The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton
Originally titled The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare, this “metaphysical thriller,” full of anarchists and detectives posing as anarchists, really messes with your mind because you never know who to trust and why things are the way they are. Sorta like politics.
Burmese Days, George Orwell
Orwell’s novel, set in the last days of British colonialism, when Burma was part of the Empire of India, will make you feel sweaty and gross even on cold winter days. It also might have you thinking that you can’t trust anybody around you — largely thanks to its most memorable crook, the fat and disgusting magistrate U Po Kyin, who would stab his own mother in the back to advance.
Money, Martin Amis
Drugs, booze, fatty foods, and handjobs: disgusting director John Self’s life is all about excess, and it’s all fueled by what seems like an endless supply of money. What makes Money so perfectly crooked, however, is the atmosphere Amis creates, making us start to feel early on like we’re in some gluttonous nightmare where people can act like total pigs because the Ben Franklins won’t stop flowing.
Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates
Oates’ novel draws on the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident, in which Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and left his female passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, there to drown. Black Water follows a Kopechne-like character, Kelly Kelleher, who we meet as she’s going underwater after a drunk senator plows the car through a guardrail, leaving Kelleher to fend for herself.
Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol
Gogol’s brilliant novel follows a man named Chichikov, who wants to advance in the world by scamming landowners out of their “dead souls” (essentially the names of dead serfs), as a sort of get-rich-quick scheme to make people think he is a wealthy man of higher standing. Sounds like a 19th-century version of something we’d see a politician apologizing for getting caught doing, eh?
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
Most of Charlotte Brontë’s most famous novel isn’t what you could call crooked, but the self-righteous and horrible Mr. Brocklehurst of Lowood serves as a perfect example of the evil and crooked headmaster type that’s so common in 19th-century literature. He’ll risk the health and well-being of the children just so he can live more comfortably.