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6 Books like American Psycho : Can You Trust the Narrator?

Andrew Wilmot itcherBret Easton Ellis’ ‘American Psycho’, still controversial due to its graphic portrayal of violence, is one of the landmark books that utilise an unreliable narrator. If you want more reads where you have to figure out if what the narrator says is true, check out these books like ‘American Psycho’:‘Fight Club’, ‘Life of Pi’, ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’. ~ Andrew Wilmot

Timelessly Controversial

I have to return some video tapes…

‘American Psycho’, and its film adaption, became cult classics almost immediately on release. Following the life of a wealthy young investment banker, Patrick Bateman, and his stream of consciousness as he narrates his day to day activities, things rapidly get dark.

From snorting cocaine to murdering his colleague, on to increasingly sadistic and complex murders, he starts to go more and more insane until it becomes obvious that it’s difficult to tell what crimes actually happened, and which were simply fantasies.


Books Similar to ‘American Psycho’…

‘Fight Club’ (Chuck Palahniuk, 1996)

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An entire generation working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need… – Tyler Durden, ‘Fight Club’

One of the most famous examples of an unreliable narrator, ‘Fight Club’ shows us the life of an unnamed protagonist struggling with insomnia, who gets drawn into creating an underground fighting club by a mysterious man named Tyler Durden.

It’s difficult to detail much more without spoiling much, but this hard hitting novel has some pretty major twists, and has entered the cultural psyche for good reason.

Similarity Match: 90%
The narrator may have much less of a violent streak than Patrick Bateman, but both books are incredibly clever cult classics where the unreliability of the narrator is steadily revealed.

‘Life of Pi’ (Yann Martel, 2001)

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Life will defend itself no matter how small it is…

Poor Piscine Patel – from being named after a pool in France to all his family dying in a shipwreck, things don’t go too well for him.

Told through the eyes of both Piscine (Pi) and a visiting author, Yann Martel himself,  ‘Life of Pi’ tells the story of Pi’s survival on a lifeboat living with a lion, Richard Parker.

Similarity Match: 80%
Brutal in a very different way to ‘American Psycho’, focusing on survival rather than psychopathy, fans of books like ‘American Psycho’ will enjoy this.

‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ (Agatha Christie, 1926)

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The Truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it…

Possibly one of the first examples of an unreliable narrator, Agatha Christie’s ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ details, surprise surprise, the murder of a wealthy Roger Ackroyd (and the suicide of a widow, Mrs Ferrars). It’s a classic whodunit, with a twist I shan’t spoil for you at the end.

Similarity Match: 80%
As expected of a book similar to ‘American Psycho’, ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ drops subtle hints about the unreliability of the narrator’ that only become obvious at the end, although there is a fraction of the violence of ‘American Psycho’.

‘The Great Gatsby’ (F.Scott Fitzgerald, 1925)

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The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly…

Eminent classic ‘The Great Gatsby’ chronicles the lives of a cast ofcharacters living a prosperous life in the summer of 1922, mainly focusing on the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby’s obsession for the married Daisy Buchanan as he gradually descends into debauchery.

Similarity Match: 70%
There’s a lot of parallels to be drawn between Gatsby and Bateman. Both of them are self-centred and wealthy, and both of them slip into madness. The great difference between ‘The Great Gatsby’ and most books like ‘American Psycho’ is that the narrator is not the madman.


If You Like ‘American Psycho’, You Will Like…

Have these books not hit that sweet spot for you? Do you want a bit less of a focus on the unreliability of the narrator, instead enjoying the portrayal of an unstable psychopath? No matter, try out these other books like ‘American Psycho’!

‘Less than Zero’ (Bret Easton Ellis, 1985)

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Disappear Here…

This is not one for the faint hearted. ‘Less than Zero’ tells the story of a rich young college student describing how he became disillusioned in both his friends and the party scene.

A book filled to the brim of Clay’s drug fuelled bisexual escapades and efforts to make contact with both an ex-girlfriend and an old friend. Almost prophetic, ‘Less than Zero’ shows many of the traits in ‘American Psycho’.

It might be less violent than ‘American Psycho’, but it’s far more disturbing. If you’re looking for a book like ‘American Psycho’, which pushes the bounds of what we can bare to read, give this a try.

‘The Shining’ (Stephen King, 1977)

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Sometimes human places create inhuman monsters…

If anyone ever asks you to look after a historic hotel in the Colorado Rockies with your family, just don’t. ‘The Shining’ places writer Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic in that very spot, and it doesn’t help that his son, Danny, has what is called “the shining” – psychic abilities that let him see into the hotel’s horrific past.

Looking past the difference in narration, and the supernatural element in ‘The Shining’, it’s easy to draw parallels between the way Jack Torrance and Patrick Bateman go crazy.


The Gradual Slip into Insanity

The number of books featuring someone’s gradual slip into insanity is incredible. If you particularly enjoyed that aspect, and want more books like ‘American Psycho’, British counterpart ‘Filth’ is a great place to start, as are ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Trainspotting’.

If that’s not hit the spot, then ‘Imperial Bedrooms’, the sequel to ‘Less than Zero’ along with another of Bret Easton Ellis’ works, ‘Glamorama’.

Have you read a book about madness that we just have to read?

Let us know in the comments below!

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