The most recommended nihilism books

Who picked these books? Meet our 46 experts.

46 authors created a book list connected to nihilism, and here are their favorite nihilism books.
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What type of nihilism book?


Book cover of Imperial Bedrooms

Mike Thorn Author Of Shelter for the Damned

From my list on descent into existential darkness.

Why am I passionate about this?

Mike Thorn is the author of Shelter for the Damned, Darkest Hours, and Peel Back and See. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, and The NoSleep Podcast. His books have earned praise from Jamie Blanks (director of Urban Legend and Valentine), Jeffrey Reddick (creator of Final Destination), and Daniel Goldhaber (director of Cam). His essays and articles have been published in American Twilight: The Cinema of Tobe Hooper (University of Texas Press), Beyond Empowertainment: Exploring Feminist Horror (Seventh Row), The Film Stage, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick.

Mike's book list on descent into existential darkness

Mike Thorn Why did Mike love this book?

With Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis channels many of his career-long obsessions into a nihilistic work of Hollywood noir, written in a minimalist prose style that evokes both Raymond Chandler’s staccato brutalism and Joan Didion’s haunting lyricism. Imperial Bedrooms takes a razor to Hollywood’s beautiful surfaces while drawing the reader deeper and deeper into protagonist Clay’s misanthropic paranoia. The writing is masterful, existential horror frozen into sentences so spare and focused they often resemble haiku. It features what might be my favorite closing line in fiction: “The fades, the dissolves, the rewritten scenes, all the things you wipe away—I now want to explain all these things to her but I know I never will, the most important one being: I never liked anyone and I’m afraid of people.”

By Bret Easton Ellis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Clay is a successful screenwriter, middle-aged and disaffected; he's in LA to cast his new movie. However, this trip is anything other than professional, and he's soon drifting through a louche and long-familiar circle - a world largely populated by the band of infamous teenagers first introduced in Bret Easton Ellis's first novel Less Than Zero. After a meeting with a gorgeous but talentless actress determined to win a role in his movie, Clay finds himself connected with Kelly Montrose, a producer whose gruesomely violent death is suddenly very much the talk of the town.

Imperial Bedrooms follows Clay as…

Book cover of A Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose

Tom Kratman Author Of Dirty Water

From Tom's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Soldier Thinker Fighter Annoyance

Tom's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Tom Kratman Why did Tom love this book?

I loved this book mainly because I detest modern literary fiction. Why? It strikes me as being pointless exercises in self-indulgent style over substance, largely nihilistic, and simply rotten storytelling. There are exceptions, and, of course, they are exceptional. Few of those exceptions are modern. 

Myers wrote this earlier, as a lengthy article in The Atlantic. It was the attacks from literary critics in love with the latest pointless exercises in style that prompted him to expand on the article to really twist the knife.  

By B. R. Myers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Reader's Manifesto as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A welcome contrarian take on the state of contemporary American prose."-The Wall Street Journal

The funny and devastating debunking of high "literary" prose stylists, including Don DeLillo, Annie Proulx, and Cormac McCarthy, that caused a literary furor.

Book cover of Black Wings Has My Angel

Andrew Diamond Author Of To Hell with Johnny Manic

From my list on the golden age of American crime and noir.

Why am I passionate about this?

In college, I studied Literature with a capital L: those timeless classics the professors worship and revere. Then a woman in a used book store in Seattle handed me a copy of Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280 and said, "Read this." I was hooked. The pulp fiction of the 1950s is visceral and raw. Like Greek tragedy, it examines the darker drives of human nature--greed, lust, loneliness, anger--and their consequences. Pulp writers were paid by the word to crank out lurid thrills. But like Shakespeare writing for the groundlings, some of them just couldn't help going above and beyond. Their work remains in print because it hits on universal truths that still resonate today.

Andrew's book list on the golden age of American crime and noir

Andrew Diamond Why did Andrew love this book?

In a tough prostitute named Virginia, escaped convict Timothy Sunblade finds the perfect partner to help execute the perfect crime. The extraordinary relationship between these two makes the book memorable. Sunblade is clear-eyed, thoughtful, disillusioned, sensitive, brutish, self-assured at times, and wavering at others. Virginia is wise, world-weary, sure of herself and what she wants, sometimes crazed like a caged animal, but always strong.

