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100 Best (and Scariest) Horror Books of All Time

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Blog – Posted on Monday, Feb 04

100 best (and scariest) horror books of all time.

100 Best (and Scariest) Horror Books of All Time

The definition of scary changes from person to person. For some, it might be ghosts and haunted houses. For others, serial killers. For still others, the most frightening things are the ones that go bump in the night, unseen.

Despite the width of this spectrum, what unites all lovers of horror is the thrill that horror novels inspire within us: that universal sensation of your heart thumping out of your chest, as cold sweat breaks on your forehead when you turn the page.

To create this list, we went to the darkest, most ghostly corners of the literary world. Without further ado, here are the 100 best horror novels of all time — it's safe to say that we hope they'll keep you up at night. Happy reading!

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of great horror books out there, you can also take our 30-second quiz below to narrow it down quickly and get a personalized horror book recommendation  😉

Which horror book should you read next?

Discover the perfect horror book for you. Takes 30 seconds!

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

Is there a name more synonymous with horror? The story of Dr. Frankenstein and the anguished, tragic monster he unwittingly creates has become a cultural icon, both macabre and quintessential. When Mary Shelley set out to write Frankenstein over two centuries ago, she said that she wanted to create a book that would “speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror — one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart.” We can safely say that she succeeded.

2. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (1838)

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is a mixture of Moby Dick-esque maritime detail (it later inspired Herman Melville) and H.P. Lovecraft-style cosmic horror . The titular Pym stows away on the Grampus, a whaling ship headed for southern waters. But after mutiny breaks out on the upper deck, Pym is left stranded by one of his friends, only to face a series of gruesome situations once he’s retrieved.

3. The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe (1839)

Could you really call a list of the best horror books complete without a nod (or two) to the genius of Edgar Allan Poe? Sibling dynamics are given new meaning in The Fall of the House of Usher , a work of gothic fiction that centers on a spooky household. Roderick is a sick man with acute sensitivity to everything, who lives in constant fear he is about to die. His sister, Madeline, suffers from catalepsy (a sickness involving seizures). An unnamed narrator visits them both and gets more than he bargained for.

4. Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell (1851-1861)

Just as the tin says! Gothic Tales is a collection of (surprise!) gothic tales — more specifically, fairy tales intertwined with short stories. Written by 19th-century author Elizabeth Gaskell, these stories deliver everything: disappearances, Salem witch hunts, mysterious children wandering lost in the moors, and local legends that may or may not return to haunt the townspeople. And with every story, Gaskell shows her uncanny talent of blending reality and the supernatural with spine-tingling dexterity.

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5. Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1872)

Before Dracula , there was Carmilla . This tale of a female vampire who attracts a lonely young girl served as the foundation for the “lesbian vampirism” trope (and, no doubt, inspired Bram Stoker to some extent as well). So fans of the emerging cult classic Jennifer’s Body , you’ve found your literary horror match.

6. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

Meet the most famous vampire of all time. Dracula was born out of Bram Stoker’s imagination over a century ago — yet he still lives on today in our collective consciousness. Dracula is his story, one in which he roams from Transylvania to England to spread the curse of the undead amongst innocents. More than a simple tale about vampirism, Dracula is an era-defining masterwork about sexuality, technology, superstition, and an ancient horror that’s too terrible for words.

7. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

The Turn of the Screw is the original children of the damned! When a governess is hired to take care of Miles and Flora, the niece and nephew of a wealthy Englishman, she has no idea what she’s in for. As she discovers the tragic fate of her predecessor, she starts seeing things that can only be explained in one of two ways: either she’s mad… or the specter of the late governess wants her job back!

8. The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H. P. Lovecraft (1928)

Perhaps the most influential of American horror writers, H.P. Lovecraft was responsible for creating an entire mythology of elder gods, sinister sea-dwellers , mysterious cults, and men of science who are driven to the edge of their sanity. The Call of Cthulhu remains one of the most accessible entry points into Lovecraft’s works — some of which, if we’re being honest, are a bit hard for the uninitiated to follow.

9. Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James (1931)

M.R. James essentially originated the “antiquarian ghost story.” Indeed, his writing was revolutionary for its time, discarding old Gothic clichés and using more realistic settings — which as we know by now, only makes a scary story scarier. His Collected Ghost Stories includes a whopping 30 tales, most of which involve a mild-mannered academic stumbling upon an artifact that calls forth some malevolent, otherworldly presence. Yes, the ghosts are fascinating; but what’s really admirable here is James’ signature subtlety of style.

10. At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft (1936)

This post-Cthulhu novella by Lovecraft is so long and twisty that even Lovecraft himself couldn’t get it published at first. At the Mountains of Madness relates the horrifying details of an Antarctic expedition gone wrong, in which the remains of a prehistoric species seemingly came to life and slayed humans. As the narrative spirals further, both the characters and the reader come to realize that instead of a life-changing discovery, the explorers may have brought about a death-wracking monster.

11. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)

“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Perhaps the most famous first line of any novel in the 20th century, this intoxicating blend of romance and suspense was seemingly made for Alfred Hitchcock, who went on to direct Rebecca 's silver screen adaptation. After a whirlwind romance, a shy American marries a wealthy Englishman and returns to his estate in Cornwall. She soon realizes that she’s now living under the (literal or figurative) shadow of her husband’s first wife: the seemingly perfect and recently deceased Rebecca de Winter.

12. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

One man’s hero is another man’s villain. If there’s only one lesson we learn from Matheson’s survival classic, let it be that. Doctor Robert Neville is the last man left alive. In the daylight, he hits the streets, stocking up on supplies and vanquishing the vampiric creature that lurk in the shadows. But when night falls, he squirrels himself away in his fortress of a home and works desperately on a cure for an epidemic that has ended the human race.

13. The Bad Seed by William March (1954)

Now synonymous with any misbehaving child, the original “bad seed” was Rhoda Penmark, the sociopathic eight-year-old. Her mother Christine suspects her of hurting and possibly killing a classmate, an elderly neighbor, and even her own dog — and as Christine discovers the truth about her own mother’s dark past, she realizes that Rhoda has to be stopped at all costs, before The Bad Seed sprouts any further.

14. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

You know how some people say that the setting is almost like another character in the story? Well, in the case of this spooky classic, that’s the literal truth. When a parapsychologist invites a group of volunteers to stay at an old mansion with a bloody mystery, he hopes to uncover evidence of the supernatural. As the tension ratchets up, each of the guests is confronted by inexplicable phenomena. Listed by Stephen King as one of the best horror books of the 20th century, The Haunting of Hill House is a must-read for any fan of the genre.

15. Psycho by Robert Bloch (1959)

If you’re into horror, you’re no stranger to Psycho . But let’s recap one of the best horror plots of all time anyway: inspired by the real-life story of psychotic murderer Ed Gein, Norman Bates and his Mother own the Bates motel, with the unlit neon sign out front. When a woman checks into the motel one night, Norman can’t help but spy on her. Displeased, Mother plans to rectify her son’s behaviour by eliminating the woman, and anything that might purge Norman of his dark thoughts.

16. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962)

We learn three things in the first paragraph of Jackson’s final novel: Mary Katherine Blackwood lives with her sister Constance; she loves the death-cap mushroom; and everyone else in her family is dead. From the supreme master of shivers-down-your-spine horror comes a tale of Gothic surroundings and even more sinister, yet inscrutable, inner lives. You’ll be guessing the wicked truth about Mary and Constance right up to the very end.

17. The Case Against Satan by Ray Russell (1962)

Bearing strong superficial resemblance to a certain classic, Russell’s novel also features a pair of priests tasked with examining a young girl who may be possessed by the devil. Between The Case Against Satan , The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, contemporary readers can sense a Catholic-tinged fear of the devil pervading through American horror of the 60s. If you like the other two, why not give this one a chance?

18. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962)

At the beginning of Something Wicked This Way Comes , twelve-year-olds Will and Jim can’t wait to visit “Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show.” But during their visit, they witness something odd: ol’ Cooger riding backwards on the carousel, which turns him into a boy of their own age. As Will and Jim tail the Benjamin Button-ized Cooger, searching for answers, they find that the mysteries of the carnival are even darker than they anticipated — and that that darkness may not be limited to the carnival alone.

19. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin (1967)

If, for some reason, you’re doubting whether Rosemary’s Baby is one of the best horror books of all time, let us remind that it was the bestselling horror novel of the 1960s, launching a boom in the commercial success of horror fiction in general. As with many stories in the genre, Rosemary’s Baby starts out pretty innocently, and then things take a turn for the worst: Rosemary and Guy have just moved into a beautiful Manhattan apartment, and life is good. That is, until their dream home starts to turn into a living nightmare, and they begin to feel that the devil lives only a few doors down.

20. Hell House by Richard Matheson (1971)

In Hell House , the I am Legend scribe reaches terrifying new heights by expertly combining his flair for suspense with an intuitive eye for horror. The story opens on a dying millionaire who pays $100,000 each to a physicist and two mediums for them to retrieve “proof” of life after death. The group’s plan: travel to Maine and spend the week in the Belasco House, the most haunted house in the world. Whether any of them make it out alive — without going mad — is another question altogether.

If you don’t trust us, believe Stephen King, who once said: “ Hell House is the scariest haunted house novel ever written. It looms over the rest the way the mountains loom over the foothills.”

21. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)

No author creates sensation quite like William Peter Blatty and no story has satisfied a nation’s capacity for horror quite like The Exorcist . A literary landmark of the 21st-century , The Exorcist is the deeply troubling tale of one child’s demonic possession and two priests’ attempts to save her from a fate worse than death. Part family drama and all horror, it delivers on all fronts.

22. Carrie by Stephen King (1974)

Allegedly fished out of the trash by his wife, it’s hard to believe that this classic was only the first novel published by Stephen King. As one of the most put-upon teenage girls in literature, the title character struggles with school bullies, a puritanical mother, and unusual (to say the least) physical changes. Even before it went on to become a famous film, Carrie gave early fans a glimpse of King’s greatest gifts: his ability to write sympathetic, fully fleshed characters while also delivering on the big shocks. (Want more King? Check out this list of every Stephen King novel , ranked from most popular to least popular.)

23. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (1976)

Speaking of debuts that made a splash: with her first published novel, Anne Rice redefined Southern Gothic for a new generation. The titular interview takes place in modern day, as the vampire Louis recounts his story to a cub reporter. Once a plantation owner in pre-Civil War Louisiana, his life as a creature of the night is marked by his various encounters with Lestat, the vampire responsible for his undeath. Interview with the Vampire went on to be an incredible success, spawning a series of popular novels and a film adaptation starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.

24. The Shining by Stephen King (1977)

What do you get when you take a frustrated writer, a creepy old hotel, and a blizzard that locks everyone inside? An absolute cornerstone of horror, that’s what! If you’ve never read The Shining , brace yourself for a marathon of mounting tension and terrifying twists, with a family fighting for their lives, even as they’re not exactly sure who or what they’re fighting.

25. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (1979)

Angela Carter is one of the preeminent magical realist writers of the twentieth century, female or male. The Bloody Chamber , a collection of darkly reimagined fairy tales and folktales, takes a distinctly feminist slant with its portrayal of female characters: many of the heroines in these stories save themselves, rather than waiting for a hero on a white horse. Of course, they have to go through some pretty scary stuff first. Horror lovers who also enjoy a bit of Holly Black or Marissa Meyer, this is unquestionably the collection for you.

26. Ghost Story by Peter Straub (1979)

A group of old men in a quiet town call themselves The Chowder Society. Every so often, they gather to share ghost stories with each other. It’s all just fun and game… until it isn’t. In the wake of a horrific accident, the men are forced to confront one of their stories — and the consequences of the worst thing that they’ve ever done in this brilliant homage to “Night of the Living Dead.”

27. Whispers by Dean Koontz (1980)

Whispers stars Thomas, a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. One day, she is attacked by Bruno Frye, the proprietor of a vineyard she recently visited. She forces him to leave at gunpoint and immediately calls the police — who then call Bruno’s home, where he answers, not more than seconds after the attack. Later on, she is once again attacked by Bruno but manages to get injure him as he escapes. When she called the cops again, she learns that her assailant was found dead hundreds of miles away. But if you think that will put an end to her assaults, then you’re in for a big surprise.

28. The Mask by Dean Koontz (1981)

Not to be confused with the Jim Carrey comedy, The Mask is a shudder-inducing novel from Koontz follows Carol and Paul, a hopeful couple who welcomes a young, amnesiac foster girl into their home. But though “Jane” (who can’t remember her real name) seems angelic at first, her increasingly strange behavior and the mystery of her true identity begins to worry her potential adoptive parents… who may have a closer connection to her than they realize.

29. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)

Now a major motion picture starring Daniel Radcliffe ( as well as a long-running stage play in London), The Woman in Black is often described as “if Jane Austen wrote horror.” This take on a classic ghost story follows solicitor Arthur Kipps as he travels to the English moors to settle the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. What he finds really finds is a mansion haunted by the elusive “Woman in Black”. Readers who love a slow build-up and the sensation of being watching will be thrilled.

30. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (1984)

Frank Cauldhame is sick in the head, even by the standards of the horror genre. Though only sixteen, he lives in isolation and has developed a number of sociopathic tendencies, including torturing wasps in a machine he calls “the wasp factory.” As the reader gets to know more about Frank’s twisted past, they begin to understand why he’s like this — and another twist toward the end of The Wasp Factory makes Frank’s everyday activities seem practically banal.

I look at these pieces and I don't think the man who wrote them is alive in me anymore.... We are all our own graveyards I believe; we squat amongst the tombs of the people we were. If we're healthy, every day is a celebration, a Day of the Dead, in which we give thanks for the lives that we lived; and if we are neurotic we brood and mourn and wish that the past was still present. Reading these stories over, I feel a little of both. Some of the simple energies that made these words flow through my pen--that made the phrases felicitous and the ideas sing--have gone. I lost their maker a long time ago.

These enthusiastic tales are not ashamed of visceral horror, of blood splashing freely across the page: \'The Midnight Meat Train,\' a grisly subway tale that surprises you with one twist after another; \'The Yattering and Jack,\' about a hilarious demon who possesses a Christmas turkey; \'In the Hills, the Cities,\' an unusual example of an original horror premise; \'Dread,\' a harrowing non-supernatural tale about being forced to realize your worst nightmare; \'Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament,\' about a woman who kills men with her mind. Some of the tales are more successful than others, but all are distinguished by strikingly beautiful images of evil and destruction. No horror library is complete without them. --Fiona Webster

31. Books of Blood by Clive Barker (1984)

As Britain’s leading purveyor of shocking horror, Clive Barker has made a bit splash as both an author and a film director. While cinephiles may recognise his works Candyman and Hellraiser , he first appeared on the horror radar with his short story collection, Books of Blood . Compulsively blood-curdling, these contemporary stories see regular people sucked into grotesque, disturbing, and often comic scenarios. A brilliant gateway for Barker newbs.

