Books with unlikable characters – can you add to the list?

I don’t know about you, but I love reading books with unlikable characters. Here’s list of some of my favorites:

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage – Psychological thriller that will make you very uncomfortable. What are Suzette and Alex to do when life with their demonic 7-year-old daughter gets dangerous? What’s their breaking point?

The Dinner by Herman Koch – What would you do if your child committed a horrendous crime? Is it more important to save your child’s future than do the right thing?

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Psychological thriller in which a stranger may know more about a crime than the people involved. When a woman goes missing, the girl on the train is sure she can help, if she can only dig through her alcohol-clouded memories.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Creepy story about a completely dysfunctional marriage and the extreme lengths to which the wife goes to get the upper hand over her husband. He proves to be an equal match, however, and as the details emerge and opinions form, it’s hard to know whom or what to believe.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of thirteen integrated short stories about the people of Crosby, Maine, a seemingly simple town on the New England coast and the town’s most complicated character, Olive.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – A nine-year-old girl has been murdered and now a ten-year-old girl is missing. When the second girl’s body is discovered, details of the murder suggest a serial killer. Is the killer a stranger to the town or, more disturbingly, one of them?

Those People by Louise Candlish – On the problem of despicable neighbors, here’s a new book about a couple that moves into an idyllic and award-winning neighborhood in South London and drives the families to desperation.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – Something bad happens during Cadence Eastman’s fifteenth summer on the family’s private island off Martha’s Vineyard. Cady, her cousins and their friend risk everything to break free from oppressive, greedy and narrow minded family pressures.

There are many more – can you add to the list?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

26 thoughts on “Books with unlikable characters – can you add to the list?

  1. What a great subject, Barbara! The one unlikeable character that comes immediately to my mind is Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (which was played to evil perfection in the movie by Judith Anderson).

    1. Hi Derrick – yes that’s a good one. I’ve only read one book by Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities), so I had to look up Mr. Squeers and Nicholas Nickleby. He does sound pretty bad! Thanks for stopping by and adding to the list. 🙂

  2. Olive Kitteridge is the first character that came to mind but you listed it above. Odd that I cannot think of any others. Maybe I forgot them because I didn’t like them? Must focus on the positive, I guess.

    1. Hello Ally Bean! Thanks for stopping by. I almost didn’t include Olive because her character is, underneath it all, a lot more likable than her rough outside. As a person, I could probably get a long with her. As for some of these other characters, I think some of them are beyond having normal relationships. But it’s fun to read about them! And I might be a little bit like you because in my real life, I’m a pretty positive person 🙂

    1. Oh, yes, I tried reading House of Sand and Fog years ago and couldn’t get through it either. I can’t remember why, though. Maybe my reading tastes have changed! I think I like these kinds of characters because they are usually complex and I like thinking about that, although I would never want to hang out with them! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  3. Great topic! I know I’ve read books with unlikable main characters… but other than some of the ones you mention already (Girl on the Train, Gone Girl), I’m drawing a blank!

    1. I know what you mean, Lisa. I did go on a few searches to refresh my memory. For some books, it’s subjective, so I tried to list the ones with characters I think were deliberately unlikable. Thanks for reading!

  4. I was so surprised by your title and statement that you LIKE books about unlikable characters. I am the opposite and chastise myself about this. But if I don’t like the major character, or at least see SOME redeeming points, I can’t make myself read the book. (I’m okay with unlikable minor characters, who are quite necessary in a novel.) So Gillian Flynn’s books, and Paula Hawkins’, are off my book list. However, I loved Olive Kitteridge. As you say, she’s complicated. I just don’t like one-dimensional characters who don’t move forward in some way. Another example is Ove of A Man Called Ove. He is very unlovable throughout a large chunk of the book. But he slowly, slowly, slowly changes. And how about The Rosie Project? Don Tillman comes across as not a very nice man, but slowly slowly we understand his personality, and other characters help him find a different way to interact and “be.” ❤

    1. These are great comments, Pam. I mentioned in an earlier comment that I almost didn’t include Olive because I feel like I could get along with her. I haven’t read Ove – I will eventually, but I don’t always read the books with a ton of hype right away. I loved The Rosie Project and I know what your mean about Don. I will say that the best books are when characters undergo a transformation, like you do! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  5. I forgot to comment on this post, Barbara, because I decided to write my own top five which will go live tomorrow. I like books with a “meanie” in them. Actually, you really have to have a baddie otherwise there is no story. A great post.

  6. I don’t like reading books with unlikable characters (tho I also don’t like psychological thriller books so it may be connected to that) 😂😂 I have heard a lot of good things about some of the books on your list tho 🙂

    1. Haha – yes, psychological thrillers are loaded with unlikable characters, aren’t they? I like 1 or 2 meanies in my reads, but I mostly prefer complex characters who are a little good and bad, or who have trouble always doing the right thing. Thanks for the visit!

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