Chaze's atmospheric detail adds depth and presence to the story. The characters' arc is one of darkening fate and inevitable tragedy. Watching their slow descent is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The characters continue to deepen throughout the story, all the way to the final page, and they stay with you long after you've put the book down.

By Elliott Chaze,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Black Wings Has My Angel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Flawless ... beyond perfection." — New York Magazine
"An astonishingly well-written literary novel that just happened to be about (or roundabout) a crime." — Barry Gifford
"Black Wings Has My Angel is an indisputable noir classic … Elliott Chaze was a fine prose stylist, witty, insightful, nostalgic, and irreverent, and a first-class storyteller." — Bill Pronzini
An escaped convict encounters an enterprising prostitute at the start of this hard-boiled masterpiece. When Timothy Sunblade opens the door of his blue Packard to Virginia, their fates are forever intertwined. "Maybe if you saw her you'd understand," he reminisces. "Face by Michelangelo, clothes…

Book cover of Preacher Book One

Livio Ramondelli Author Of The Kill Lock

From my list on riveting worlds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like the thrill of feeling like a place truly exists, whether it’s described in complete detail or sparsely sketched for the reader to take over. I’m a professional comic illustrator, most known for illustrating Transformers for IDW Publishing. In 2020 I created my own original series called The Kill Lock, also published by IDW. It was my first real stab at taking all my years of studying world building and attempting to tell an original story of my own. It was a wonderful experience to create and write, and I highly suggest anyone who has been looking to do it to take the plunge. The rewards are thrilling.

Livio's book list on riveting worlds

Livio Ramondelli Why did Livio love this book?

A present-day western, Preacher is the story of a lost pastor who is suddenly infused with the word of God-allowing any who hear his voice to bow to his commands. His best friend is an alcoholic vampire. His love is a hard-fighting sharpshooter. The Angel of Death is an immortal wild west gunslinger, a cowboy with unmatchable firepower who stalks the modern landscape. The characters are some of the richest I’ve ever seen. There’s a hilarity that runs through the entire series, and a real beating human heart alongside it. Despite a seemingly nihilistic premise, Preacher is one of the most moving stories I’ve ever seen about friendship and remains true to ones principles. Steve Dillon as an artist is another example of beautifully economical storytelling.

By Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Preacher Book One as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Written by Garth Ennis Art by Steve Dillon Cover by Glenn Fabry "Features more blood and blasphemy than any mainstream comic in memory. Cool." - Entertainment Weekly Available for the first time in hardcover, preacher Jesse Custer begins his dark journey to find God, in this volume collecting PREACHER #1-12, plus pinups from PREACHER #50 and #66. After merging with a bizarre spiritual force called Genesis, Texan preacher Jesse Custer has become completely disillusioned with the beliefs to which he had dedicated his entire life. Now possessing the power of "the word," an ability to make people do whatever he…

Book cover of Blooded

Tracy Lauren Author Of Tamed by the Troll

From my list on fantasy romance with sexy beasts and vibrant worlds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author, but first and foremost I’m a reader. I’ve been voracious about it my entire life, but it wasn’t until just a few years back that I discovered the romance genre—which sucked me in immediately. After a few books I stumbled onto Ruby Dixon and it was over. Syfy and fantasy romance had their hooks in me. These recs are the books I re-read and the authors I follow because they are consistent in telling captivating stories, with rich worlds, and vibrant characters. Book hang-over guaranteed. 

Tracy's book list on fantasy romance with sexy beasts and vibrant worlds

Tracy Lauren Why did Tracy love this book?

The intro to the world Naomi created really grabbed me. This idea of a misty, ever-expanding labyrinth…so cool! It’s one of those times that the setting in a story is so exciting and vivid that it’s almost an entire character in and of itself. Then there are all the characters we encounter along the journey. Hello centaurs It’s a labyrinth you’ll definitely want to get lost in. 

