The best books to help you lose faith in humanity but still have a good time

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm Stefán Máni, the Dark prince of Nordic noir. I was an avid book reader from an early age but I didn’t believe I could become a writer myself one day. I dropped out of school at the age of 17, worked in the fishing industry, and travelled to Europe and the United States. I started writing at the age of 23, published my first book at the age of 26, and my first best-seller at the age of 34; the thriller Black’s Game that became a popular movie in 2012. Since then I've written many best sellers and created the most popular character in Icelandic literature; detective Hordur Grímsson.

I wrote...

Book cover of Deathbook

What is my book about?

Reykjavik, capital of Iceland. Someone using fake profiles contacts a group of teenagers via Facebook. They get an invitation to like a page called Deathbook. As soon as they do that, Deathbook sends them a private message. It wants a name. Is someone giving them a hard time? Someone they maybe wished was dead? What the teenagers do not know, is that Deathbook is playing a sinister game and as soon as they participate they are caught in a web of lies, deceit, and death… When two teenagers have been brutally murdered, detective Grímsson knows that something truly evil is lurking in the shadows of the city.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The White Tiger

Stefán Máni Why did I love this book?

Like a slap in the face, this book woke me up and changed my view on life.

I have read it at least three times and everytime it punches me hard in the stomach.

Do you have romantic ideas about India? Do you think humans are wonderful creatures? Do you believe that good things will happen to good people? Forget about it.

This is the most brutal and badass book ever written about coming of age, and becoming someone in a World of nobodies.

The protagonist, Balram Halwai, is born into a World of shit. He is doomed from day one. His story is a sad one, a brave one, a mad one, and it is a story you will never ever forget.

This is a strong, compelling, and truly remarkable book. I love it! But if you are a naïve hopeless romantic, this book is not for you. Just stick to Paulo Coehlo and do some yoga.

By Aravind Adiga,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The White Tiger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Balram Halwai is the White Tiger - the smartest boy in his village. His family is too poor for him to afford for him to finish school and he has to work in a teashop, breaking coals and wiping tables. But Balram gets his break when a rich man hires him as a chauffeur, and takes him to live in Delhi. The city is a revelation. As he drives his master to shopping malls and call centres, Balram becomes increasingly aware of immense wealth and opportunity all around him, while knowing that he…

Book cover of The Road

Stefán Máni Why did I love this book?

This is one of the bleakest books I have ever read. And then I read it again, and again.

Why? Because it is scary as hell, and extremely well written. It sets its claws into you and it won’t let go.

The Road is a dystopian masterpiece. The World has ended and what is left is mostly nothing but also horror almost beyond comprehension.

Murder, starvation, cannibalism, you name it. The book is scary because this could happen.

You are also deeply worried about the protagonists; the father and son of the story. In a World without hope, they manage to find it and keep it alive in their hearts. I still have not seen the movie and I do not want to. I love the book too much.

A well-written story creates magic in your brain. This book is magical. A must-read. But a tough one. 

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

30 authors picked The Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • A searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to survive, this "tale of survival and the miracle of goodness only adds to McCarthy's stature as a living master. It's gripping, frightening and, ultimately, beautiful" (San Francisco Chronicle).

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if…

Book cover of Heart of Darkness

Stefán Máni Why did I love this book?

Talking about must reads. Everybody has read this one, right?

A masterpiece of narration, written by a Polish immigrant and published in 1902. It is a true classic. If you want be become a writer, you must read this book – and then read it again, and again.

This is storytelling at the highest level. The movie Apocalypse Now is based on this story. And very much so, although the setting is quite different. Almost every scene in the book was used in the movie.

This is a book about a journey; a journey up a river and also a journey into the darkness of the human heart. Boats, sailors, water. Come to think of it, Heart of Darkness is very much related to Moby Dick.

Marlow is Ishmael and Kurtz is captain Ahab. The jungle is the ocean and deep in the darkness lurks the evil heart; the great white ivory whale that Kurtz wants to own, to kill, to become.

Kurtz hates the darkness. He loves the darkness. Kurtz is the darkness that he hates and loves.

