Books with Unreliable Narrators
Who can you believe? Not the narrator.
1
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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77 avg rating — 1,629,978 ratings
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4.19 of 5 stars 4.19 avg rating — 299,605 ratings
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4.15 of 5 stars 4.15 avg rating — 52,620 ratings
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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80 avg rating — 133,998 ratings
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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96 avg rating — 359,657 ratings
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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85 avg rating — 2,045,954 ratings
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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05 avg rating — 130 ratings
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3.97 of 5 stars 3.97 avg rating — 989,941 ratings
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10
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3.45 of 5 stars 3.45 avg rating — 45,623 ratings
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11
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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79 avg rating — 752,868 ratings
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12
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4.07 of 5 stars 4.07 avg rating — 25,068 ratings
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13
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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83 avg rating — 711,938 ratings
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14
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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85 avg rating — 300,291 ratings
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15
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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14 avg rating — 180,030 ratings
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16
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4.17 of 5 stars 4.17 avg rating — 411,357 ratings
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17
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4.09 of 5 stars 4.09 avg rating — 89,729 ratings
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18
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3.87 of 5 stars 3.87 avg rating — 903,229 ratings
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19
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4.19 of 5 stars 4.19 avg rating — 24,445 ratings
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20
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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79 avg rating — 236,938 ratings
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21
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4.23 of 5 stars 4.23 avg rating — 2,331,734 ratings
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22
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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98 avg rating — 51,961 ratings
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23
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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85 avg rating — 107,543 ratings
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24
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4.15 of 5 stars 4.15 avg rating — 330,641 ratings
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25
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3.87 of 5 stars 3.87 avg rating — 39,157 ratings
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26
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4.19 of 5 stars 4.19 avg rating — 172,994 ratings
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27
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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05 avg rating — 117,337 ratings
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28
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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98 avg rating — 25,860 ratings
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29
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3.72 of 5 stars 3.72 avg rating — 85,002 ratings
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30
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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78 avg rating — 857,106 ratings
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31
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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95 avg rating — 23,512 ratings
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31
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3.39 of 5 stars 3.39 avg rating — 229,085 ratings
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33
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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96 avg rating — 352,960 ratings
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34
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4.12 of 5 stars 4.12 avg rating — 88,254 ratings
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35
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4.37 of 5 stars 4.37 avg rating — 168,705 ratings
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36
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3.49 of 5 stars 3.49 avg rating — 21,223 ratings
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37
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4.0 of 5 stars 4.00 avg rating — 246,991 ratings
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38
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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71 avg rating — 385,206 ratings
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39
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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90 avg rating — 31,046 ratings
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40
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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88 avg rating — 38,789 ratings
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41
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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84 avg rating — 30,594 ratings
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42
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4.08 of 5 stars 4.08 avg rating — 177,772 ratings
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43
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3.93 of 5 stars 3.93 avg rating — 28,899 ratings
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44
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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88 avg rating — 3,718 ratings
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45
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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95 avg rating — 46,549 ratings
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46
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3.99 of 5 stars 3.99 avg rating — 66,944 ratings
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47
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4.15 of 5 stars 4.15 avg rating — 68,307 ratings
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48
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4.21 of 5 stars 4.21 avg rating — 26,525 ratings
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49
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4.09 of 5 stars 4.09 avg rating — 38,975 ratings
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50
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3.73 of 5 stars 3.73 avg rating — 12,731 ratings
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51
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4.09 of 5 stars 4.09 avg rating — 2,086 ratings
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52
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3.87 of 5 stars 3.87 avg rating — 4,532 ratings
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53
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3.32 of 5 stars 3.32 avg rating — 6,482 ratings
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54
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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89 avg rating — 166,581 ratings
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55
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3.68 of 5 stars 3.68 avg rating — 86,149 ratings
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56
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3.67 of 5 stars 3.67 avg rating — 12,711 ratings
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56
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3.99 of 5 stars 3.99 avg rating — 144,549 ratings
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58
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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04 avg rating — 92,042 ratings
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59
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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05 avg rating — 78,578 ratings
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60
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4.2 of 5 stars 4.20 avg rating — 8,178 ratings
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61
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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88 avg rating — 42,544 ratings
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62
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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71 avg rating — 7,766 ratings
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63
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3.68 of 5 stars 3.68 avg rating — 11,472 ratings
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64
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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11 avg rating — 40,064 ratings
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65
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3.92 of 5 stars 3.92 avg rating — 15,373 ratings
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66
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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78 avg rating — 1,583 ratings
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67
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4.39 of 5 stars 4.39 avg rating — 46,530 ratings
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68
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3.32 of 5 stars 3.32 avg rating — 4,872 ratings
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69
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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90 avg rating — 36,099 ratings
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70
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3.72 of 5 stars 3.72 avg rating — 35,643 ratings
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71
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3.93 of 5 stars 3.93 avg rating — 89,788 ratings
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72
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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77 avg rating — 1,087 ratings
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73
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3.43 of 5 stars 3.43 avg rating — 12,787 ratings
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74
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3.92 of 5 stars 3.92 avg rating — 10,417 ratings
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75
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4.07 of 5 stars 4.07 avg rating — 76,853 ratings
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76
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4.47 of 5 stars 4.47 avg rating — 2,870 ratings
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77
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3.63 of 5 stars 3.63 avg rating — 6,305 ratings
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78
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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77 avg rating — 171,100 ratings
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79
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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95 avg rating — 139,571 ratings
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80
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3.69 of 5 stars 3.69 avg rating — 94 ratings
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81
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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02 avg rating — 125,400 ratings
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81
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3.44 of 5 stars 3.44 avg rating — 1,514 ratings
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83
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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83 avg rating — 26,009 ratings
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84
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3.81 of 5 stars 3.81 avg rating — 86,362 ratings
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85
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3.21 of 5 stars 3.21 avg rating — 62,047 ratings
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86
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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88 avg rating — 1,829 ratings
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87
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3.46 of 5 stars 3.46 avg rating — 10,044 ratings
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88
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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95 avg rating — 25,317 ratings
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89
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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05 avg rating — 5,439 ratings
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90
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3.7 of 5 stars 3.70 avg rating — 6,586 ratings
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91
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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71 avg rating — 2,478 ratings
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92
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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89 avg rating — 2,579 ratings
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93
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4.08 of 5 stars 4.08 avg rating — 6,759 ratings
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94
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4.46 of 5 stars 4.46 avg rating — 18,416 ratings
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95
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3.49 of 5 stars 3.49 avg rating — 5,338 ratings
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96
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3.69 of 5 stars 3.69 avg rating — 6,473 ratings
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97
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3.68 of 5 stars 3.68 avg rating — 4,785 ratings
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98
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3.69 of 5 stars 3.69 avg rating — 1,668 ratings
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98
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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03 avg rating — 47,649 ratings
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100
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4.09 of 5 stars 4.09 avg rating — 4,507 ratings
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flag this list (?)
267 books · 221 voters · list created August 7th, 2010 by Vicki (votes) .
36 likes · Like
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Vicki 632 books
3 friends
Bettie☯ 12258 books
176 friends
James 3368 books
19 friends
Shreyas 490 books
18 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 2601 books
527 friends
Jorge Richard 1102 books
216 friends
Thom 6022 books
278 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-23 of 23) (23 new)

