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1001 Book Review: Choke by Chuck Palahniuk


Book Worm and I were kind of at a loss on how to rate this book. Did we love it or hate it? Check out our reviews and let us know what you thought of this book.

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
Published in: 2002
Reviewed by: Book Worm  and Jen
Rating: ★★★
Find it here: Choke

Synopsis from Goodreads: Victor Mancini, a medical-school dropout, is an antihero for our deranged times. Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be “saved” by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for Victor’s life, go on to send checks to support him. When he’s not pulling this stunt, Victor cruises sexual addiction recovery workshops for action, visits his addled mom, and spends his days working at a colonial theme park. His creator, Chuck Palahniuk, is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: Warning this book contains a lot of graphic sexual descriptions featuring deviant behavior. I have given this 3 stars as the sexual sections were 2 star reading but other sections were definitely worth 4 stars. So I have balanced this out at 3 stars. If the sex was taken out this would have been a 5 star read for me.

I actually amazed myself by enjoying a lot of this book. The storyline is actually quite enjoyable and Victor is not a totally bad character. I really enjoyed the sections following Victor and his friend Denny at work in a 1700s theme park as they struggle to stick within the rules and avoid humping anything that moves. They showed a deep level of friendship and commitment to each other.

The central theme of choking which I thought would be really distasteful was actually shown in a different light and I actually found myself accepting Victor’s justifications for his behavior and actually sympathizing with him. I like the redemptive nature of what Victor is doing and how he changes over the course of novel and despite his insistence that he is not a good or caring person his actions tell us otherwise.

It is worth the effort to get through the first 10% or so of the novel which is pure sexual description and to find the satisfying story underneath. I would recommend this to anyone not put off by graphic sex scenes and who has a dark sense of humour when it comes to sex and social commentary.

Jen’s Thoughts I’m at a loss on how to rate or review this book. I gave it 3 stars simply because I couldn’t decide whether I loved or hated it. I probably both loved and hated it. On the one hand I was often repulsed by the very graphic sexual exploits of the main character but on the other hand I often laughed out loud and found some portions to be superb. Admittedly while laughing, I simultaneously wondered what was wrong with me and whether I was a depraved person. It’s that kind of book.

Choke is an interesting book from a psychological perspective. The lead character is a sex addict and intentionally chokes on objects in order for others to save him and therefore feel loved (and to make a financial profit). The novel explores his childhood and attempts to uncover the reasons why he is the way he is as an adult.

Sex in books doesn’t usually bother me but it’s the graphic unrelenting scenario after scenario in vivid detail that I find distasteful to read. I can’t say it was the graphic sex alone that bothered me because many of his escapades were hilarious but it was the graphic sex combined with certain events vividly described that made me cringe. It makes sense in this book since the main character is a sex addict and it serves a function in terms of the author’s main point but I disliked it. I will say that Palahniuk was the ability to create really vivid images that will stay in your head forever.

Note: I listened to the audio narrated by the author. This is one clear example of why authors shouldn’t read their own books. The narration was dreadful /monotone and dull. He sounded like a robot and I would not recommend the audio.

I would recommend this book to readers who like dark humor and who aren’t easily offended. If you are easily offended by graphic sex in books, this is not the book for you.

Selected Quotes:

Picture anybody growing up so stupid he didn’t know that hope is just another phase you’ll grow out of”

“The truth is every son raised by a single mom is pretty much born married. I don’t know, but until your mom dies it seems like all the other women in your life can never be more than just your mistress”

“It’s not that I don’t love these women. I love them just as much you’d love a magazine centerfold, a fuck video, an adult website, and for sure, for a sexaholic that can be buckets of love”

“The minute something better than sex comes along, you call me. Have me paged.”

“but someday, I’d like to live a life based on doing good stuff instead of just not doing bad stuff”

“You could put most of these folks in front of a mirror and tell them it’s a television special about old dying miserable people, and they’d watch for hours.”

“We don’t need women. There are plenty of other things in the world to have sex with, just go to a sexaholics meeting and take notes.”

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Choke

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. I really like Pahlaniuk’s writing. He’s quite close to the edge a lot of the time, but also blackly funny. Choke isn’t my favourite by him, but I enjoyed it a lot when I read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    July 15, 2016
    • I generally don’t love dark humor and while I like edgy movies, I don’t love edgy books. I guess it says a lot about his talent that I didn’t hate it. I really loved parts of it. I just really hated other parts.


      July 15, 2016
  2. I’ve been waiting for this review. I really liked the book when I read it. Gave it 5 stars. He’s SO funny. NEVER EVER read Snuff. You would die. LOL, I liked it though.

    this is classic:

    “The minute something better than sex comes along, you call me. Have me paged.”

    My favorite Chuck P is Survivor.

    Liked by 1 person

    July 15, 2016
    • I kind of knew going in that I wouldn’t love everything about this book. I’m generally not a huge fan of dark humor but I liked this much more than I had expected. There were moments when I was laughing hysterically in my car (I listened to the audio) especially whenever he talked about his job at the historical park/village. I haven’t read Fight Club although I did love the movie so at some point I’ll probably read that. I felt truly conflicted about the book and in many respects thought it probably merited a high rating. I can safely say that I will be avoiding Snuff. Too much for me even if parts are hilarious.


      July 15, 2016
      • I think Fight Club the movie is so much better than the book – they did an amazing job.

        Liked by 1 person

        July 16, 2016
  3. Tracy S #

    I read this about 8 years ago or so, and remember not hating it. I’ve read Lullaby, too, and liked it much better.

    Liked by 1 person

    July 15, 2016
  4. Not one for me, not because I’m prudish but the concept doesn’t appeal at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    July 16, 2016
  5. Daniella Ramirez-Thiedeman #

    I found myself both utterly disgusted and profoundly curious from time to time. I think that Vince’s voice captures the essence of an addict. His tone feels very “matter of fact” when he talks about his sexual encounters. Very robotic. The, oh so often, autonomic movements of the addict. From my perspective, I felt like Vince was a voice for some of the clients that I have worked with in the past. The way that they can, at times, encourage you to follow a irrational train of thought, and somehow convince you to label it “logical”. The author has a knack for luring you into a place of chaos and encouraging you to normalize it.

    I love it. I loved it in the movie “Fight Club” and I enjoy it in the novel “Choke”. This is a book I want to pass along to my mom to read so I can study her expressions as she gasps and is appalled, yet doesn’t put it down. This author will expose the dirty shame in each of us. Haha!


    January 23, 2021

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