Ghosts and The Locked Room are the next two brilliant installments in Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy .

32. City of Glass by Paul Auster (1985)

City of Glass is the first installment in Auster’s landmark New York Trilogy , and a genuinely psychedelic work of intertwining narratives. It begins with a private investigator and former fiction writer who’s driving himself crazy trying to solve a case, then unspools into countless more intertextual threads and questions — the possible answers to which will have readers questioning their own sanity and stability by the end of this book.

33. It by Stephen King (1986)

In the story that injected clowns straight into the nightmares of an entire generation, the title character is a demonic entity that disguises itself while pursuing its prey. And for the children of Derry, that mostly involves taking the form of Pennywise the Clown. Alternating between two time periods (childhood and adulthood), It is packed with fascinating tangents that expertly flesh out the sad, traumatized, and occasionally nostalgic natives of this quiet Maine town.

34. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)

The horrors of Beloved , considered by many to be Morrison’s seminal work, are thoroughly intertwined with the ghastly history of America. Sethe is a former slave who had to slit her infant daughter’s throat to prevent her from enduring the same profound injustices and trauma as her. Eighteen years later, the child still haunts her — in some ways more than others. Between the intensely surreal atmosphere that pervades the entire book and Morrison’s deep-cutting prose, Beloved is a masterpiece beyond that of most contemporary horror novels.

35. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing (1988)

In the 1960s, Harriet and David Lovatt are normal parents with four normal children in England — until Harriet gives birth to their fifth child. Ben is the devil incarnate: he is too strong for his own good, insatiable when it comes to sustenance, and abnormally violent. As he grows up, the family becomes increasingly paralyzed by fear and indecision. Underneath the thrills and agony of The Fifth Child lies a dangerous question about parenthood and the obligations of family.

36. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988)

The basis for the Oscar-winning film, The Silence of the Lambs is the follow-up to Red Dragon , which was the first novel to feature cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In this sequel, FBI trainee Clarice Starling enlists the help of Dr. Lecter to find “Buffalo Bill” — another killer on the loose. In order to do so, the inner workings of a very dark mind are probed, and spine-chilling suspense ensues.

37. Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons (1989)

Carrion Comfort is based on a brilliantly unique premise: that throughout history, a select group of individuals with psychic powers (known as “The Ability”) have compelled humans to commit horrific violence. Acts such as the cruelty of Nazi guards, John Lennon’s assassination, and the Iranian Hostage Crisis can all be attributed to people with The Ability — and they may be planning something even worse. It’s up to one man, a Holocaust survivor, to extinguish this ancient evil before they do any more harm.

38. Ring by Kōji Suzuki (1991)

The premise is a modern-twist on a classic trope: there is a videotape that warns viewers they will die in one week unless they perform an unspecified act. And, yes, the videotape does keep its promises. This Japanese mystery horror novel was the basis for the 2002 film, The Ring , a film which kickstarted the trend of adapting Asian horror for English-speaking markets. Indeed, the nineties was when international readers really started to pay attention to the chilling work being produced by Japanese genre writers like Suzuki.

39. Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite (1993)

In Drawing Blood , Trevor McGee avoids his childhood home in North Carolina for a reason. Years ago, when he was only five years old, his father murdered his mother and his younger brother before hanging himself. Now he’s determined to return and confront his past, but there’s a small problem: the demons that drove his father to insanity might never have left the house.

40. Parasite Eve by Hideaki Sena (1995)

Described as a “medical fantasmagoria,” comparable to Frankenstein in its scientific acuity, this Japanese sci-fi horror follows Dr. Nagashima, who is overwhelmed with grief at the loss of his wife. To cope, he begins the process of reincarnating his wife using a small sample of her liver. What he isn’t prepared for is when her cells begin to mutate, and an ancient, unseen consciousness starts rising from its long sleep.

41. Uzumaki by Junji Ito (1998)

Uzumaki is a seinen horror manga series. Kurôzu-cho, a small fogbound town on the coast of Japan, is plagued by a supernatural curse in the form of uzumaki — spiral, otherwise known as the hypnotic secret shape of the world. As the hold of the curse over the town strengthens, its inhabitants begin to fall deeper and deeper into a whirlpool of madness.

42. From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (1999)

The peerless Alan Moore put aside V for Vendetta and Watchmen to write this graphic novel, bringing to life the world of Jack the Ripper and his reign of terror in the 1880s. From the grisly theories surrounding the Ripper to the personalities that stood tall during the desperate investigation, Moore spares no gruesome detail as he examines the motivations and identity of the most famous serial killer of all times. With Eddie Campbell’s stark illustrations, this extraordinary graphic novel is a reminder that the most horrifying truths lurk inside the depths of the human soul — and that not all monsters live in Hell.

43. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (2000)

Though Danielewski’s experimental debut remains largely uncategorizable, it definitely contains strands of horror DNA. This mammoth 700-page novel follows "The Navidson Record" — a documentary about an apparently haunted house (if by "haunted" one actually means "alive"). The Navidson house seems to mutate, changing size and sprouting corridors in a dizzying labyrinths, all while emitting an ominous growl. But what makes House of Leaves truly frightening is Danielewski’s intertwining of plot and structure, the latter’s chaotic layout mirroring the former.

44. Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson (2001)

Skin Folk is a short story collection that includes science fiction, Caribbean folklore, passionate love stories, and downright chilling horror. While not all the stories would be described as horror, the darkest of the collection is “Greedy Choke Puppy,” which features a bitter woman who discards her skin at night, and replenishes herself by killing children for their life force.

45. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002)

There’s a mysterious door in Coraline’s new house. The neighbors all warn her that she shouldn’t open it under any circumstances… but Coraline never was a girl who listened to other people’s advice. From the mind of the bestselling author who brought you American Gods and Neverwhere comes a novel of wondrous and chilling imagination. Coraline is one of the staples in Gaiman’s remarkable oeuvre for a reason.

46. 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith (2002)

This dramatic comic book miniseries brings supernatural terror to life: for a town in Alaska, prolonged periods of darkness means that vampires can openly kill and feed upon humans at almost any time. Their victims are rendered helpless by both the incapacitating darkness and the vampires’ vicious attacks — attacks that Ben Templesmith depicts with such gory immediacy that his illustrations could almost be crime scene photographs.

47. Come Closer by Sara Gran (2003)

Come closer, indeed. This 2003 novel by Sara Gran revolves around a woman named Amanda, who has an ostensibly perfect life. But one day she realizes that some things are a little off. Like the quiet but recurrent tapping in her apartment. And the memo that she sent earlier to her boss that was somehow replaced by a series of insults. Then there are the dreams: those of a beautiful woman with pointed teeth, and a seashore the color of blood. As this mystery escalates in size and terror, Amanda is forced to confront nothing less than her own self.

48. The Good House by Tananarive Due (2003)

The Good House is named after a Sacajawea, Washington home that was much-beloved… until a young boy died behind its doors. Two year later, Angela hadn’t planned on returning to the house that bore silent witness to her son’s death, but then terrible things start happening to the community. Now Angela has the chance to lay to rest once and for all what exactly happened to Corey — and what it has to do with a curse that Angela’s grandmother may or may not have placed on the community decades ago.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door---a girl who has never seen a Rubik's Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night.

49. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004)

Oskar is a young boy living with his divorced mother in a suburb of Stockholm. Mercilessly bullied by kids at school and increasingly insular, he makes a much-needed connection when Eli, a child of a similar age, moves in next door. Little does he know that his new bestie isn’t as young as he thinks… and that he has a peculiar set of appetites. Titled after the lyrics of a Morrissey song, this sweet but frightening novel has been adapted twice into film and once as a stage show.

50. Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler (2005)

To read one of Octavia E. Butler’s book is to become a fan for life. In Fledgling , Butler demonstrates her mastery of horror once again. On the surface, Shori seems to be a young girl who suffers from severe amnesia. Yet a discovery leads her to the horrifying revelation that she is in fact a 53-year old vampire who has been genetically modified by someone who wants her dead. Now she must decide whether to pursue more answers, even though it might lead her to her own doom.

51. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (2005)

Kostova’s debut novel is a complex interlacing of spooky fiction and chilling historical fact. It follows a professor and his daughter who become entrenched in the folklore of Vlad the Impaler, a major inspiration for Dracula. They soon realize that their connection to Vlad goes far beyond the scholarly. This connection becomes especially critical when their father disappears, and his daughter (our narrator) must use her knowledge to track him down.

52. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)

Cormac McCarthy is no slouch when it comes to publishing gripping tales, and The Road is one of his most haunting books. Spurning an equally well-received film adaptation, the story follows a father and son as they make their way through barren, post-apocalyptic America. They’re headed for the coast, not sure of what they will find there, but in the hope that they will find, well, something . All they know is that the road is dangerous, and all they’ve got to protect themselves is a single pistol and each other.

53. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

This tantalizing thriller from Norwegian crime writer Nesbø is about a series of brutal murders all connected by snowmen, and the jaded former FBI agent who tries to understand why. As Detective Harry Hole delves further and further into the investigation, he starts to believe that the murderer may be someone he knows… but who can say for certain when so much of the evidence has melted away?

54. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (2007)

Heart-Shaped Box centers on Judas Coyne, a retired rockstar who now spends his days collecting “items of the macabre” — snuff films, confessions, anything deathly and disturbing. Naturally he jumps at the chance to acquire the suit of a dead man (with his ghost still allegedly attached). But when it arrives in a heart-shaped box, Coyne realizes that this addition to his collection is less of a novelty than liability. If he can’t control it, he’ll suffer the dire consequences of its wrath.

55. Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory (2008)

Del Pierce has been possessed by a demon with a penchant for deadly mischief. Desperate to rid himself of the demon, Del turns to three sources: a likewise possessed former sci-fi writer, a nun who tends to inspire unchaste feelings rather than an inclination to pray, and a secret society devoted to the art of exorcism. Can he find the cure to the plague of demonic possessions hitting society? And if so — at what cost? Pandemonium gives us the spine-chilling answer.

56. Last Days by Brian Evenson (2008)

Meet Kline, a former detective with an amputated hand. However rather than giving him a handicap in the gumshoe business, it makes him the perfect candidate to investigate a dismemberment-based cult — the ghastly nature of which even Kline can’t foresee. Evenson’s brilliantly economic writing depicts this story in such a way that each sharp, shocking revelation of Last Days does indeed feel like a knife to one of your extremities.

57. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (2009)

You might not expect the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife to deliver on the creepiness front, but Audrey Niffenegger will outdo your wildest expectations in Her Fearful Symmetry . Julia and Valentina Poole are 20 year-old twins and best friends when they’re told that their aunt has died of cancer. She bequeaths her London apartment to them, on one condition: that Julia and Valentina live in the flat for a year — alone — before selling it. Easy, right? And yet Julia and Valentina are visited by a host of unnerving characters while there… including their aunt, who may not be entirely gone after all.

58. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (2009)

There’s just something about a seemingly sentient house. If you agree, you’ll surely enjoy White Is for Witching . Four generations of Silver women have lived in the big house in isolated Dover, England. The house has witnessed a lot of history — much of which has been tragic or outright horrific — and seems to cope by working mischief. Check it out for a modern take on Gothic horror.

59. Mr Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett (2010)

The widespread and severe poverty created by the Great Depression has carried thousands of people to the American railroad system, desperately looking for work. But one more has been driven by more than just poverty — he’s on revenge-fueled journey, and will not rest until he makes one Mr. Shivers pay for the brutal murder of his daughter. Mr. Shivers tells his horrifying tale of vengeance.

60. Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (2010)

One of the eeriest ghost stories in recent memory, Dark Matter tracks a five-man expedition to a remote part of the Arctic, where there is no sunlight whatsoever for months during the “polar winter.” All the men are optimistic going into the expedition; it’s only when they get there that they realize something is terribly, terribly wrong. And not only will they have to get to the bottom of it if they want to survive, they also have to do it in complete and utter darkness.

61. Feed by Mira Grant (2010)

The Rising: the moment when the world froze in horror and watched as the dead came back to life, driven by genetically engineered viruses. The infected move with only one motivation in mind: to feed. Now it’s twenty years later and two journalists are determined to uncover the truth behind the origins of the catastrophe. More than a zombie horror novel, this blockbuster work transcends the form to ask serious questions of politics, power, and the right to information.

62. The Passage by Justin Cronin (2010)

In The Passage , a governmental experiment to develop an immunity-boosting drug based on a South American bat goes horribly wrong. Suddenly the world is dealing with a highly contagious virus that turns people into vampire-like beings — beings that are always on the hunt for fresh blood. At the center of it all is Amy, a young girl abandoned in a terrifying world, and the key to saving humanity.

63. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (2011)

One of National Public Radio’s Top 5 YA Novels of 2011, this highly unusual and vividly imagined horror story centers around Cas Lowood, an exorcist’s son who carries on his father’s legacy by expertly killing ghosts. But when Cas sets off to vanquish a violent spirit known by the locals as “Anna Dressed in Blood,” he has no idea what he’s getting himself into — especially when Anna starts communicating with him, spilling the secrets of her past.

64. Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman (2011)

In Those Across the River , failed academic Frank Nichols and his wife move to the sleepy Georgian town of Whitbrow. There, Frank intends to write about the history of his family’s old estate and the horrors that took place there. But as Frank knows, history is not easily forgotten — and under the small-town charm and southern hospitality lurks an unspoken presence that has been waiting for a debt of blood to be paid.

65. The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan (2011)

This sexy thriller centers on Jacob Marlowe, a werewolf with class: he reads Kant, drinks Scotch, and enjoys all means of modern sophistication. However (like so many intellectuals), he’s also undergoing an existential crisis: Jacob has to kill and eat a person every time there’s a full moon, and he doesn’t want to do it anymore. Fully prepared to commit suicide, he’s stopped in his tracks when he learns one of his friends has been murdered, and embarks on a path of fatal vengeance — which, ironically, just might give him a reason to live again.

66. Zone One by Colson Whitehead (2011)

The pandemic that wreaked havoc on Earth is finally starting to subside, and the first goal for civilization is to start rebuilding Manhattan, aka Zone One . In order to do so, they need to start by getting rid of those who have been infected but not yet died, aka zombies. But what seems like a fairly straightforward first step in reclaiming the Big Apple is about to take an (even more) chilling turn.

