13 Books That Will Get Under Your Skin

Some books just get under your skin. Whether it’s because they went straight for the feels and made your tear ducts go all leaky, because they managed to scare the bejeezus out of you and haunt your nightmares, or because they brutally murdered your favorite character, some books find a way to torture you for days after you turn the last page. Some of them leave you wide awake at night hoping that creaking sound isn’t actually stealthy vampires creeping into your bedroom. Others will haunt you at all hours of the day as you get traumatizing flashbacks of your beloved character’s final shocking moments. Still others will make you have to start carrying around packs of tissues as you randomly reflect back and find yourself full-on weeping on the subway.

And all of them make you want to write a strongly worded letter to the author, blaming them for ruining your life with their evil little stories! Strangely enough, however, these kinds of books also make you want to find more books just like them, so you can go and have your life ruined all over again. These are some books that’ll kick you right in the feels and haunt you for days, maybe even years, to come.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

It’s just a regular tale about a lovelorn geek and his perfectly dysfunctional family, with a bit of traumatizing personal history with the Dominican Republic's tyrannical past sprinkled in. Then, of course, after you've spent a good deal of time with the adorable Dungeons and Dragons geek, and Diaz has you rooting for him to get the girl, everything just goes horribly horribly wrong in a way that'll leave you staring at the page in utter disbelief. Why, Junot, why?

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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

There are so many feels throughout Anna Karenina. Even if you know how it ends, it’ll drag you through all the ups and downs all the way through anyway. For days afterward you’ll be stuck in that roller-coaster of emotions, reminiscing on the romantic moments and nursing your own heartbreak over the miserable ones.

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Slave Ship by Marcus Rediker

You don’t even have to make it through the whole thing to be tortured even after you close the pages. This book is best read in small doses. The scenes that Rediker paints are harrowing, and when you think about the fact that these scenes really happened in real life, you'll be haunted not just for days, but for a lifetime.

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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Whyyyyy? To look at the title you’d think there was warning enough, but no. We’re all gullible fools who think we’re just getting into a cool sci-fi story about clones. Instead, you get your heart ripped out of your chest and you’ll have to nurse the gaping hole there for a few days before you can move on with your life.

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The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

I’m not just talking about nightmares about zombies, here. The deaths of some of your favorite characters will leave you wondering if you can actually be permanently psychologically traumatized by a book. Seriously, Kirkman, I couldn’t sleep for weeks after [insert your absolute favorite character] died!

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The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Like Mrs. Dalloway, which it takes its inspiration from, The Hours is hauntingly beautiful and sad, emphasis on the “haunting.” I mean, it starts with suicide. The slow, quiet feeling of the novel just makes it all the more eerie.

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Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

If you know who Ben Linder is, then Kingsolver's dedication of the book to the engineer who was killed by the Contras in Nicaragua might've been enough to brace yourself for the misery to come. But alas, even then, Kingsolver draws you into the life of this family so thoroughly that you feel their struggles as if you were a family member. So even a little foreknowledge isn't enough to save you from having random mid-day flashbacks that ruin your lunch.

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The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Mitchell is an expert at dragging you deep into a world of his own creation, where you have the “pleasure” of celebrating and suffering with the characters. In The Bone Clocks, there’s more than a fair share of suffering and even some seriously torturous loose ends that will give you just enough hope to lift you up and make you think for a second that everything turned out perfectly fine for that character, before you realize that there's pretty much zero chance that it did, and you're heartbroken all over again.

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The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle

The scary monster in the vents of the insane asylum isn't the most haunting part of this novel. That says something, right?

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The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits

After reading about a world in which scholastic psychics can creep into the minds of other humans and wreak some serious mental havoc, you're bound to start wondering if all those neuroses you've developed over the years aren't actually just the signs of a psychic attack on you. It's an absorbing book that subtly injects this magical world of psychics into our own real world, making it seem more real than ever, and making you feel kind of crazy for a few days after you put it down and start side-eyeing all your friends for potential psychic abilities.

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Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

If you’re not seriously haunted by the tragic, violent deaths that characters you’ve grown to love over the course of hundreds of pages, then something is seriously wrong with you.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

All Potterheads know why this one is pure torture. I seriously wonder how much hate mail poor Rowling got after this book came out.

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

It’s a book about race and police violence written as a letter to Coates' son. I know I’m not the only one who ugly cried in public when Coates describes his son’s reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict. And then, of course, the rest of the book gives you plenty more for full on heart-wrenching torture every day for weeks after that.

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Image: michaeldorokhov/Flickr