Books with Unreliable Narrators

Who can you believe? Not the narrator.
1

by
3.89 avg rating — 648,345 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
2

by
4.07 avg rating — 2,264,370 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
3

by
3.81 avg rating — 2,674,582 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
4

by
4.19 avg rating — 487,274 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
5

by
4.25 avg rating — 142,739 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
6

by
3.92 avg rating — 3,679,687 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
7

by
3.81 avg rating — 234,150 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
8

by
3.86 avg rating — 1,309,250 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
9

by
3.99 avg rating — 109,974 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
10

by
3.88 avg rating — 1,164,624 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
11

by
3.91 avg rating — 431,731 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
12

by
3.92 avg rating — 2,036,471 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
13

by
3.91 avg rating — 1,310,069 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
14

by
3.99 avg rating — 585,681 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
15

by
3.43 avg rating — 95,551 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
16

by
4.12 avg rating — 193,265 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
17

by
4.17 avg rating — 218,982 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
18

by
4.28 avg rating — 4,380,691 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
19

by
4.19 avg rating — 619,140 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
20

by
3.82 avg rating — 455,858 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
21

by
4.04 avg rating — 79,234 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
22

by
4.09 avg rating — 296,534 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
23

by
3.84 avg rating — 439,493 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
24

by
4.09 avg rating — 155,987 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
25

by
3.98 avg rating — 53,723 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
26

by
3.81 avg rating — 77,444 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
27

by
4.22 avg rating — 605,468 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
28

by
3.86 avg rating — 156,312 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
29

by
4.23 avg rating — 321,334 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
30

by
4.05 avg rating — 91,792 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
31

by
4.14 avg rating — 40,608 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
32

by
3.82 avg rating — 1,136,481 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
33

by
4.13 avg rating — 465,395 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
34

by
4.06 avg rating — 699,476 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
35

by
4.03 avg rating — 106,045 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
36

by
3.78 avg rating — 636,217 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
37

by
4.06 avg rating — 148,979 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
38

by
3.80 avg rating — 6,307 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
39

by
3.54 avg rating — 42,431 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
40

by
3.91 avg rating — 74,786 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
41

by
3.42 avg rating — 406,597 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
42

by
4.05 avg rating — 155,915 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
43

by
3.96 avg rating — 133,639 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
44

by
3.72 avg rating — 144,939 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
45

by
3.89 avg rating — 58,832 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
46

by
3.29 avg rating — 8,490 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
47

by
3.89 avg rating — 281,183 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
48

by
3.94 avg rating — 21,115 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
49

by
3.72 avg rating — 134,553 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
50

by
3.95 avg rating — 53,096 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
51

by
3.96 avg rating — 37,828 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
52

by
4.08 avg rating — 293,417 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
53

by
3.88 avg rating — 62,776 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
54

by
3.71 avg rating — 18,649 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
55

by
3.81 avg rating — 368,947 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
56

by
4.30 avg rating — 19,625 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
57

by
3.23 avg rating — 128,151 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
58

by
3.87 avg rating — 46,026 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
59

by
4.16 avg rating — 77,251 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
60

by
3.78 avg rating — 19,741 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
61

by
3.71 avg rating — 22,239 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
61

by
4.02 avg rating — 85,164 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
63

by
4.26 avg rating — 53,134 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
64

by
2.83 avg rating — 824 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
65

by
4.05 avg rating — 23,368 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
66

by
4.08 avg rating — 334,775 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
67

by
3.76 avg rating — 59,062 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
68

by
4.07 avg rating — 124,277 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
69

by
3.75 avg rating — 19,624 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
70

by
4.23 avg rating — 431,073 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
71

by
4.05 avg rating — 72,913 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
72

by
4.14 avg rating — 58,356 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
73

by
4.10 avg rating — 104,406 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
74

by
4.02 avg rating — 232,113 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
75

by
4.38 avg rating — 213,183 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
76

by
3.98 avg rating — 102,616 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
77

by
3.88 avg rating — 157,577 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
77

by
3.97 avg rating — 47,237 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
79

by
3.83 avg rating — 7,386 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
80

by
4.71 avg rating — 14 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
81

by
4.25 avg rating — 53,613 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
82

by
3.74 avg rating — 2,419 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
83

by
3.34 avg rating — 8,017 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
83

by
3.94 avg rating — 56,719 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
85

by
3.98 avg rating — 5,664 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
86

by
3.50 avg rating — 14,355 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
87

by
4.09 avg rating — 60,444 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
88

by
4.07 avg rating — 3,203 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
89

by
3.67 avg rating — 2,916 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
90

by
3.81 avg rating — 19,361 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
91

by
3.82 avg rating — 84,240 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
92

by
3.67 avg rating — 10,417 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
93

by
3.76 avg rating — 110 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
94

by
3.99 avg rating — 252,597 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
95

by
4.07 avg rating — 19,105 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
96

by
4.07 avg rating — 171,977 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
97

by
4.02 avg rating — 15,765 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
98

by
3.90 avg rating — 59,051 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
99

by
4.30 avg rating — 80,960 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
100

by
3.27 avg rating — 3,629 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
flag this list (?)
434 books · 417 voters · list created August 7th, 2010 by Vicki (votes) .
136 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Vicki 632 books
3 friends
Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) 547 books
494 friends
Bettie 15499 books
120 friends
James 3885 books
37 friends
Shreyas 491 books
39 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 3192 books
851 friends
Jorge Richard 1107 books
347 friends
Thom 6023 books
308 friends

More voters…


Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

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 [deleted user] (new)

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 [deleted user] (new)

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 [deleted user] (new)

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

Good point.


message 16: 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 17: 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 18: 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 19: 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 20: 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 21: 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 22: 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.


message 23: by Julia (new)

Julia Boechat Inna wrote: "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 book..."


I came here to say the same thing.


message 24: by Chris (new)

Chris Gager I thought for sure I'd have to add "Pale Fire," but there it was at #30. Restores my faith in Goodreaders.


back to top



Related News

Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman know the radical life-changing power of a good friendship. The two launched their hit podcast Call Your Girlfriend ...

Anyone can add books to this list.