67. The Croning by Laird Barron (2012)

Fans of H.P Lovecraft and Richard Matheson, this one’s for you. In The Croning , Laird Barron has crafted a weird horror story for the ages: one in which affable geologist Donald Miller discovers dark things existing in the shadows of our vision… and savage secrets about his family that will make him re-examine everything that he thought he knew. Creepy and atmospheric, this novel from the rising star of cosmic horror will make you understand that we are all Children of the Old Leech.

68. The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle (2012)

New Hyde Hospital has a psychiatric ward that keeps its patients up in the evenings: they claim that a hungry monster prowls the hallways at night. According to them, it has the body of an old man and the head of a bison. And Pepper, the newest resident who was falsely accused of mental illness, is about to meet it for himself. Victor Lavalle knocks it out of the park again in this riveting read in which the most horrifying thing might not even be the horrifying Devil in Silver — but your own mind.

69. The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan (2012)

Caitlin R. Kiernan is one of the finest horror writers out there when it comes to blending the gothic and the fantastic. She elevates her game even more with this ghost story about India Morgan Phelps, a schizophrenic girl who one day picks up Eve Canning on the street — and who, in turn, might be a werewolf, mermaid, or siren. Kiernan is one of the rare authors who can up the suspense quotient to insane levels while writing about mental illness with the sensitivity that it deserves.

70. Fiend by Peter Stenson (2013)

A zombie apocalypse novel with a twist, Fiend presents a universe where the people turned into zombies are the ones who aren’t crystal meth junkies. For some reason, meth has granted Chase and his friends against the plague. More than anything else, it almost seems like a second chance… but as the excuse to continue using meth presents itself, Chase starts to question what separates him from the zombies.

71. Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (2013)

Countless monsters inspired by Frankenstein have cropped up in the 200 years since Mary Shelley first published her seminal novel, but none have come closer to recreating the surrealist terror than Frankenstein in Baghdad . Black humor and true fright clash in Ahmen Saadaw’s chilling retelling about a man named Hadi who aimlessly stitches together the body parts that he finds on the streets of Baghdad. It’s then that a wave of brutal murders begins to overwhelm the city… and Hadi realizes at the same time that his corpse has gone missing.

72. Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2013)

The town of Black Spring, New York is haunted — not just by any old ghost, but by a centuries-old entity called the Black Rock Witch. She roams Black Spring with her eyes and mouth sewn shut, vestiges of when she was first put to death for her crimes. And even as the townspeople (who are cursed to remain in Black Spring forever) put practical measures in place to avoid her — such as a mobile app to keep track of her movements — her wrath cannot be quashed. This supremely scary mashup of both old-school witch hunting and the consequences of new-age technology is perfect for fans of Black Mirror and Robert Eggers’ The Witch alike.

73. Night Film by Marisha Pessl (2013)

Night Film stars Stanislaus Cordova, a reclusive cult-horror film director who hasn’t been seen in public for over thirty years. His daughter, 24-year old Ashley Cordova, has just been found dead in an abandoned warehouse — and while her death has been ruled a suicide, investigative journalist Scott McGrath isn’t buying it. Especially when another strange death connected to the Cordovas occurs shortly after. Scott is now on a mission to uncover and expose the family’s deadly secrets.

74. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (2013)

The Kings of Maine are thoroughly represented on this list — and with good reason. Having established his own reputation with Heart-Shaped Box and Horns , Joe Hill’s third novel contains countless nods to his father’s works while also leaning on his own brand of chilling prose. The book opens with Vic McQueen, a girl with an ability to magically create bridges to things she’s looking for — a talent that brings her into contact with a serial killer with a penchant for abducting children.

75. The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher (2013)

A paranormal take on western fiction, The Six-Gun Tarot takes place in 1869 Nevada, in a tiny desert cattle town called Golgotha. The residents of Golgotha are no stranger to the supernatural — the mayor is guarding a hoard of mythical creatures, a banker’s wife is part of a secret order of assassins, and the town deputy is half human, half coyote. But what’s really strange about this town is the abandoned silver mine, out of which an ancient evil seems to be spilling. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Deadwood , the Golgotha series is for you.

76. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (2014)

Described as a “nightmare come to life,” Fever Dream will grip you in the throes of a dread that lasts for days. A young mother lays dying in the hospital and a boy sits next to her bedside — only he isn’t her son. Indeed, this story about broken souls and family unraveling might just shake you to the core. Note that Fever Dream was originally written in Spanish by Argentinian author Samanta Schweblin, but this English translation is no less unsettling, disturbing, and electric.

77. The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith (2014)

Based on traditional Vietnamese ghost stories, The Frangipani Hotel is a fantastical collection of short stories that functions on another level as a meditation on the lasting legacy of the Vietnam War. From beautiful women who’re oddly attached to bathtubs to truck drivers who pick up mysterious hitchhikers, the short stories never stray far away from the supernatural that lurks in the shadows nearby.

78. Bird Box by Josh Malerman (2014)

Recent memes notwithstanding , the original source of the Netflix film Bird Box was none other than this innovative work by Josh Malerman. In the book version, something has arrived on the scene, and no one knows what it is, how it got there, or why it’s targeting civilians: all they know is that its appearance drives people mad with violence, leading them to attack others and commit suicide. Mother of two, Malorie must decide whether to keep her young children enshrouded in darkness for all their days, or risk all of them dying at the hands of “The Problem” in order to find a better shelter.

79. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (2014)

No matter how many Greek myths you’ve read, there’s no way to prepare for the broken monsters that Beukes puts on display in this book. The creature that catalyzes the action of this book is a malformed half-deer, half-human hybrid that Detective Gabriella Versado finds dead in an abandoned warehouse — and if you can believe it, things only get more upsetting from there. Versado is set on tracking down the perpetrator of this grotesque science experiment, but that doesn’t mean she’s happy with what she finds.

80. Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest (2014)

Few American figures have taken on such mythical status as Lizzie Borden, the woman tried and acquitted for murdering her parents with an ax. This fantastical, Lovecraftian take on the urban legend sees Borden (post-acquittal) and her sister take up residence in a seaside manor, only to find an evil spirit bubbling up from the ocean deep.

81. The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley (2014)

Nate is a “storyteller” in a society wherein women have become extinct. As his clan craves more and more details about these women of yore — all of whom died of a mysterious fungal disease — Nate realizes that stories will never be enough. But the men’s wishes for physical manifestations of women turn into a horrific reality when curvaceous mushroom-like creatures, known as The Beauty , join the tribe and quickly upend the fragile life they’ve built.

82. Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (2014)

Ever wondered what it’d be like to get trapped in a haunted IKEA? The characters of Horrorstör know. When furniture store “ORSK” starts experiencing strange acts of vandalism, its employees decide to stay overnight to investigate. Little do they know that, rather than getting to the bottom of the mystery, they’ll be unleashing a reign of terror upon both themselves and their beloved customers…

83. The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman (2014)

In this twisting tale told by self-described unreliable narrator Joey Peacock, the vampires of 1970s NYC have a perfectly organized (if violent) system of getting the sustenance they need. That is, until a group of vampire children appear on the scene — kids who require way more blood than the other vampires to survive, and whose presence will threaten not only the vampiric hierarchy, but also the lives of Joey and his companions. If you thought vampires weren’t afraid of anything, think again…

84. Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville (2015)

The world is a strange place, and humans, perhaps, are strangest of all; this strangeness is the very core of Miéville’s collection. One story begins with the city of London waking up to find icebergs floating in the sky. In another, an anatomy student find intricate designs carved into the bones of a cadaver he is examining. Stranger things follow.

85. Shutter by Courtney Alameda (2015)

In Shutter , Micheline Helsing is one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing family, and is an expert at destroying monsters. One day, a routine ghost hunt goes awry and Michelina finds herself plagued by a curse that spreads “ghost chains” through her body — turning her into one of the very monsters she’s spent her life hunting. Deemed a renegade agent by her own monster-hunting father, she must now find a way to rid herself of the curse before it’s too late.

86. Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (2015)

Violet is a ballet dancer on the cusp of stardom; Oriana was Violet’s friend and once stepped in between Violet and her tormentors in a self-sacrificing act; and Amber has been living in the Aurora Hills juvenile center for so long that she scarcely remembers what it’s like to be free. This suspenseful story is told from two of these perspectives — one living and one dead. But all three women are tied together together through a dark and terrible secret.

87. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (2015)

Is 14 year-old Marjorie Barrett schizophrenic or is she possessed by a demon? This is the question at the heart of the Barretts, an otherwise normal suburban family. When a reality television production company catches wind of Marjorie’s strange condition, they sense a business opportunity — one that Marjorie’s cash-strapped father cannot easily turn down. With each page evoking blood-curling dread, the unraveling of this book’s events become a gripping tale of psychological horror. Winner of the 2015 Bram Stoker Award, A Head Full of Ghosts might just leave you with a head full of fear.

88. Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw (2016)

Cassandra Khaw’s “banging” debut novel takes the traditional detective P.I. story and gives it an appealing Lovecraftian makeover. In this fascinating blend of noir and cosmic horror, private investigator John Persons gets an unexpected client one day — a ten year-old boy who asks Persons to murder his stepfather. As Persons delves deeper into the case, he realizes that his subject might not actually be human. But that’s fine, because Persons isn’t all that he appears to be, either. As the saying goes, it sometimes takes a monster to kill a monster.

89. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff (2016)

Lovecraft Country breaks down the complexities of American racism in the mid-twentieth century, and how Lovecraft himself was complicit in that racism. Our hero, Atticus Turner, is a young black man who must seek out his missing father, facing countless horrors along the way — both to do with the color of his skin and mysterious, mythological threats that seem to have escaped the pulp fiction he reads. The closely related nature of these two elements becomes more and more clear over the course of Ruff’s book, and the shocking twist at the end will ensure that you never see Lovecraft (or America) in the same way again.

90. Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones (2016)

The unnamed young narrator of Mongrels faces an unusual quandary: while he’s aware that he carries the werewolf gene, he has no idea whether or not it will come to fruition. As a mongrel, he lives life in limbo, uncertain of his destiny, constantly being shuttled around. This werewolf bildungsroman of sorts is pretty much the only one of its kind, and Jones' sharp, moving prose will have you sympathizing with monsters (or almost-monsters) in a way you never thought you could.

91. Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez (2016)

Fans of the macabre should be sure to add this collection to their list of best horror books of all time. In Argentina, violence and corruption are the laws of the land for people who vividly remember recent military dictatorships and masses of disappeared citizens. Within these fiercely disturbing stories, three young friends distract themselves with drugs in the middle of a government-enforced blackout, and encounter dark supernatural forces themselves.

92. The Changeling by Victor LaValle (2017)

Fairy tale meets horror in Victor Lavalle’s critically acclaimed The Changeling . Apollo Kagwa’s life is full of disappearances — first, his father goes missing when he is four. Then his wife vanishes, right after she commits a terrible act of violence. Now Apollo must journey through a dark underworld to bring back a family that he might not have really known in the first place. Be warned: this is a novel where nightmares lurk in every nook and eeriness is perpetual, right up until the terrifying crescendo of a climax.

93. Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (2017)

Named after the recurring catchphrase of all Scooby-Doo villains, this comic horror novel finds the members of a worryingly young detective team reunited in their twenties to reinvestigate an unsolved mystery. Pitched by the author as “Enid Blyton meets H.P. Lovecraft”, Cantero’s novel has also been compared to Stranger Things and Stephen King’s It , as his young protagonists face off against a danger that’s somewhat more menacing than an old prospector in a rubber mask.

94. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (2017)

Called a “love letter to an obstinate genre that won’t be gentrified,” Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection was heralded when it was published. And it’s easy to see why: Machado deftly stretches the borders of horror, as evidenced in “The Husband Stitch” (a retelling of “The Green Ribbon” in which the wife refuses her husband’s pleas to remove a green ribbon around her neck) and “The Resident” (in which a writer’s time in the mountains goes horribly wrong). It’s a book that seriously examines the pre-set narratives that women are forced to live and breathe in society. And it’s a must-read for anyone who’s tired of heteronormativity in horror.

95. Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys (2017)

In this homage to his cosmic horror, Lovecraft’s Deep Ones are brought to life, and the government isn’t a fan. In 1928, Deep One Aphra and her family are captured and banished to the desert… until the government becomes certain that Russians is attempting to win the Cold War with dark magic. With the promise she will help the people that stole her community’s way of life, Aphra returns home to contend with her lost past, and a potentially dark looming future.

96. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (2017)

The Silent Companions combines spine-chilling thrills with compelling characterization. When her husband dies just weeks after their wedding, Elsie feels more alone than ever. This is made worse by the fact that her new servants are resentful and the local villagers are openly hostile towards Elsie; she starts to believe her only companionship will come from her husband’s awkward cousin. Until she opens a locked door and finds a painted wooden figure that not only bears uncanny resemblance to Elsie, but also seems to be watching her...

97. The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (2017)

You probably know of couples like James and Julie: young and optimistic, they’re looking to leave behind their home in the city to get a fresh start in the country. But something is amiss with their new house. The air becomes suffocating. Children’s voices are heard, but the children themselves are never seen. The forest seems closer than it was before. And the stains on the walls are somehow appearing mapped as bruises on Julie’s body… to say too much is to ruin the impact of this novel, but rest assured that you will get a full night’s worth of terror when you pick it up.

98. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (2018)

When the dead start walking on the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, the fate of the nation suddenly doesn’t seem quite so important anymore. As the country is thrown into disarray and scrambles to erect combat schools to learn how to put down the dead, Jane McKeene studies to become an Attendant to protect rich white people… but her true motives are much more revolutionary. Jane is indeed the star of this stunning alternate history novel: a black zombie hunter who defies society’s expectations, fighting against a conspiracy that threatens to overwhelm all of America.

99. The Hunger by Alma Katsu (2018)

The Hunger will have you on the very edge of your seat with its story of a group of travelers who are slowly unraveling. Not only do they face obstacle after obstacle of basic bad luck — low food rations, freezing weather, and a general predilection to take every wrong turn — but there also seems to be something darker, even more menacing, lurking in the mountains. And is it their imaginations, or does it all seem to be linked to beautiful, mysterious Tamsen Donner? You may have heard of the Donner Party before, but not like this: Katsu’s historical horror novel will cast both the people and the situation in a whole new, terrifying light.

