The most recommended unreliable narrator books

Who picked these books? Meet our 107 experts.

107 authors created a book list connected to unreliable narrators, and here are their favorite unreliable narrator books.
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Book cover of The Killing Joke

Jim Alexander Author Of GoodCopBadCop

From my list on unreliable narrators.

Who am I?

I am a comic book writer, published by Marvel and DC Comics, turned novelist. I enjoy getting inside the heads of my characters until they become entities of their own, with their own voices and actions. At that point I’m merely the facilitator; an interested spectator with a keyboard. Maybe, one whose prose shows a visual flair. Sometimes, I hear competing voices in my head, rather like the warring personas that feature in my debut novel GoodCopBadCop, but I don’t like to play favourites. 

Jim's book list on unreliable narrators

Jim Alexander Why did Jim love this book?

In the comic books (and films) Batman and Joker are locked together in the eternal battle between good and evil. Except, as The Killing Joke so brilliantly explores, that’s not quite how Joker sees it. For Joker, they are both sides of the same coin. If Joker is seen as evil incarnate, then why, he asks, is Batman considered the opposite? The story has since been disowned by writer Moore, possibly because of the interminable number of nihilistic-styled super-hero stories that followed in its wake. But sometimes I think the writer’s dissonance from the subject matter adds to the sense of unease and chaos at play. And there is undeniable power at the root of the story, taken entirely from Joker’s impeccably flawed point of view. That it only takes ‘one bad day’ to turn an ordinary joe into one or the other, Joker or Batman.

By Alan Moore, Brian Bolland (illustrator), John Higgins (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Critically acclaimed author Alan Moore redefined graphic novel story-telling with Watchmen and V for Vendetta. In Batman: The Killing Joke, he takes on the origin of comics' greatest super-villain, The Joker, and changes Batman's world forever.

ONE BAD DAY.

According to the grinning engine of madness and mayhem known as the Joker, that's all that separates the sane from the psychotic. Freed once again from the confines of Arkham Asylum, he's out to prove his deranged point. And he's going to use Gotham City's top cop, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and his brilliant and beautiful daughter Barbara to do it.

Now…


Book cover of The Replacement Wife

Leah St. James Author Of Lights of Imani

From Leah's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Writer Reader Beach lover Grammar nerd Football fanatic

Leah's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Leah St. James Why did Leah love this book?

I picked this book for its title (it intrigued me), but the author sucked me into the story from the first sentence—written from the antagonist’s point of view about a scheme he/she was perpetrating.

The author kept me guessing at his/her identity all the way through. (I remember getting a clue about 80 percent in…which was probably intentional.) It is a fantastic story told exceptionally well by a talented author.

By Darby Kane,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Replacement Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 International bestselling author of Pretty Little Wife returns with another thrilling domestic suspense novel that asks, how many wives and girlfriends need to disappear before your family notices?

Elisa Wright is a mom and wife, living a nice, quiet life in a nice, quiet town. She's also convinced her brother-in-law is a murderer. Josh has one dead wife and one missing fiancee, and though he grieved for them he starts dating someone new. Elisa fears for that woman's safety, and she desperately wants to know what happened to her friend, Josh's missing fiancee.

Searching for clues means investigating…


Book cover of The Rhetoric of Fiction

William H. Coles Author Of The Art of Creating Story

From my list on improving your prose writing and creation of fiction story.

Who am I?

I am an author of literary fiction and nonfiction on the creative writing process. My passion is to provide resources for writers who want to create stories as artful literature that will last. A few years ago, I created a website that contains all my fiction and non-fiction, a newsletter, a workshop, and a blog. The website has received over five million visits. I've published six novels, thirty-seven short stories, thirty essays, twenty-six interviews, and dozens of literary quizzes. My fiction has received over fifty+ awards. I’ve written and presented an online video course: Creating Literary Story with Thinkific. I continue to serve writers who are eager to improve.

William's book list on improving your prose writing and creation of fiction story

William H. Coles Why did William love this book?

Almost without argument, the most in-depth and illuminating text on narration in fiction writing. This book is essential to the library of any serious author of fiction. Written from the perception of a successful academic career, it has credible detail explained with creative insights into the writing process. A worthy addition to a library for reference throughout a writing career.

