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Brace yourself: These books are not for the faint of heart.

Psychological thrillers are suspenseful narratives that plunge the depths of the human psyche. In these books, the characters own distorted perceptions of reality form a core aspect of the plot. Literary devices utilized in psychological thrillers often include the unreliable narrator and red herrings. Throughout psychological thrillers, the audience is left wondering what is truly going on. Take Shudder Island by Dennis Lehane, in which the arc of the story is distorted by the protagonist’s delusions. Or consider the classic short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in which the narrator herself is not able to discern between reality and her own inescapable descent into madness.

One of the reasons why psychological thrillers are so popular is because it’s so easy to become entangled and engrossed within the story. You keep turning the pages because you want to finally have answers—and your own sense of reality becomes a little warped along the way. The satisfaction really comes with the ending, when all the pieces finally fall into place and you realize how many little clues you missed along the way. 

If you’re a fan of this intoxicating sub-genre, here are some enticing stories to start with: 

And when you’ve finished those, peruse the stories below to discover the best the psychological thriller world has to offer.

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HIDDEN GEMS: After Dark by Beverly Barton

We celebrate a classic by one of the late greats.

13 Mind-Bending Psychological Thriller Books for C.J. Tudor Fans

Done with The Other People? Here’s what to read next. 

7 Thrilling New Reads to Check Out in 2020 Based on Your Favorite Type of Mystery

There’s something for every kind of reader when it comes to these fresh releases.

A Suspicious Death Troubles an Elite Boarding School in J.T. Ellison’s Addictive New Thriller

The students of this exclusive prep school are as good at hiding secrets as they are at acing their studies.

This Haunting New Psychological Thriller Will Be Your Next Obsession

A curse plagues an isolated boarding school in Sara Faring’s The Tenth Girl.

24 Best Thriller Movies You Can (and Should) Stream Right Now

Get your popcorn ready—these thrillers are available to stream now.

Poet of Apprehension: 12 Best Patricia Highsmith Books

Dive into the work of one of the most talented suspense writers of all time.

A Young Woman is Haunted by a Childhood Disappearance in This Psychological Thriller 

Sarah Meuleman’s debut novel, Find Me Gone, jumps between 1996 and 2014 to paint a devastating portrait of a woman confronted by her past. 

Daphne du Maurier's Best Mysteries, from the Psychological to the Supernatural

Du Maurier's genre-bending mysteries will leave you with the chills...

10 Psychological Suspense Books That'll Keep You Up All Night

Say "goodbye" to sleep, and "hello" to your next great read.

When a Young Girl Goes Missing, A Father Questions If His Son is Guilty of a Terrible Crime

Teenager Keith Moore was the last person to see Amy Giordano before she went missing in this Edgar Award-nominated thriller from Thomas H. Cook. 

Seduction Turns Dangerous in Joyce Carol Oates’ Fair Maiden

A teenager becomes hopelessly entangled with a man who may not be who he says he is.