100. Obscura by Joe Hart (2018)

This incisive work from Joe Hart demonstrates that new horror can be just as thrilling as classic. Obscura speculates about a near-future in which dementia afflicts people of all ages, rendering scientists and doctors powerless to even try and stop it. Dr. Gillian Ryan, who’s still of sound mind, determines that she will travel to a space station to gather unique data points that could help her cure the disease… not knowing that in embarking on this mission, she’s only putting herself in more danger, and not necessarily from the ravages of the disease.

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The Best Horror Novels of 2022

For horror fans, this year was a feast after many years of famine..

best fiction books horror

To be a horror fan in 2022 is to find yourself at a feast after many years of famine. You’re not just limited to writers named King , Straub, or Koontz anymore — horror fiction has come back with a vengeance over the past decade after a long fallow period (at least in mainstream publishing). With well over 250 new horror books published this year , there’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a gently creepy gothic tale or the most transgressive splatterpunk imaginable. Here are the best on shelves.

10. The Hacienda , Isabel Cañas

best fiction books horror

There’s just something irresistible about the gothic. You can hardly walk through a bookstore without tripping over any number of gothic variations, innovations, and pale imitations. What makes The Hacienda a refreshing change of pace is how straightforward it is: It’s a classic historical gothic novel, impeccably executed. Cañas isn’t reinventing the wheel here; she’s just making a really, really good wheel.

The standard gothic elements are all here: a remote estate crumbling into decay, a woman searching for stability in an unstable world, a husband with dark secrets, and, of course, a haunting. But rather than the damp English moors, we find ourselves joining Beatriz at her new husband’s estate, Hacienda San Isidro, in the baking Mexican countryside shortly after the Mexican War of Independence. San Isidro doesn’t want Beatriz there, and the longer she stays, the darker and more violent her dreams and visions become. Enter Padre Andrés, a young troubled priest hiding brujo powers. Together, they must try to uncover the hatred at the heart of San Isidro or risk becoming its next victims. The Hacienda is romantic, frightening, claustrophobic, and entirely satisfying.

9. All the White Spaces , Ally Wilkes

best fiction books horror

Wilkes’s debut novel is a compelling feat of historical horror storytelling about an early-20th-century polar expedition beset by a series of disasters. After their ship sinks, the members of the Randall expedition must try to survive the winter on the frozen plains of Antarctica and hope for rescue the following year. But something is stalking them on the ice — something impossible, something that takes the shapes of their lost friends and loved ones. As the explorers fall one by one, young Jonathan Morgan must try his best to stay alive even as the spirits of his dead brothers call to him through the snow. Some of the best survival horror we’ve read in years with a uniquely menacing adversary at its heart.

8. White Horse , Erika T. Wurth

best fiction books horror

Two days after Kari was born, her mother walked out, never to return. Years into her dysfunctional adulthood, Kari rediscovers her mother’s bracelet, and her world starts to unravel: Suddenly, she sees things no one else can see, up to and including the horrific specter of a woman who just might be her mother and the Lofa, a malevolent creature from Chickasaw folklore. Driven to discover the truth behind these visions, Kari encounters unexpected revelations about several other tragedies in her past, all tilting toward a frightening conclusion. It’s a propulsive read with a lived-in neo-noir feel — Kari slouches through Denver’s dive bars and no-name used bookstores, given beautiful life on the page — and Wurth has a real gift for evoking nostalgia without letting it overtake the story she’s telling. It’s also a perfect entry point for any reader who likes mysteries or thrillers but isn’t sure about horror just yet.

7. No Gods for Drowning , Hailey Piper

best fiction books horror

Piper, who recently won the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel for last year’s delightfully fucked-up and tremendously imaginative vagina dentata mutant story Queen of Teeth , is an undeniable rising star in horror, and she shows no signs of slowing down with multiple books publishing this year and next. No Gods for Drowning is an audacious novel, a mind-bending blend of noir, mythology, urban fantasy, apocalypse story, and murder mystery. In a city abandoned by the gods and beset by chronic flooding and monsters, a serial killer stalks the streets, leaving victims strewn in her wake — but she’s just trying to help. Really. When the gods start to return, however, an even greater mystery unfolds, one of cosmic significance. Fans of the unclassifiable and the weird should not skip this one.

6. The Devil Takes You Home , Gabino Iglesias

best fiction books horror

Desperate for funds to pay his young daughter’s medical expenses, Mario reluctantly takes a job as a killer for hire — but his daughter doesn’t survive, and neither does his marriage, and it turns out it’s not so easy to quit such a profession. When he is offered a life-changing amount of money for one last job stealing money from the cartel, Mario accepts against his own better judgment. What follows is a brutal journey across America’s southern border and back again through an underworld in which unearthly powers are used for unsavory purposes (there’s a scene involving bolt cutters that haunts our dreams). It’s a devastating book about cyclical violence, poverty, and love, one that posits that the true test of life in America may ultimately be deciding which devil you sell your soul to.

5. A Black and Endless Sky , Matthew Lyons

best fiction books horror

Equal parts cosmic horror, road-trip adventure, and adrenaline-fueled thriller, Lyons’s sophomore novel swings for the fences. On a trip through the mountains and deserts of the American West, semi-estranged siblings Nell and Jonah find themselves pursued by a violent biker gang bent on revenge, an itinerant stranger who sees more than most, and the Thing inside Nell that has decided to hitch a ride. Lyons is an engaging writer who doesn’t shy away from his characters’ worst traits — both protagonists are, to put it gently, a mess — but you can’t help but root for them anyway. The pace is breakneck, the villains deliciously detestable, and the action top-notch — plus you’re in for some of the most viscerally memorable scenes of body horror we’ve read in a long time.

4. Just Like Home , Sarah Gailey

best fiction books horror

Gailey is one of those rare writers who jumps from genre to genre with virtuosic ease, and their first foray into horror is remarkably accomplished. Vera has come home to take care of her dying mother’s affairs, which means returning to the house where her infamous father killed his victims. All is not well in the house, of course — a menacing artist is hell-bent on using the family’s tragic history as fodder, Vera keeps finding notes in her father’s handwriting, and there’s the matter of the thing under the bed that won’t let her sleep through the night. Just Like Home deploys familiar haunted-house and true-crime tropes so adeptly that even the most seasoned horror reader may miss the narrative sleight of hand at work here until it’s too late and the story has turned into something else entirely. The last act of this novel is like nothing we’ve ever read before.

3. Jackal , Erin E. Adams

best fiction books horror

Adams’s debut novel follows Liz, a Black woman, back to her majority-white Pennsylvania hometown for her best friend’s wedding. But when her goddaughter, Caroline, goes missing during the reception, Liz finds herself desperately trying to unravel a decades-long string of disappearances — all Black girls, all eventually found dead with their hearts removed, all connected somehow to the woods outside of town. Adams shows a real talent for writing flawed, nuanced, real characters (Liz’s complicated relationship with her mother is particularly resonant) and does incredible work illustrating just how isolating and destabilizing it is to be the only Black girl in a white town. That alone would be enough, but she also reaches deep into the real-life history of race and class stratification in Johnstown to bring a new level of resonance to the story. The payoff, when it comes, is well worth the ride.

2. Ghost Eaters , Clay McLeod Chapman

best fiction books horror

A legitimately terrifying ghost story and also a thoughtful and smart (if grim) exploration of how addiction destroys lives, Ghost Eaters should make Chapman a star, if there’s any justice in the world. After her ex, Silas, dies by overdose, Erin is offered a chance to speak to him one last time using a drug that allows for communication with the dead. There’s a catch, of course (isn’t there always?), which is that you don’t necessarily choose which ghosts you see — or how long they hang around. And once they realize you can see them, they’re not inclined to let you go. It’s an intense, thrilling tale of grief and addiction and will leave you all too aware of how crowded America is with ghosts.

1. Manhunt , Gretchen Felker-Martin

best fiction books horror

In an era of cultural remakes, remixes, knockoffs, and infinite bland variations on corporate IP, it’s all too rare to encounter a book like Manhunt — a true original that not only eviscerates an existing subgenre (gender-based apocalypse stories like Y: The Last Man , in this case) but also plants a flag in its steaming corpse and says, This is the future of queer horror.

Anger simmers underneath every word of Felker-Martin’s prose as she tells a story of trans women and men fighting for survival after a plague transforms anyone with a certain amount of testosterone into a feral monstrosity. In the world of Manhunt , the already life-or-death nature of transition is taken to new heights: Protagonists Beth and Fran have to scavenge enough estrogen to keep from succumbing to the virus while Robbie tries to forge a life in a state of persistent dysphoria since taking testosterone is a death sentence. Their odyssey across a postapocalyptic New England showcases an array of threats, from feral men to militant TERFs, self-loathing chasers to rich-idiot survivalists. The book is timely, visceral, grotesque, unflinching, and unexpectedly fun, full of sex and gore and messy, beautiful humanity; think of it as The Road with a sense of humor and 110 percent more queer sex.

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13 Essential Horror Novels From the Last Five Years

By april snellings | aug 4, 2021.


Despite the absence of a dedicated section at many brick-and-mortar bookstores, horror is a vast and increasingly diverse literary genre. The standard canon is as reliable as ever—you can never go wrong with Shelley , Poe , Jackson, or King —but the last five years have been especially exciting for readers who like their fiction on the dark side. From allegorical monster tales to a gonzo death-cult space opera, here are 13 recent books that might make you want to keep your lights on long after you’ve finished reading.

1. The Cabin at the End of the World // Paul Tremblay; $13

best fiction books horror

Andrew and Eric just want to take their young daughter on a family vacation, but when a quartet of strangers wielding bizarre farming implements invade their rental cabin and tell the young family that one of them must die at the hands of the other two to ward off an apocalypse, their getaway turns into a grueling nightmare. Are the invaders deranged conspiracy theorists, or have they truly received visions from God? When it’s over, don’t expect easy answers—or a good night’s sleep.

Buy it: Amazon

2. The Last House on Needless Street // Catriona Ward; $22

best fiction books horror

Catriona Ward’s third novel is one of the most buzzed-about books of the year, and not just because it was blurbed by Stephen King (though that didn’t hurt). Ward’s tale of a missing child, a man who might be a serial killer, and a woman determined to uncover the connection between them is alternately frightening, moving, funny, and downright harrowing. It’s so much more than its head-spinning twist, but a pox on anyone who spoils it for you. And did we mention large swaths of the book are narrated by a Bible-thumping gay cat?

3. The Hunger // Alma Katsu; $13

best fiction books horror

Author Alma Katsu is one of the genre’s new stars, and her reimagining of the Donner Party tragedy is one reason why. Chilling, gruesome, and intensely atmospheric, The Hunger begins when rescuers find “human vertebra, cleaned of skin” and “a scattering of teeth,” and things only get grimmer in flashbacks that recount the doomed journey. The Hunger is a remarkably vivid account of the horrors of westward migration, with one notable addition: As the party ventures farther into the wilderness, they become convinced that ravenous creatures are stalking them.

4. The Loop // Jeremy Robert Johnson; $20

best fiction books horror

Turner Falls, Oregon, seems like an idyllic mountain town, but its long-simmering class tensions are about to boil over even before a parasitic outbreak turns its teen residents into sadistic murderers. Part coming-of-age story and part Cronenbergian body horror, The Loop puts a pair of sympathetic young outcasts through the worst night you can imagine as they try to find a way out of town before their infected peers can hunt them down. Don’t be fooled by the Stranger Things comparisons; Johnson’s buzzsaw of a novel is not for the faint of heart (or stomach).

5. The Return // Rachel Harrison; $13

best fiction books horror

In author Rachel Harrison’s auspicious debut, a woman disappears in the forest for two years, only to return one day with no memory of what might have happened to her. Her three best friends take her on a girls’ trip to a remote hotel in an attempt to reconnect, only to find that whoever (or whatever) returned from the forest is not the woman they all remember. If the mounting dread that permeates every page somehow doesn’t scratch your horror itch, the energetic, grisly climax should do the trick.

6. Plain Bad Heroines // Emily M. Danforth; $24

best fiction books horror

Drawing inspiration from sources as varied as the racy 1902 memoir The Story of Mary MacLane and The Blair Witch Project , Plain Bad Heroines weaves together the stories of a cursed boarding school in the early 1900s and a film crew that shows up more than a hundred years later to make a movie about it. Author Emily M. Danforth puts a century-spanning cast of queer women at the center of her wildly entertaining yarn. If you’ve ever wished Shirley Jackson had written satirical queer metafiction, this is the novel for you.

7. The Final Girl Support Group // Grady Hendrix; $16

best fiction books horror

Unstoppable slashers have made a surprisingly nimble leap from the screen to the page, inspiring a small but lively spate of horror novels that deploy—and sometimes interrogate—cinematic horror tropes. Grady Hendrix’s latest novel is one of the best of the batch, featuring an indomitable group of heroines inspired by filmdom’s best-known final girls and a brutal conspiracy to kill them all.

8. The Only Good Indians // Stephen Graham Jones; $12

best fiction books horror

No survey of contemporary horror literature is complete without at least one nod to Stephen Graham Jones. Both a thoughtful meditation on Indigenous identity and a cracking good monster story, The Only Good Indians centers on four friends, all Native American, who suffer the consequences of killing the wrong elk on a hunting trip. Sometimes reflective, always affecting, and punctuated by bouts of gruesome violence, this is one of Jones’s best.

9. A Cosmology of Monsters // Shaun Hamill; $9

best fiction books horror

Fans of creepy coming-of-age epics such as Stephen King’s It and Joe Hill’s N0S4ATU should connect with Shaun Hamill’s tale of a horror-loving Texas family beset by monsters that might be of their own making. Equal parts family drama and phantasmagoric horror, A Cosmology of Monsters is a valentine to the genre and a must-read for any fan.

10. Gideon the Ninth // Tamsyn Muir; $13

best fiction books horror

“In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death!—Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.” If that glorious first line doesn’t convince you to read Tamsyn Muir’s gothic horror-cum-lesbian space opera series launch, perhaps nothing can. Except, maybe, this: Gideon the Ninth is bloody, raunchy, weird, and wonderful, and it won such an enthusiastic fanbase that the trilogy will be expanded into a longer series.

11. Her Body and Other Parties // Carmen Maria Machado; $14

best fiction books horror

Carmen Maria Machado’s outstanding debut collection features eight stories that turn the horror genre inside-out in ways that are shocking, unsettling, darkly funny, and endlessly inventive. The centerpiece of the volume is “Especially Heinous,” an alternate-history episode guide to the first 12 seasons of Law & Order: SVU , but the story most likely to leave you haunted is “The Husband Stitch,” a devastating reimagining of “ The Green Ribbon .” No wonder Machado’s tour de force collection was a National Book Award finalist .