By Naomi Lucas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Aldora lived in a bordertown on the edge of the maze. A labyrinth that spanned an eternity filled with creatures that howled through the night. She was a daughter to farmers that worked the fields and endured a quiet life as a peasant, away from the capital and its nihilistic celebrations; away from all that would look at her and discern her worth. Because to be chosen as a sacrifice was to be chosen to die.
Until one night, while at the labyrinth wall, she heard a husky voice in the darkness.

Vedikus Bathyr.
He prowled the overgrown passages at…

Book cover of American Psycho

David E. Gates Author Of The Wretched

From my list on horror books that changed my life and could change yours.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved horror since my early teens, when I first discovered The Rats and Lair and other horror stories by James Herbert. The thing I like about horror, in particular, is that there are no holds barred, no censorship, as to what can be written. I grew up on movies like The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, Jaws, Alien, The Thing, etc., but horror writing takes you deeper and gives a more visceral experience than anything any film can do.

David's book list on horror books that changed my life and could change yours

David E. Gates Why did David love this book?

This was one of the hardest books to "get into," but a friend of mine told me to stick with it because the rewards of getting through the first quarter would be so great. I'm glad I did. It is an astounding piece of work, quite different from anything I've ever read before or since, and remains one of my top five books.

The tangents the book takes, and the blasé attributes of the leading character are superbly crafted. It was suggested it was "unfilmable," and there's one scene in particular I thought they'd never get away with, but if you look at the movie version carefully, it's in there. 

By Bret Easton Ellis,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked American Psycho as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Patrick Bateman is 26 and works on Wall Street. Handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent, he is also a psychopath.

Book cover of Frisk

Anthony Carinhas Author Of Sorrow's Garden: A Novel

From my list on the terrors of nihilism.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the time I was introduced to Depeche Mode, I quickly realized there was an underground scene dissecting the darker realms of human nature. It’s no easy task translating emotion into tangible products like film, books, and music, so if an artist can fixate an audience by getting them to interpret themselves and, the world, more effectively, there’s great value in that. If it hadn’t been for that, I probably wouldn’t have achieved things like being an award-winning author, a paralegal from the University of Texas at Austin, manage workshops via Airbnb Experiences, or receive academic certificates thru Coursera like the Science of Well-Being from Yale and Managing the Company of the Future from London Business School.

Anthony's book list on the terrors of nihilism

Anthony Carinhas Why did Anthony love this book?

Released in the early ‘90s, Frisk was adapted into a film in the mid-90s by Todd Verow. Both received mixed reviews due its transgressive content about madness and bizarre sexual aesthetic. Frisk leaves little to the imagination as the narrator explores taboo photography and sexual deviance while traveling through Holland. Critics and fans found this breakthrough novel deeply polarizing because it involves a gay character obsessed with annihilation. Nevertheless, the overall theme is about victimization, and a culture obsessed with objectification. Despite the novel’s punk prose and hypnotic pacing, there’s something to be said when humanity has a tendency to destroy what society deems perfect. Cooper definitely explores how human desire can become just as fanatical as a religious zealot. A must read for fans of cinematic gore.

By Dennis Cooper,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Dennis is thirteen, he sees a series of photographs of a boy apparently unimaginably mutilated. Dennis is not shocked, but stunned by their mystery and their power; their glimpse at the reality of death. Some years later, Dennis meets the boy who posed for the photographs. He did it for love.

Surrounded by images of violence, the celebrity of horror, news of disease, a wasteland of sex, Dennis flies to Europe, having discovered some clues about the photographs: “I see these criminals on the news who’ve killed someone methodically, and they’re free. They know something amazing. You can just…

Book cover of The Driver's Seat

Iain Hood Author Of This Good Book

From my list on Scottish reads about moments of madness.

Why am I passionate about this?

Scotland’s greatest poet since Burns, Hugh MacDiarmid, said that there were no traditions in writing, only precedents. He was thinking that, were traditions followed, adhered to, applauded, and praised, and prized too highly, then the danger of slavish repetition rather than creative divergence was too high. We need the mad moments, when all bets are off and something truly unpredictable will happen. I write with Scots modernist, postmodernist, and experimental precedents in mind. I want there to be Scots literature that reflects a divergent, creative nation, willing to experiment with words and life, and, in Alasdair Gray’s formulation, “work as though in the early days of a better nation.”