This is a dark book, an evil book, a book that will haunt you until the day you die. “The horror … the horror …”

By Joseph Conrad,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Heart of Darkness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Although Polish by birth, Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) is regarded as one of the greatest writers in English, and Heart of Darkness, first published in 1902, is considered by many his "most famous, finest, and most enigmatic story." — Encyclopaedia Britannica. The tale concerns the journey of the narrator (Marlow) up the Congo River on behalf of a Belgian trading company. Far upriver, he encounters the mysterious Kurtz, an ivory trader who exercises an almost godlike sway over the inhabitants of the region. Both repelled and fascinated by the man, Marlow is brought face to face with the corruption and despair…

Book cover of The Stranger

Stefán Máni Why did I love this book?

This is one of my all-time favorites. One of those books that you read every other year or so.

For me, this story is the peak of the existentialistic movement or awakening or whatever it was. Alienation par excellence. Mersol is a very strange man.

He is a stranger in his own society, unable to relate to other people or function properly. I don’t know about you, but I felt strange as a kid and as a teenager. I felt different. That feeling has faded but not gone away.

Reading about someone you can understand or relate to can be both satisfying and scary, even painful – especially if that person is as strange as Mersol.

But why is Mersol so “strange”? Is something wrong with him? Or is he just trying to cope in a cold and hostile World?

Is he a wrongdoer or a victim? Human or a monster? It is not often that a novel captures the essence of philosophy but The Stranger does that; it captures the alienation and Godlessness of existentialism.

Read The Stranger and be engulfed in nihilistic darkness. Right now I do feel strange, as I try to write about a strange person in a strange book in a language that is not mine. Will readers understand what I am saying? Or am I too strange?

By Albert Camus,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Stranger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With the intrigue of a psychological thriller, The Stranger—Camus's masterpiece—gives us the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach. With an Introduction by Peter Dunwoodie; translated by Matthew Ward.

Behind the subterfuge, Camus explores what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd" and describes the condition of reckless alienation and spiritual exhaustion that characterized so much of twentieth-century life. 

“The Stranger is a strikingly modern text and Matthew Ward’s translation will enable readers to appreciate why Camus’s stoical anti-hero and ­devious narrator remains one of the key expressions of…

Book cover of Pan: From Lieutenant Thomas Glahn's Papers

Stefán Máni Why did I love this book?

Knut Hamsun is one the greatest writers of all time, in my opinion.

And yes, I am separating the work from the person and the political views. Hamsun was a strange guy and he wrote mainly about strange guys.

Lieutenant Thomas Glahn is one of them, the protagonist of Pan. Glahn is an ex-soldier, living in a hunting hut near a small harbour town in Norway. Technically, Pan is a love story. But it is not a typical love story. It is so co-dependent and twisted that it literally hurts.

Glahn is at best an idiot, at worst some kind of a sociopath. He thinks he is in love but his “love” is not innocent and pure but ugly and even dirty. It is easy to feel sorry for Glahn, easier to simply hate him.

But the book is so well written and the story so fascinating that the reader’s love for good literature overcomes his opinions of the damn protagonist.

Again, I feel that nobody can understand what I am trying to say. But believe me when I say that this book is very much worth reading. As are almost all of Hamsun’s novels. 

By Knut Hamsun, Sverre Lyngstad (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Nobel Prize winner's lyrical and disturbing portrait of love and the dark recesses of the human psyche

A Penguin Classic

A lone hunter accompanied only by his faithful dog, Aesop, Thomas Glahn roams Norway's northernmost wilds. Living out of a rude hut at the edge of a vast forest, Glahn pursues his solitary existence, hunting and fishing, until the strange girl Edvarda comes into his life.
Sverre Lyngstad's superb translation of Hamsun's 1894 novel restores the power and virtuosity of Hamsun's original and includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the…

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Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

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Why am I passionate about this?

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What is my book about?

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Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit London society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where the headmistress trains these unusually gifted girls to enter the dangerous world of spies in the Napoleonic wars. #1 NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this exciting historical series "completely original and totally engrossing."

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

What is this book about?

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young…

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