- Jim Thompson, The Getaway (1959). Scary and increasingly surreal. Arguably a dark fantasy novel.
- Stephen King (as Richard Bachman), The Long Walk (1979). Relentless. A lifetime ahead of The Hunger Games.
- Ted Chiang, The Lifecycle of Software Objects (2010). As with all Chiang's best work, it's not only moving but keeps you thinking for months after you put down the book.
- Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (1974). A spellbinding police procedural, courtroom drama, and personality study.
- William R. Corliss, Science Frontiers: Some Anomalies and Curiosities of Nature (2 vols., 1994 and 2004). An annotated bibliography of thousands of eyebrow-raising articles in the scientific literature. Astonishment on every page.
- Ed Cray, Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie (2004). Honest about the man's countless flaws, but awe-inspiring nonetheless.