The Greatest "Fiction, Dark Humor" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Fiction

Dark Humor

Dark humor is a genre of literature that combines humor with themes and subjects that are typically considered taboo, morbid, or controversial. It often involves making light of serious or disturbing topics such as death, violence, and mental illness. Dark humor can be used to satirize societal norms and conventions, challenge the status quo, and provide a unique perspective on the human condition. Books in this category may be unsettling or uncomfortable to read, but they offer a unique and often thought-provoking perspective on the world around us.

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  1. 1. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

    The novel is a comedic satire set in New Orleans in the early 1960s, centered around Ignatius J. Reilly, a lazy, eccentric, highly educated, and socially inept man who still lives with his mother. Ignatius spends his time writing a lengthy philosophical work while working various jobs and avoiding the responsibilities of adulthood. The story follows his misadventures and interactions with a colorful cast of characters in the city, including his long-suffering mother, a flamboyant nightclub owner, a beleaguered factory worker, and a frustrated hot dog vendor.

  2. 2. White Noise by Don DeLillo

    The novel is a postmodern exploration of death and consumerism in the United States. It follows a year in the life of Jack Gladney, a professor who has made his name by pioneering the field of Hitler Studies at a small liberal arts college in Middle America. Jack and his fourth wife, Babette, are afraid of death and are obsessed with finding a cure for their fear. Their lives are disrupted by an airborne toxic event, which forces them to confront their mortality and the toxic effects of modern life.

  3. 3. Money by Martin Amis

    "Money" is a darkly humorous novel that follows the life of John Self, a hedonistic, self-destructive director of commercials, as he navigates the excesses and depravities of 1980s New York and London. His life is filled with overindulgence in food, alcohol, drugs, and women, leading to a downward spiral of self-destruction. The novel is a satire on the excesses of capitalism and the obsession with wealth and materialism, and it also explores themes of identity, self-loathing, and the destructive power of addiction.

  4. 4. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

    This novel is a complex, multi-layered narrative that explores themes of addiction, recovery, and the human condition in a near-future society. The story is set in a tennis academy and a halfway house for recovering addicts, and it intertwines the lives of its numerous characters, including a gifted but troubled teenage tennis prodigy, his filmmaker father, and a group of Quebecois separatists. The book is known for its length, intricate plot, and extensive use of footnotes.

  5. 5. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

    This novel is a gritty, raw portrayal of a group of heroin addicts living in Edinburgh, Scotland. The narrative is non-linear and told from multiple perspectives, providing a deep dive into the minds and lives of these characters. The story explores themes of poverty, addiction, friendship, and the struggle to escape one's circumstances, all set against the backdrop of a bleak urban landscape. It is known for its strong Scottish dialect, graphic content, and dark humor.

  6. 6. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

    The novel follows a young man living in Manhattan as he tries to navigate his way through the fast-paced and drug-fueled world of the New York City nightlife during the 1980s. He is struggling with his job at a prestigious magazine, his estranged wife who has left him for another man, and his growing addiction to cocaine. As he spirals further into self-destruction, he must confront his problems and make choices about the person he wants to be.

  7. 7. The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

    The Butcher Boy is a dark and disturbing tale set in small-town Ireland, following the life of a troubled young boy who descends into madness and violence. The protagonist's life is filled with neglect, abuse and mental health issues, and his increasingly erratic behavior and gruesome fantasies lead him down a path of horrific actions. The novel provides a stark exploration of the effects of societal neglect and the failure of mental health systems.

  8. 8. How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman

    The novel is a stream-of-consciousness narrative told from the perspective of Sammy, a shoplifter and ex-convict from Glasgow who wakes up in an alley after a two-day drinking binge to find he is completely blind. As Sammy struggles to navigate his new reality, he contends with bureaucratic systems, confronts his past, and grapples with his relationships, all while trying to understand and adjust to his sudden loss of sight. The story is a gritty exploration of working-class life, the human condition, and the nature of reality.

  9. 9. The Sellout by Paul Beatty

    This satirical novel follows the story of an African-American man living in a small, agrarian town on the outskirts of Los Angeles. After his father's death, he attempts to reinstate slavery and segregation in his town as a means of creating a sense of identity for himself and his community. The novel explores themes of racial identity and equality in America, challenging societal norms and expectations through its provocative narrative.

  10. 10. Bad News by Edward St Aubyn

    "Bad News" is the second novel in a series that follows the life of Patrick Melrose, a man from a wealthy but deeply troubled family. In this installment, Patrick, now 22, must travel to New York to collect his father's ashes. As he navigates the city, he struggles with his addiction to drugs and alcohol, and grapples with the traumatic memories of his abusive father. The narrative provides a darkly comic and deeply poignant exploration of addiction, trauma, and the struggle for redemption.

  11. 11. Some Hope by Edward St Aubyn

    "Some Hope" is a darkly humorous novel that delves into the life of a man who struggles to overcome his traumatic past and drug addiction. He is invited to a lavish party filled with Britain's aristocracy, where he must confront his past and deal with the pretentious and shallow society he is part of. The narrative explores themes of abuse, recovery, and the struggle to find redemption and hope amidst despair.

  12. 12. Good Behaviour by Molly Keane

    "Good Behaviour" is a darkly humorous and compelling novel that delves into the dysfunctional lives of the St. Charles family. Set in the early 20th century, the story is narrated by Aroon, the youngest daughter, who chronicles her family's eccentricities, secrets, and the complex dynamics that shape their relationships. As Aroon navigates her way through a world of privilege and societal expectations, she grapples with her own desires and the consequences of her actions. With sharp wit and keen observations, the novel explores themes of love, betrayal, and the lengths people will go to maintain appearances.

