Top Ten Bad Ass Chuck Palahniuk Books

In October I will be attending a Chuck Palahniuk reading for the first time.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this author, first…punch yourself in the throat for not knowing this genius of modern social satire.  Second, you’re probably familiar with his work, you just aren’t aware of it.  He wrote the masterpiece, ‘Fight Club’ which was later turned into the seminal ‘smart movie for men’.  He churns out about one novel per year every year since 1993; and these are novels that will blow your freaking mind.  So here is my list of my 10 favorite Palahniuk novels.

10.)  Fight Club- I put this at the bottom of the list simply because everyone knows this work due to the popularity of the Brad Pitt and Ed Norton vehicle.  It had one of the greatest twist endings of all time but needs to move over for some of the lesser known but not lesser quality works of Chuck.  Favorite line from the book and movie: “I want to have your abortion.”  How jacked up is that line…just…wow.

 Great side note to this book; men love it for it’s unapologetic masculinity and the macho vulgarity of the fights, but did you know the author is gay?  Yup, queer as a two dollar bill.  So much for stereo-types. 

9.)  Pygmy- This is a strange book; not necessarily due to the subject matter, but the style in which it is written.  The main character, short in stature (hence the title), acts as an exchange student from some unnamed totalitarian state, but in actuality is a sleeper agent for his country.  Each chapter is written as a dispatch to his home government using badly broken English.  Though an original and unique concept, it makes for a difficult fluid read.  A must read never-the-less.



8.)  Rant- This is the first novel I ever read by Chuck; I was wholly unfamiliar with his minimalist style of writing.  Because of his technique, the use of setting description is sparse which at times leaves you wondering exactly what is going on or how we arrived at the present situation.  The thing about it however, is that as the story finishes everything becomes clear; so goes Rant.  It’s an “oral biography” told by the friends and family of the main character, Buster Landu “Rant” Casey.  He has an almost superhuman sense of smell and taste, and apropos of Palahniuk writing, commits foul and disgusting acts which usually leave people vomiting both in his fiction and in life (more on that later).  Without spoiling the book, I’ll just say Rant is a roller-coaster of dare-devil stunts with a mix of something other-worldly. 


7.)  Snuff- It’s the porn book.  Another defining character of Palahniuk books is his seemingly endless supply of oddball trivia.  Every book of his (and I mean EVERY) has dozens upon dozens of content related facts wedged into the paragraphs of his supposed fiction; Snuff is no different.  There is so much behind-the-scenes knowledge of the making of pornography, one can’t help but love the book just for that; or think that Chuck must have somehow been present during the making of an actual pornographic film.  Guess what his research for the book involved…

 Told from the perspective of 3 participants in the ‘world’s largest gang-bang’ and the “actress’s” personal assistant, we get a down and dirty sneak peak into the wonderful and largely depressing world of porn.  There are some things that should remain behind closed curtains.

6.)  Lullaby- This book follows a reporter looking into a series of cases involving Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS, a real thing), including the death of his own baby boy.  He finds the common denominator of all the deaths involves an African “culling song” found in a book of poetry that had been read to all the now dead children.  Able to use the song himself to kill anyone he wants simply by thinking of the lyrics, he sets out on a journey to locate and destroy all copies of the book in order to keep it out of the wrong hands.  As per usual Chuck, the end contains quite a twist along with an endless supply of trivia, depression and existential ponderances.

5.)  Diary- As the title subtly hints, it is written in the style of a diary.  Misty’s husband lies in a coma after attempted suicide and this journal is her documented journey to find the source of her husbands depression, why he built hidden rooms in the homes he remodeled, why these rooms had vulgar messages on the walls and what the reason for her new found burst of creativity in painting that she hasn’t seen since college.  This is a psychological, horror conspiracy novel that never disappoints in creating curiosity and terror.  