12. Home Before Dark // Riley Sager; $17

best fiction books horror

Riley Sager’s Amityville Horror -inspired supernatural thriller is a book within a book. Maggie Holt’s father made a name for himself with a bestselling account of the family’s experiences in the supposedly haunted Victorian mansion they fled when Maggie was a child. Twenty-five years later, Maggie inherits the house and moves back in, desperate to figure out what really happened all those years ago. In alternating chapters, we get both Maggie’s story and her father’s book. The result is everything you want from a haunted-house story, and never quite what you expect.

13. The Changeling // Victor LaValle; $14

best fiction books horror

The Changeling is a stunning creative feat that defies easy categorization. It’s a fairy tale, for sure, and an epic fantasy novel populated by trolls, witches, and assorted gods and monsters from world folklore. But it’s also a horror tale (especially if you’re a parent) that centers on Apollo Kagwa, a Black bookseller and new father who takes a terrifying journey through a fantastical version of New York City to reassemble a family fractured by an unimaginable act of violence.

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The 50 Best Horror Novels of All Time

The 50 Best Horror Novels of All Time

Horror is a peculiar genre. If it’s meant purely to scare, then some of the heftier books on this list would have wracked up a body count, terrifying readers to death over 700 pages or more. And what is scary? What might shock one reader is laughable to another. Ghosts, serial killers, great heaving monsters, the loss of self-control, plagues, impossible physics and a creepy clown all figure into our countdown, with entries spanning from the 1800s to the last few years. One (obvious) author makes five(!) appearances, and easily could have qualified for a few more; another has written just one novel during his decades-long career. We narrowed our focus to prose novels, so please don’t ask after The Books of Blood or Uzumaki . And while we kept an eye on the diversity of our featured authors, the inclusion of women, authors of color and queer creators came naturally as we gathered the best of the best. We’re prepared for you to question our choices, we ask only that you leave the chainsaw at home before doing so. Without further ado, we present our choices for the best horror novels of all time.

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Joey Comeau’s first horror outing, One Bloody Thing After Another , is perhaps creepier and more unsettling than this summer-camp slasher. But The Summer Is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved gets the nod for importing the genre from film into prose while layering in subtle, smart commentary on our thirst for teen blood. Eleven-year-old Martin is used to entrails—his mother does special-effect makeup for horror movies—but would like to keep his inside of his body. A maniac employed at his bible camp has other intentions. The title of Comeau’s previous novel would have worked here just as well: the gory killings are one bloody thing after the other, stacking up as a reminder that we’ve created a prolific genre around watching kids get murdered in inventive ways. — Steve Foxe


One of the biggest tonal outliers on this list, Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black is crafted like a traditional gothic novel, and could likely fool readers into thinking that Hill is a few hundred years older than she truly is. Published in 1983, The Woman in Black is best known today for inspiring one of the longest-running plays in London’s West End (and a Daniel Radcliffe movie). Structured in the classic British form of a story told around a fireplace, Hill’s short ‘80s anachronism chills thanks to its ominous titular figure, who stalks a house on the foggy moors and foretells the death of children. The Woman in Black may not feel like a quintessentially ‘80s horror novel, but it’s an excellent reminder that, even at the peak of its copycat boom period, the genre refused to be pigeonholed. — Steve Foxe


Like Michael McDowell, who can be found higher up this list, Michael Talbot was an openly gay horror author who passed away at an early age and whose most popular works fell out of print during the ‘90s. Talbot’s publishing legacy shifted in the last decade of his life to metaphysical nonfiction, but his early horror efforts, including vampire touchstone A Delicate Dependency and haunted-house chiller Night Things , have thankfully come back into accessibility in recent years. Night Things isn’t merely about a ghost haunting the halls of an old mansion, though—the lake house at the center of the novel is a labyrinthine creation taunting protagonist Lauren Montgomery’s family with hidden rooms, doors that open to nowhere and a macabre secret hidden at its center. Fans of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and fellow ‘80s scribe Jack Cady’s The Well should appreciate navigating this maze. — Steve Foxe


Grady Hendrix is building a brand: gimmicky on the outside, surprisingly scary on the inside. Horrorstör , his 2014 horror breakthrough, plopped readers into a haunted faux-IKEA full of torture instruments—beyond what the real-life stores already stock. His follow-up, My Best Friend’s Exorcism , dials back the meta-factor; aside from the yearbook-style packaging, this tale of ’80s gal pals dealing with a demonic intrusion could easily a have been a paperback original during horror’s boom period—and that’s a compliment. Abby and Gretchen are best friends for life on the eve of the first Bush presidency…until Gretchen gets lost in the woods and comes back different. Abby, already an outcast in her swank private school, faces as much peer pressure as she does pea soup in her quest to cleanse her best friend’s soul. — Steve Foxe


Gore Verbinki’s 2002 American adaptation of Koji Suzuki’s 1991 novel Ring utterly reshaped American horror cinema, ushering in a wave of J-horror imports, remakes and knockoffs and helping make the image of a ghostly Japanese woman with slick black hair ubiquitous the world over. While the broad strokes are the same, Verbinksi’s take (and director Hiroshi Takahashi’s Japanese adaptation before it) leans more supernatural than Suzuki’s. In the original novel and its sequels, the cursed videotape and Sadako’s well evolve into something of a medical thriller, as psychic powers and the smallpox virus intertwine. Readers expecting the nonstop scares of creepy abstract video imagery may feel let down, but Suzuki’s novel is a fascinating milestone in Japanese horror fiction. — Steve Foxe


In this Bram Stoker Award-winning tale, author Paul Tremblay (whose follow-up, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock , is absolutely chilling if a bit baffling at the very end) manages to both examine the possession subgenre and break new ground with its tired tropes. Fourteen-year-old Marjorie Barrett starts displaying signs of schizophrenia, or maybe it’s just teenage rebellion…or maybe it’s something more. Before long, Marjorie’s out-of-work father agrees to let a reality-TV crew film an attempt to exorcise his daughter’s demons. Cutting between the events of the show and an interview with Marjorie’s younger sister, filmed 15 years after the show’s conclusion, Tremblay walks a razor-thin edge between confirming and denying which forces are actually at play within Marjorie’s head, keeping readers guessing well after the final page is turned. — Steve Foxe


The Damnation Game proved that Books of Blood wunderkind Clive Barker could sustain his brand of fear beyond the duration of a short story. Barker’s most compelling skill—the ability to blend lust and revulsion, desire and disgust—is on full display. In this depraved galleria of a novel, with graphic depictions of incest and cannibalism, an in-over-his-head bodyguard attempts to interfere a Faustian pact to save the relatively innocent daughter of a wealthy degenerate. After the first few years of his career, Barker more often delved into dark fantasy than straight-up horror. The Damnation Game , published between Barker’s debut short story collection and the fatefully successful novella The Hellbound Heart (which you may know by its film adaptation, Hellraiser ), is still the purest long-form expression of the man’s penchant for plunging the darkest corners of the human imagination. — Steve Foxe


Ryu Murakami’s Audition is outshined in popularity by Takeshi Miike’s film adaptation of the same name, and a case could be made that Miike’s version is the superior telling of the story. There’s something unforgettable about Murakami’s original prose though; blunt to the point of over-explanation, Murakami lays bare the psychology behind the plot, and forces the reader to confront his or her own role in the voyeurism of violence and manipulation. There’s also an intimacy present in the novel that the movie keeps at arm’s length, to the point that you genuinely worry for widower Aoyama during the infamously shocking climax. Piercing and In the Miso Soup are similarly disturbing tales from this master of Japanese thrillers. — Steve Foxe


Victor LaValle cites Shirley Jackson as an influence, and that lineage is easy to identify in this literary piece that’s as much about institutional failings as it is about the bison-headed devil wandering the halls of a mental institution. Pepper, the novel’s protagonist, can’t quite recall the crime he (supposedly) committed, but he knows he was only supposed to be held in New Hyde Hospital for a few days at most. LaValle wrings dread out of Pepper and his fellow inmates’ helplessness, sticking to Jackson’s level of unease instead of attempting all-out terror. By the end, the reality of the titular devil is almost ancillary to the horror that’s been revealed. — Steve Foxe


With your eyes closed and your imagination unfettered, you can envision creatures whose monstrosity knows no bounds. Detroit-based author Josh Malerman manifests an apocalypse of the obscured in Bird Box , in which undiscovered entities start appearing around the world and just one glance of their grotesquery drives people to suicide. In the book’s unforgettable introduction, our protagonist travels down a river with black fabric knotted around her eyes, shepherding two similarly blinded four-year-olds, rowing their way to an uncertain sanctuary while any sound they hear could very well be one of these monsters sloshing ever closer to the bow of the boat. — Jeff Milo


Stephen King’s ‘70s and ‘80s classics are still so widely celebrated today that it’s easy to forget just how many genre standouts disappeared when the horror shelves waned in popularity in the early ‘90s. Robert Marasco’s Burnt Offerings is one such casualty of our short-term memory, and even its 1976 film version (starring Karen Black and Bette Davis!) is largely unknown to modern fans. The Rolfe family rent a vacation home at the far end of Long Island to get away from their Queens apartment for the summer months. The only unusual stipulation about the home is that the property owners’ elderly mother is to stay in the house’s top floor, confined to her apartment, and fed three times daily. If that’s setting off any warning bells for you, congratulations: you’re smarter than the Rolfe family. As with King’s The Shining , which followed in 1977, Burnt Offerings turns a sprawling home into an oppressive, malevolent force to be reckoned with. — Steve Foxe


A rollercoaster of weird, sprung from a hallucinogenic (and possibly demonic) drug known as soy sauce and written in bracing, punchy style shooting swift sentences, often sliced to seven words or less, and stung with spicy diction detailing psychedelic imagery and delivered with sustained breathlessness. Something of a punk-rock-ified, video-game-esque tear and tumble into the Weird Tales tradition, Wong (a.k.a. humorist Jason Pargin, of Cracked.com), charismatically clusters together a hip and highly evocative narrative of monstrosities, with plenty of barbs any 17-year-old could snigger at… Think of it as the horror-heavier cousin to Ready Player One . — Jeff Milo


Christopher Conlon’s all-too-possible Savaging the Dark shares a premise with Alissa Nutting’s controversial Tampa , but the differences in execution are what makes this novel truly horrific and Nutting’s more of a pitch-black comedy. Conlon’s narrator, Mona Straw, slowly unravels while carrying out an affair…with her 11-year-old student. Whereas Tampa introduced an admitted predator from the first page, Conlon takes care to build a believable case for how Mona justifies her taboo actions, even as her control of the situation—and her sanity—slip out of her grasp. Of all the novels on this list, Savaging the Dark may be one of the scariest if only because of its plausibility. — Steve Foxe


Rebecca didn’t coin the term “gaslighting,” but it’s one of literature’s most chilling examples of psychological harassment. A naïve young woman falls for a handsome, older widower, and agrees to become his bride after only a brief courtship. When she arrives at his impressive estate, she finds herself at the mercy of a housekeeper who remains fiercely loyal to the widower’s late wife, and has no hesitance in making that clear to the protagonist—or in undermining the protagonist’s confidence and sense of security however possible. Rebecca has sold somewhere around 3,000,000 copies in its lifetime, and its whiplash third-act twists make it easy to see what attracted Alfred Hitchcock to adapt it into an Academy Award-winning film in 1940. — Steve Foxe


It’s a curious thing to take on the concept of a “freak show” without slipping into ableism and other offensive tropes. Tod Browning’s seminal 1932 film Freaks revealed the ugliness in the traditionally attractive members of its cast, and Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love populates its 360-odd pages with such a wide and eclectic set of characters that of course some are bound to be reprehensible, regardless of stunted limbs or psychic predilections. Told in two time periods, Geek Love follows a family of intentionally bred “freaks”—the family’s progenitors consume various drugs and chemicals to produce different birth defects—as they grapple with telekinetic incest, burgeoning cults and consensual amputation. It sounds like a splatterpunk nightmare, but Dunn’s novel earned its National Book Award finalist nod because of the heart that beats under its freakish exterior. — Steve Foxe


An over-the-hill rock star buys a haunted suit on the Internet. It sounds like the setup to a bad joke, not the plot of one of horror fiction’s most important debut novels of the century, but Joe Hill throttles into his premise and never lets up. While Horns is fast and punchy and NOS4A2 is sprawling and darkly fantastical, Heart-Shaped Box is like a long motorcycle ride straight into despair. Judas Coyne, Hill’s Rob-Halford-meets-Glenn-Danzig protagonist, confronts both a sinister spirit and the intersection of his own myth and humanity, joined by his two loyal hounds and the latest in a string of female groupies named after their states of origin. Eleven years and several major works from Hill later, it’s clear that this chilling debut wasn’t a fluke. — Steve Foxe


Zombie fiction has never come close to the cultural impact and artistic importance of zombie cinema, until World War Z came along. Nobody had thought to take the idea of a zombie apocalypse and truly dive into the guts of everything else besides the violence, and that’s what makes Max Brooks’ book so incredible. If you’re not aware, it isn’t a true “novel”—rather, it’s presented like a journalistic report in a series of dozens of interviews with people from all over the globe on how they survived the zombie crisis. The audience gets to see exactly how it all went down, and Brooks’ gift is in making it all seem so reasonable, because he considers every possible eventuality. He shows us how the infection could realistically spread around the globe thanks to human trafficking. He shows us how modern militaries could possibly be defeated via poor planning and mass defections. He shows us how society might be after 90 percent of humanity has been killed and an uneasy rebuilding period has begun. Ignore the existence of the horrendous, slap-in-the-face film adaptation with Brad Pitt and simply read the book, because World War Z is easily the best piece of zombie fiction ever written. — Jim Vorel


In his excellent genre-history-slash-oddity-collection Paperbacks From Hell , novelist Grady Hendrix makes clear that Thomas Tyron’s The Other was a sensation , becoming a near-instant bestseller and helping, alongside The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby , to kick off the paperback horror boom period of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The tale of twin 13-year-old boys, one kind and unassuming, one growing increasingly sinister, hit the perfect sweet spot of can’t-look-away homegrown horror to attract mass audiences, just as film The Bad Seed did decades earlier. The Other hasn’t maintained the pop-culture staying power of its most famous contemporaries, but remains a must-read for fans of the genre. — Steve Foxe


It’s hard not to feel a bit bad for Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Despite two stellar film adaptations of his vampire novel Let the Right One In , Stephen King comparisons take up more real estate on his American book covers than does his own name. With shades of Carrie , Little Star does little to dissuade that similarity. Two young girls, one extraordinary and one suffocating under her own feelings of mediocrity, connect online and form a friendship that will have terrible consequences. Lindqvist taps into the modern-day fears that drive adolescent anxiety—less locker room, more Internet comment section—and stretches them out to their most disturbing logical conclusion. Despite a suggestion of the supernatural, it is the violence committed by very ordinary young people that will stick with you long after you’ve finished Little Star . — Steve Foxe


