Some books forever change how you see the world, leaving you with an eerie curiosity you can’t escape. An online community shares 24 such harrowing titles written by women.
1. The Vegetarian by Han Kang
In a novel set in South Korea, readers follow Yeong-hye on her journey to becoming a vegetarian. However, what seems a mere dietary decision at first soon turns out to be a mental illness. The novel has left many shaken by its presentation of beauty, violence, and innocence.
2. Voices From Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich
This collection of oral stories is a bleak account of nuclear disasters. The Chernobyl disaster is unsettling enough, but imagine the story being told through the lens of the eyewitnesses. Svetlana Alexievich interviewed over 500 eyewitnesses ranging from front-line workers to physicists.
3. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
This is a tale about Natsuki, an 11-year-old girl who feels alienated from society and is convinced she is an alien. Unfortunately, it’s more than a story of make-believe. She suffers abuse and is constantly ostracized by her family, making Natsuki question her identity. This grim novel has left many readers in horror.
4. The End of Alice by AM Homes
This book explores the disturbing theme of a convicted child abuser, Chappy, corresponding with a 19-year-old girl. As the story is written from Chappy’s perspective, readers take an alarming dive into a child abuser’s mind.
5. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
A member states they’ve never been stretched as a reader as the story looks at a family of circus freaks intentionally bred by chemical experimentation. One commenter notes that whenever your head gets remotely close to accepting what is happening in the family, the author ramps it up again.
6. Tampa by Alissa Nutting
This tale is about a predatory female teacher who preys on her 14-year-old male students. Readers see the character’s obsession accompanied by meticulous planning, unraveling her disturbing compulsion ever so vividly.
7. Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata
Murata strikes again with yet another grotesque title. A reader describes the book as weird, different, and disturbing but not gory. This collection of Japanese short stories is an eerie concoction of humor and horror, leaving readers in a daze.
8. Rise of Life on Earth by Joyce Carol Oates
This short novel follows Kathleen Hennessey, a working-class woman who grew up in 1960s Detroit. The story is the culmination of madness and murder, as suffering from abuse is shown to cause greater violence.
9. In The Cut by Susanna Moore
This 1995 thriller narrates the tale of a middle-aged English teacher embroiled in a murder mystery. She finds herself intimately involved with one of the homicide detectives. This unforgiving read is vivid and harsh, showing how even violence can become prized.
10. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
A member states this book leaves you feeling empty. This title introduces readers to Atwood’s bizarre post-apocalyptic world where new creatures have replaced humans.
11. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
If you want to read a devastating short story, look no further. A commenter shares their experience: “Many years ago, on a family drive, we listened to this on audiotape. It was dark and rainy, and we all got so scared we had to turn it off!”
12. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Here’s a story of a dysfunctional family of formerly enslaved people with a haunted home in Cincinnati. In her spine-chilling novel, Morrison explores the devastation brought about by slavery on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels.
13. The Bridesmaid by Ruth Rendell
In this tale of forbidden love, readers follow Philip and her questionable pursuit of Senta, her sister’s fiance. Her obsession leads disturbing events to ensue as the novel takes readers through a journey of jealousy and darkness.
14. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
For those who enjoy supernatural elements, this book is for you. Arthur Kipps is a young lawyer who has to settle matters for a deceased client. As he visits a remote village for work, he finds himself up against a vengeful ghost spirit.
15. Disordered Minds by Minette Walters
This novel is a deep dive into mental illness and murder mystery. Written from the point of view of a nurse at a psychiatric hospital, readers witness the ongoing investigation concerning a series of murders of patients.
16. The Dead Lie Down by Sophie Hannah
Memory can fail us when we need it the most. As Ruth is found dead in her bathtub, her husband becomes the investigation's prime suspect. However, he claims that he has no memory of the events to the point of her death.
17. Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
The story follows a young girl, Peggy, who is taken to the woods by her father and told that the rest of the world has ended. The relationship between Peggy and her survivalist father takes readers through this thrilling tale of survival and isolation.
18. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
There is a darker and more unknown side of love. Mike becomes obsessed with Verity, who refuses his advances. After she is married to someone else, Mike thinks that she is in danger and must be saved. This journey of love morphing into obsession and need for control is mind-bending and disturbing.
19. Animal by Lisa Taddeo
Readers enter the world of Joan, a 20-something woman struggling to accept her painful past. In her attempt to make sense of her experiences, Joan comes across Alice, who is just as profoundly haunted by his demons in this jarring depiction of trauma and identity.
20. The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea
This gothic historical fiction is about newly-wed Rósa’s journey to her husband's remote village. However, she is met with suspicion from villagers. When she asks her husband about his late wife, he says nothing but hands her a small glass figurine. Rósa knows that darkness is headed her way.
21. Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexico City is home to vampires, humans, cops, and criminals in this story. Domingo is a lonely kid on the streets who runs into Atl, a mesmerizing vampire on the run. As Atl attempts to escape the city, she soon finds herself warming up to Domingo. Will the two ever make it out?
22. The Hacienda by Isabel Canãs
Combine supernatural and suspense, and you get this Mexican gothic read. Set after the Mexican War of Independence, the story follows Beatriz’s experience in the glorious estate of her newfound husband. However, the residence is unlike anything she imagined, as invisible eyes follow her.
23. White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
The story follows the Silver family, facing an absurd case of absences as Lily disappears, leaving her husband and twins in peril. The house has a life of its own, with generations of women inhabiting its walls. Soon after, Miranda, Lily’s daughter, begins to slip away into the darkness.
24. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
This collection of stories explores a variety of genres, all the way from psychological realism to fantasy. Each narrative explores the realities of womanhood and the violence subjected to their bodies. The sharp shift from horrific descriptions to comedy makes this title explosive.