20 Books with Unreliable Narrators to Read Now

books with unreliable narrators
20 Books with Unreliable Narrators to Read Now 24

It’s time for the August reading challenge book list: books with unreliable narrators!

We picked this topic because we both love these types of stories. Luckily, Rachael of The Booklist Queen agreed to give us some recommendations featuring her own favorite books with unreliable narrators.

Before we get into the list, let’s meet Rachael and learn more about her website.

*Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

Books with unreliable narrators with The Booklist Queen

Meet Rachael, The Booklist Queen

With four young children, I know how hard it is to find time to read.

This is why it’s so frustrating whenever you finally pick up a book only to invest hours in a story that makes you want to chuck it across the room when you finish!

I established Booklist Queen to help readers stop wasting time on overrated bestsellers and find more great books to read.

While I read all genres, I have a particular fondness for books with unreliable narrators. You never quite know what to expect when you aren’t sure you can trust the storyteller.

Often, just when you think you know what’s going to happen, an unreliable narrator will twist your perception and make you rethink everything you just read.

Although unreliable narrators are most common in thrillers, I’ve also thrown in some books with unreliable narrators from other genres for your enjoyment.

The Best Books with Unreliable Narrators

The house in the pines and more January 2023 celebrity book club spoilers

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

January 2023 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

As books with unreliable narrators go, this is the best I have ever read. Maya was days away from moving away to college when he best friend Aubrey mysteriously dropped dead in front of her. She blamed Frank, an older guy who she had been hanging out with that summer although there was nothing to prove that he had done a thing to harm Aubrey.

Now, years later, Maya is trying to overcome an addiction to the drug prescribed to help her overcome the loss of Aubrey. When she sees a video of a woman who drops dead in a cafe and Frank is sitting with her, she sets off in a spiral again and needs to prove that Frank is responsible. I love this book with a totally likable and yet, completely unreliable narrator. This is one of the best thrillers of 2023 pick for sure.

If you have not read this pick from ultimate beach reads 2023, run, don’t walk, to get it! It needs to be top of the list of your books for fall.

gone girkl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This is one of the domestic thriller books that almost everyone had heard of when it became a hit movie. It is the perfect example of what happens when a marriage goes terribly wrong. But we also wanted to include it on our list of best mystery books of all time as well.

On her fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne mysteriously disappears. At the top of the suspect list is her husband Nick who seems perfect to the outside world. But, Nick and Amy are not who they appear to be.

There are so many twists and turns in this book that is the epitome of a domestic thriller and, if you love unreliable narrator books, this one is right up your alley. You may end up hating the characters, but this is one of the most popular thriller books ever made.

the girl on the train

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel takes the same train every day and peers out the window watching people.  She watched 2 people in particular as they lead what appears to be a perfect life until one day she sees something terrible while watching them. 

She reports it to the police but, can they trust a dysfunctional alcoholic? This is a domestic thriller story that will have you questioning who is telling the truth. Unreliable narrators like Rachel make the best page-turners! You’ll never know what to believe, making it perfect for our list of books with stalkers.

We were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I chose this as my pick for books with unreliable narrators and it did not disappoint.  I will not spoil and give too many details about it.

A group of four friends spends every summer together on a private island.  Money, family, love, and an accident lead to secrets and lies. 

This book was the perfect suspense which I did not expect.  Even though I knew that the narrator was unreliable, I still had no idea where this story was going.

Psychological Thriller Books with Unreliable Narrators

Stay Awake

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Megan Goldin is quickly becoming a go-to thriller writer for me. In her latest, a murder witness has amnesia and can’t remember anything once she falls asleep.

Now, Liv’s wanted for murder and she must work as hard as she can to prove her innocence before the real murderer catches up with her… if only she could remember who the murderer is!

This reminded me of Memento in all the best ways. It got a little repetitive at certain times because as the narrator, we needed to rediscover information alongside Liv. But overall, I was really into the story and it is a fun pick from summer reads 2023.

