Dark, Twisty, and Shocking: Books for Fans of Chuck Palahniuk

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Jessica Woodbury

Staff Writer

Jessica Woodbury's professional life has taken her to prisons, classrooms, strip clubs, and her living room couch. After years as a Public Defender in the South, she now lives in Boston with her two small children. Cursed with a practical streak, she always wanted to pursue music or writing but instead majored in Biochemistry because it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. These days she does absolutely nothing with science or law and instead spends too much time oversharing on the internet. She has a soft spot for crime novels and unreliable narrators. And the strip club gig was totally as a lawyer, she swears.  Blog: Don't Mind the Mess Twitter: jessicaesquire

Chuck Palahniuk is a particularly distinctive writer. His books are dark, twisty, nihilistic, shocking, and even more shocking. He’s covered a wide variety of subjects and characters, but it can be hard to find books that hit the same sweet spot.

Here are a few of our suggestions for readers looking for someChuck Palahniuk-esque fiction:

Confessions by Kanae Minato

As someone who loves a truly twisted story, Kanae Minato is one of my new favorites. Confessions is the first book in a long time that truly shocked me, that made me swear in surprise. This book is truly fucked up. The first chapter sets the scene: a schoolteacher talks to her class in one long, monologue. Slowly we learn that she has decided to take revenge against this room full of children in a particularly unexpected and unusual way. It takes a certain kind of reader to enjoy a book where the primary subject is trying to hurt tweens, and Palahniuk readers fall pretty squarely in that camp. Minato’s next novel Penance is another great pick.

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

Another writer of extra-dark fiction, you know Flynn is legit since the movie adaptation of her mega-hit Gone Girl was directed by David Fincher, the director of Palahniuk’s classic Fight Club. The very first sentence will turn away the faint of heart and let you know exactly what you’re in for. The Grownup is a novella, a quick read, featuring a woman pretending to be a psychic and the rich family who need their house purged from ghosts…or something. Not exactly horror but something else entirely, similar to many a Palahniuk novel.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Palahniuk loves a fucked up utopia-turned-dystopia with an extra dose of social satire, which is exactly how I’d describe The Heart Goes Last. A couple in dire financial straits takes the chance to escape their plight by living in an experimental community where you move back and forth between a perfect life and prison labor, each for a month at a time. Throw in plenty of twists, some very non-traditional sex, celebrity references, and Las Vegas and are we sure Palahniuk didn’t actually write this? You may also like Atwood’s sci-fi trilogy that begins with Oryx & Crake.

Cover of Grotesque by Natsuo KirinoGrotesque by Natsuo Kirino

Two women begin as sisters like something from a fairy tale: the beautiful one and the smart one. But both end as prostitutes murdered by the same man. Palahniuk loves exploring extremes, obsession, and appearance and so is Grotesque. What draws men to prostitutes and women to prostitution is a dark and complex topic, and it’s just scratching the surface of this book looking at patriarchy, desire, desperation, and social hierarchy. Oh, and there’s a cult. And don’t forget to check out Kirino’s story of a desperate attempt to get rid of a corpse in Out.

Want more weird books? We’ve got 100 of them here