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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads My mind is not entirely made up about the reliability of the narrator in Wolf Hall. I'm suspicious, though.


message 2: by Bettie☯ (new)

Bettie☯ Susanna wrote: "My mind is not entirely made up about the reliability of the narrator in Wolf Hall. I'm suspicious, though."

Have noticed you say this before. I haven't, and probably will not, read this Mantel because of a horrid brush (hee! look at the cover) with her Beyond Black. Not noticed anyone else take up the dodgy narrator argument on Wolf Hall but I keep watching.


message 3: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Bettie wrote: "Susanna wrote: "My mind is not entirely made up about the reliability of the narrator in Wolf Hall. I'm suspicious, though."

Have noticed you say this before. I haven't, and probably will not, ..."


The Narrator is clear and direct ....especially about what S/he doesn't know. Cromwell, the Protagonist, improvises throughout and makes a living of uncertainty.


message 5: by Julia (new)

Julia Boechat Machado Some writers (Nabokov and Borges, for instance) should have their complete works included in this list.


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited May 09, 2011 10:41AM) (new)

This is a very strange concept for me that I never heard until I got on goodreads. If you can't believe the narrator who can you believe?

I guess I understand it better when I think of the Tell-Tale Heart. I guess this list will help me.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)


message 8: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Lady Alice wrote: "This is a very strange concept for me that I never heard until I got on goodreads. If you can believe the narrator who can you believe?

I guess I understand it better when I think of the Tell..."


Dear Lady Alice, Trust me, this whole list is bolluxed: very few of these books have an "unreliable" narrator. The concept itself was taken apart and reshaped by Wayne Booth in his monumental, The Rhetoric of Fiction. The Old School you and I grew up in (I assumed) spoke of three kinds of narrators--way misleading, and Booth asks in addition, "Unreliable HOW ?" Unreliable is his reporting of the facts, his perception of reality, his moral fiber ? ANYtime you have a human first-person Narrator, he/she is bound to be "unreliable" in many ways...... or not human in the first place. Finally, people posting on this list have often mistaken the Narrator for the Central Consciousness and/or the Protagonist. And finally finally, some of these works posted seem to be books with main characters the reader just doesn't like.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for this explanation Thom. Yes, I graduated high school in 1967 and college in 1973 so I never heard of this stuff. I agree each person has a different perception of reality and the story is made from their view. This whole idea has been quite baffling for me.