4.)  Haunted- This is a collection of short stories that Chuck wove into a pseudo novel.  If you take the thread between short stories, throw it away, then read it for what it is: a collection of short stories, it is absolutely brilliant.  It includes the now infamous short titled Guts, in which a recorded total of over 35 people throughout the country fainted while attending his reading of said short story.  And let me tell you, it is every bit that good and gross.



3.)  Choke- This is probably one of the most strange premises for a story but it is an absolute fantastic read.  It follows Victor as he visits various restaurants and causes himself to choke on purpose during his meal, which brings about a “good Samaritan” to save his life.  He keeps detailed journals of everyone who has “saved” his life and sends them each letters about fictional bills he has.  Because of a sense of duty after saving his life, and feeling pity due to his woeful letters, they send him checks and cash.  He turns and uses this money to pay his mothers nursing home bills. 

 The story uses flashbacks to describe his bad childhood and why he acts the way he does, including his sex-addiction and choking scam.  A very good but extremely depressing read. 

2.)  Invisible Monsters- This was Palahniuk’s original first novel but was rejected by the publishers for being “too disturbing”.  Fight Club was written soon after and was meant to be a giant “Fuck You” to the publisher; as in: you think THAT was disturbing? Why don’t you take a look at THIS.  They loved it…go figure.

 Anyway, it’s basically a black satire aimed at the “beautiful people” of the world.  It follows Shannon McFarland, former model, after a horrible accident leaves her permanently disfigured and requiring her to wear a veil at all times.  It tells her life story, is thoroughly hilarious and at the same time is gut wrenching-ly depressing.  As with ALL of Chuck’s books, be prepared to have introspective thoughts as to what he is alluding to, and of course, watch out for a complete mind-fuck twist ending the likes of which Fight Club does not compare; so I think anyway.


1.)  Survivor- Down to number one…  This is a more personal favorite because of the subject matter.  Tender Branson recites his life story into the black box of a plane he has set to crash in the Australian Outback.  The only person on board, he explains the actions and choices that led him to this point; from the upbringing in the fanatical Creedish cult, to his final days as a religious uber celebrity, and mass suicide and murder in between.  It’s a satire on the human race and greed and religion. For those of you who have read my blog for a bit, you know my feeling on both the people of this world and religious “leaders”.  Everything leads to greed and the road is not pretty.

Please, become a Chuck fan.  If you do, maybe I’ll see you at his reading in Dallas on October 25th.

10 Responses to “Top Ten Bad Ass Chuck Palahniuk Books”
  1. Damn i want to say something, but i puched nyself in the throat first. Next time tell me what to do at the end of the post! You evil person.

  2. beauregard rippy says:

    Man I had a friend loan me “Guts”. I need to read that ASAP

    • graysonjack says:

      Hmm…sounds like he’s a good friend. You should probably read it since he recommended it you and so you can return the book in a timely fashion. I’m just sayin…

  3. brainrants says:

    Oh, and “Guts” made me laugh. I doubt you find that surprising.

  4. brainrants says:

    I dig this guy also, and want more of his books. However, when I go to bookstores, they want my money. Can you believe that shit?

    Anyway, I do appreciate the sorting of these. Have seen but not read Fight Club, but since I always assume the book to be better than the movie, I will eventually knock that out too.

    • graysonjack says:

      It is absolutely ridiculous how much books cost!Highway robbery wanting me to give me them money and all…I agree with you!

      Fight Club is one of the few books/movies where the movie was actually just as good as the book.They followed it pretty much to a 't'.It's pretty amazing how well done it is.

  5. chrisdevoss says:

    Liked Haunted and Snuff. Actually did not like Survivor, and Pygmy is in my kindle. I have a couple books in front of it. I agree everyone should read at least one of his books, and if are not a reader, they are generally an easy read, and will grab your attention right way…you don’t have to sift through a lot of needless chapters to get to the heart of the story. I may have to bump Pygmy up my reading list after reading your post.

    • graysonjack says:

      That's what I love about Chuck, there's not a lot of non-sense…just straight story.Thanks for the comment!I can't believe you didn't like Survivor though!Crazy.Anyway, I hope you enjoy Pygmy!

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