything in between, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas starkly criticizes the failure of American society to cater to all.
The Stranger by Albert Camus
This novel combines violence, crime, and murder in a story that spans continents. After murdering an Arab man in French-owned Algeria, Meursault is sentenced to death.
The Stranger delves deep into his psyche and past to unravel what happened and what drove him to such violent lengths.
The Serial Killers Club by Jeff Povey
After accidentally murdering a serial killer in self-defense, a man joins a club of murderers unintentionally. Each of their true identities are hidden and no one can be trusted.
The Serial Killers analyzes the psychological factors that make up a serial killer. Using one inadvertent ‘mole’, we can finally understand the motives, lives, and nature of those we fear the most.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
A true modern classic, In Cold Blood, hones in on the murder of the Clutter family in Kansas, in 1959. Capote cleverly reconfigures the murder, dissects and analyzes it, and picks apart every section of the investigation to satisfy the reader’s intrigue.
This is one of the most gripping novels on this list and provides an accurate and terrifying insight into the nature of violent people.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
This is one of the most well-known novels from this era and is slightly different from everything else on this list. If you’re looking for something a little more wacky, this suggestion is for you.
The story follows the experiences of Gregor Samsa, who wakes up one day as a large insect and must adapt to his new condition. The Metamorphosis is a disturbing and violent book that delves into the psychology of an abuse victim.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
England, 1910. Ursula Todd is born but dies before she opens her eyes. Again, she is born and is able to cry once, before dying.
Ursula Todd is confined to a life of repetition. Each life she is given is longer, but will inevitably end and repeat.
This all occurs during a time of political and social turbulence – will Ursula’s unusual lives provide a solution for an inevitable war?
Life After Life toys with science-fiction, war, and mystery, creating an insightful and interesting story that will grip readers until the very end.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is one of the most emblematic novels in American literary history. It follows bombardier Yossarian in war-torn Italy during the Second World War.
He struggles with the concept of international conflict, confused as to why thousands of strangers are so keen to see him dead. This novel provides a hilariously honest new perspective on war, combining the classic action-packed, violent thrill of war with a thought-provoking story that shines new light on the mentalities of those at war.
These novels are some of the best comical and violent thrillers out there. They each provide their own didactic message and bring you a gripping, intelligent, and thought-provoking story. We hope this list has provided some food for thought and given you recommendations that span the classics and the more niche novels.
What age is Fight Club suitable for?
Generally, many would say that Fight Club is not recommended for children. Its graphic and violent descriptions of fight scenes, its gory nature, use of sex and drugs, and promotion of anti-social behavior are not something that many parents would like their child to read. The book can be read by over 15s, but even at this age, some of the scenes may not be appropriate.
Is Fight Club banned?
The book was banned in China and also in the U.S. for a period of time.
Why is Fight Club so controversial?
It uses antisocial characters and promotes poor behavior, meaning that its audiences are learning what not to do in society.
What does Fight Club criticize?
Its main criticisms lie with toxic masculinity and capitalist social structures.
What is the best violent book ever written?
American Psycho and The Godfather are among two of the top-rated violent novels ever written.