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10 Dark Books for the Literarily Disturbed

For some readers, the edgiest thing they’ll cozy up to is a murder mystery solved by a cat. For others, however, a kitty conundrum just won’t do. If you’re seduced by the grittier side of literature, we recommend the list of dark books below—all of which contain disturbing, subversive stories you’ll be thinking about long after the final page.

1. Last Exit to Brooklyn By Hubert Selby Jr.

The cult classic features a brutal and frank portrayal of lower-class life in Brooklyn, including domestic violence, gang rape, and an uncensored look at prostitution and transvestism. Like other books on this list, Last Exit to Brooklyn is actually the subject of an obscenity trial. Read More.
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2. The Mad Man By Samuel R. Delany

This pornographic tale—or as the author calls it, “pornotopic fantasy”—follows young graduate student John Marr in New York as he balances his academia with wild nights of anonymous sex with homeless men in bathroom stalls full of spent needles. As the narrator explores more and more unconventional sexual urges, Delany attempts to both shock and educate his readers about homosexual life in the ‘70s and ‘80s. You can go even darker with his novel Hogg, about a trucker who is paid to rape strangers. Read More.
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3. The Story of Junk By Linda Yablonsky

Witty, terrifying, and utterly cool, Yablonsky’s roman à clef is a searing, hyperreal account of the heroin underground in 1980s Manhattan. Library Journal compared the novel to “a grisly car accident that you can’t tear your eyes from.” Read More.
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4. Blood Sports By Eden Robinson

The Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, Canada, is about as close to urban hell as you can get in the Western Hemisphere. Yet in this cauldron of drugs, shattered dreams, and extreme violence, Tom Bauer and his girlfriend, Paulie—both ex-junkies and parents of baby Melody—are trying to make a life for themselves. Read More.
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