Iain's book list on Scottish reads about moments of madness

Iain Hood Why did Iain love this book?

Is there a madder moment of madness in all of literature than that of The Driver’s Seat’s protagonist Lise?

A firecracker of a novel (most editions come in under one hundred pages of breakneck-speed story), and yet a whole firework display of literary techniques (most startlingly a third chapter opening prolepsis – flashforward – to the suicidally-invited murder of Lise). It’s the technique itself that is the star. Is this satire, parody, comedy? Can comedy be so dark?

Spark noted both that this book was an existential ‘whydunnit?’ without feeling the need to provide us with anything so simplistic as a ‘why’, and also that it was her favourite of all her novels. There is no reason on Earth why it shouldn’t also be one of your favourites.

By Muriel Spark,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Driver's Seat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Driven mad by an office job, Lise flies south on holiday - in search of passionate adventure and sex. In this metaphysical shocker, infinity and eternity attend Lise's last terrible day in the unnamed southern city that is her final destination.

Book cover of Gardens of the Moon

Duncan Hubber Author Of Notes from the Citadel: The Philosophy and Psychology of A Song of Ice and Fire

From my list on The best philosophical fantasy novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an academic at the University of Queensland whose research areas include horror films, screen trauma theory, the cinematic representation of urban spaces, and the collision of romanticism and postmodernism in fantasy literature. My first book, POV Horror: The Trauma Aesthetic of the Found Footage Subgenre, was adapted from my PhD thesis. I am an avid member of the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom, and my second book represents over a decade of talking and writing about George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, having grown out of conversations in forums, podcasts, symposiums, and fan conventions, as well as my own background in literary analysis and research.

Duncan's book list on The best philosophical fantasy novels

Duncan Hubber Why did Duncan love this book?

The first installment in Erikson’s magnum opus introduces readers to the voracious Malazan Empire and focuses on a military, political, and supernatural battle for the free city of Darujhistan.

It boasts a vast, strange cast of characters and an even vaster, stranger world. However, Erikson demonstrates how every element, from the lowest trader to the mightiest god, can shape the outcomes of events. The free will of each character is shown to be in constant tension with the free wills of others, as well as the wrenching currents of history.

The antagonist of Erikson’s story is not a dark lord, but nihilism—the prospect that there is no moral order or higher meaning to existence—and every one of his characters must face this threat and figure out how to survive it.

By Steven Erikson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Gardens of the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the last of the free cities of the Malazan Empire is targeted by the forces of the Empress Laseen, Bridgeburner squad leader Sergeant Whiskeyjack and the mage Tattersall confront dark gods to protect the citadel of Darujhistan.

Book cover of Against Nature (A Rebours)

John Andrew Fredrick Author Of The King Of Good Intentions Part Three

From my list on reads if your rock ‘n’ roll party days are over.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a perfect of exemplar of an author whose party days are decidedly not over, but I’m doubtless at the age/stage where I’m bloody contemplating at least paring down my intakes plural. Not that I’m still at it like a Sophomore or anything but I’m hanging in there. I get a great, tingly buzz (you had to have seen this coming!) recommending great books to keen readers. I live in a library—essentially—and friends who visit for a beer or a spliff most often leave with a book I’ve given them. Now you lot are gonna ask me to lend you some scratch! Now you’ve gone and done it, John! Haha.

John's book list on reads if your rock ‘n’ roll party days are over

John Andrew Fredrick Why did John love this book?

I like to recommend difficult books—everyone needs a challenge once in a while and the nihilist Huysmans kind of throws down a literary gauntlet here in that he’s sort of daring you to go with him to the abysses of the modern soul. 

This book is indeed way more psychedelic than any 60’s Beat guy or girl ever penned or dreamed.

By Joris Karl Huysmans, John Howard (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Against Nature (A Rebours) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Against Nature (A Rebours)By Joris-Karl Huysmans, John Howard (Translated by)