most disturbing books

Unveiling 14 Most Disturbing Books of All Time: Chilling Reads

Books can transport you to another place and time. As you read, it’s normal to be overwhelmed with emotions. You may shed tears, chuckle, and reflect on life. But some books are so twisted that you can’t predict what will happen next. They may leave you so surprised that you’re left scratching your head and asking, “What happened?”

Instead of that familiar satisfaction, some books leave you disturbed. Some of the most disturbing books listed below can trigger uncomfortable feelings that may make you regret reading them.

14 Most Disturbing Books

Here are 14 of the most disturbing books ever published. By reviewing this list, you can identify books you might want to check out or avoid.

#1. Tender Is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

Tender Is the Flesh

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A virus has made all the animals on Earth disappear. In Bazterrica’s dystopian thriller, humans have started producing humans for dietary consumption.

But not all humans are deemed fit for cannibalism. Only those who are considered lesser quality are bred for food. From its first few pages to the book’s conclusion, the author creates a horrifying world that is difficult to fathom and even more challenging to forget.

#2. Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

Perfect Days

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Publicity around the book already warns that it’s a weird read but if you dare go through its pages, you may be surprised to find that it’s actually a good read. Just be prepared for its rather twisted ending.

The story is about a lonely young medical student named Téo Avelar. Téo lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with his paraplegic mother and her dog. After meeting aspiring screenwriter Clarice, Téo becomes obsessed with her until it leads him to kidnap her.

The two embark on an adventure with the unwilling Clarice. Téo believes that with perseverance and time, Clarice will soon reciprocate his feelings. So, along the way, he continues to feed the woman a fantasy that he made up.

#3. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho

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This novel follows the life of Patrick Bateman, an investment banker. It is set in the 1980s during the Wall Street boom. The narration provides a detailed description of his daily routine which involves taking care of his appearance, his escapades with his friends as they do drugs, and his loveless relationship.

Aside from the drugs, Patrick seems to lead a dull life. But wait, he’s also a serial killer. The chapters detail the brutal murders he committed, making the book a disturbing read. As you progress through the pages, it becomes more difficult to tell what’s real and who the real Patrick Bateman is.

This book was one of Ellis’ greatest works. Many also thought that the sickening plot could end his career.

#4. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

The Girl Next Door

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This book is partly inspired by the murder of Sylvia Likens in 1965. It tells a dark tale that will disturb your wits and emotions to no end. The story is narrated by a man named David and is set in the 1950s. It tells the story of his neighborhood and the unsettling events that are happening in every home.

The chapters mention the home of Ruth, an alcoholic woman who lives with her sons. There is also the teenager Meg and her sister, Susan, who become part of the main plot. Meg’s rape, torture, and constant beatings by Ruth and her sons get the attention of David.

#5. The Melting by Lize Spit

The Melting

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This is definitely a book that will shock you. What’s different about it is how the plot and events stay with you long after you put it down. Set in a small town in Belgium, this is a story of a woman who travels home and rediscovers how she spent her childhood with her two friends.

#6. Rampant by Diana Peterfreund


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Unicorns are mythical creatures that belong in girlhood fantasies but that isn’t the case with this story by Diana Peterfreund. Rampant is the first book in the Killer Unicorns series. The title alone is already disturbing. Gone are the pastel-colored unicorns.

Instead, they are monsters who eat men. Unicorns with an appetite for men seem quite odd but also interesting. The main character, Astrid, turns into a unicorn hunter when the dark unicorns start targeting her boyfriend.

#7. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

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This is a non-fiction crime novel based on the murder of the Clutter family in 1959. The author goes to the small farming community located in Holcomb, Kansas, where he gets firsthand information about the crime. He also speaks with the locals, neighbors of the family, and law enforcement.

The author explores the psychology of the killers Perry Smith and Richard Hickock. It hopes to understand what the perpetrators went through before, during, and after the massacre.

#8. The Collector by John Fowles

The Collector

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Best described as uncompromising and disturbing, this book is set in London’s 1960s. It focuses on Frederick, a friendless man with an obsession for his art student Miranda. Illogically infatuated, he kidnaps her and holds her prisoner in a farmhouse.

It’s unsettling how the author presents the story from Frederick and Miranda’s points of view. It shows how he tries to woo his student. You will feel troubled while reading this and will feel a sense of helplessness, fear, and hopelessness from Miranda.

#9. The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial

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Get lost and feel completely troubled while reading the pages about the life of Joseph K. Waking up, he finds himself arrested for a crime that he did not commit and has no knowledge of. His story unveils the labyrinthine legal system where the thin and ambiguous line between guilty and innocent is drawn.

Joseph struggles against the justice system and its authorities, blindly hoping that justice can still prevail.

#10. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin

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This might be more relatable than ever given that the plot is about school shootings. Kevin is behind a school massacre and the entire story is told from his mother Eva’s point of view.

The story recalls her uncertainties while pregnant and Kevin’s childhood. Her recollections share Kevin’s psychopathic episodes which continued until he ruthlessly kills the schoolchildren.

The book is heartbreaking, not just while narrating the school shooting but also during its aftermath.

#11. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale

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This novel is set in a dystopian future where the population is dwindling and most women are no longer able to get pregnant. The very few women who can still bear children are enslaved and are forced to endure dehumanizing living conditions and rituals, including sexual intercourse with prominent men in government.

The story is told through the eyes Offred, a handmaid who has been separated from her child and husband. She is forced into servitude and sexual encounters by the Commander and his overbearing wife. The tale shares her struggles to survive while retaining her memories and sense of self in a world that doesn’t value her as a person.

#12. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

Naked Lunch

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Naked Lunch was written after the author accidentally shot his wife. Instead of a straightforward plot, there are several interconnected stories. While writing this book about drug addiction, the author was struggling with substance abuse.

Burroughs presents himself in the novel through his alter ego, William Lee. It shares instances when he would flee from law enforcement in a frantic search for his next drug fix. All the tales in the novel will make you scratch your head and think about what was happening to the author.

#13. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Johnny Got His Gun

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Johnny Got His Gun shares the shocking and sad reality of soldiers who experience war. It tells the story of a World War I soldier who gets caught in a cannon blast.

He later wakes up in a hospital where he is no longer able to speak or hear because his mouth, eyes, ears, arms, and legs have been completely blown off. Ironically, his mind is functioning 100%.

He cannot communicate with his nurse to let her know that he is awake or tell anybody that he’d rather die. To communicate, he hits his head in Morse code against his bed.

#14. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Flowers in the Attic

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This disturbing book is the first in the Dollanganger book series where the author introduces the members of the Dollanganger family — Chris, Cathy, and the twins Corry and Carrie. For Corrine to get her inheritance from her father, she locks her kids in her dying father’s mansion, leaving them with a promise that they will be let out of the attic once their grandfather dies.

But the days turn into months and eventually a year. Their mother stops visiting them altogether. Then, the kids start getting sick from an unknown illness. This is one of the most disturbing books because it depicts rape, incest, and graphic sexual intercourse.

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