Five books that may make you question reality

We are not entering spooky season, as we get close to Halloween and immerse ourselves in the fall spirit. In honour of spooky season, I’ll be sharing a variety of books that could be considered “spooky” either by having supernatural elements or having thriller/horror elements. Enjoy!

For this week, I wanted to share some fiction books that may make you question reality.

Most of these books deal with some aspect of society and paints it in a new light. I find they make you question reality because the books shift the way you think about societal norms.

I believe that some of the best books are the ones that leave you thinking about them for long after you’ve finished them. If a book has made a big impression on you, then it has accomplished a lot.

Each of these books lingered in my mind and made me re-evaluate something significant. Maybe you’ll have a similar experience.

I’ve included a range of books, most of them translated. Also, three of them would be considered novellas, so there’s some shorter options if that’s what you’re looking for.

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

Five books that may make you question reality

Here’s a list of five books that may make you question reality. I’ve listed them in order of when they’ve been published.

  1. The Outsider/The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)
  2. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (2006)
  3. Confessions by Kanae Minato (2006)
  4. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata (2018)
  5. The Test by Sylvain Neuvel (2019)

Keep reading to find out more about each one.

The Outsider/The Stranger (1942)

by Albert Camus Translated by Joseph Laredo

  • Year Published: 1942
    English version published in 1946
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, literary, dark, reflective, medium-paced

Published in 1942 by French author Albert Camus, The Stranger has long been considered a classic of twentieth-century literature. Le Monde ranks it as number one on its “100 Books of the Century” list. Through this story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on a sundrenched Algerian beach, Camus explores what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.”


The Three-Body Problem (2006)

by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

  • Year Published: 2006
    English version published in 2014
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, science fiction, adventurous, challenging, mysterious, slow-paced
  • Hugo Award winner & best selling Chinese Science Fiction

The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience the Hugo Award-winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Cixin Liu .

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.


Confessions (2008)

by Kanae Minato Translated by Stephen Snyder

  • Year Published: 2008
    English version published in 2014
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, crime, mystery, thriller, dark, mysterious, fast-paced
  • It won both the Hanya Taisho Award and the Alex Award.

Her pupils killed her daughter.Now, she will have her revenge.

After calling off her engagement in wake of a tragic revelation, Yuko Moriguchi had nothing to live for except her only child, four-year-old Manami. Now, following an accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation.

But first she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that upends everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a maniacal plot for revenge.

Narrated in alternating voices, with twists you’ll never see coming, Confessions explores the limits of punishment, despair, and tragic love, culminating in a harrowing confrontation between teacher and student that will place the occupants of an entire school in danger. You’ll never look at a classroom the same way again.


Earthlings (2018)

by Sayaka Murata Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

  • Year Published: 2018
    English version in 2020
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, horror, literary, magical realism, challenging, dark, medium-paced
  • Note, this novel deals with many difficult themes, I would recommend checking content warnings before reading if there are any subjects you want to avoid.

Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.

Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?


The Test (2019)

by Sylvain Neuvel

  • Year Published: 2019
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, dystopian, challenging, dark, emotional, fast-paced

Award-winning author Sylvain Neuvel explores an immigration dystopia in The Test

Britain, the not-too-distant future.

Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test.

He wants his family to belong.

Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress.

When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death.

How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?


Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Saturday swimming

Photo by Oscar Nord | Accessed on

This is an excerpt from the book The Outsider (also called The Stranger) by Albert Camus, translated by Joseph Laredo.

When I woke up, I understood why my boss seemed unhappy when I asked him for my two days off: today’s a Saturday. I’d sort of forgotten, but as I was getting up, it occurred to me. My boss, quite naturally, thought that I’d be getting four days’ holiday including my Sunday and he couldn’t have been very pleased about that. But for one thing, it isn’t my fault if they buried mother yesterday instead of today and for another, I’d have had my Saturday and Sunday off in any case. Of course, I can still understand my boss’s point of view.

I had trouble getting up because I was tired from the day before. While I was shaving, I wondered what to do with myself and I decided to go for a swim. I caught the tram down to the bathing station at the port. I dived straight into the narrows. It was full of young people. In the water I met Marie Cordona, who used to be a typist at the office. I’d fancied her at the time, and I think she fancied me too. But she left soon afterwards and nothing came of it. I helped her onto a buoy and as I did so, I brushed against her breasts. I was still in the water and she was already lying flat on her stomach on the buoy. She turned round towards me. She had her hair in her eyes and she was laughing. I hoisted myself onto the buoy beside her. It was good and as if for fun, I let my head sink back onto her stomach. She didn’t say anything and I left it there. I had the whole sky in my eyes and it was all blue and gold. I could feel Marie’s stomach throbbing gently under the back of my neck. We lay on the buoy for a long time, half asleep. When the sun got too hot, she dived off and I followed. I caught her up, put my arm round her waist and we swam together. She was still laughing. On the quayside, while we were drying ourselves, she said, ‘I’m browner than you.’ I asked her if she wanted to come to the cinema that evening. She laughed again and said there was a Fernandel film she’d like to see. When we’d got dressed again, she seemed very surprised to see me in a black tie and she asked me if I was in mourning. I told her that mother had died. She wanted to know when, so I said, ‘Yesterday.’ She recoiled slightly, but made no remark. I felt like telling her that it wasn’t my fault, but I stopped myself because I remembered that I’d already said that to my boss. It didn’t mean anything. In any case, you’re always partly to blame.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

The Outsider (also called The Stranger) – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Meursault will not pretend. After the death of his mother, everyone is shocked when he shows no sadness. And when he commits a random act of violence in Algiers, society is baffled. Why would this seemingly law-abiding bachelor do such a thing? And why does he show no remorse even when it could save his life? His refusal to satisfy the feelings of others only increases his guilt in the eyes of the law. Soon Meursault discovers that he is being tried not simply for his crime, but for his lack of emotion – a reaction that condemns him for being an outsider. For Meursault, this is an insult to his reason and a betrayal of his hopes; for Camus it encapsulates the absurdity of life.

Copyright © 1942 by Albert Camus.

Translated by: Joseph Laredo

More details on Goodreads can be found here.