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.
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.
I thought this one would have a huge resurgence in 2020, but I guess people preferred to misread 1984 instead.
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.
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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.
Read this one at night with some Tool playing softly in the background. That’s how it’s meant to be read.
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.
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.
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.
You will HATE Nersesian’s characters.
Animal torture, baby murder. This one lacks some of the lightness of a Chuck book. Which is saying something.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Slim, minimal stuff.
Pulp-y and quick, like a Palahniuk crime novel.
Tight story, dark perspective. Things happen, which isn’t always the case in literary fiction.
There’s a flavor here. And a story from which the characters can’t escape.
Books From Chuck’s Fellow Workshoppers
Books by people who’ve worked with Chuck as peers in more recent history.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These stories were the result of folks online reading Chuck’s prompts/lessons and taking them to heart. Often with brutal and hilarious results.
Jones worked with Chuck as well as Chuck’s teacher, Tom Spanbauer. Which brings us to…
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Books That Outline Chuck’s Writing DNA
His teachers, both immediate and removed.
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.
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.
Murphy is one of the more unsung but still dazzling writers to come out of the same stew.
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.
[Click here for Chuck-alikes: Part 2]
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