By Wayne C. Booth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction transformed the criticism of fiction and soon became a classic in the field. One of the most widely used texts in fiction courses, it is a standard reference point in advanced discussions of how fictional form works, how authors make novels accessible, and how readers recreate texts, and its concepts and terms-such as "the implied author," "the postulated reader," and "the unreliable narrator"-have become part of the standard critical lexicon.

For this new edition, Wayne C. Booth has written an extensive Afterword in which he clarifies misunderstandings, corrects what he now views…


Book cover of The Boy Meets Girl Massacre

Nicole M. Wolverton Author Of A Misfortune of Lake Monsters

From my list on YA books to launch you into the autumn spooky season.

Who am I?

I’m a Pushcart-nominated writer of (mostly) young adult and adult horror and suspense. I primarily write about the fear of isolated and sparsely populated places, which makes sense: I grew up in the rural hinterlands of northeast Pennsylvania, steeped in dark cornfields, eerie quiet, and weird characters. I now live in the Philadelphia area with my husband and rescue dog in a creaky, century-old house, giving myself agita about the creepy crawlspace in the basement. I’m the author of two novels: A Misfortune of Lake Monsters (YA horror, July 2024) and The Trajectory of Dreams (adult psychological suspense, 2013).

Nicole's book list on YA books to launch you into the autumn spooky season

Nicole M. Wolverton Why did Nicole love this book?

Look, I know Hogarth is better known for her more recent novel Motherthing, but I will always have a soft spot for this book. Decades ago, there were some grisly cannibalistic murders at the Boy Meets Girl Inn, resulting in a reputed haunting. Noelle and Alf, high school friends with summer night shift gigs at the Inn, are organizing a soiree to celebrate the anniversary of the killings.

It's told mostly in Noelle’s journal entries that have been annotated and footnoted by detectives, experts, and a movie director, which made it irresistible to me since it’s done so well; the novel spotlights the ultimate unreliable narrator and includes some absolutely disgusting (in the best possible way) body horror scenes. I’ve read and re-read this book, and each time, I’m so creeped out.

Take this book with you on a summer vacation that involves a hotel stay, and read it…

By Ainslie Hogarth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Boy Meets Girl Massacre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Gripping, grisly, and keeps you guessing until the shocking end

Noelle Dixon takes a summer nightshift job at the infamous Boy Meets Girl Inn, even though she’s well aware of the horrifying murders that happened there decades ago. That’s why she has a diary―to write down everything she experiences in case things go bump in the night. But the inexplicable freezing drafts, the migrating rotten-flesh smell, and the misplaced personal items don’t really scare her. Noelle has bigger problems: her father’s failing health, her friend Alfred’s inappropriate crush, and the sore spot on the back of her head that keeps…


Book cover of Elizabeth Is Missing

Vered Neta Author Of Things We Do For Love

From my list on the light side of Alzheimer’s.

Who am I?

Like the Bach sisters in my novel Things We Do For Love, my sisters and I have cared for our mother, who battles Alzheimer's. Witnessing her transformation from a vibrant powerhouse to someone resembling the Walking Dead has been heart-wrenching. Despite the emotional rollercoaster, this journey has deeply connected us with our mother. Delving into the depths of her being has been a privilege, offering profound insights into her true essence. This challenging experience has unfolded as a disguised blessing. In this journey, we've discovered the beauty of unconditional love that binds our family together. It reflects the central question of my novel: What truly makes a happy family?

Vered's book list on the light side of Alzheimer’s

Vered Neta Why did Vered love this book?

This book inspired me to write my own account of dealing with my mum’s Alzheimer’s.

This darkly comic yet gripping novel reveals the humorous aspects of the disease. Maud, an eighty-year-old who grapples with forgetting even the cup of tea she just made or recognising her own daughter, surprisingly unravels a seventy-year-old mystery.

The story delicately weaves warm and uplifting moments with touches of comedy, anxiety, and sheer terror that arise when one realises the advancing years and the struggle to be heard in a society that often overlooks the elderly. The portrayal of dementia in this novel is both sympathetic and profoundly moving, capturing the emotional complexity of the experience.

Maud's character is both exasperating and compelling, embodying the kind of older protagonist I yearn to encounter more in literature.

By Emma Healey,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Elizabeth Is Missing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR BBC DRAMA
A SUNDAY TIMES TOP FIVE BESTSELLER

How do you solve a mystery when you can't remember the clues?

Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn't remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognizable - or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.

But there's one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to…


Book cover of Shadow & Claw

Christopher Ruocchio Author Of Empire of Silence

From my list on science fiction for fantasy readers.

