People mess up with our heads all the time. It’s the books that help us get out of our own crazy reality and take a break. A few books, however, are an ordeal to read and create an upheaval inside the head, leaving us with intense, lucid, psychological experiences. This kind of turbulence has its own appeal. Before we jump onto the list, I’d like to give a special mention to House of Leaves. It took me 12 days to conclusively reach a point where I decided to no longer read this book. It sure is one monster mind-bender, which I never wish to read again.
So, here are top mind bending books that you would love and hate to read:
1. The Road
It’s a post-apocalypse scenario. A father-son duo who survived the disaster is walking towards the coast to survive the cold. The only angelic thing about the book is the son’s and father’s intent for each other and for the world. Rest of the setting is sinister with everything charred, lifeless or deteriorating. Their journey to someplace yet which accounts for no place is fraught with uncertainties, dangers, and bandits. They encounter monster humans feeding on co-humans, horrifically killed humans, and witness the human morals touching nadir. Reading this one was a tormenting experience. Though the book does not have a plot per se, it is nonetheless stunning, disturbing, touching and compelling all at one time.
2. The Stranger
I am not sure how to write an intro to this book. The protagonist is not a typical central character. In fact, he is everything that is not exacted from the main character. But, why in the first place are there expectations connected to the central character? Isn’t it applicable to real life as well? How often do we see life for what it is rather than seeing it through the societal lens? The stranger will raise a lot of hard-hitting existential subjects. You’ll not get solutions to most of them. After reading this book, I was weighed down by the pointlessness of regular life. Something inside broke loose, and now nothing is the same. The book is antagonizing yet brilliant.
We may call it a story of a man called Billy Pilgrim (notice the name pilgrim) who was a spectator of the devastation of Dresden during WWII, time-traveler and ‘captive’ of aliens. However, it’s not much about the people, who appear bland, but about events that transpired, human reactions and philosophy of things. Billy involuntarily ends up traveling back and forth in time, and hence, the novel is not written going forward. Instead, there’s bouncing off to Billy’s different life phases, in a non-sequential, ad-hoc manner. The story is engaging and a perfect concoction of comedy, and trials and tribulations.
There are no words to describe how remarkable this book is. It’s always a treat to get a glimpse into Vonnegut’s mind and his thoughts, understanding of the past and world-views.
It an extraordinary piece of work with such an exceptionally created characters and a description so vivid that you’ll start believing that you’ve been to Manderley and that house. You would be able to feel of all sorts of emotions that Mrs de Winters goes through. Jealousy, hatred, anger, vengeance, insecurity, deceit, you name it. The ominous presence of Rebecca, Maxim de Winter’s dead wife, would send chills down your spine. I was left choking with feelings and a need to cool down every now and then. The protagonist’s transformation of identity and her journey from being a girl to a man’s wife is gripping.
5. The Trial
This book is bound to change the way you think of life and your living. Once you are done with the book, while you still feel affected by the power of it, in the midst of a whirlwind of thoughts, you will get a glimpse of what the book is really about. On the surface, it’s about a man who has he has been accused of an unknown crime, which remains concealed, till the very end, to even the man himself. It’s about his dealings with totalitarianism and unaccountable bureaucracy with unrestrained power. He is under house-arrest, and not exactly bound to prison. In fact, he continues to go to the office and is ‘allowed’ to carry on his regular life until the trial. Owing to his conviction for an undisclosed crime, he is disquieted and perplexed all the time, consults a lot of people to understand the nature of his offense and does everything he could to get clarity on his situation. Does it sound familiar and ring a bell?
You have to read this one. It’s difficult not love it and not get consumed by it. This book is one of it’s kind, and it will be embedded in your mind for the rest of your life. The plot is centered around “George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world” and Winston is trying, covertly, to stand up against it. George Orwell is persuasive with words, and every single one will reverberate in your subconscious and create a deep impression. It’s sheer brilliance, and once you read it, you’ll want more of Orwell.
7. Norwegian Wood
If it weren’t for the ending, I wouldn’t have put it on this list. Ever wonder if a book, mere words written on pages, can make you feel overpoweringly dejected and empty? Well, this one infallibly will. This was the most disturbing book I’ve ever read. The only constant throughout the book was a melancholic undertone. It has too many existential perplexities for a book of average length which took me down in no time. It’s gloomy and saddening, but the end was on a positive note. All in all, it’s powerful, gripping and intense. You surely can give it a go. It’s not a book you should go for if you have a weak heart.
8. The Thirteenth Tale
This book has suspense, mystery, vivid imagery and mind-boggling twists, and yet it’s much more than that. Vida Winters, one of the main protagonists, is an acclaimed writer of a collection of stories. This compilation of stories was to have thirteen tales, however, only twelve were written. Winters finally decides to compose the thirteenth tale which entails bringing forth terrible family secrets. She chooses Margaret Lea as the writer. As they start digging deeper into Vida’s family history, the mysteries become larger than life, and the plot thickens. One keeps on slipping farther until becoming completely involved and a part of the setting. It’s a bit of a long read but will undoubtedly leave you exasperated.
9. Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451 is dystopian fiction. It depicts a future America where books are outlawed, and a contingent of firemen are burning any and every last book. The main protagonist, Montag, is as disillusioned a fireman as the rest of his squad until one day he meets a girl who ignites an alternative thought in him. Since then, his loyalties shift, and even with a lack of understanding, he leads a pathway to a better world. It’s got a transcendental narrative and an immensely thought-provoking premise. It should be read if you are a believer in a free and well-informed society.
10. The Wasp Factory
It is one hell of a mind twister. This genre is not my type. And Frank Cauldhame is far from my typical protagonist. He is a first-degree murderer and sociopath. His family is thoroughly dysfunctional. He lives with his secretive father and does all sorts of dark and twisty things in cold blood. This book is unnerving, ghastly and horrific. And yet, I had to read it for the sheer thrill of it.
Want to get acquainted with Frank? This is what he has to say:
“Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother, Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons than I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim.
That’s my score to date. Three. I haven’t killed anybody for years, and don’t intend to ever again.
It was just a stage I was going through.”
11. We Were Liars
This one is intense and gripping esp. the first three-quarters of the book. It is very different from the other books on this list. More dramatic than thought-provoking, it’s a good book to try out. A family spends every summer on Beechwood Island. Cady has an accident on the fifteenth summer on the island, and due to head injuries entirely misses the sixteenth one. When she is back for the seventeenth one, she has obscure memories of the fifteenth one, and that’s where an unprecedented plot begins.
The story has a lot of mystery elements to it, and you would feel the adrenaline rush and would want to gulp the entire book in one sitting. Well, this book has featured on the list because it has a different kind of plot, and it builds an unusual sort of atmosphere. I was almost going to replace this one with The Girl on the Train.
12. The Diary of a Young Girl
It’s not a thriller. It’s not a mind-bender in the real sense of the word. But it profoundly affects your world view. The atrocities and hardships seen through the eyes of Anne Frank, a teenager, are saddening. Reading the struggles of her three-year confinement with her family to save themselves from the Nazis in a small hideout full of people in the scarcity of resources and dimming hope concerning the future is disturbing. Since it’s a personal diary and not a work of fiction, it’s all the more heartbreaking. It’s tragic and yet sweet with a burst of life. Though not like other the mind-benders on the list, it is going to change you forever. A must-read for everyone.
Did you like the list of mind bending books? Do you think I missed out on any book that you think falls in this category? Then kindly comment. In case you think the list resonates well with you, please like, share and subscribe.
Keep Reading. Chao!