While horror has always flourished on the small-press scene, Lauren Beaukes is helping to forge a continued legacy for the genre at major publishers as well. The Shining Girls is a serial killer novel unlike any other, as Harper Curtis discovers a house in Depression-era Chicago that opens its doors to other times—and comes with a kill list of “shining girls” destined to die at his hand. Kirby is the last name on the list, and the only one who survived Harper’s first murder attempt. As in her exceptional follow-up, Broken Monsters , South African novelist Beukes weaves together a diverse cast of characters and just enough science fiction to complicate her premise without distracting from the horror at hand. — Steve Foxe


Ketchum’s twisted tale of under-your-nose terror got some extra attention in 2007, when a limited-run feature film brought the story back into the horror conversation. The novel, which is based on the Indiana murder case of Sylvia Likens, follows single mother, alcoholic and next-door neighbor Ruth, who takes in two nieces after their parents die in a car accident. Ruth’s rapidly deteriorating state creates a hellish environment for the nieces and her own kids alike, and The Girl Next Door will make you think twice, thrice—Hell, probably forever—about handing your kids off to anyone. — Tyler Kane


H.P. Lovecraft really wasn’t a “novelist,” per se, in the sense that he never wrote a single piece of fiction long enough to be unmistakably “a novel,” but certain stories such as “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” “The Shadow Out of Time” and especially novella At the Mountains of Madness are tough to categorize as anything else. Madness in particular has captivated the imaginations of audiences consistently since it was first published in 1936, and its bitterly cold, ice-caked horrors can be felt reverberating through the ages and all the way into modern AMC TV series such as the first season of The Terror . Like all of Lovecraft’s best work, it delivers its eeriness from a slowly revealed reality that our feeble human society is utterly insignificant, only existing by the whim of unimaginable forces that perhaps simply haven’t bothered to notice us just yet. And when those forces wake up to the annoyance of human incursion? Well, when that happens, “madness” might be our species only respite. — Jim Vorel


At the beginning of the year, Paste published a list of overlooked ‘80s horror novels. Stephen King sought out the author on Twitter to recommend one more: T.E.D. Klein’s The Ceremonies , which King described as, “the Moby-Dick of ‘80s horror.” Reader: he was not wrong. Klein has published just one novel in his career, but it’s a hefty one, sitting at the intersection of the Arthur Machen and Clarke Ashton Smith’s Weird Fiction tradition and the ‘80s zeitgeist of psychics and impending global annihilation. If you think you’ve read the best the genre has to offer, take King’s advice and track down this criminally forgotten tome. — Steve Foxe


Amazingly, embarrassingly, we debated whether or not to include Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire on this list. Is the novel truly horror, or is it gothic romance? What an absurd delineation! Written in the wake of her young daughter’s death, Rice’s first installment in The Vampire Chronicles is a psychosexual marvel, and a turning point in vampire fiction. Rice’s vampires are tortured souls who’ve lived too long, trapped in bodies that refuse to age. It’s not simply the requirement of blood or the avoidance of sunlight that pains Rice’s immortals, but the accumulated weight of existence, and the limbo of a “life” without change. A direct line can be traced from Interview and its famous film adaptation to the surge in ‘90s goth culture and the romanticizing of vampires up through Twilight —but don’t hold that against Rice. While there’s one more vampire novel higher up our list, Interview is potentially the most important work in the subgenre since Stoker. — Steve Foxe


The titular phrase “a choir of ill children” is used four or five times throughout the late Tom Piccirilli’s haunting Southern Gothic, first in reference to the off-kilter musicality of protagonist Thomas’ three brothers (conjoined at the head) speaking in unison. Thomas, the heir of Kingdom Come’s most prosperous family line, enjoys an equal mix of fear and respect in town, from the granny witches in the swamps to the compulsively nude preacher’s son to the sheriff nursing a mighty Napoleon complex. If that sounds comedic, that’s because there is a perverted sense of dark humor punctuating the novel’s scenes of shocking violence and grotesquery. Like the great Michael McDowell and Karen Russell, Piccirilli mines his southern setting for the full range of the region’s complicated, messy magic. — Steve Foxe


Were this list inclusive of short story collections, Ray Bradbury’s The October Country would be a serious contender for the top spot. Something Wicked This Way Comes doesn’t rank quite as high, but still embodies what makes Bradbury so influential in the world of the dark fantastic. It’s hard to imagine Neil Gaiman or Stephen King having their current careers had Bradbury not paved the way with his deeply human, quietly terrifying brand of horror, and Something Wicked , like so many of King and Gaiman’s best-loved works, also deals in that particular childhood fear of growing older and away from youthful innocence. A traveling carnival brings tempting delights and sinister frights, and readers young and old should find this one to be a timeless autumnal classic. — Steve Foxe


From Song of Kali and Carrion Comfort to a host of sci-fi classics, Dan Simmons is no stranger to lengthy literary outings. The last decade or so found the author hitting his stride with immersive historical horror fiction, the best of which is the story of the HMS Terror’s failed search for the Northwest Passage. While most of the horrors awaiting the ship’s crew are all-too-real—shrinking rations, scurvy, bitter cold—there’s a looming supernatural presence driving the survivors farther from civilization and any hope of rescue. Don’t wimp out of reading this in favor of the AMC television series—Simmons is a long-time genre master finding new ways to reinvent himself each decade. — Steve Foxe


It’s hard to downplay the horrors that hide inside Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho . Ellis received hate mail, death threats and became the subject of immense criticism after serial killer Paul Bernardo was found with a copy of the book. And it’s understandable why the book was a bit, uh, shocking in the ‘90s. Ellis’ twisted satire of upper-class living played out much like Less Than Zero , another tale of hyper-wealthy individuals searching aimlessly for something in a world where everything was handed to them. In Patrick Bateman’s case, a Wall Street yuppie finds murder as his escape. He tortures a homeless man. Breaks a dog’s legs. At one point, he gets his hands on a chainsaw. For some, it may seem like senseless violence for nothing—but the whole tale is a deep delve into Ellis’ own alienation and madness in the late ‘80s. And years later, it’s also a pretty good satire that looks toward the one percent. — Tyler Kane


It’s a little odd getting around The Silence of the Lambs ’ third-person present tense: “Starling looks down the corridor,” etc., but once you get used to it, it’s a device that ends up perfectly suiting the novel. The narrator’s impartial voice floats above the proceedings, never siding with one character or settling exclusively onto their perspective—at times, the third-person narration gives us glimpses into the minds of Clarice Starling, Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill. What the novel also does particularly well is make us probe into the motivations and ambition of Starling, going beyond her desire to simply help people and catch a killer. Opposed at nearly every turn by the institutional roadblocks erected in the path of female FBI trainees, the reader can sense the desperation of Starling and her borderline selfish desire to stand out and prove herself to her entirely male superiors. You can also sense this is part of the reason that Lecter takes an interest in her, finding her ambitions an interesting character trait that he can use to wrap Starling around his finger. This is actually one of the cases where it’s helpful to have seen the film in advance, because you can read Lecter’s dialogue and imagine it being delivered by Sir Anthony Hopkins. That’s a damn good combination to make for a compelling reading experience. — Jim Vorel


By the time Pet Sematary was published in 1983, a mythology had grown around it. Rumors among King’s fans suggested that the book was too frightening to publish, the sort of death-saturated manuscript you had to read wearing rubber gloves. There was some truth to this. When a cat belonging to his daughter was killed on the busy truck route in front of his house, King wondered: what would happen if he buried the cat, and three days later it came back, somewhat altered ? And what if a child were killed, too, then came back changed (and not for the better)? In the novel, doctor Louis Creed takes a job at the University of Maine Infirmary and moves his wife, daughter and two-year-old son Gage into a house by a busy interstate. The highway soon consumes his daughter’s cat and later his son. But the permanency of death is a hard lesson for a parent to learn, and when Creed interferes with the natural order, fate slams him tenfold with retribution. King once wrote that horror writers are afraid to open the door all the way and show the monster’s face. In Pet Sematary King swings it wide. Beyond? The darkness and the dim shape of Oz, the great and terrible, awaits. — William Gay


Richard Matheson is perhaps better known for an earlier work, the sci-fi/horror I Am Legend , which has been repeatedly butchered on film under various names. Hell House gets the nod on this list because it is a purer distillation of Matheson’s horror approach, and an exemplary use of the haunted house—a theme that occupies at least 10% of this list. The researchers who enter Matheson’s “most haunted house in the world” find themselves subjected not only to supernatural perversions, but to attacks on their own sanity. By the final page, no title short of Hell House will feel appropriate. — Steve Foxe


Stephen King’s magnum opus nearly didn’t make this countdown, fitting, as it does, more neatly into post-apocalyptic fiction or fantasy. At over 800 pages (more, if you’re reading the uncut edition), The Stand includes as much horror as any of King’s other novels, spurred by a viral outbreak that kills off 99.4% of the population. World-ending scenarios were on everyone’s minds in the ‘70s and ‘80s, as global tensions escalated and means of mass destruction proliferated. King isn’t content to simply explore a post-pandemic wasteland, though; The Stand is his most epic standoff between good and evil, the latter concept embodied by Randall Flagg, a recurring antagonist of King’s who becomes essential to the sprawling Dark Tower saga. Knowledge of that series isn’t necessary to undertake The Stand —just a month or so of dedicated reading time, and a hearty resistance to nightmares. — Steve Foxe


Robert R. McCammon was one of the most successful and prolific horror authors of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, before an editorial dispute prompted him to take a decade-long hiatus from writing. Swan Song , which tied with Stephen King’s Misery for a Bram Stoker Award for best novel, is a 960-page magnum opus of apocalyptic fiction that feels a bit too familiar in 2018. As the novel opens, various countries have already obliterated themselves in nuclear fire, and the United States and Russia are locked in a tensely escalating standoff. Once the bombs begin to fall, McCammon follows several motley bands of survivors, including “Swan,” a young girl who may have restorative powers necessary for mankind to emerge from the nuclear winter. Although not as widely read as King’s The Stand , Swan Song is one of the finest examples of apocalyptic fiction (even if it hits too close to home today). — Steve Foxe


Stephen King declared Ghost Story the finest in its genre in 1981 with the non-fiction horror critique, Danse Macabre , which, as we’ve established, is high praise indeed. Peter Straub’s best-known piece isn’t as simple as its title lets on. Sure, we’ve all heard ghost stories, but this multi-layered story of paranormal revenge, told from the point of view of four aging men who kill time by trading ghost tales, under-promises and over-delivers. Though it took years for Straub to arrive at supernatural tales, Ghost Story will be remembered as his first critical success—not to mention his most beloved work. — Tyler Kane


In an episode of Louie , the now-disgraced comedian declines carrying his daughter’s heavy backpack, explaining, “I would never take your burden. Struggling is how you get stronger.” Neil Gaiman was probably thinking similar things when he wrote Coraline , an insidious middle-grade masterpiece with the power to unsettle any generation. The titular Coraline, a plucky youth bored of her hyper-domestic parents, assumes the modern incarnation of Alice, crossing the looking glass into a far less hospitable wonderland. This surreal reflection houses a terrible queen, the Other Mother, who concocts a superficial world where young Coraline’s every wish is indulged. The downside? She may have to sew buttons over her eyes before sacrificing her soul. This novel dives into far darker, less whimsical depths than Henry Selick’s wonderful stop-motion film adaptation. Gaiman seamlessly crafts a reality that’s the antithesis of maternal love: cold, isolating, parasitic and directionless. It’s a grand, ornate adventure that wears its horror on its sleeve. Even better? Coraline arms parents with a anecdotal warhead for when their kids take them for granted. — Sean Edgar


Possession tales are terrifying for a specific reason. With some of our most famous horror stories—ones that follow knife-wielding masked madmen, houses that consume humans, scorned telekinetic teens—the victim, even in death, retains control of his or her own mind. The same can’t be said for the dead in Dan Simmons’ 1989 classic, Carrion Comfort , a super-thick read that begins in ’40s concentration camps and travels through the decades with three old-age “mind vampires.” No, Carrion Comfort is a different kind of mindfuck—its antagonists don’t simply possess. They use the human mind to feed, prolonging their own lives at the expense of others. The 700-plus page epic is a beast to power through, but it’s a fresh take on two different tried-and-true horror tales. — Tyler Kane


With 2011’s The Shining Girls and 2014’s Broken Monsters , South African novelist Lauren Beukes has established herself as a master of the horror/thriller. It’s tough to pick between the two novels, but Broken Monsters’ Detroit setting, outsider artist serial killer ( Hannibal and True Detective fans will feel right at home), and unexplained otherworldly threat just barely edges out The Shining Girls ’ impressive time-travel continuity. In both outings, Beukes masterfully rotates perspectives, slowly filling in a complete picture of the atrocities men will commit when given a push by a malevolent force. Where The Shining Girls focused more on one resilient survivor, Broken Monsters spreads its narrative love a little more evenly, finding a handful of struggling heroes eking out a living in America’s most emblematic capitalist failure. Beukes rejects easy “ruin porn,” though, refusing to reduce Detroit to a grimy background for elaborate murders. With its impeccably researched setting and its unflinching look at evils both known and unknown, Broken Monsters is the best work yet from a young horror writer to watch. — Steve Foxe


Michael McDowell’s recently recovered horror classic doesn’t feature explicitly queer characters, but his saga of the McCray and Savage families—and the sandy spirit that haunts their Victorian beach houses—is pure self-aware Southern Gothic through his singular gay voice. It possesses enough camp to nod at fellow friends of Dorothy and enough chills to titillate any scare-junkie. McDowell is best remembered as the screenwriter behind Beetlejuice , and he was celebrated by the likes of Stephen King before his early death from AIDS-related illness in 1999. With its sun-bleached setting, The Elementals is a sweltering read for horror fans and a potent reminder of the generation of talent lost to the AIDS epidemic. — Steve Foxe


The Dracula tale is possibly the most-embedded horror story in American culture, and if Let the Right One In , True Blood and the Twilight series are any indication, the classic vampire tale is still alive and well in the pop culture realm. Stoker didn’t invent the vampire in fiction—that was John Polidori in 1819, with The Vampyre . But Stoker’s Dracula molded the vampire story into the tales we know today, which blend gore, horror and romance in a neat, red velvet-covered package. Stoker’s Dracula was a critical success, but it’d be decades—and Stoker’s own death—before it’d prowl its way into culture as we recognize it today. — Tyler Kane


