American Psycho has a bad reputation for its controversial subject matter and depictions of violence, but there is more to it than just the blood and savagery that they have become so infamously renowned for.
The protagonist of Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, the wealthy, successful, and well-educated Patrick Bateman, defies the stereotype that serial killers are depressed, sullen losers. As a result, he shines a spotlight on our culture of excess by drawing comparisons between the typical, power-hungry, and tunnel-visioned American and mental health issues.
Readers are drawn into Bateman’s manipulative world and watch as he spirals out of control until he finally breaks and confesses to the murders he has committed. While Bateman’s atrocities are hard to believe, who is going to believe someone like him?
It’s easy to get swept up in the gore and horror of books like American Psycho, making it difficult to sort out your own feelings about them. Once you do, you’ll see that the story also deals with other themes, some of which are even more horrifying than the violence itself.
Books like American Psycho
Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk
If we were to compile a list of books like American Psycho, we would have to include at least one work by Chuck Palahniuk. Haunted, a novel by Palahniuk, introduces us to a wide range of themes, including social distastefulness, existentialism, and sexuality, as well as the battle for artistic credibility in our age of social media.
People who responded to an ad for a secret artists retreat where they could escape the stresses of everyday life and focus solely on their work tell their stories in Haunted, a collection of 23 interconnected short stories. They are taken to an abandoned theater where they will have three months to work on their masterpiece with no interaction with the outside world, and they are therefore locked in.
Self-sabotage, mutilation, cannibalism, and torture ensue as each character tries to stage a better story out of their current situation by putting their lives in danger. This group’s tales are a mix of shocking and amusing. Few people will ever forget the experience of reading Haunted.
Are you a fan of Chuch Palahniuk? Please check out our list of books similar to Fight Club!
The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks
Many of Iain Banks’ science-fiction manuscripts were rejected, so he decided to write a more’mainstream’ novel, which led to the publication of his debut novel The Wasp Factory in 1984. Though not science fiction, Banks still approached the novel as such by entering the mind of a psychopathic sixteen-year-old boy, which gives readers an almost alien perspective on the world around them..
On an isolated Scottish island, Frank Cauldhame is the sole survivor of a dysfunctional family. His mother abandoned them years ago, and his brother is currently in a mental institution. Frank turned to violence and strange ritualistic tendencies after a childhood accident to vent his rage. It is revealed that some shocking secrets about Frank’s past and their father will forever alter Frank’s life when his brother returns home.
The Wasp Factory will appeal to fans of American Psycho-style books because of its examination of abuse of power as well as scenes of graphic violence, particularly against animals.
Anyone, left unchecked, can easily become a monster or a broken soul like Frank’s father, and Banks shows how anyone, if left alone, can easily turn into a monster or a broken soul like Frank.
Psycho, by Robert Bloch
It’s easy to see why Robert Bloch’s Psycho is considered one of the most influential horror books of the twentieth century and one of his most enduring works, now a series of books and inspiration for the famous Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.
Norman, the Bates Motel’s caretaker, and his domineering mother are the focus of the novel. Since business has dwindled as a result of the highway relocation, Norman welcomes the weary Mary Crane with open arms, much to the chagrin of his mother.
When Norman discovers Mary’s severed head, he immediately suspects his mother and decides to get rid of both the body and the car to keep her safe. As time goes on, however, Mary’s friends start looking for her at the motel, and the shocking truth about her disappearance and the bizarre family dynamic between Norman and his mother begins to emerge.
Among many similar themes apparent in novels like American Psycho, Bloch explores the destruction of the American Dream, dualities of human nature, insanity and internal darkness in Psycho with many other startling surprises along the way.
Last Exit to Brooklyn, by Hubert Selby Jr
Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel Last Exit to Brooklyn, despite being the subject of an obscenity trial in the United Kingdom and later being banned in Italy, has been praised by critics and fellow authors.
There are six parts to the novel that can be read in any order. Following the exploits of various lower-class Brooklynites, from a transgender hooker to a prostitute to a secretly gay man in the 1950s, each section begins with an excerpt from the Bible.
The characters in Hubert Selby Jr’s novels are portrayed with utmost sensitivity, shedding light on their internal conflicts and rebellions against gendered pressures and stereotypes. We see men and women rebelling against their roles as ideal men and ideal women, giving in to these feelings one moment and denying them the next.