  13. 13. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: A Novel by Ben Fountain

    The novel follows Billy Lynn, a 19-year-old soldier, who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing Iraq battle and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. During the tour, they're honored at a Dallas Cowboys game, which exposes the commercialization and shallow appreciation of their sacrifices. Amidst the celebration, Billy grapples with his understanding of heroism, patriotism, family, and the stark contrast between the realities of war and America's perceptions.

  14. 14. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

    The novel is set in a graveyard over the course of a single night and is narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices. The story is centered around the death of President Lincoln's 11-year-old son Willie, who resides in the Bardo, a transitional state between life and rebirth in Tibetan tradition. As Willie interacts with the other spirits stuck in this realm, his father visits the crypt to mourn, causing a struggle among the ghosts over the boy's soul. The narrative explores themes of grief, the impermanence of life, and the unresolved issues that keep us from moving on.

  15. 15. The Parable of the Blind by Gert Hofmann

    "The Parable of the Blind" is a darkly comedic novel that follows six blind men who are hired to pose as models for a famous painter's depiction of a biblical parable. As they journey to the painter's studio, they struggle with their dependence on each other and the outside world, grappling with the limitations and challenges of their blindness. The narrative explores themes of human vulnerability, the nature of perception, and the absurdity of existence.

  16. 16. The Midnight Examiner by William Kotzwinkle

    The novel follows the life of a former serious novelist turned tabloid editor in New York City. The protagonist's life takes a turn when he gets involved with a B-movie actress and a gangster who wants to finance his own movie. The story is a mix of adventure, comedy, and satire, offering a humorous and insightful look into the world of tabloid journalism.

  17. 17. The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai

    "The Melancholy of Resistance" is a surreal and philosophical novel set in a small Hungarian town that becomes isolated by a massive snowstorm. The arrival of a mysterious circus, featuring a stuffed whale and a silent, enigmatic leader, brings with it a wave of change and unrest. The narrative explores themes of chaos, resistance, and the struggle for power through the perspectives of various townsfolk, including a reclusive music theorist and a former political dissident. The novel is known for its complex, long-winded sentences and its bleak yet profound examination of human nature and society.

  18. 18. Geek Love: A Novel by Katherine Dunn

    This novel follows the lives of the Binewski family, a group of circus performers who have been genetically modified by their parents to ensure their uniqueness and ability to draw in crowds. The story's narrator, Olympia, is a hunchback albino dwarf, and her siblings include Arturo, a boy with flippers for hands and feet, Iphy and Elly, Siamese twins, and Chick, who possesses telekinetic powers. The novel explores themes of love, family, and the concept of normality, all set against the backdrop of the family's traveling carnival.

  19. 19. Pastoralia by George Saunders

    "Pastoralia" is a collection of six short stories, each delving into the world of weird, dystopian future and highlighting the author's satirical and surreal take on modern life. The stories are set in bizarre environments and situations, such as a couple working as cavemen in a theme park, a male stripper trying to help his mentally ill sister, and a corporate drone receiving cryptic messages from his boss. The characters in these stories struggle with their personal problems while navigating through the absurdity of their surroundings, showcasing the author's unique blend of humor, empathy, and social commentary.

  20. 20. Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

    The book revolves around the life of a 15-year-old boy, Vernon Little, living in a small town in Texas. After a horrific school shooting where his best friend kills 16 of their classmates before committing suicide, Vernon becomes the prime suspect. With the media and law enforcement on his tail, he attempts to escape to Mexico, resulting in a series of unfortunate events and dark comedic situations. The narrative is a biting satire of America's obsession with fame and the justice system.

  21. 21. Going Native by Stephen Wright

    "Going Native" is a darkly surreal journey through the underbelly of late 20th-century American life. The protagonist, a seemingly ordinary suburban man, abandons his life to embark on a disturbing cross-country odyssey. The narrative unfolds through a series of interconnected vignettes, each exploring a different aspect of American society from the perspective of various eccentric and often dangerous characters. The novel is a disturbing exploration of identity, alienation, and the dark side of the American dream.

  22. 22. Do Everything in the Dark by Gary Indiana

    This book presents a disjointed narrative of a group of aging artists and intellectuals in New York City who are dealing with the aftermath of their youthful, hedonistic lives. As they grapple with issues of aging, depression, suicide, and the loss of their creative abilities, they find themselves trapped in a dark, cynical world, haunted by their pasts and facing an uncertain future. The novel offers a bleak but insightful look at the human condition, exploring themes of despair, regret, and the struggle to find meaning in life.

  23. 23. The Moscoviad by Yuri Andrukhovych

    "The Moscoviad" is a satirical novel that follows the journey of a group of Ukrainian intellectuals as they embark on a chaotic and absurd trip to Moscow. Through a series of hilarious and bizarre encounters, the author explores the complex relationship between Ukraine and Russia, while also delving into the themes of identity, history, and cultural clashes. With its sharp wit and biting commentary, the novel offers a unique perspective on the post-Soviet era and the tensions between the two neighboring countries.

  24. 24. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders

    This book is a collection of short stories and a novella, all set in dystopian versions of America. The narratives often feature theme parks, which serve as metaphors for the cultural and moral decay of society. The characters are often trapped in low-wage jobs and are struggling to make ends meet, while also grappling with various personal issues. The stories are infused with dark humor and satire, and they provide a critique of capitalism and consumer culture.

  25. 25. Ray by Barry Hannah

    "Ray" is a darkly comedic and deeply moving novel about a Vietnam War veteran and former pilot who is grappling with his past and his own self-destructive tendencies. The protagonist's candid, often rambling monologues reveal his struggles with alcoholism, his failed marriages, and his complicated relationships with women, as well as his reflections on life, death, and the human condition. Set in the American South, the novel is a raw and poignant exploration of a flawed man's search for meaning and redemption.

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

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