Today’s curated list includes 12 great books that are hard to recommend.
Although the following 12 works of fiction are mostly all amazing and wonderfully written, their subject matter is not the easiest to read about. Be aware that all of these books contain some trigger warnings. If you’re a very sensitive person, they might not be suited to your reading tastes. But it’s still good to take note of why you might want to read them, or not.
Each book from the following list is important in its own way. But there are a couple that are actually banned in some states in the US, even in Canada. As far as Im concerned, I don’t believe that books should be banned unless they promote hate or other forms of propaganda.
Fiction is a form of expression in which the writer uses its imagination to create a fictive world. Hence, why should a fictional work not be read? If used in a positive way, we can all stand to learn and evolve from reading all types of books.
That being said, I can appreciate that not everyone holds the same beliefs, therefore do what you think is right and feel comfortable to you as a reader. If curiosity gets the best of you, by all means, give them a try.
Do keep in mind that some of the authors on this list came from a different generation and their mentality reflects that.
One way or another, the following 12 great books are hard to recommend. Out of the ones I read, I mostly loved them. There are still a couple sitting on my to-be-read shelves, but I intend to read them at some point in the future.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 12 books that, while being great works of fiction, are hard to recommend.
Five Little Indians by Michelle Good
An important piece of Canadian literature, this book should be assigned reading in high school. The author tackles one of the most heart wrenching stories that took place in Canada and has been the subject of much controversy in the last few years.
The residential schools mistreated thousands of Aboriginal families, and decades later many victims still feel traumatized by the experiences they endured.
Very hard subject matter, but I think every human being, especially those living in Canada, should familiarize themselves with this atrocious part of Canadian history.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Another great work of fiction by a Canadian author, the Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel. Made even more popular because of its TV adaptation, the book takes the reader to a place none of us wish to experience in real life. This fictional totalitarian society where women’s sole purpose is to procreate is one of our worst nightmares had it come true. Well written and quite imaginative, the novel makes for an interesting read. But brace yourself, it will evoke some negative emotions in you while reading it, that’s for sure.
Lolita by Vladimir Nobokov
If you haven’t heard of Lolita, you need to get out of hibernation and join the human race again. This book is banned in many states because of its incestuous content. I’m not gonna lie, I’m still trying to summon up the courage to read the second half of the book, and I started it more than five years ago, if not longer. Its subject matter is disturbing to say the least, but many people loved it. It is considered a provocative piece of literature, but it definitely isn’t for everyone.
The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
Although I will always recommend thrillers, this one is on the gruesome side. While the writing is on par, the story is quite disturbing and not easy to get through. I am amongst those who haven’t gathered the courage to open it yet, but I will report back once I do. I like dark and gory, but for some reason this one scares me.
From what I hear, it is one of the hardest thrillers to read, despite it ranking over four stars on Goodreads. If you like crazy and twisted stories, then this one’s for you.
Out by Natsuo Kirino
Another crazy thriller, Out is addictive in its weirdness. It contains lots of violence and graphic details. It is about how some people will go to great lengths for survival, and this story is horrific in its descriptions. You need a strong stomach to get through this one. I read it a few years ago, and I still remember certain details. While this book is hard to recommend, you will not be able to put it down once you get enraptured in the story.
The Killing by David Hewson
I’m ashamed to say that I still haven’t read this book, even though I loved both the Danish and the American TV adaptations. Never mind that it’s been sitting on my shelves for over three years!
I surely don’t need to remind you guys how much I love Nordic Noir, so I’m sure the book will be as good as the TV series. But it is not an easy book to read because of the psychological twists and turns this story takes us. While I’m sure it will become one of my favorite nordic noir thrillers, it may be hard for some readers to handle.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
This book was extremely popular on BookTok and Instagram since it first came out in January 2021. It is very well written, but the content is disturbing.
I gotta give it to Audrain, she’s great at character development, and she gets right to the heart of the human psyches. She dismantles the human brain and makes the reader think throughout her books.
I love authors who achieve that, even though I didn’t love where this story took me. You can read the synopsis here and judge for yourself whether you want to give it a go.
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
This gem of a book was written by a very young author. She was only 15 when she started drafting this book, but she was seventeen when the book was published.
The subject matter portrays the reality of many young African Americans living in large metropolitan centers. It relates the story of a young woman and her brother, and the traumatizing events they endured in their young lives.
While it is hard to read, it is eye opening. Although it is a work of fiction, it depicts well the lengths some of the youths living in the US have to go to in order to survive.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
This is another very sad story about a transgender boy living in Nigeria. The story is tragic yet beautifully written. It will make you feel many emotions, even shed a tear or two.
It is about hidden identity and the way society perceives those who don’t fit the mold. Nigerian society is not very accepting of those who are different.
The tragic end of Vivek’s life is very hard to read about, so be forewarned. But a very moving story that will remain imprinted in your mind for years to come.
The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund
Swedish duo Erik Axl Sund only have this one amazing trilogy to their name, as far as I know. It was originally published in three volumes, but for the English translation they made it into one large tome. It is a terrifying thriller that not everyone can handle.
Gruesome and psychologically disturbing, this book is one of the best Nordic Noir thrillers I ever read. This very complex book requires your undivided attention. If you set it aside for a few days, it might take you a while to get back to it. But that is exactly how I read it.
Because of its gory content, I needed to pace myself and take my time with it. While I loved this book, I know it is hard to recommend to everyone. But if you have a knack for disturbing, complex thrillers, then I definitely recommend it.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
This book is controversial because of its subject matter. It is a twisted “love” story between a fifteen year old student and her forty-two year old English teacher. The novel will make you feel angry yet sad at the same time. The manipulative control this grown man has over this young girl is appalling, and it makes the reader want to rip his guts out.
While it is not an easy book to read, its story needed to be told. If only as an eye-opener for other young girls who aren’t sure if they’re being abused or not.
The way the author narrates the whole story still leaves the reader hanging. While it depicts a similar storyline as Lolita, it is a more contemporary tale of predatory men and young women that feel precocious for their age.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
What more can I say about this book that I haven’t yet?
It is beautifully written, but it is a sad, sad tale of what a young man had to endure throughout his youth and his struggle to become a functioning, productive adult.
I cannot stress enough what a masterpiece this novel is, but get ready to be ripped apart emotionally.
As I previously mentioned in previous posts, I do not recommend you read this book while you’re going through something difficult in life. This book will not make you feel better and it won’t help you get out of a reading slump. Be mentally prepared for it, but it is worth reading at least once in a lifetime. The author is brilliant, and makes reading a heart wrenching story so much more bearable.
I hope you enjoyed this post about 12 great books I find are hard to recommend. Which other books I haven’t mentioned here do you find fit this category?
I’m open to your suggestions if you disagree with this list. Please let me know in the comments below.
Until next time, keep reading fellow bookworms.