American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis, tells the story of a man named Patrick Bateman, who by day is a wealthy and wildly handsome investment banking executive living the dream on Wall Street. But by night, Bateman indulges in horrors that his coworkers could never begin to fathom: he uses his charm, privilege, and good looks to seduce and murder women... and also kills co-workers, animals, and homeless people in his spare time. The book operates as a gruesome, violent satire of the finance industry in New York City during the 1980s economic boom.
Despite American Psycho's popularity, it is not a comfortable read. The book fleshes out all of Bateman's thoughts—good or bad—in extreme detail, meaning it contains highly graphic and elaborate scenes of torture and murder. If you're looking for books that make important cultural points while also terrifying you to your core, then look no further than this list of books like American Psycho.
In this "American Psycho-esque" and "virtuosically satirical" novel, author Alissa Nutting exposes society's troubling relationship with female beauty. Celeste Price is a gorgeous 26-year-old psychopath. She is also an eighth-grade teacher at a middle school in Florida. Driven by obsessive lust and a complete lack of morals, Tampa tells the story of Celeste's "unrepentant" seduction of 14-year-old Jack Patrick. This book gives insight into a deeply disturbed and guiltless mind, sparing no details of the grotesque relationship between Celeste and her student.
Though Glamorama is written by American Psycho's author, Ellis takes a stab at a different faction of New York in this dark satire of the 90s fashion and celebrity scene in the city. The protagonist, Victor Ward, is a male model who goes to all of the right events and is seen with all of the right people... or who he thinks are the right people.
It turns out the high-profile "friends" Victor makes are part of a sadistic, ultraviolent terrorist group. As you read, Victor descends into a state of insanity that will creep up on you and make you question at what point you, yourself, lost touch with reality in this book.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Something Wicked This Way Comes reflects the pitfalls of American culture in the 1950s and 60s. A carnival has arrived in the small town of Green Town, Illinois, complete with a calliope whose "shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained." Like in many American small towns, the two young protagonists are allowed to roam freely because the town is considered to be "safe." But when the young boys set out one night to explore the carnival grounds, they get stuck in the nightmarish clutches of the "freak shows" and their diabolical plans...
Tender Is the Flesh
Tender is the Flesh tells the story of a dystopian world which reveals to the extreme how humans are capable of justifying horrific violence. After a virus makes animal meat inedible, America turns to "special meat" instead—human meat. Marcos is working at a "special meat" processing plant when he's gifted a First Generation Pure female, human meat of the finest quality, who has been brought up as livestock. Although Marco is supposed to kill and eat her, he begins to develop a forbidden intimate relationship with her. This book definitely pushes the limits of disturbing content and will stick with readers long after they read it.
The Wasp Factory
Frank Cauldhame is a 16-year-old murderer who has killed three people: a friend, his younger brother, and his young cousin. Throughout the book, Frank tries to explain and rationalize his "habits"—including killing animals and other children. The book explores how violence is moralized inside the mind of a deeply twisted individual, made all the darker by the fact that that individual is a child.
In an interview with Book & Film Globe, author Caroline Kepnes explains that she was profoundly affected by American Psycho when she read it in her youth, and it influenced her to give You a similar feeling. This New York Times and USA Today bestseller follows a psychopathic young man named Joe Goldberg, who will go to any lengths necessary to get the girl he loves—even if it means killing people around her so that he can manipulate her into loving him. The book delves deep into Joe's mind, revealing the dark and terrifying ways he justifies his actions, as well as the brutal details of his murders. It also exposes the dangers of social media and how easily it is to be targeted if enough of your information is online.
This novel contains the "horrifying, hilarious, and stomach-churning stories" of a group of writers who answered an ad for a writer's retreat, only to accidentally became part of a sick game where the host withholds their basic needs for survival. The stories get more and more disturbing as the book goes on and the storytellers "ruthlessly plot to make themselves the hero of the reality show that will surely be made from their plight." The storytellers deal with a variety of depraved topics that are sure to make most readers squirm with discomfort.
The Silence of the Lambs
A rookie FBI agent named Clarice Sterling is sent on an assignment to interview a murderer named Dr. Hannibal Lector, whom they believe could offer insight that will help them catch a currently a currently active serial killer. The book shines a light on misogyny and the male gaze, particularly for Clarice, who works in the male-dominated industry of law enforcement. And as Dr. Lector answers Clarice's questions, The Silence of the Lambs paints a truly unsettling picture of the inner workings of his sadistic mind and his brutal killings.
Blood Meridien brings to light the shocking, mass violence of the the United States' westward expansion. Loosely based on actual historical events, Blood Meridian tells the story of a young Tennessean runaway nicknamed the Kid who finds himself in a world where Native Americans are being murdered and "the market for their scalps is thriving." When the Kid joins forces with a scalphunting group, he is forced to witness and commit heinous acts of violence that are recounted on almost every page.
The Girl Next Door
The most horrific book on this list by far, The Girl Next Door offers a deeply disturbing look into just how far mob mentality and the bystander effect can go. Two young girls are held captive in a house where they are at first tortured by their aunt, then their aunt and her three sons, and eventually, the entire neighborhood. Beyond how distressing the descriptions of the abuse can be, this book is made all the more terrifying by the fact that it is based upon a true story.