Argentine author Agustina Bazterrica’s 2017 novel, Cadáver exquisito, first appeared in English in 2020. The book proved to be a smash hit among English-language readers, who know it better as Tender Is the Flesh. We’ve got the 20 best books like Tender Is the Flesh picked out for you below. Keep scrolling to read more about the book and take a look at our reading recommendations.
Tender Is the Flesh imagines a possible near future in which a zoonotic virus has forced humanity to find protein sources besides animal flesh. Some people have chosen to go vegan, if only because they can’t stomach the mainstream alternative. In the aftermath of the pandemic, society has normalized and subsidized cannibalism. The meatpacking industry has shifted to processing human flesh, and most people seem to have gotten used to the new normal by the time the novel opens.
Bazterrica’s slim book explores what makes us human…and reveals just how easily we can neglect and abandon members of our own species. It goes without saying that fans of literary fiction and horror will find a lot to love here. Tender Is the Flesh is an absolutely riveting read, provided you can stomach the constant dehumanization and gore. And trust us, there’s plenty of gore.
About Tender Is the Flesh
Society has stripped certain humans of their rights in Tender Is the Flesh, to such an extent that it is now illegal to even refer to them as human. Called “special meat” or “head”—as in “heads of cattle”—these individuals have their vocal cords removed and are raised outside of mainstream society so that they never learn to speak. In spite of this, it’s clear that the heads understand what is happening to them; pregnant heads must have their limbs removed so that they do not induce their own miscarriages.
The novel centers on Marcos, a slaughterhouse worker whose life is in shambles. He abhors the special meat industry, but his career as a middleman—neither breeding nor slaughtering the heads—allows him to consider himself somewhat blameless in the process. Marcos shoulders the responsibility of his elderly father’s care alone, having separated from his wife following the tragic death of their infant son.
Marcos’ interpersonal relationships grow hopelessly tangled when he’s gifted an FGP—“First Generation Pure”—woman to eat. Instead of slaughtering her, he instead treats her as quasi-human and initiates a sexual “relationship”—one to which she is unable to consent.
Bazterrica’s novel is a fascinating and brutal read. We’ve got 20 more books like Tender Is the Flesh for you below.
Best Books Like Tender Is the Flesh
Full Immersion by Gemma Amor
Gemma Amor’s Full Immersion centers on Magpie, whose personal life had already taken a downturn by the time she discovered her own dead body abandoned near a river. She can’t remember what happened, and someone is watching her every move. But how much of Magpie’s ordeal is real, and how much is the stuff of science fiction and fantasy?
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
This short debut packs a real punch. Frank Cauldhame killed three other children before he turned 16, including his own brother. He hasn’t been caught. Living with his father on a secluded island off the Scottish coast, Frank devotes his life to the strange rituals he conducts using parts of small animals. The Wasp Factory offers an unflinching look into the mind of a deeply disturbed boy.
In the Garden of Spite author Camilla Bruce revisits the story of the Bloody Benders in this historical novel. Based on the real-life story of a family of serial killers who preyed upon travelers in southeastern Kansas in the early 1870s, All the Blood We Share follows Kate Bender: a young spiritualist whose talents as a medium draw unsuspecting victims to her family’s trailside inn.
Desert Creatures by Kay Chronister
A teenage girl born with a clubfoot takes center stage in Kay Chronister’s Desert Creatures. Magdala was 11 years old when she lost her father to the mysterious plague that killed everyone in their traveling party. Seven years later, she sets out across the desert to complete their waylaid pilgrimage. Her destination is Las Vegas, where healers and holy men reportedly minister to the faithful. To get there, Magdala will need to find someone who knows the way. But will her new party encounter the same disease that killed her father?
Bones and All by Camille DeAngelis
Now a film starring Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) and Taylor Russell (Waves), Camille DeAngelis’ Bones and All centers on 16-year-old Maren, who has engaged in cannibalism ever since she was a toddler. She and her mother are unable to settle in any place for too long; Maren’s cravings for human flesh always get the better of her. When her mother leaves her to fend for herself just after her 16th birthday, Maren goes off in search of her estranged father, and finds that she isn’t the only “eater” in the world.
Meat by Joseph D’Lacey
Business and faith collide in Joseph D’Lacey’s Meat. Set in a small town in which eating meat is a religious obligation—and veganism a heresy punishable by death—Meat follows the town’s top-performing slaughterhouse worker, Richard Santi, whose work belies his secret refusal to eat meat. Change is coming to this little corner of the world, which is rumored to be the only piece of habitable land left on earth. But in a war between compulsive carnivores, which side of the battle will Santi choose?
This 2023 offering from Things We Lost in the Fire author Mariana Enríquez follows a widower and his son as they journey toward the boy’s inheritance: a place of honor in a powerful, cultic Order. Gaspar is still grieving the loss of his mother when her family attempts to pull him into the fold. Once the boy sees inside the Order’s rotten heart, however, Gaspar and his father flee—with the cult close on their heels—in Our Share of Night.
Lakewood by Megan Giddings
Lakewood is an atmospheric horror novel grounded in the vilest facts of U.S. history. Confronted with her family’s grievous finances in the wake of her grandmother’s death, Lena, a young Black woman, takes a job working as a medical test subject in the eponymous town. The position offers enough money to support her family and pay their debts, but only Lena can decide if it’s worth exposing herself to the experimental procedures pioneered in Lakewood.
