Share 5 Likable Books with Unlikable Protagonists

5 Likable Books with Unlikable Protagonists

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It takes considerable skill to craft a story centered on a protagonist that is utterly unlikeable, without alienating the reader or damaging the narrative. Despite featuring protagonists with questionable morals, these books make for a great and entertaining read.


Disgrace
by J. M. Coetzee

Set in post-apartheid South Africa, J. M. Coetzee’s searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice divorced, 52-year-old professor of communications and Romantic Poetry at Cape Technical University. Lurie believes he has created a comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. He lives within his financial and emotional means. Though his position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy his sexual needs. He considers himself happy. But when Lurie seduces one of his students, he sets in motion a chain of events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.

Disgrace
J. M. Coetzee

Set in post-apartheid South Africa, J. M. Coetzee’s searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice divorced, 52-year-old professor of communications and Romantic Poetry at Cape Technical University. Lurie believes he has created a comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. He lives within his financial and emotional means. Though his position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy his sexual needs. He considers himself happy. But when Lurie seduces one of his students, he sets in motion a chain of events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.

MENTIONED IN:

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By Emma Volk | January 12, 2016

5 Likable Books with Unlikable Protagonists

By Off the Shelf Staff | May 8, 2014

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The Elementary Particles
by Michel Houellebecq

An international literary phenomenon, The Elementary Particles is a frighteningly original novel–part Marguerite Duras and part Bret Easton Ellis-that leaps headlong into the malaise of contemporary existence. Bruno and Michel are half-brothers abandoned by their mother, an unabashed devotee of the drugged-out free-love world of the sixties. Bruno, the older, has become a raucously promiscuous hedonist himself, while Michel is an emotionally dead molecular biologist wholly immersed in the solitude of his work. Each is ultimately offered a final chance at genuine love, and what unfolds is a brilliantly caustic and unpredictable tale.

The Elementary Particles
Michel Houellebecq

An international literary phenomenon, The Elementary Particles is a frighteningly original novel–part Marguerite Duras and part Bret Easton Ellis-that leaps headlong into the malaise of contemporary existence. Bruno and Michel are half-brothers abandoned by their mother, an unabashed devotee of the drugged-out free-love world of the sixties. Bruno, the older, has become a raucously promiscuous hedonist himself, while Michel is an emotionally dead molecular biologist wholly immersed in the solitude of his work. Each is ultimately offered a final chance at genuine love, and what unfolds is a brilliantly caustic and unpredictable tale.

MENTIONED IN:

5 Likable Books with Unlikable Protagonists

By Off the Shelf Staff | May 8, 2014

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Medea
by Euripides

Medea is an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides, based upon the myth of Jason and Medea and first produced in 431 BC. The plot centers on the barbarian protagonist as she finds her position in the Greek world threatened, and the revenge she takes against her husband Jason who has betrayed her for another woman. Euripides produced Medea along with the lost plays Philoctetes, Dictys and the satyr play Theristai, earning him last place at the City Dionysia festival for that year

Medea
Euripides

Medea is an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides, based upon the myth of Jason and Medea and first produced in 431 BC. The plot centers on the barbarian protagonist as she finds her position in the Greek world threatened, and the revenge she takes against her husband Jason who has betrayed her for another woman. Euripides produced Medea along with the lost plays Philoctetes, Dictys and the satyr play Theristai, earning him last place at the City Dionysia festival for that year

MENTIONED IN:

5 Likable Books with Unlikable Protagonists

By Off the Shelf Staff | May 8, 2014

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African Psycho
by Alain Mabanckou

Its title recalls Bret Easton Ellis’s infamous book, but while Ellis’s narrator was a blank slate, African Psycho’s protagonist is a quivering mass of lies, neuroses, and relentless internal chatter. Gregoire Nakobomayo, a petty criminal, has decided to kill his girlfriend Germaine. He’s planned the crime for some time, but still, the act of murder requires a bit of psychological and logistical preparation. Luckily, he has a mentor to call on, the far more accomplished serial killer Angoualima. The fact that Angoualima is dead doesn’t prevent Gregoire from holding lengthy conversations with him. Little by little, Gregoire interweaves Angoualima’s life and criminal exploits with his own. Continuing with the plan despite a string of botched attempts, Gregoire’s final shot at offing Germaine leads to an abrupt unraveling. Lauded in France for its fresh and witty style, African Psycho’s inventive use of language surprises and relieves the reader by injecting humor into this disturbing subject.

African Psycho
Alain Mabanckou

Its title recalls Bret Easton Ellis’s infamous book, but while Ellis’s narrator was a blank slate, African Psycho’s protagonist is a quivering mass of lies, neuroses, and relentless internal chatter. Gregoire Nakobomayo, a petty criminal, has decided to kill his girlfriend Germaine. He’s planned the crime for some time, but still, the act of murder requires a bit of psychological and logistical preparation. Luckily, he has a mentor to call on, the far more accomplished serial killer Angoualima. The fact that Angoualima is dead doesn’t prevent Gregoire from holding lengthy conversations with him. Little by little, Gregoire interweaves Angoualima’s life and criminal exploits with his own. Continuing with the plan despite a string of botched attempts, Gregoire’s final shot at offing Germaine leads to an abrupt unraveling. Lauded in France for its fresh and witty style, African Psycho’s inventive use of language surprises and relieves the reader by injecting humor into this disturbing subject.

MENTIONED IN:

5 Likable Books with Unlikable Protagonists

By Off the Shelf Staff | May 8, 2014

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The Woman Upstairs
by Claire Messud

The Woman Upstairs is a masterly portrait of Nora Eldridge, a thirty-seven-year-old elementary school teacher on the verge of disappearing. Having abandoned her desire to be an artist, she has become the “woman upstairs,” a reliable friend and tidy neighbor always on the fringe of others’ achievements. Written with intimacy and piercing emotion, The Woman Upstairs is an urgently dispatched story of obsession and artistic fulfillment that explores the thrill—and the devastating cost—of being a woman in America today.

The Woman Upstairs
Claire Messud

The Woman Upstairs is a masterly portrait of Nora Eldridge, a thirty-seven-year-old elementary school teacher on the verge of disappearing. Having abandoned her desire to be an artist, she has become the “woman upstairs,” a reliable friend and tidy neighbor always on the fringe of others’ achievements. Written with intimacy and piercing emotion, The Woman Upstairs is an urgently dispatched story of obsession and artistic fulfillment that explores the thrill—and the devastating cost—of being a woman in America today.

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5 Likable Books with Unlikable Protagonists

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By Greg Mortimer | May 5, 2014

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