Here’s the thing: I read a lot of books. After my cats, my fave yoga instructor, and the Starbucks barista who compliments my jacket — the exact same one — every day when I order my noontime iced green tea, I consider books an integral part of my social life. So needless to say, nine books outta 10 I’m able to detect a good plot twist as it’s approaching; and most of the time I have some pretty reliable suspicions about where that literary detour is about to take me.
Don’t get me wrong — I love a book with a good plot twist as much as the next reader. It’s just that books don’t always surprise me as much as they used to. (Or maybe I just need to read more titles outside my regularly scheduled genres.) But wasn’t it Shakespeare who taught us that there are only seven unique story plots in the world? So, when a book does surprise me with a totally shocking plot twist — I’m talking staying up all night to read even though I have to do things like go to work, run errands, and take my cat to the vet in the morning — I totally love it.
If you’re a sucker for a good plot twist, this list is for you. Here are 15 books to read if you love a shocking plot twist. (And don't worry, I've kept this list as spoiler-free as possible.)
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
When Nick Dunne’s wife Amy disappears before their fifth wedding anniversary, suspicion as to the cause of her disappearance immediately falls on Nick. From Nick’s lies to his family, the media, and the police, to the incriminating discovery of Amy’s diary, Gone Girl will have you tangled up in one unexpected plot twist after another in no time.
2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Featuring less of a plot twist than a surprise ending — because let’s face it, when 227 of the approximately 229 days encompassing your plot consist of a main character stranded in a boat on the Pacific Ocean, the opportunities for an element of surprise are limited — Life of Pi is the perfect book if you’re the type of reader who loves having the rug pulled out from under you at the last second.
3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Ethnic and tribal tensions reign during the last years of the Afghan monarchy, when The Kite Runner ’s once-best friends Amir and Hassan find their friendship is threatened by more than just national politics. After Amir, who is a member of the ruling caste, betrays Hassan unforgettably and unforgivably, he discovers — through one surprising twist after another — that his life might forever be informed by this betrayal.
4. The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
Though not written with the pace of, say, a shock-filled thriller, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier is still rife with unexpected twists and a quiet storm of surprises. When 23-year-old Carrie Bell decides it’s time to change her life — by moving from her predictable Wisconsin town where she’s lived her entire, predictable life — one dive into the shallow waters off Clausen’s pier will change her plans forever. Just be warned: You’ll either love or utterly hate (like me) the twist at the end of this book.
5. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
If you’re like me and the thought of someone so much as sneezing on another person, let alone bare-knuckle boxing them, makes you cringe, then you’ll just have to use your own judgement with Fight Club — is the totally trippy plot twist at the end worth it? You might just have to find out yourself.
6. Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
If the premise of this book seems a little, well, vanilla from the outset — war widow Jo Manders is the personal companion to her late husband’s mother, who lives in a creepy mansion — trust me when I say that Lost Among the Living transforms into a page-turner in no time. Complete with several plot twists even I didn’t see coming.
7. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
The title of We Were Liars alone might lead you to suspect that this book has a few plot twists in store for you. The amnesia-afflicted Cadence Sinclair is the kind of unreliable narrator who will drive this novel’s suspense and have you questioning everything. And her friends — liars — will have you wondering if you can believe anything at all about this book. And then end, well. You’ll just have to wait and see.
8. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Another novel with a quiet storm of plot twists — yes, almost all sad, so be ready — The Book of Unknown Americans meets a Mexican family who has come to the United States in order to provide their disabled daughter, Maribel, the educational and medical resources she wouldn’t have in Mexico. But life in the United States is more challenging than this family expected, and they have to learn to decide quickly who to trust, who to protect themselves from, and how to survive unbearable loss.
9. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
It’s hard to write a good plot twist into a nonfiction (mostly) story, but John Berendt has done just that in Midnight in the Garden of Good an Evil — a retelling of a mysterious 1981 shooting in Savannah, Georgia, and the aftereffects that rocked the small, gossipy, coastal community for years to come.
10. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Lou Clark doesn’t like the unexpected, so it’s too bad she found herself in the pages of Jojo Moyes novel, Me Before You , where it’s all about encountering the unexpected. When one of those surprises includes Will Traynor, who is grappling with the effects of a life-altering motorcycle accident, neither of these characters will ever be the same. Warning: Sometimes plot twists make you cry.
11. She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
Dolores Price is 17 years old, 257 pounds, blindsided by her life, and desperately trying not to come undone. Unfortunately, life has other plans for her. The twists and turns that Dolores’s coming-of-age story takes will probably make your own — albeit still challenging — teen years look like a piece of cake. You’ll be rooting Dolores on through every unexpected challenge in She’s Come Undone .
12. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Even as a non YA-reader — and especially a non-dark-dystopian-post-apocalyptic-YA-reader (I know, you hate me) I admit to getting totally sucked in to James Dashner’s The Maze Runner . This novel, which follows a group of memory-less teens who live confined by the tall, stone walls of an ever-changing maze, has more twists and turn than the maze itself.
13. Looking for Alaska by John Green
What is it about YA-novels and their unexpected plot twists? Maybe all our post-YA lives become too predictable to be featured within the pages of a novel… Either way, Miles Halter’s entire life seems to shift focus when he meets Alaska Young at their preppy boarding school. Looking for Alaska reminds readers sometimes the world (or literature) throws you a plot twist you can’t recover from.
14. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Like most teenagers, Anna is just trying to figure out who she is, and who she wants to be in her life. But there’s a problem: She’s always existed in the shadow of her sister, Kate, who has suffered from leukemia her entire life. And there’s an even bigger problem: Anna's life was never meant to be about her in the first place. My Sister’s Keeper is all about the hard turns some families must take together — even if it tears them apart.
15. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox is losing her mind — or is she actually the only sane person she knows? Where’d You Go Bernadette centers around this question, and of course also the question of where Bernadette went in the first place. Hilarious and frustrating and just plain bananas at times, this novel will take you on a rollercoaster ride from Seattle to Antarctica and back.