Human Monsters, edited by Sadie Hartmann and Ashley Sawyers
Sadie Hartmann and Ashley Sawyers edited this anthology from Dark Matter Ink. As in Tender Is the Flesh, you’ll find no supernatural effects or eldritch creatures in Human Monsters, just 35 stories about the worst possible people you can imagine—including those who could very well be your next-door neighbors.
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
Alma Katsu offers a supernatural explanation for the events that doomed the Donner Party wagon train in this historical novel. It may be the most infamous cannibalism case in American history; only 45 survivors from a group of more than 80 pioneers lived to tell the tale of their grim experiences in the bitter cold of a Sierra Nevada winter. As tragedy after tragedy befalls the wagon train, the travelers begin to suspect that a malevolent force is at work, in The Hunger.
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami
From the author of Breasts and Eggs comes this unsettling story of two preteen outcasts who bond over their social isolation. Here, 12-year-old Kojima’s classmates delight in tormenting her over her poor hygiene, and 14-year-old Eyes’ bullies target him for his misaligned eyes. Each may be the only friend the other has, but their alliance can only provide them with respite for so long, in Heaven.
Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
Out author Natsuo Kirino’s Grotesque tells the story of two classmates, Yuriko and Kazue, who eventually meet the same grisly fate. After becoming sex workers, the young women die—presumably—at the hands of the same killer. In the wake of the murders, Yuriko’s unnamed older sister, who has never had sex, recalls their time together in the elite Q High School and tries to navigate her increasingly fraught relationship with her orphaned nephew.
We Can Never Leave This Place by Eric LaRocca
Eric LaRocca’s slim work of fantasy horror centers on Mara, a teenager wrestling with her father’s violent death against a war-torn backdrop. The loss leaves Mara without protection from her abusive mother, who blames the teen for the tragedy that has befallen their family. Like many of LaRocca’s works, We Can Never Leave This Place isn’t easy to discuss without spoiling the gruesome, gut-wrenching fun.
The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
In the wake of their parents’ deaths, four siblings must fend for themselves in their spacious manor, in The Cement Garden. The eldest, Julie and Jack, decide not to report their mother’s death to the authorities—an act that requires them to then parent their younger siblings, Sue and Tom. But Julie and Jack are still children themselves, and they soon begin to buckle under the weight of their dreadful secret.
This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno
Gus Moreno’s 2021 debut follows Thiago, a widower broken by his wife’s highly politicized death. He leaves their home in Chicago and rents a cabin in a remote corner of Colorado, but he quickly finds that he cannot hide, even in isolation. What is he to make of his wife’s death, of the strange behavior their smart home device exhibited before Vera was killed, or of the ghosts that still haunt him, even in his grief? Find out, in This Thing Between Us.
Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
From the author of Convenience Store Woman comes this story of a troubled young woman who rebels against the societal pressure to reproduce, with potentially catastrophic results. Earthlings revolves around Natsuki, a misfit who forges a tight-knit bond with her cousin, Yuu, when they are children. Now in her 30s, Natsuki has entered into a marriage of convenience with Tomoya, who is asexual. As their parents push them to have children, Natsuki flees back to the safety of her childhood fantasy, in which she imagined herself to have superpowers.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Iain Reid’s powerful debut is an unforgettable, mind-bending experience. In I’m Thinking of Ending Things, readers meet the unnamed narrator and her boyfriend, Jake. She’s decided to break up with him but hasn’t found the best way to go about it. After a disturbing encounter with his parents, the narrator’s boyfriend takes her to his old high school, where things quickly begin to unravel for her.
Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin
Samanta Schweblin’s Little Eyes imagines a world in which homes all around the globe have been infiltrated by kentuki: furry, robotic companions who offer intimate connection in a world of increasing isolation. Keepers host the kentuki in their houses and apartments, and dwellers command them remotely, gaining pet’s eye views of the keepers’ homes. It’s a world ripe for perversion and quiet horror, which Schweblin delivers.
A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers
A Certain Hunger centers on Dorothy, a 51-year-old author and food critic who has recently been convicted of murder. From her prison cell, Dorothy recounts her storied career and her descent into cannibalism. Read this one and decide for yourself: Is Dorothy’s turn as a killer brought on by psychosis, or is it the clarity of a woman denigrated over and over again by the men in her life?
Negative Space by B.R. Yeager
When their friends, neighbors, and even the local wildlife die in a rash of suicides, a small clique of teenagers abuse a hallucinogenic drug to cope in B.R. Yeager’s Negative Space. The story here unspools through Internet artifacts as one boy, Tyler, alarms his friends with his behavior—which teeters on the edge of delusion.
We know you’ll find something to love in these 20 best books like Tender Is the Flesh, all of which are perfect to read while you wait on Agustina Bazterrica’s next release.
Is Tender Is the Flesh a series?
No, Tender Is the Flesh is not a series.
Is there a Tender Is the Flesh TV show?
No, there is no Tender Is the Flesh TV show.
What does FGP mean in Tender Is the Flesh?
FGP stands for “First Generation Pure,” a highly sought-after designation for special meat.
How long does it take to read Tender Is the Flesh?
According to How Long to Read, the average person will take 3 hours and 32 minutes to finish Tender Is the Flesh.