We Were Never Here 1 1

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

August 2021 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

A thriller that had me on the edge of my seat! Two best friends, Emily and Kristen, commit an accidental murder on vacation in Cambodia when they try to stop Emily from being sexually assaulted.

But the following year in Chile, it happens again. As Emily begins to suspect something is off with her best friend, she starts trying to distance herself from Kristen. But Kristen wants to keep Emily close.

With a narrator that is unreliable, because she can’t seem to trust her own instincts or memory, the twists and turns keep coming with this thriller. If vacation books are your thing, this thriller from books like People We Meet on Vacation is such a great pick. And, it is a perfect for books with unreliable narrators.

Wife between us

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Everything that you think you know in this book is just an assumption. You can assume that you are wrong. I cannot say much about this book because I do not want to spoil anything but, it is such a perfect domestic thriller.

Warning: do not start it if you don’t have time to finish it. Nellie is so excited about her upcoming wedding that is just days away. She cannot shake the feeling that someone is following her. This unreliable narrator book will have you on the edge of your seat. This is one of our favorite popular thriller books!

the woman in cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Shortly after being burglarized, a travel journalist boards a small luxury cruise liner to cover its inaugural voyage. When she thinks she sees a passenger thrown overboard – but everyone is still accounted for – she has to decide if what she saw was real or only in her head.

This isolation book wasn’t as creepy as some of Ware’s others, but it still kept me on the edge of my seat. This unreliable narrator book is a perfect sailing novel as well. You just might want to wait until you are off the boat! If you love thriller novels, this books is a must-read.

silent patient

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

This popular thriller book has been a best seller on all the major book charts recently, so I was really excited to dive in when my library hold came through.

The premise sucked me in immediately – a woman murders her husband and then doesn’t say a word for 10 years.

Convinced he can help, a psychologist transfers to the facility where she is staying to try to get the real story behind the fateful night of the murder. When it comes to unreliable narrator books, this one is not to be missed and is one of the best mystery books of all time. But we also had to include this one in our list of best thriller books, it is heart-thumping.

the woman in the window

The Woman in the Window: A Novel by AJ Finn

If you love old movies, you will adore this book. It is a spin on Hitchcock’s Rear Window and features an agoraphobic narrator who is often unreliable.

Anna Fox lives alone in her house. She is agoraphobic and cannot leave, so she sits at her window and watches everyone in the neighborhood. 

When she sees something across the street, she is sure there has been a crime but, what is real and what is imagined? Amy Adams stars in the Netflix adaptation of this unreliable narrator book.

Ghost 19 by Simone St. James

Ghost 19 by Simone St. James

This is the first short story by Simone St. James and I loved it. Ginette Cox has moved to a suburb of NY from NYC. Her doctors have told her that she needs a break. Slowly, she becomes obsessed with watching the people in her neighborhood all the while feeling that she cannot leave her house.

As time goes by, Ginette cannot figure out of she is suffering from severe anxiety or if it is the house that has a hold on her. This short, supernatural thriller is perfect for Halloween. It is also perfect for isolation books with unreliable narrators- is she agoraphobic or is there something else going on?

Classic Books with Unreliable Narrators


Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The OG psychological thriller, Rebecca is a book set in Cornwall that will leave you checking behind you when you walk down a dark hallway. As unreliable narrator books go, this one is a must-read.

The new Mrs. de Winter is haunted by her husband’s first wife, Rebecca.  The deceit will have you second-guessing everything you read while you yell at the pages.

One of the most acclaimed psychological thriller authors, this novel is Daphne Du Maurier at her best. It is a chilling novel about a naive second wife discovering the truth behind the wife who came before her.

The Netflix book adaptation stars Lily James – and it reignited this popular thriller book’s success. If you have not read this book, it is a perfect book for fall. We also needed to include it in our list of best mystery novels.

and then there were none

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I was so hooked by this British murder mystery/thriller. A mysterious person is trying to right the wrongs of the past by luring unsuspecting criminals to a deserted island…and then murdering them one by one.