Who am I?

I am the author of 5 (nearly 6) science-fantasy novels in my Sun Eater series, as well as the author of 2 novellas and nearly two dozen short stories, as well as an 8-year veteran of the publishing industry. For 7 of those years, I worked as an editor for Baen Books, a nearly 40-year-old publisher of science fiction and fantasy. On top of all that, I am a lifelong sci-fi and fantasy fan, and something of an amateur historian of the field. 

Christopher's book list on science fiction for fantasy readers

Christopher Ruocchio Why did Christopher love this book?

Those familiar with me and my favorites will have been expecting, well…this entire list, but will most especially have been waiting for this series to make its appearance. A cult classic from the early 80s, Gene Wolfe’s masterpiece, The Book of the New Sun is far and away my favorite science fiction series, surpassing even Frank Herbert’s Dune, which held that title for most of my life. Gene Wolfe is, in my opinion, the finest writer our genre has ever produced. No less than Ursula K. LeGuin called him “our Melville,” and not without reason. These books are gorgeous, but they are so rich and dense that I can understand why he never reached the mainstream appeal of Herbert or Asimov. The entries on this list have gotten more complex and perhaps difficult to read as I’ve gone on, but the reason why I think this is the perfect,…

By Gene Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Shadow & Claw as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A major work of twentieth-century American literature...Wolfe creates a truly alien social order that the reader comes to experience from within...once into it, there is no stopping.” ­―The New York Times on The Book of the New Sun

Gene Wolfe has been called "the finest writer the science fiction world has yet produced" by the Washington Post.

THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN is unanimously acclaimed as Wolfe’s most remarkable work, hailed as “a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis” by Publishers Weekly and “one of the most ambitious works of…


Book cover of Complicity

J.M. Donellan Author Of Killing Adonis

From my list on reminding us why we should eat the rich.

Who am I?

We live in a bizarre era of Elon Musk stans who seem certain that if you work hard you’ll be rewarded not only with ‘fuck you’ money, but ‘fuck everyone’ money. I think any writer worth their salt should at some point tackle the issues of their age in their writing. In our era racism, sexism, climate change, and a range of other social justice issues are all exacerbated through the improper distribution of wealth. You could give a man a fish, and he might eat for a day. Or you could eviscerate the rich, share their wealth, and throw the whole world a parade! 

J.M.'s book list on reminding us why we should eat the rich

J.M. Donellan Why did J.M. love this book?

This was the first Iain Banks book I ever read, and it does not mess around. It has one of my all-time unreliable narrators in Gonzo hack Cameron Colley, a man with a personal connection to the violent crimes he’s investigating. It also features some very clever use of second person to insert the reader directly into the story. This one is certainly not for the squeamish, but Banks is one of those rare writers who can portray elaborate violence in a way that is artistic and thought-provoking rather than merely gratuitous. The fact that the book is underscored by some well-considered social critique, as well as complex, layered characters, elevates it far above a standard crime thriller. 

By Iain M. Banks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of a modern classic: 'ingenious, daring and brilliant' - Guardian

COMPLICITY
n. 1. the fact of being an accomplice, esp. in a criminal act

A few spliffs, a spot of mild S&M, phone through the copy for tomorrow's front page, catch up with the latest from your mystery source - could be big, could be very big - in fact, just a regular day at the office for free-wheeling, substance-abusing Cameron Colley, a fully paid-up Gonzo hack on an Edinburgh newspaper.

The source is pretty thin, but Cameron senses a scoop and checks out a series…


Book cover of Good Behaviour

Charles Lambert Author Of The Bone Flower

From Charles' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Storyteller Perpetual foreigner Bon viveur Urbanite Dreamcatcher

Charles' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Charles Lambert Why did Charles love this book?

Families. What would we do without them? Molly Keane strips a family down to its bare essentials in this fabulous novel.

It's fabulous because Good Behaviour has something of the best fairy tales about it, a magical quality in the setting and the life described. It also, and this is why I loved the book so much, has a fantastically awful mother.

I was lucky; I had a wonderful mother, and yet I’m paradoxically drawn to depictions of her opposite. I love reading about terrible mothers and frequently introduce them into my own work.

Aroon, the galumphing, unloved, and unreliable narrator of the story, is the hapless victim of, at best, her mother’s indifference and, at worst, her outright cruelty, which makes the climax of this novel all the more satisfying.

