The best dark fiction for aspiring sociopaths

Andersen Prunty Author Of Sociopaths in Love
By Andersen Prunty

The Books I Picked & Why

American Psycho

By Bret Easton Ellis

Book cover of American Psycho

Why this book?

Is the main character, Patrick Bateman, truly a psychopath or is he just a pampered ’80s Wall Street bro with a penchant for extremely detailed and specific consumerism who entertains dark and violent fantasies? This is one of my favorite absurd satires with some of the most hilarious and disturbing passages I’ve read. I’m a huge fan of Bret Easton Ellis’s work. A brilliant stylist, Ellis marches the reader through blow-by-blow descriptions of everything from brutal murders to pages-long descriptions of people talking about the merits of and different types of bottled water. As a working-class Midwesterner, it’s been interesting to me to see how much of this book (brand obsession, narcissism, staying abreast of the latest trends) has become the norm on social media, especially via influencers. Now I have to go return some videotapes.

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By Alissa Nutting

Book cover of Tampa

Why this book?

This is a seriocomic novel about a female eighth-grade teacher who sexually lures her male students. Extremely graphic and thought-provoking, Tampa also manages to be an incredibly entertaining dark comedy. Like a lot of sensationalistic books, this approaches a serious topic and turns it into a nearly absurd piece of entertainment. It’s also extremely well written. I loved it.

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High Life

By Matthew Stokoe

Book cover of High Life

Why this book?

High Life is pitch black Hollywood noir. It’s one of those rare books that starts out dark and just keeps getting darker and more disturbing. Stokoe outdoes himself on nearly every page. This book was shocking and eye-opening, even for me. I’ve read a lot of extreme horror and I think this might outdo nearly all of them. Stokoe manages to fully flesh out the characters, rendering them terrifying, absurd, and profoundly sad, and does so with a style that is compulsively readable.

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Child of God

By Cormac McCarthy

Book cover of Child of God

Why this book?

I’m not the world’s biggest Cormac McCarthy fan. I enjoyed The Road and Suttree, but found a few others I’ve read of his something of a slog, so I was happy to give this one a chance. It’s a poetically written book about a necrophiliac who lives in a cave surrounded by his victims. I like how the main character, already on the edge, continues to unravel as the book unfolds and how McCarthy writes him with sympathetic detail.

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The Restraint of Beasts: A Comedic Novel

By Magnus Mills

Book cover of The Restraint of Beasts: A Comedic Novel

Why this book?

The previous four books on my list have been pretty dark. “Heavy,” I guess, is relative. I find a lot of humor in them and, ultimately, that’s why I either have re-read them or plan to. This one isn’t as heavy on the violence as the previous ones. Often cited as a good example of dry British humor, written by a former bus driver, it’s the story of two fence-builders who travel the English and Scottish countryside in a caravan erecting fences. However, it seems like every time they’re on a job, they end up accidentally murdering someone. Rather than getting bogged down by things like remorse or guilt, they are much more interested in covering it up and saving their backs. One of them is obsessed with heavy metal and his hair. It’s a very weird and satisfying book.

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