Disturbing books - find your limit

Reading allows us to take risks and enter spaces and lives which can be frightening and threatening. Reading disturbing books gives us both permission and opportunity to walk in the shoes of both the sinister perpetrator and the distressed victim. This is a great opportunity as it’s ultimately completely safe, you are in your bedroom or on your sofa  when you finish up with your heart still beating fast.  Readers often get a real buzz from the disconcerting in fiction – especially if our real lives are sedate and relatively trouble-free. We relish the sense of foreboding and the tingle of fear of impeding doom. If things get too real – too explicit or distressing – we have a get out clause, a safe word which allows up to close the book and move away from this dark and unsettling experience until we feel ready to return, or not. You must be the judge of your own limits – explore the covers, absorb the comments and sample the extracts before you make your choice from this selection.

Search for books by Mood & Emotion

Let the Right One In

John Ajvide Lindqvist

Epiphany Jones

Michael Grothaus

The Dream of the Celt

Mario Vargas Llosa

A History of Forgetting

Caroline Adderson

Blue Light Yokohama

Nicholás Obregón

The Hanging Shed

Gordon Ferris

The Senility of Vladimir P

Michael Honig


Jason Donald

The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini

Kelly and Victor

Niall Griffiths

What Belongs to You

Garth Greenwell

Julius Winsome

Gerard Donovan

Eat my Heart Out

Zoe Pilger

Lost Bodies

Francois Gantheret

My Absolute Darling

Gabriel Tallent


Niccolò Ammaniti


Jeff VanderMeer

You Should Have Left

Daniel Kehlmann

Seven Tales of Sex and Death

Patricia Duncker

Hello and Goodbye

Patrick McCabe

The Vagrants

Yiyun Li


Affinity Konar

The Tobacconist

Robert Seethaler

Refusal Shoes

Tony Saint

At the Time of Partition

Moniza Alvi

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Jesmyn Ward

Redemption Ark

Alaster Reynolds


Chuck Palahniuk

The Distance

Helen Giltrow


Alicia Erian


Amanda Berriman


Thierry Jonquet

The City Always Wins

Omar Robert Hamilton

White Chrysanthemum

Mary Lynn Bracht

Monkey's Birthday

Simon Crump

The Possessions of Doctor Forrest

Richard T Kelly


Leϊla Slimani

Beatrice and Virgil

Yann Martel

The Unquiet Dead

Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Skin Palace

Jack O'Connell

Shifting Colours

Fiona Sussman

Young God

Katherine Faw Morris

In the Rosary Garden

Nicola White

Whispers from the Doll's House

Christopher Muir

The Right Madness

James Crumley

The Blind Rider

Juan Goytisolo

The Burden of the Desert

Justin Huggler

Karloff's Circus

Steve Aylett

An Untamed State

Roxane Gay

Digging the Vein

Tony O'Neill