Whether you like to admit it or not, there is a certain grotesque fascination which draws us to books depicting particularly horrifying subject matter, which is what makes books like Fight Club so popular.
Perhaps it is the shock factor or merely a quest to see what all the fuss is about, either way the allure that these books have is inescapable. Therefore it isn’t surprising that people are looking for more books like Chuck Palahniuk’s violent and brilliantly unsettling debut novel, Fight Club.
Despite the criticism Palahniuk’s novel faced on publication for depictions of extreme violence, the psychologically charged and gut-wrenching story helped launch his career and gain him a cult following of fans.
Told in flashbacks by an unnamed, unreliable insomniac, we piece together his story after he quits his job and gets tangled up with the charismatic and mysterious Tyler Durden. Between them they set up Fight Club, an underground, no holds barred, bare-knuckle fighting club, where men come each weekend and fight for as long as they have to in a bid to escape the prison of their mundane lives.
Expertly written, Palahniuk explores the negative effects of consumerism, materialism, rebellion and the repression of the unconscious mind all while keeping readers engaged and begging for more. If you are on the hunt for more books like Fight Club to shock and enthral you then take a look at the list compiled below.
9 Books like Fight Club
Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
Notorious for its candid portrayal of sexuality, Henry Miller’s daring novel Tropic of Cancer is the perfect start to this list of shocking books like Fight Club. The reader is immersed in the racy adventures of a group of Bohemians living in Paris in the late 1920s and documents their ecstatic highs and devastating lows.
Unashamedly written, Tropic of Cancer is partly autobiographical and centres around the point in Miller’s life when he was struggling to become a writer. He describes struggles such as hunger, homelessness, divorce and despair which he combines with an honest and open account of his different sexual exploits.
Despite facing censorship in America after publication in 1934, the novel is now classed as an important and influential piece of 20th-century literature. Tropic of Cancer has helped pave the way for other authors to use the same freedom of expression in their work today, therefore this list of books wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of daring writers such as Palahniuk and Miller.
Requiem for a Dream, by Hubert Selby Jr.
The aptly named Requiem for a Dream is one of Hubert Selby Jr.’s best-known books and follows four New Yorkers who all fall victim to different addictions in pursuit of their dreams.
There are Harry and Marion who, in a bid to raise enough money to open their own business, start selling heroin. They enlist Tyrone to help who needs the money so he can leave the violence of the ghetto behind, all three end up becoming dependent on the drug they set out to sell.
Then there is Sarah whose aspirations to make it on TV lead her to become addicted to diet pills. We watch as their lives slowly unravel, consumed by drugs all four of them are unable to see that their dreams are dissolving around them and they are in fact living in a nightmare.
Witnessing the novels parallel individuals spiral out of control is as painfully disturbing at times as it is painfully beautiful at others. However, we keep reading with a sickly fascination which is what makes Requiem for a Dream a great next read for those looking for books similar to Fight Club.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S Thompson
Another novel rooted in autobiographical incidents, Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the story of one of the strangest road trips ever taken. When the protagonist Raoul Duke and his friend and lawyer Dr Gonzo decide to chase the American Dream, they descend on Las Vegas in a drug-induced haze all while considering the failures of the 1960s countercultural movement.
The novel is famous for its vivid descriptions of illegal drug use, harebrained theories and spirited good times in the story of the ultimate lost weekend which is where the attraction of the novel lies.
Though one of Thompson’s most famous books, it is often criticised for having a loose plot and subjectivity surrounding its mix of fact and fiction, to me this just heightens the portrayal of the banal conversations between friends under the influence.
It does however add the element of unreliable narration into the mix which resonates with Palahniuk’s narrator making Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas an incredibly entertaining read for anyone looking for more novels like Fight Club.
Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh
Similar to Fight Club in that Irvine Welsh’s debut Trainspotting has also acquired quite the cult following since publication in 1993. The novel follows the “Skag Boys” who are a group of Scottish Junkies firmly entangled in the heroin scene in Scotland during the 1980s.
We witness the literal highs and lows of the characters through the gritty depictions of drug addiction and what happens when they try and quit. Initially a collection of short stories and novellas, Trainspotting is divided into 7 sections with each of the 43 chapters told from a different perspective on events. This gives a chaotic feel to the novel and disjoints the narrative reflecting the erratic and spontaneous life of a drug addict which Welsh illustrates expertly.
The allure of the raw and unadulterated portrayal of drug use and experiences while under the influence is what makes Trainspotting a great choice for anyone looking for books like Fight Club to be astonished and appalled by.
Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
We move away from the explicit content of drug use apparent in some of the other books included in this list of books like Fight Club and onto tackling stereotypes surrounding the mentally disabled in Daniel Keys poignant novella Flowers For Algernon.