Last Exit to Brooklyn is a gripping read thanks to its masterful depiction of the characters and their stories.
The Killer Inside Me, by Jim Thompson
In his 1952 novel The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson became one of the first authors to delve deeply into the mind of an American serial killer. Because it features a murderous protagonist who is also a member of the police force, The Wasp Factory shares a common theme with American Psycho in that it shows how power can be abused.
Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff in a small town, is known as the nicest guy in town. Innocent and unthreatening, you’d be happy to have him join your family regardless of how boring or uninspiring he is. Is he, or isn’t he? A sadistic monster with a long list of murders lurks beneath this persona.
In his quest to avenge the death of his brother and clear his conscience, he is unfazed if innocent people are killed in the process. Thompson’s masterpiece, The Killer Inside Me, is considered one of the best crime novels of all time and has undoubtedly influenced many of the authors on this list.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
In his gripping novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey depicts the ongoing battles between sanity and insanity, social pressure and shame, emasculation and sexuality, and institutional control and human dignity.
When it comes to running her unit at an Oregon State mental facility, Nurse Ratched is a total control freak. Until Randall Patrick McMurphy arrives and throws a wrench in her plans, her patients are either too numbed by her mind-numbing drugs or too terrified to speak out against her.
One of the patients, “Chief” Bromden, recounts the events leading up to his escape, including a riot against Ratched and McMurphy’s tragic punishment for rebelling against the oppressive powers keeping them imprisoned, through the troubled mind of one of his fellow patients.
American Psycho fans will enjoy One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, a novel that depicts the thin and precarious line between sanity and insanity in an unforgettable way.
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
When it comes to the traditional ‘wild west novel,’ Cormac McCarthy defies convention like a master. In the novel, which is based on true events that occurred in the 1850s along the Mexican border, a teenager known only as “the kid” finds himself sucked into the depraved world of the Glanton gang.
Native American scalp hunters known as the Glanton gang are led by the enormously talented, multi-talented Judge Holden who frequently speaks of war as a certainty in the context of the Glanton gang’s activities. We follow the young man as he fights to stay alive in the gang while also trying to flee their bloody and violent world.
Blood Meridian will captivate you in the same way that Brett Eastern Ellis’ dissection of the American Dream in American Psycho did. With Judge Holden, McCarthy examines the warlike nature of man and governments’ pointless justifications for the mindless violence involved in going to war.
No, I haven’t read it yet. There are plenty of other books that are similar to Blood Meridian!
The Cement Garden, by Ian McEwan
One of Ian McEwan’s best-known works of fiction, Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden is a gripping tale of morality and the human condition, as well as an examination of the choices we make and the consequences of our actions.
Decisions to stay together and stay out of foster care made by the four children in the novel whose parents died in a short period of time were a surprise. As in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, once the children are left alone without adult supervision, chaos ensues, boundaries are crossed, secrets are made, and even darker ones are discovered.
I’m sure readers looking for novels like American Psycho will enjoy The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan, which is a psychological rollercoaster. His ability to write about taboo and complex Freudian theories with warmth and tenderness is what makes McEwan such a lasting author.
Filth, by Irvine Welsh
Since we couldn’t put together a list of books like American Psycho without Chuck Palahniuk, nor could we put together a list of books by Irvine Welsh without including one. Their work pushes the boundaries, is unafraid of violence, and decapitates larger subjects in masterfully subversive plotlines.
Bruce Roberson, a detective sergeant with Edinburgh’s Lothian Constabulary, is the latest law enforcement officer to fall victim to filth. Beginning with a horrifying murder case, the novel switches to Bruce’s point of view, told in first-person stream of consciousness style.
There are many tumultuous moments in the story as the reader learns more about Bruce’s drug and alcohol addictions, as well as the sexually-abusive exploits he engages in with his coworkers.
By weaving an experimental narrative that includes a tapeworm growing inside Bruce’s digestive system, Welsh reveals the shocking truth behind the opening murder in an unexpected twist. In Filth, Welsh explores the struggles of the Scottish working class, a theme that recurs frequently in Welsh’s work.
It’s safe to say that the authors of these books like American Psycho don’t hold back when it comes to tackling a wide range of complex topics like social pressures, the misuse of authority in the workplace and mental health issues among many others.