Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

11 Books About Stalking

One of the scariest things about the crime of stalking is how close it feels: we could all become the object of obsession, or ourselves become obsessed. It’s the kind of crime that seems to happen by degrees. Does the person we see at the park every day have their own reasons for being there, or are they following us? Is checking our ex’s Instagram every day just part of the break-up process, or is it the gateway to more dangerous behaviour? Here are eleven books about stalking that will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing right up.

11 Books About Stalking - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Affiliate links aren’t stalking you, I promise! But there are a few on this page and when you make a purchase, I’ll earn a small commission.

Milkman by Anna Burns

Milkman - Anna Burns - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The narrator of Milkman is an unnamed 18-year-old who is being stalked by an older man, a paramilitary honcho, in Belfast at the height of the Troubles. Despite her rebuffing his offers of “lifts” and “talks”, and her quasi-relationship with a more age-appropriate man, rumours start to spread around the insular community that she and the milkman are having a torrid affair. Everything is heightened, everything is politicised, and everything is prone to being extrapolated upon by the community. It’s a complex book about the culture of violence and silence, at the interpersonal level and writ large across society. Read my full review of Milkman here.

Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

Big Swiss - Jen Beagin - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Anyone who’s ever been in therapy knows the deal. It’s meant to be private. Like, seriously private. But what if a therapist is writing a book? What if he’s getting someone to transcribe audio recordings of someone’s sessions? And what if that transcriber were to… fall in love with the patient? That’s basically the premise of Big Swiss. It would be one thing if Greta simply fell in love with a voice on the tapes she transcribes, but she takes it one step further, and then another, and then another. Gradually, her life intertwines with that of the woman whose deepest, darkest secrets she already knows. Read my full review of Big Swiss here.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient - Alex Michaelides - Keeping Up With The Penguins

You’ll probably be drawn to The Silent Patient for the central mystery: why does the institutionalised woman who shot her husband refuse to speak? Can the psychotherapist obsessed with her case end her six-year silence? But as the story progresses, you’ll realise the two central characters have something in common: they were both victimised by a nameless, faceless man. For Alicia, it was her stalker. For Theo, it was his wife’s lover. As the man gets closer to each of them, the tension rises to almost unbearable heights. Is it just therapeutic countertransference between Alicia and Theo? Or are they actually connected? Read my full review of The Silent Patient here.

The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

The Nothing Man - Catherine Ryan Howard - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Pick up The Nothing Man when you’re looking for an intricately-plotted, meta-fictional, pulse-racing thriller that will have you asking towards the end: who’s stalking who? The title is the moniker given to the man who assaulted and murdered a series of people in the early 2000s; they called him that because the Gardaí had “nothing” on him. The serial killer who terrorised Cork for years is now a security guard at a supermarket, and one day he shows up at work to discover a memoir by his only surviving victim on the shelves. As he reads more about his crimes and the girl who got away, he realises she might be closer to discovering his true identity than he thought. Read my full review of The Nothing Man here.

You by Caroline Kepnes

You - Caroline Kepnes - Keeping Up With The Penguins

You is not only one of the best-selling books about stalking in the past decade, it’s also the one that will hit closest to home for booklovers. A beautiful, aspiring writer visits a bookstore in the East Village one day, not realising that she’s catching the eye of the man behind the counter. Joe is captivated by the customer, and Googles the name on her credit card – and finds everything he needs to know to mastermind another ‘chance’ encounter with her. He goes on to orchestrate a series of events that will drive her into his open arms. An obsessive stalker turned loving boyfriend – what could go wrong?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

You might be surprised to see The Great Gatsby in a list of books about stalking, but it really does belong here. If we didn’t all get so caught up in the Jazz Age glitz and glamour, and the apparently romantic tragedy of the disintegrating American Dream, we’d see this ‘classic’ for what it is. Gatsby uses his wealth and privilege to draw the woman he’s loved from afar (read: stalked) for years into his arms, despite the fact that she’s married to someone else and dealing with her own problems. We’re supposed to think it’s charming, not creepy, because he’s rich and persistent – but it should really set off all of the #MeToo alarm bells. Read my full review of The Great Gatsby here.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Eileen - Ottessa Moshfegh - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Look, there’s a lot going on in Eileen. You could make the argument that a little stalking is the least of the titular character’s character flaws, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, that in itself is an interesting commentary on the nature of stalking as a crime – it rarely occurs in isolation. Eileen is miserable in all aspects of her life, from caring for her alcoholic father in their squalid home to her dreary job as a secretary in a prison. Her stalking behaviours are an escape from the horrors of her day-to-day life, and in that light they become almost understandable, though not quite forgiveable.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

People-watching is a harmless pastime for most of us – but when does it cross the line into something more sinister? For the protagonist in The Girl On The Train, it happens around the time she notices something amiss between the couple she’s christened Jess and Jason in her mind. She watches them from the window of the train, more often than not in a drunken haze. She might be the only one who’s noticed something terrible has happened – but can she trust her own perspective? The only way to know for sure is to find out more, and that’s when lines start being crossed. Read my full review of The Girl On The Train here.

Notes On A Scandal by Zoe Heller

Notes On A Scandal - Zoe Heller - Keeping Up With The Penguins

It’s hard to believe that the teacher who ‘has an affair’ (read: grooms and abuses) an adolescent student isn’t the creepiest character in Notes On A Scandal, but here we are. The story is narrated by Barbara, a veteran teacher at a London school who (to put it mildly) has trouble making friends. She’s captivated by the new art teacher, Sheba, and slowly integrates herself into the woman’s life, insisting they’re BFFs (despite all evidence to the contrary). However, the closer she gets to Sheba, the more she learns about Sheba’s secrets, and the more dangerous their strange friendship becomes. Read my full review of Notes On A Scandal here.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

The Sanatorium - Sarah Pearse - Keeping Up With The Penguins

A story set in a remote renovated mental asylum is creepy enough, but with the addition of a stalker? The Sanatorium will have you shitting your pants, for sure. Traumatised detective Elin arrives at the new themed hotel at the invitation of her estranged brother, to celebrate his engagement. When his fiancee mysteriously disappears, and a sudden storm cuts off all access to the rest of the world, all of Elin’s bad gut feelings are confirmed. Someone is lurking in the shadows, getting closer each time she gets nearer to uncovering the truth. Read my full review of The Sanatorium here.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid

I'm Thinking Of Ending Things - Iain Reid - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Most editions of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things are published with no blurb, so you truly go in blind, which really ratchets up the tension. The story begins with a nameless narrator and her boyfriend, Jake, in a car en route to visit Jake’s parents for the first time. She’s thinking of ending things between them, but Jake doesn’t know that yet. The narrator is also being stalked by The Caller, a man who leaves her cryptic voicemails, somehow calling her from her own number. “How do we know when something is menacing? What cues us that something is not innocent?” she asks on page 17. “Instinct always trumps reason.” Read my full review of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things here.

2 Comments

  1. Love seeing The Great Gatsby on this list! 🤣 I would add The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty.

    • Sheree

      July 1, 2024 at 12:01 PM

      That Gatsby is a creepy stalker and not a romantic hero is a hill I am more than willing to die on 😅 And The Hypnotist’s Love Story is one of the Liane Moriartys I haven’t read yet, so I’ll keep an eye out for it now. Thanks Hannah!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share
Tweet
Pin