By Molly Keane,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Good Behaviour as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A BBC TWO BETWEEN THE COVERS BOOK CLUB PICK (BOOKER PRIZE GEMS)

'Molly Keane is a mistress of wicked comedy' Vogue

'I really wish I had written this book. It's a tragi-comedy set in Ireland after the First World War. A real work of craftsmanship' Hilary Mantel

I do know how to behave - believe me, because I know. I have always known . . .

Behind the gates of Temple Alice, the aristocratic Anglo-Irish St Charles family sinks into a state of decaying grace. To Aroon St Charles, large and unlovely daughter of the house, the fierce forces of…


Book cover of Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Triptych

Destiny O. Birdsong Author Of Nobody's Magic

From my list on novellas written by Black people on Black people.

Who am I?

Nobody’s Magic began, not as the series of novellas it became, but as a collection of stories I couldn’t stop telling. And it wasn’t just my characters’ comings and goings that enthralled me. It was the way they demanded I let them tell their own stories. I enjoy reading and writing novellas because they allow space for action, voice, and reflection, and they can tackle manifold themes and conversations in a space that is both large and small. At the same time, they demand endings that are neither predictable nor neat, but rather force the reader to speculate on what becomes of these characters they’ve come to know and love. 

Destiny's book list on novellas written by Black people on Black people

Destiny O. Birdsong Why did Destiny love this book?

I wasn’t far into Love before it became crystal clear why its author fled her native Haiti after publishing it, in spite of the fact that the novella is ostensibly historical fiction. The narrator Claire’s depiction of a Duvalier-esque commandant is a scathing one, and in truth, no one escapes Claire’s acerbic wit, keen eye for detail, and incisive observations about colorism, class, and the perpetual violence that is engendered by colonial rule and persists long after its end. Claire is both an unreliable narrator—she is jealous, petty, and bitterly indignant about her treatment by her family—and yet, a trustworthy one. Love taught me how to create a Black woman narrator who does not have to be trusted (or even liked) to be listened to, believed. 

By Marie Vieux-Chauvet, Rose-Myriam Rejouis (translator), Val Vinokur (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The only English translation of “a masterpiece” (The Nation)—a stunning trilogy of novellas about the soul-crushing cost of life under a violent Haitian dictatorship, featuring an introduction by Edwidge Danticat
 
Originally published in 1968, Love, Anger, Madness virtually disappeared from circulation until its republication in France in 2005. Set in the barely fictionalized Haiti of “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s repressive rule, Marie Vieux-Chauvet’s writing was so powerful and so incendiary that she was forced to flee to the United States. Yet Love, Anger, Madness endures.
 
Claire, the narrator of Love, is the eldest of three daughters who surrenders her dreams of…


Book cover of The Lesser Dead

Jasper Kent Author Of Twelve

From my list on vampires of the past, present and future.

Who am I?

My love of vampire stories can be put down to two men: Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing—Dracula and Van Helsing. I can’t remember how old I was, but undoubtedly too young to be allowed to sit up and watch late-night Hammer movies on the BBC. I was into science fiction too, particularly Doctor Who, and it was that, in part, which inspired me to become a scientist, studying physics at Cambridge. It may seem odd that someone so grounded in what is real should so enjoy writing about the impossible. But it’s reassuring to know that what I write can never actually be. Probably.

Jasper's book list on vampires of the past, present and future

Jasper Kent Why did Jasper love this book?

The Lesser Dead is set in the past, but it’s not what you’d expect from an historical vampire novel. The setting is New York City, 1978, and so the atmosphere is more like the American police movies and TV shows that I grew up with than a gothic shocker.

Told by an unreliable narrator with an authentic, claustrophobic voice, the story follows an internecine conflict between two groups of the undead beneath the streets of Manhattan. Buehlman expertly mixes a twisting plot with believable vampires, who both disturb the reader and elicit their compassion, making this my favourite vampire novel of the 21st century.

By Christopher Buehlman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION’S BEST HORROR NOVEL OF THE YEAR

“As much F. Scott Fitzgerald as Dean Koontz” (#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs), Christopher Buehlman excels in twisting the familiar into newfound dread in his “genre-bending” (California Literary Review) novels. Now the acclaimed author of Those Across the River delivers his most disquieting tale yet...

The secret is, vampires are real and I am one.
The secret is, I’m stealing from you what is most truly yours and I’m not sorry...

New York City in 1978 is a dirty, dangerous place to live. And die.…