Alice


message 10: by Julia (new)

Julia Boechat Machado Lady Alice wrote: "Thanks for this explanation Thom. Yes, I graduated high school in 1967 and college in 1973 so I never heard of this stuff. I agree each person has a different perception of reality and the story i..."

Hi, Lady Alice. I don't know if the whole list is bolluxed, like Thom said, but I think some examples of famous unreliable narrator stories may help you to understand the concept.

Invisible Cities
Marco Polo is not the narrator of the whole book, but he tells Kublai Khan about fantastic cities he allegedly visited. He may be just lying to amaze the emperor, so he is unreliable.

Lolita
The 1st person narrator is in prison, writing his story to the jury and trying to justify his fixation for young girls, so he is unreliable.

Dom Casmurro
In Brazil, this book is known as "the novel of doubt". The 1st person narrator tells the story of the love affair between his wife and his best friend, but he may be seen things out of jealousy.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest
The narrator suffers from Schizophrenia, and parts of the book are clearly hallucinations, like when he sees people shrinking. Many books have narrators who suffer from some mental disorder and can't be trusted.

Unreliable narrators are usually first-person narrators, but third-person narrators can also be unreliable. You will find many in Borges' work.
I also agree with Thom about how anytime you have a first person narrator he/she is bound to be unreliable, but I think we're just trying to list books in which the author deliberately uses the unreliable narrator as a narrative device.


message 11: by Thom (last edited May 09, 2011 04:12PM) (new)

Thom Dunn Julia wrote: "Lady Alice wrote: "Thanks for this explanation Thom. Yes, I graduated high school in 1967 and college in 1973 so I never heard of this stuff. I agree each person has a different perception of rea..."

I want to restrict the term to the form which is ABOUT the narrator/speaker's unreliability, as in Browning's dramatic monologues, e.g. "My Last Duchess". Here you have a scoundrel who indites himself with every word but who thinks he's hot stuff. Then there are also Ring Lardner's short stories, hopelessly dated but good examples of the form.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks again for these explanations.

Alice


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Frankly, I cannot imagine how Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare got on this list. It's not even a novel!


message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited May 13, 2011 02:43PM) (new)

Susanna wrote: "Frankly, I cannot imagine how Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare got on this list. It's not even a novel!"

I was very puzzled by that also. Thanks for removing them.



message 15: by Zachary (new)

Zachary Najarian-Najafi Wouldn't any narrator be unreliable because all humans are biased?


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Zack wrote: "Wouldn't any narrator be unreliable because all humans are biased?"

Good point.


message 17: by Liz M (new)

Liz M Zack wrote: "Wouldn't any narrator be unreliable because all humans are biased?"

Of course. However, the term has a fairly specific definition:

"An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised. The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction...."

"Unreliable narrator, a narrator whose account of events appears to be faulty, misleadingly biased, or otherwise distorted, so that it departs from the ‘true’ understanding of events shared between the reader and the implied author. The discrepancy between the unreliable narrator's view of events and the view that readers suspect to be more accurate creates a sense of irony."

"The opposite of a reliable narrator, an unreliable narrator typically displays characteristics or tendencies that indicate a lack of credibility or understanding of the story. Whether due to age, mental disability or personal involvement, an unreliable narrator provides the reader with either incomplete or inaccurate information as a result of these conditions."


message 18: by S. (new)

S. Susanna wrote: "My mind is not entirely made up about the reliability of the narrator in Wolf Hall. I'm suspicious, though."

I agree with you Susanna!


message 19: by Ben (last edited Sep 21, 2012 05:30PM) (new)

Ben I don't think there's any narrator more unreliable than the child in Room. He thinks the world consists of nothing more than the confines of his little room, he, his Ma and "Old Nick."


message 20: by Hasibuddin (new)

Hasibuddin Ahmed Julia wrote: "Some writers (Nabokov and Borges, for instance) should have their complete works included in this list."

yup


message 21: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl To be clear: the list is only intended to contain fiction, right? Winter in Majorca is nonfiction and there are probably others.


message 22: by Chloe (new)

Chloe I personally (sometimes) enjoy an unreliable narrator such as in Never Let Me Go, Gatsby, and Fight Club. But that's just me.


message 23: by Inna (last edited Mar 12, 2014 11:09AM) (new)

Inna I wonder how Crime and Punishment got here? It's not a first-person narrator book, it's in third person. Or do we perhaps see the author (Dostoyevsky) as unreliable? Hm
UPD Well, actually many books in this list don't actually belong here, basically because many people confuse Narrator and Protagonist, as is already mentioned somewhere in the comments here.


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