But who is the killer? Why are they killing? And just how long have they been stalking their prey? You have to figure out whodunit in this unreliable narrator book that is one of the best mystery books of all time. This is one of the historical mystery books you will not want to miss.

the bell jar

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Not all books with unreliable narrators are mysteries and thrillers. Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical work shows Esther Greenwood’s mental breakdown. While working as a summer intern in New York City, Esther is sexually assaulted and returns home to recuperate.

With her academic dreams on hold, Esther falls into a deep depression and attempts suicide, eventually sent to a psychiatric hospital to recover. With its deep insights into mental health and gender roles, Plath’s novel is a great classic book to read and another must-read from the list of books set in New York and is a perfect pick for an unreliable narrator book.

Books With Unreliable Narrators You Can’t Put Down

life of pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

When a boat sinks in the Pacific, the only survivors are a 16-year-old boy named Pi, an orangutan, a hyena, a Bengal tiger, and a zebra. And while this book was written less than 20 years ago, it is already a modern classic.

This is not a sailing novel that once read can be forgotten. I know that some people look at the story as an extended metaphor in which each animal represents a person but personally, I like the book exactly the way it was written, one of the best magical realism books I have read.

There is magic in the pages of this book in all meanings of the word. First, read this book, then, rethink everything. This is a perfect example of a thought-provoking book because no two people view it the same way.

the secret keeper

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I adore Kate Morton. She is one of my absolute favorite authors and The Secret Keeper was Morton at her finest. Her books meld historical fiction, with contemporary fiction and romance with mystery.

This story revolves around a woman trying to uncover why her mother committed a crime almost 50 years prior. Having witnessed her mother, Dorothy, stab a man, Laurel starts to dig around into Dorothy’s past.

Told as a dual narrative, the more we learn about Dorothy’s past, the more questions and secrets arise. Her story is told during WWII and is on our books with unreliable narrators post! I loved it! 

YA Books With Unreliable Narrators

We were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I chose this as my pick for books with unreliable narrators and it did not disappoint.  I will not spoil and give too many details about it.

A group of four friends spends every summer together on a private island.  Money, family, love, and an accident lead to secrets and lies. 

This book was the perfect suspense which I did not expect.  Even though I knew that the narrator was unreliable, I still had no idea where this story was going.

one of us is lying

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

On a Monday afternoon, five students walk into detention at Bayview High, but only four walk out alive. Investigators find that Simon, a social outcast and creator of a gossip app detailing all the juicy rumors at Bayview High, was murdered and all eyes are on the other four students: the academic Bronwyn, homecoming queen Addy, athletic Cooper, and bad-boy Nate.

A twisty young adult thriller for fans of Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us is Lying is a fun mystery that makes you question which narrators you can believe.

code name verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity immerses you in a world of intrigue with the story of a British spy, Agent “Verity.” Captured when her plane crashes in occupied France, Verity is interrogated by the Gestapo in an attempt to learn of her mission.

As she confesses under torture, you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering what secrets she is willing to exchange for her life. How far is she willing to go for her mission? A brilliant and emotional read that makes a great book club recommendation.


Sadie by Courtney Summers

Radio personality West McCray stumbles on the story of Mattie, a young girl horribly murdered. He can’t seem to get the tale out of his head and becomes obsessed with finding Mattie’s older sister, Sadie.

Yet, Sadie has disappeared, determined to find Mattie’s killer. With no desire to be found, Sadie only wants one thing – revenge. As chapters alternate between West and Sadie, you begin to suspect that Sadie is a rather unreliable narrator.

Did you find any books with unreliable narrators for your bookshelf?


The Ultimate List of Best Thriller Books

Looking for more of the best books with unreliable narrators? Check out this list.

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One Comment

  1. I’m intrigued by “The Woman in the Window” on your list of books with unreliable narrators. This post is a gem, featuring captivating reads. Excited to dive in!