Columns > Published on October 5th, 2020

Chuck-alikes: A Chuck Palahniuk Read-alike List (Part 1)

Chuck-alike definition: Books like Chuck Palahniuk’s. [Click here for Chuck-alikes: Part 2]

Chuck’s books attract people who don’t always enjoy the books they were assigned in school, the books that hit bestseller lists, the books that you find in book clubs. Which means Chuck's fans have to be a little more clever when we're looking for other great books.

Here’s a HUGE list of Chuck-Alikes, non-Chuck books that might please the Palahniuk fan.

They’re divided up into categories, because a Chuck-alike can be a lot of different things, all with some sort of that Chuck-y goodness.

The Classics

These are oft-recommended Chuck-Alikes from over the years. A lot of them were published around the same time as Fight Club, and a lot of them have a hard-to-define feel that goes down easy with Chuck’s stuff. They mostly come from the transgressive fiction movement, like Chuck’s earlier books.

"American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis

I thought this one would have a huge resurgence in 2020, but I guess people preferred to misread 1984 instead.

Get ​American Psycho at Bookshop or Amazon


"The Contortionist’s Handbook" by Craig Clevenger

This book sounds like one of Chuck’s, has a Chuck-like music, and it’s a good thing. It’s not like some other posers who are doing a bad Chuck impression. Clevenger is a great writer who’s also hosting some live online writing workshops for Goleta Valley Library. You should check ‘em out.

Get The Contortionist's Handbook at Amazon


"Trainspotting" by Irvine Welsh

Pro-tip on this one, you can read the screenplay version if reading the words written in an aural, accented style is an annoyance to you. Which I’ll admit, it totally is for me.

Get Trainspotting at Bookshop or Amazon


"House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski

Read this one at night with some Tool playing softly in the background. That’s how it’s meant to be read.

Get ​House of Leaves at Bookshop or Amazon


"Geek Love" by Katherine Dunn

In my top 5 books from this list for so many reasons. There’s an edition with a glow-in-the-dark cover that I’ve always coveted.

Get Geek Love at Bookshop or Amazon


The Forgotten Classics

These are books that were bandied about a lot in Chuck circles, but they’ve fallen out of recommendation popularity. Which is a shame because they're great.

"Kiss Me, Judas" by Will Christopher Baer

Baer dropped away for awhile, but he’s back in Twitter form! This book, and the others in the Phineas Poe trilogy, are hard, dirty, and tight.

Get Kiss Me Judas at Bookshop or Amazon


"Suicide Casanova" by Arthur Nersesian

You will HATE Nersesian’s characters.

Get Suicide Casanova at Bookshop or Amazon


"The Wasp Factory" by Iain Banks

Animal torture, baby murder. This one lacks some of the lightness of a Chuck book. Which is saying something.

Get The Wasp Factory at Bookshop or Amazon


"Generation X" by Douglas Coupland

Coupland is still around, still writing great books. But they’ve gotten a little...artsty/academic or something. I dig the new Doug, but it's not for everyone.

Get Generation X at Bookshop or Amazon


"The Average American Male" by Chad Kultgen

“Toxic masculinity” WAY before that was a thing people talked about. And hilarious. You might not think it’s funny. If you don’t, just stop reading it and pick up something else. This book has been out since ‘07. You’ll be fine.

Get The Average American Male at Bookshop or Amazon


"Last Exit to Brooklyn" by Hubert Selby Jr.

I don't know what happened to Mr. Selby, and I no longer investigate authors I haven't heard from in awhile. New personal policy. Okay fine...Oh, he's dead. We live in a sad world when you find out someone's dead and it's kind of a relief. Rest in Peace, sir.

Get Last Exit to Brooklyn at Bookshop or Amazon


The Ones Your English Teacher Might Call Classics

If you want to read something Palahniuk-esque that might have the frige benefit of getting you an A on a book report, here you go.

"The Stranger" by Albert Camus

Slim, minimal stuff.

Get The Stranger at Bookshop or Amazon


"Pop. 1280" by Jim Thompson

Pulp-y and quick, like a Palahniuk crime novel.

Get Pop. 1280 at Bookshop or Amazon


"No Country for Old Men" by Cormac McCarthy

Tight story, dark perspective. Things happen, which isn’t always the case in literary fiction.

Get No Country For Old Men at Bookshop or Amazon


"A Prayer for Owen Meaney" by John Irving

There’s a flavor here. And a story from which the characters can’t escape.

Get A Prayer for Owen Meaney at Bookshop or Amazon


Books From Chuck’s Fellow Workshoppers

Books by people who’ve worked with Chuck as peers in more recent history.

"The Stud Book" by Monica Drake

Lots of lip service was paid to Drake’s Clown Girl, and Chuck gave it a huge boost when it was published. But I think this book is a lot better. Better story, better reading experience.

Get The Stud Book at Bookshop or Amazon


"The Chronology of Water" by Lidia Yuknavitch

Co-workshopper and co-teacher of Chuck’s, Lidia Yuknavitch has a pretty stunning memoir here. Don’t concern yourself with what it’s about. Just open it up and start in.

Get The Chronology of Water at Bookshop or Amazon


"Heartsick" by Chelsea Cain

My old boss, a library manager, went to a book event and saw Chelsea Cain read. She said, “She was so put together and looked so nice and sweet, and then she read one of the most horrific things I’ve ever heard.” For the record, this old boss of mine is now a Chelsea Cain fan.

Get Heartsick at Bookshop or Amazon


"Wild" by Cheryl Strayed

I hesitate to recommend this one in some ways, it’s not exactly in the same vein. But I think if you’re looking for a lighter version of what Chuck does, you might hear echoes of it here. 

Get Wild at Bookshop or Amazon


"Burnt Tongues Anthology" edited by Chuck Palahniuk

These stories were the result of folks online reading Chuck’s prompts/lessons and taking them to heart. Often with brutal and hilarious results.

Get Burnt Tongues at Bookshop or Amazon


"Criterion" by Tyler Jones

Jones worked with Chuck as well as Chuck’s teacher, Tom Spanbauer. Which brings us to…

Get Criterion at Amazon


Books That Outline Chuck’s Writing DNA

His teachers, both immediate and removed.

"I Loved You More" by Tom Spanbauer

In The City of Shy Hunters is my favorite by Tom, but I Loved You More is a great book that also really explains a lot of Dangerous Writing techniques like Big Voice/Little Voice. It’s a beautiful read, and you’d be a better writer if you went for it a second time, looking at it as a textbook.

Get I Loved You More at Bookshop or Amazon


"The Collected Stories" by Amy Hempel

Hempel was a fellow student of Tom Spanbauer, and he uses a lot of her stories as examples. Chuck does as well, especially “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried.” Tumble Home was a lot of Chuck readers’ first stop on the search for Chuck-alikes.

Get The Collected Stories at Bookshop or Amazon


"The Call" by Yannick Murphy

Murphy is one of the more unsung but still dazzling writers to come out of the same stew.

Get The Call at Bookshop or Amazon


"Peru" by Gordon Lish

Lish was the teacher who taught Spanbauer and Hempel. So we can trace the lineage back that far. He’s an excellent editor, and his own books are divisive, but they’re another step on the journey.

Get Peru at Bookshop or Amazon


[Click here for Chuck-alikes: Part 2]

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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