The best books to test your endurance for the dark and disturbed

Ryan C. Thomas Author Of The Summer I Died: The Roger Huntington Saga, Book 1
By Ryan C. Thomas

The Books I Picked & Why

Off Season

By Jack Ketchum

Off Season

Why this book?

Ketchum’s classic survival horror novel about cannibals attacking a cabin of vacationers is pure 80s slasher goodness. It was perhaps the darkest book of its kind for a long time and pulls no punches with the intensity of its chase scenes. Ketchum’s economical writing style makes it a very easy read, one where you will root for the good guys, and be left emotionally drained by the end.


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Island

By Richard Laymon

Island

Why this book?

Laymon provides the perfect mix of psychological horror and serial killer madness in this cult novel that is part murder mystery and part survival horror. In Island, a family boat trip to a remote island goes horribly awry when someone starts offing family members one by one. It will leave you shocked and satisfied with its overwhelming tension and disturbing ending.


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Prodigal Blues

By Gary A. Braunbeck

Prodigal Blues

Why this book?

This coming-of-age revenge novel includes brilliant twists, excellent characters, and a villain that is pure evil. It’s bad enough when adults have to fight off sadistic killers, but it’s downright harrowing when children have to do it. Written with all the noir stylings of a Jim Thompson novel but with the darkness of a Clive Barker film, this is a difficult story to experience, but a very rewarding one.


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The Painted Bird

By Jerzy Kosinksi

The Painted Bird

Why this book?

Unlike the other books on this list, The Painted Bird forgoes bloodshed and serial killers and instead shows us a dark side of human nature plagued with apathy and senseless violence. The book follows a young, abandoned boy during WWII as he travels from village to village only to find that humanity is, despite popular belief, not mostly good. It’s beautifully written and has long earned its place as one of literature’s best novels, but it is also possibly the bleakest story ever written. Unfortunately, humans can be downright awful to each other, and The Painted Bird shows you how.


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The Folks

By Ray Garton

The Folks

Why this book?

The Folks is pure drive-in backwoods horror goodness, chock full of all the slum and sludge and inbred, mutated teeth-gnashing mountain men that made horror fans fall in love with films like The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn. It’s disturbing, but it also has heart, thanks to a likable protagonist who may have more in common with the deadly family chasing him than he wants to admit.


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