The novel’s protagonist, Charlie Gordon, is a 32-year-old with an IQ of 68. He works as a cleaner and enjoys making people laugh, he is simple and sweet but sadly cannot determine when the joke is on him. All he longs for in the world is to be smart so when the opportunity becomes available he jumps at the chance.
Charlie embarks on an experimental trial aimed to boost intelligence, an experiment previously only tested on a mouse called Algernon. Told via his own progress reports it is revealed that being ‘smart’ isn’t all Charlie had hoped it would be as the novel demonstrates the differences between emotions and intelligence.
Written as if Charlie is speaking, spelling errors and all, Keys explores an alternative side of what it is like to be mentally disabled in Flowers For Algernon, which will stay with you long after you finish reading.
Already read this book? Check out our list of books like Flowers for Algernon!
The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood
Known for her disturbingly plausible dystopian fiction, there is an unquestionable attraction to Margaret Atwood novels to see what she is going to write about next. Her 2015 novel The Heart Goes Last is no different and an equally unsettling read for anyone looking for books similar to Fight Club.
Set in the near future, Atwood stretches the limits of the human heart in an experiment of an altogether different nature which sees the lawful locked up while the lawless roam free in a bizarre social trial.
Couple Stan and Charmaine are struggling amidst an economic downfall, they live in their car and are barely surviving. When they see an advertisement looking for subjects to take part in a social experiment offering jobs and a home they immediately enrol, the only catch being that every other month they have to swap the comfort of their home for the confines of a prison cell.
Initially all goes well until they start becoming obsessed with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupies their house when they are in the prison. Soon a crazy spiral of infidelity and blackmail ensues in this utterly brilliant yet chilling novel.
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Nothing is more horrifying and spine-tinglingly fascinating than getting inside the mind of a real-life murderer, not only for the reader but for the authors who write about them too. Truman Capote travelled all the way to Holcomb in Kansas and spent months compiling research and interviewing neighbours and witnesses to the infamous quadruple murder of the Clutter family to form the basis of his nonfiction book, In Cold Blood.
Richly detailed with Capote’s eloquent writing style the book, though depicting harrowing real-life events, is incredibly captivating. Pieced together in an alternating three-way narrative which describes the lives of the murderers, their victims and the local community affected by the horrific event.
The book was an instant success and became the second best selling true crime book in history which proves the morbid magnetism stories like this have on us and why In Cold Blood is perfect for anyone looking for more books like Fight Club.
Chemical Pink, by Katie Arnoldi
Katie Arnoldi’s debut Chemical Pink is a behind-the-scenes close up of the world of female bodybuilding and begs the question how far would you go for the perfect body?
When amateur bodybuilder Aurora Johnson meets Charles Worthington, a rich eccentric with a passion for helping amateur bodybuilders get on the road to success, she quickly agrees to let him sponsor her. This means embarking on a gruelling training program under his supervision, a program which includes regular workouts, special dietary changes, muscle enhancing drugs and sexual favours.
Aurora at first feels that the sacrifice is worth it, but as her body starts to change and their relationship intensifies she begins to wonder if there is such a thing as going too far to achieve her goals.
Arnoldi’s thrilling page-turner paints a vivid portrait of two obsessed personalities which borders on the perverse so if you like the dualities of the relationships in Fight Club then you are sure to find Chemical Pink a deeply affecting read too.
Invisible Monsters, by Chuck Palahniuk
Who better than to complete this list of books like Fight Club than another by the author Chuck Palahniuk himself? Following the success of Fight Club, Palahniuk’s writing has continued to shock and abhor and his 1999 novel Invisible Monsters is no different.
Initially rejected by publishers for being too disturbing due to the graphic scenes of sexual reassignment and plastic surgeries, Invisible Monsters explores transexual homophobia, identity, belonging and the curse of the beautiful.
When a terrible ‘accident’ leaves the once beautiful catwalk model narrator hideously disfigured, she must find a new place in the world as she no longer fits into the superficial modelling world like she did before. While recovering from her accident in hospital she meets Brandy Alexander a transgender woman who embarks on a mission to help her do this.
Events are told in a non-linear progression in this twisted puzzle of a story that forces you to piece everything together including the multiple and confused identities of the characters. Invisible Monsters is an exhilarating read and will certainly fill any void left behind by Fight Club, especially thanks to another jaw-dropping plot twist which Palahniuk has become particularly famous for.
Though known for causing a stir with the appeal of the gruesome, Fight Club and those on this list of books like it should also be recognised for their literary skill in portraying scenes of a particularly horrifying nature. They are honest, candid, gritty and not afraid to express freedom of speech or subject matter.
Stories are supposed to evoke feelings even if those feelings are at times horror, shock and disgust, they may not be for the faint-hearted but for those who dare, prepare to be haunted long after you have finished reading.
Are you looking for more books like Fight Club? Have any suggestions that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!