Books About the Dark Side of Small Town Life

Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Chief of Staff

Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

heading out to wonderful robert goolrickThis installment of Riot Recommendation is sponsored by Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick.

It is the summer of 1948 when a handsome, charismatic stranger, Charlie Beale, recently back from the war in Europe, shows up in the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village nestled in the Valley of Virginia. All he has with him are two suitcases: one contains his few possessions, including a fine set of butcher knives; the other is full of money. A lot of money. Heading Out to Wonderful is a haunting, heart-stopping novel of love gone terribly wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen.


Last week, we asked for your favorite books that expose the dark side of supposedly idyllic small town life. Here’s the round-up of your suggestions from Facebook, Twitter, and the comments.

anything by Donald Ray Pollock

almost every single Stephen King book

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Bleeding Kansas by Sara Paretsky

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

Your House is On Fire, Your Children Are Gone by Stefan Kiesbye

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy

Volt by Alan Heathcock

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Methland by Nick Reding

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Saul and Patsy by Charles Baxter

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

most Flannery O’Connor books

Small Things by Bruce Diamond

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

What would you add?