We owe Ira Levin and Rosemary’s Baby a great debt. Arriving in 1967, Rosemary’s Baby is often cited as the first major spark that ignited the horror boom, giving rise to most of the other titles on this list. If you’ve seen Roman Polanski’s film, then you know the story well: a young couple moves into a new apartment building, and there’s more to the kindly old neighbors than one might assume. Rosemary’s going to have a baby, you see, and everyone is very excited for the new arrival. Polanski’s adaptation doesn’t stray far from Levin’s source material, but it’s worth doubling back to the novel that quite possibly started it all. — Steve Foxe


Are two immaculate little children possessed by their former caretakers? Or is the kids’ current ward simply going batshit bonkers? Henry James posed this question in his 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw , and like some literary Mona Lisa smile, any attempts to excavate its truth have just sprung more debate. This story within a story within a story relays a nameless host’s discovery of a manuscript about a poor woman hired to watch two bizarre adolescents. One of the kids, the young Miles, has been expelled from his school for unexplained reasons, save that he’s “an injury to the others.” And then the governess learns that the woman she’s replaced, Miss Jessel, got freaky with a farmhand, Peter Quint, before the pair shuffled off their respective mortal coils. What’s scarier than ghouls that prey on the innocent? Inter-class sexual shenanigans. Produced at the tail end of the Victorian era, a few of these themes are far more transparent then the alleged ghosts that embody them: passionate sex is bad news, especially if a lower-rung manual worker seduces you into his literal and metaphorical barnyard. Indeed, The Turn of the Screw unintentionally advertises its most sensual points of conflict. Everything else here suffocates the reader in creeping, ambiguous tension. Whether rural ghosts corrupted the innocent or not, we’re ultimately left with (117-year-old spoiler alert) a confused woman holding a small child’s lifeless body. — Sean Edgar


Carrie was an explosive start, but Stephen King’s second published novel best forecasted what to expect from the horror genre’s most outstanding author. Praised upon release as “ Peyton Place meets Dracula ,” a reference that only half-makes sense to most modern readers, ‘Salem’s Lot brought the vampire myth into the backyards of semi-rural Americans, and found King at his most ruthless; characters you come to love will meet grisly ends. Amusingly, the novel also features the first of King’s many writer protagonists. King sold ‘Salem’s Lot for an outstanding sum by today’s standards, let alone 1975’s, and never let up from there. This year’s The Outsider even touches upon some of the same themes, to chilling effect. — Steve Foxe


For most modern readers, legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s stay at the Overlook Hotel looms large over Stephen King’s original novel. Nearly all of the moments lodged in the public consciousness—everything you’ve seen parodied on The Simpsons —are only in the film: the elevator of blood, the ghoulish twin girls, the typewriter, “Here’s Johnny!” Pushing past these iconic bits of pop culture reveals one of King’s greatest accomplishments, a hauntingly compelling look at a troubled man’s descent into madness. King’s novel is more sympathetic toward Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic writer (sound familiar?) trying to improve his family’s life by taking a job as caretaker of a remote off-season resort with a barely concealed violent history. The house wants Danny, Jack’s gifted young son, and puts the Torrance family through hell to get to him. King infamously hates Kubrick’s adaptation, and while it’s hard to debate the film’s quality or place in the horror movie pantheon, the novel is the more nuanced and, arguably, scarier version of the story, topiary monsters and all. — Steve Foxe


Not one to be outdone by his dear old dad, Heart-Shaped Box and Horns author Joe Hill unleashed full holiday terror for his third novel, along with a warm embrace of the nostalgia-tinged magic so frequently employed by Stephen King. In NOS4A2 , both Victoria McQueen and Charlie Manx can slip out of time and space when they ride the right vehicle: Vic can find lost things on her rickety bike, and Manx can journey to “Christmasland” in his vintage Rolls-Royce Wraith. Beyond the cheery name and amusement-park shine, Manx’ Christmasland is the last place good little boys and girls want to end up, and Vic is the only child who escapes a ride on the Wraith. Much like Santa himself, Manx never forgets a child, and when Vic is too old for his tastes, Vic’s son will do. NOS4A2 represented a turning point for Hill, as his own career was established enough that he loosened up about his parentage, resulting in a novel that blends the best of Hill’s distinct style with his father’s influence—and the most quintessentially frightening take on Christmas in modern memory. — Steve Foxe


The story within a story in House of Leaves would have been unsettling enough: a family moves into a house and slowly discovers that the inside is somehow larger than the outside. But Mark Z. Danielewski’s ambitions are much, much higher. House of Leaves is told in myriad ways, including layers of footnotes, sections with color-blocked words, fake interviews with real celebrities and passages that require you to transcribe the first letter of each sentence to reveal another chapter hidden within. The mounting terror of the Navidson family is all embedded within the story of a young tattoo artist losing his grip on reality. “Lovecraftian” has become shorthand for tentacles and elder gods, but Danielewski’s debut novel nails a different component of the genre grandfather’s legacy: true madness. The labyrinthine structure of this tome (over 700 pages) constantly calls into question the sanity of not just the protagonists, but of the person flipping the pages, too. House of Leaves isn’t a David Foster Wallace-level challenge for readers, but it does require an investment—and entanglement—that some may be too scared to allow, for fear that they might start hearing a growling in the walls, too. — Steve Foxe


Frankenstein isn’t just an iconic horror novel; it’s a complete shift in perspective of what horror is and can be. Hanging with her pals in Switzerland’s Villa Diodati, a teenaged Mary Shelley conceived a fatally ambitious scientist committed to creating new life. Victor Frankenstein accomplishes his goal, synthesizing a lumbering, grotesque humanoid. This book brings the word monster under the strictest of scrutinies: the protagonist abandons his unconventional child, leaving it to stumble blindly through the world searching for its surrogate “father.” Who’s the real villain? The walking, talking science miracle feels, loves and suffers the abhorrent reactions of an uncaring humanity. We the reader have a new thing to fear: ourselves. We are the horror. We create our own monsters. And, like the Prometheus referenced in the secondary title, we burn in the flames we ignite. Frankenstein ’s legacy can be felt centuries later. Just watch a neglected, misshapen child pushed to the bottom of a lake evolve into a vengeful teenager dismemberment machine, and Friday the 13th takes on a whole new flavor after reading this terrifying trailblazer. — Sean Edgar


William Peter Blatty is better known today for the Academy Award-winning screenplay he adapted from his own novel than for the original text itself. Unlike The Shining , the film never diverges too widely from the source material, but that shouldn’t keep horror fans from picking up the novel. Blatty’s text has the time and space to better establish all of its key players, specifically Father Damien Karras, layering on the dread long before the pea soup starts flying. In a film full of movie magic, it’s still possible to close your eyes or look away. In the novel, Blatty asks the reader to imagine truly horrific things, and the depths of human imagination will always be a scarier place than a film editing room. — Steve Foxe


If fiction’s taught us anything in recent years, it’s that the vampire genre can be a tired—and ironically toothless—one. But Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist breathed new life into the eternally overdone tale with his debut novel, Let the Right One In , which tells the story of a bullied grade-school student named Oskar and his new friend and neighbor, Eli. Eli is brilliant, deathly pale—not to mention dirty and smelly. She only comes out at night, but more than anything, she’s a pillar of support to lonely Oskar. Maybe there’s blood, gore, KISS songs and acidic solutions that give this story its horrific edge, but at its, core Lindqvist penned a stirring tale of love and acceptance at the confusing phase that is (sometimes eternal) puberty. — Tyler Kane


Of all the King books revolving around plucky kids, these might be the pluckiest, most iconic and possibly the most annoying. The protagonists are a collection of fairly broad stereotypes (geek, fat kid, sickly kid, “the girl,” etc.), painted in an all-encompassing pastiche of ‘50s American life, but in the end that’s really the point. King remains and has always been obsessed with the turbulent years of early adolescence. The titular “IT,” on the other hand, is probably King’s most enduring and iconic monster, an interdimensional being of pure malevolence and alien mindset that seems so much simpler on the surface. An evil clown that kills kids? That could at least be dealt with in ways accessible to adults. Fighting the actual evil of It is a much trickier proposition, one that depends upon a perfect blend of mysticism and childhood faith necessary to overcome It’s greatest weapons: fear and entropy, and the ability to make an entire town forget about the atrocities it commits and allows. The ending of It is occasionally cited as its weak point, but it’s a big, fat novel that is far more about a journey, both in the ‘50s and ‘80s, and the horrifying visions suffered along the way. — Jim Vorel


“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against the hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more.” These are the legendary opening words of The Haunting of Hill House , our pick for the best—and best-written—horror novel of all time. Shirley Jackson’s chilling, lean haunted house tale follows Eleanor Vance, a young woman with a bit of a sensitivity for the paranormal. Along with Dr. John Montague, a paranormal investigator, a young artist named Theodora and Hill House heir Luke Sanderson, Eleanor examines the cold, labyrinthine old mansion. The rooms seem to shift, the architecture makes no sense, and even without the ghosts—and oh, there are quite likely ghosts—it’s an unsettling visit. But the heart of the mansion isn’t necessarily the terror drummed up within its walls. What’s most troubling is its ultimate effect on the young Eleanor, whose steadily declining mental state hits a dead end behind the gates of Hill House in one of the most perfect conclusions in all of horror fiction. — Tyler Kane & Steve Foxe

bret easton ellis

John ajvide lindqvist, lauren beukes, shirley jackson, stephen king.


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The 29 best horror books to stock up on for a spooky, creepy fall

If you crave the skin-crawling, adrenaline-spiking, can't-look-away feeling of scary movies and haunted houses, then horror books might be the perfect fit for you. 

From paranormal short stories to horror classics like Stephen King's "It," horror novels give us the creepy-crawling feeling that stays long after we've closed the book and turned off the light. Whether you're searching for your first gory horror read or a new page-turning thriller, here are the best horror books to read in 2022.

The 29 best horror books to read in 2022:

"mexican gothic" by silvia moreno-garcia.

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $13.58

This Goodreads Choice Awards-winner is a gothic, historical horror about Noemí Taboada, who heads to the Mexican countryside after receiving a strange and alarming letter from her newly wed cousin. When she arrives at her new home, High Place, she faces a dark family past, buried secrets, and a house that may try to trap her, just as it seems to have done to others.

"It" by Stephen King

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $15.97

This well-known horror book is about seven adults returning to their hometown to face an evil they first discovered as teenagers: An unnamed, shape-shifting terror they call "It." If you read other Stephen King novels, the town of Derry, Maine appears again and again but it all began with "It." "It" is also a monster of a book — its many, many pages build to a must-read, terrifying masterpiece.

"When the Reckoning Comes" by LaTanya McQueen

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $15.81

When Mira fled her segregated southern hometown more than a decade ago, she left behind her best friend, a plantation rumored to be haunted, and the horrible memories from her youth. Returning only for her best friend's wedding on the eerie plantation, dark elements from the town's past and Mira's own history begin to unravel as the weekend begins.   

"Daisy Darker" by Alice Feeney

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $23.99

For those who loved Agatha Christie's " And Then There Were None ," "Daisy Darker" is a horror story about Daisy Darker's estranged family, who have gathered on a remote island for Nana's 80th birthday. When the tide traps them in and Nana is found dead, followed by another family member an hour later, they must untangle their secrets and find the killer if they want any chance to survive.

"A Dowry of Blood" by S.T. Gibson

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $24.30

"A Dowry of Blood" is a new, fantastical horror novel that reimagine's the story of Dracula's bride, Constanta, who was turned from a mortal peasant to the wife of an undying king. As Constanta begins to understand the true evil power of her husband, she unravels his dark secrets and must choose between love and her freedom in this queer, dramatic paranormal horror story. 

"White Smoke" by Tiffany D. Jackson

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $12.51

Mari thinks she's out-running the ghosts of her old life when her newly blended family relocates to a picture-perfect home in the Midwest, even if it's situated amongst far more dilapidated and secret-holding neighbors. In this haunted house horror story, strange things begin to happen in Mari's new home, but when her younger stepsister warns her of a friend who wants Mari gone, the danger becomes too real. 

"Night of the Living Rez" by Morgan Talty

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $15.26

This collection of 12 short horror stories is set in a Native community in Maine as individuals, families, and the community grapple with traumatic pasts and an uncertain future. Believable, unique, and achingly raw, these interconnected stories have moments of humor and emotion throughout those of horror and thrills.

"Hell House" by Richard Matheson

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $16.73

Stephen King called this book "the scariest haunted house novel ever written," so you know it's terrifying. Rolf Rudolph Deutsch is about to die, so he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums $100,000 each to find out what happens after death. The three of them travel to the Belasco house — more commonly referred to as the "Hell House" — for one night to learn how it earned its nickname. 

"Stillhouse Lake" by Rachel Caine

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $7.99

Gina was completely normal — an average housewife with a husband and two kids. When a car accident revealed her husband's secret life as a serial killer, she moved with her children to a home on a lake, far away from her husband's secrets and the stalkers who think she was part of it all. But when a body appears in the lake and threatening letters start to arrive, Gina — now a prime suspect — must protect herself and her kids from a killer who's tormenting her family. 

"What Moves the Dead" by T. Kingfisher

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $17.99

" What Moves the Dead " is a jaw-dropping horror retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher." Alex Easton has rushed to the remote countryside after receiving word that their childhood friend, Madeline, is dying. Ill prepared for the nightmare that awaited them, Alex finds Madeline and her brother in an affected state and must unravel the secrets of the old home to save them all.

"Tender Is the Flesh" by Agustina Bazterrica

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $13.79

Most accurately described as "skin-crawling," this book centers on Marcos, who keeps his eyes on his work and away from the pain in his life. He works at the local processing plant, slaughtering humans — though, no one calls them that anymore. Since the government initiated "the Transition" after a sweeping virus made animal meat poisonous to humans, eating human meat — "special meat" — is legal, and having personal contact with the specimens is punishable by death. 

"The Sun Down Motel" by Simone St. James

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $10.79

If you want to feel the rush of knowing something terrible is coming, this paranormal horror story is for you. In 1982, Carly's Aunt Viv took a job at the Sun Down Motel, trying to save enough money to move to New York City. Now, Carly's working the front desk to discover what mysteries could have led to her aunt's disappearance. The entire book is suspenseful and mysterious but the horror scenes are next-level. I had to rush to finish this one before it got dark. 

"Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology" by Vince A. Liaguno & Rena Mason

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $15.80

" Other Terrors " is a horror anthology written by underrepresented horror writers on what it means to be viewed as the scary "other" in society. Whether it's people from "other" ethnicities or of "other" sexualities, these horror short stories monopolize the primal fear of the unknown.

"The Chestnut Man" by Soren Sveistrup

best fiction books horror

The Chestnut Man is a serial killer who leaves a handmade doll made of matchsticks and chestnuts at every crime scene. When a forensic team discovers a bloody fingerprint belonging to a government official's daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago, the detectives must follow the murderer's twisted clues before someone else ends up dead. This book is dark and unnerving, and you will likely find yourself unwilling to turn the next page, fearing what lies ahead. 

"NOS4A2" by Joe Hill

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $15.71

Victoria, a young girl with a talent for finding things, stumbles upon a bridge that can take her anywhere. She runs into Charlie Manx, who lures kids into a car that transports them to a horrifying playground called Christmasland. Victoria is the only child to ever escape Christmasland. Years later, Charlie hasn't forgotten about her — and is ready to take his revenge.

"Bird Box" by Josh Malerman

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.46

In a world created by Josh Malerman, there's something out there that, once seen, drives a person to deadly violence. Malorie is one of only a handful of survivors left after the mysterious thing took over the world. She needs to flee with her children, relying on their wit and hearing to stay alive. This is a horror story that will have you closing your curtains and hiding in your house until you get to the end. 

"Red Dragon" by Thomas Harris

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.99

You may be more familiar with the second book in the Hannibal Lecter series "The Silence of the Lambs," but if you're looking to read the whole story, you should start here. When a serial killer attacks families, the FBI turns to William Graham, one of the greatest profilers, who retired after the horrors he witnessed in capturing Hannibal Lecter. To solve this case, William finds he must turn to Lector for help. The violent point of view of the antagonist brings on the horror in full force — while demonstrating that the "good guy" isn't always the hero. 

"Lock Every Door" by Riley Sager

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $12.22

Riley Sager has written four suspenseful novels, each one balanced between thriller, mystery, and horror, but this one leans the most towards "horror" of the bunch. Jules' new job as an apartment sitter in one of Manhattan's most private and mysterious buildings comes with three rules: No visitors, no nights away from the apartment, and no disturbing the other residents. But the building is not what it seems to be — a dark history is rising within, summoning a race to find the truth before someone else goes missing. 

"Devolution" by Max Brooks

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $13.69

As the dust from Mount Rainier's eruption settles, Kate Holland's harrowing journals are found, revealing an account of the unnoticed Greenloop massacre and the legendary beasts behind it. From the author of "World War Z," this ominous horror story is action-packed, mind-bending, and utterly chaotic.

"The Exorcist" by William Peter Blatty

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $15.29

Adapted into one of the scariest films of all time, "The Exorcist" is about a mother and two priests who fight to free the soul of a young girl controlled by an evil and violent spirit. The deeper details of this novel are what make already scary scenes even scarier. Even if you've already seen the movie, the story has even more frightening information that heightens the fear.

"The Shining" by Stephen King

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.29

Jack Torrance is looking for a fresh start with his new job at the Overlook Hotel, where he can reconnect with his family and work on his writing in his free time. As winter sets in, Jack's days at the hotel get stranger and stranger, and the only one who notices is Danny, Jack's unique five-year-old son. Full of fleshed-out characters, this slower-paced book doesn't drag — it only builds up the fear to an unforgettable conclusion.

"Dracula" by Bram Stoker

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $3.71

We all know the famous "Dracula" persona — the one we mimic every Halloween with plastic fangs and upturned coat collars. But it doesn't really capture the 1897 classic gothic horror story, which depicts Dracula's move to England as he attempts to find new blood, spreading his undead curse along the way. The story is far more horrifying and twisted than you might anticipate, and will definitely change how you view the more heroic portrayals of modern-day vampires. 

"The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires" by Grady Hendrix

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $13.73

Set in 1990s Charleston, this novel is centered around a book club and the strange happenings around a newcomer who was brought into the club after one of the members was horribly attacked on her way home. This book has all of the southern charm, '90s nostalgia, and savagery that you might expect from the title alone. 

"The Other" by Thomas Tryon

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $15.95

Holland and Niles are twins, close enough to nearly read each other's thoughts but entirely different in personality. Their family is gathered for the summer to mourn their father's passing. With the boys' mother still locked in her room, Holland's pranks are growing more and more sinister and Niles isn't sure how much longer he can make excuses for his brother. 

"Imaginary Friend" by Stephen Chbosky

best fiction books horror

Best read with the lights on, "Imaginary Friend" is a haunting story where a young boy named Christopher goes missing in the town to which he and his mother just fled. Six days later, Christopher emerges from the woods with a voice in his head telling him to do one thing: Build a treehouse in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same. 

"The Hollow Places" by T. Kingfisher

best fiction books horror

"The Hollow Places" is initially misleading. It starts off cute and funny, but quickly devolves into a terrifying novel with scenes so vibrantly written, they'll be sure to haunt readers long after they close the book. Kara finds a hole in the wall of her uncle's house that leads to a series of alternate realities, riddled with unsettling creatures that feed on fear. The world-building in this book is remarkable — Kingfisher creates something we couldn't previously fathom and yet something we so easily fear.

"The Only Good Indians" by Stephen Graham Jones

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $13.49

This follows four Indigenous men who are being tracked and haunted by an entity that lingers from a crime committed a decade prior. It's a horror story of revenge and identity as the men find they can't outrun the culture they left behind. This eerie story will continually shock you, yet ends so perfectly, you'll almost forgive the brutal scenes you endured to reach the end. 

"Rosemary's Baby" by Ira Levin

best fiction books horror

Available at Amazon, $24.37

In this classic horror story, Rosemary and Guy are a young couple settling into their New York apartment where it seems the neighbors are taking too keen of an interest in them, especially once Rosemary gets pregnant. The suspense in this novel is palpable, a waking nightmare that walks a thin line between unbelievable and yet completely real. This book is unnerving and sinister, one of the original horror novels that helped popularize the genre. 

"The Burning Girls" by C. J. Tudor

best fiction books horror

Reverend Jack Brooks arrives at Chapel Croft looking for a fresh start, yet is welcomed with an exorcism kit and a warning. Horrible things have happened at the church — protestant martyrs were burned centuries back, two teenage girls disappeared 30 years ago, and just a week prior, the vicar hung himself. This is a deeply woven and haunting ghost story, with strange and deadly mysteries throughout. 

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best fiction books horror

The 25 Best Horror Books of All Time

From Dracula and The Shining to Frankenstein and The Exorcist , something wicked this way comes.

Headshot of Juliana Ukiomogbe

Though we're months away from Halloween, it's never too early to get a head start on spooky season. While you may be most familiar with scary movies , books are reliable scares, too. Ghosts, haunted mansions, and murderous vampires are just a few classic horror tropes and these books offer those in abundance. From The Shining to The Exorcist , here are the 25 best horror books of all time.

The Shining by Stephen King

You can't talk about horror without mentioning Stephen King. Over the course of his nearly five-decade-long career, he's brought us killer clowns, murderous fan girls, and, of course, haunted hotels. When Jack Torrance takes a job as the off-season caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, he becomes possessed by the building’s supernatural forces.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

You’re probably familiar with this story. When a demonic spirit possesses an 11-year-old girl, Catholic priests are called to her home to perform an exorcism. The book was so popular that the iconic film adaptation was released just two years after its publication.

Penguin Classics The Monk by Matthew Lewis

What’s more horrific than a creepy monk? After Ambrosio finds himself infatuated with a young girl, he abandons his religious values for a life riddled with immorality. Widely regarded as one of the first Gothic novels ever written, The Monk was condemned at the time of its publication in 1796 and the author even had to make revisions to avoid charges of blasphemy.

Pegasus Books Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

As one of the first novels to initiate the “horror boom” of the 1960s, Rosemary’s Baby tells the story of a woman who is pregnant with the spawn of Satan. For Rosemary, what ensues is debilitating pain, extreme weight loss, and an intense craving for raw meat. Read at your own risk.

Lanternfish Press Carmilla by by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Who doesn’t love vampires? Carmilla is about a female vampire who becomes obsessed with a young woman. The book has an undercurrent of romance and lust, though the relationship is never explicitly named. Supernatural figures and dark castles are key elements in this story, and it even inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was published years later.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

There are very few characters as iconic as Count Dracula. In this 1897 classic horror novel, Dracula leaves his home of Transylvania in order to find fresh blood over in England. When word gets around that there’s a vampire in town, a small group hunts him down, with the intention to kill.

Penguin Classics Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

One key element of every classic horror novel is the lasting omnipresence of its characters in popular culture, and Frankenstein has exactly that. When the scientist Victor Frankenstein conducts an experiment to create a sentient being, the creature he makes ends up being more grotesque and sinister than he could have imagined.

Penguin Books Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi

Just like the 1818 classic, this newer interpretation of Frankenstein is all about the pitfalls of creation. In Baghdad, a scavenger named Hadi collects various body parts and sews them together to create a corpse. But when the corpse becomes sentient and goes missing, several mysterious murders start to take over the city. And just like Victor Frankenstein, Hadi realizes that he has created a monster.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.” So begins Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Though we may not readily classify Morrison as a horror writer, she was well acquainted with ghosts. Beloved follows a formerly enslaved woman named Sethe (played by Oprah in the film adaptation) who is haunted by her deceased daughter.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

If you watched and loved the Netflix series, then get acquainted with the 1959 gothic horror novel that started it all. When four people, including an occult scholar and a poltergeist specialist, travel to the haunted Hill House, they begin to experience bizarre paranormal activities. The author Shirley Jackson reportedly studied traditional ghost stories to accurately deliver this haunting story.

Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

What's more horrific than cannibalism? When it’s first reported that a virus has made all animal meat poisonous, the government begins transitioning to human flesh, making cannibalism completely legal. Marcos takes a job working in the meat processing plant in order to support his dying father and must now deal with the insanity and horror of his changing world.

Abrams Books Psycho by Robert Bloch

Norman Bates and horror go hand in hand. The novel follows him while he works as a caretaker of an isolated motel and deals with the tumultuous and strange relationship that he has with his mother.

Penguin Classics Japanese Ghost Stories by Lafcadio Hearn

If you’re a fan of short stories, then this is for you. In Japanese Ghost Stories , princesses turn into frogs, dead brides go on a haunting spree, and paintings come to life. There’s also your fair share of goblins and faceless monsters. The author was inspired by traditional Japanese folklore and even included some anecdotes about his own eerie experiences of growing up in Ireland.

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

What happens when a 10-year-old girl turns out to be a 53-year-old genetically modified vampire? Octavia Butler’s Fledgling is the answer. In this blend of science fiction and horror, Butler explores the symbiotic relationship between humans and vampires, and what happens when the two become closer than ever.

NYRB Classics The Other by Thomas Tryon

While The Other was also part of the “horror boom” of the mid-1900s, it has since flown under the radar because its film adaptation wasn’t nearly as successful as The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby . But that doesn’t mean the story isn’t any less horrific. Two identical 13-year-old twins living on a rural New England farm are the subject of Tryon’s debut psychological horror novel. The twist? One of them is a sociopath.

Harpercollins Coraline by Neil Gaiman

In Coraline’s house, there are 14 doors and only 13 of them open and close. One day when she’s able to unlock the final door, she finds a passage to another home that looks just like hers, with a mother and father who don’t want to let her go. Other children are there, too, and she becomes tasked with freeing all of the lost souls, and herself.

My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

Jessica has found the perfect man in David. He’s attentive, caring, and everything she’s ever wanted in a husband. But one day, he confesses to her that 400 years ago, he traded his humanity so that he would achieve immortality. To keep Jessica and their daughter with him forever, he invokes a forbidden ritual so that they may never leave his side.

Ballantine Books Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

In a long and detailed interview with a reporter, a vampire named Louis lays out his life story, which is filled with killings and blood sucking. For an added scare, check out the film adaptation starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.

Vertical Ring by Koji Suzuki

You’re probably familiar with this story, and its many spoofs. A mysterious videotape warns four teenagers that they’ll die in one week unless they complete an unspecified task. Shortly after, all four of them die from heart failure. When a journalist learns about the tape, he watches the video and attempts to solve the mystery before it's too late.

Penguin Books The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson

This coming-of-age novel is the lovechild of Stand by Me and Stranger Things . Jake’s uncle Calvin is a lover of all things occult and strange. When a pair of siblings moves into town, Calvin decides to welcome them all into the "Saturday Night Ghost Club." But what begins as a fun summer activity quickly turns into close encounters with the supernatural.

Headshot of Juliana Ukiomogbe

Juliana Ukiomogbe is the Assistant Editor at ELLE. Her work has previously appeared in Interview, i-D, Teen Vogue, Nylon, and more.  

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Penguin Random House

The Best Horror Books of All Time

Horror books have been part of the literary world for years, but it seems like horror in all its mediums has been on the upswing in recent times. maybe people are realizing just how satisfying it is to settle into a scary story, feel the rush of adrenaline, and then close the book, turn off the movie, or walk away from that haunted house at the end. to help you on your own hair-raising journey, we’ve put together a list of the best horror books of all time. what was our criteria the staffers here at penguin random house loved these books, and we think they deserve a place on the list that’s pretty much it. you would think with so many picks, we would hit all your favorites, but it turns out that there are a lot of good horror stories out there. so, we hope you find some of faves here, but that you also discover some new-to-you books to add to your list. now get reading.

At the Mountains of Madness Book Cover Picture

At the Mountains of Madness

By h.p. lovecraft, paperback $16.00, buy from other retailers:.

The Bad Seed Book Cover Picture

The Bad Seed

By william march, paperback $17.00.

Beloved Book Cover Picture

by Toni Morrison

Hardcover $32.00.

The Bloody Chamber Book Cover Picture

The Bloody Chamber

By angela carter.

Clive Barker's Books of Blood 1-3 Book Cover Picture

Clive Barker’s Books of Blood 1-3

By clive barker, paperback $20.00.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories Book Cover Picture

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories

By h. p. lovecraft, paperback $18.00.

Carrie Book Cover Picture

by Stephen King

The Case Against Satan Book Cover Picture

The Case Against Satan

By ray russell.

The Changeling Book Cover Picture

The Changeling

By victor lavalle.

Come Closer Book Cover Picture

Come Closer

By sara gran.

The Devil in Silver Book Cover Picture

The Devil in Silver

Dracula Book Cover Picture

by Bram Stoker

Paperback $11.00.

Drawing Blood Book Cover Picture

Drawing Blood

By poppy brite, mass market paperback $8.99.

The Drowning Girl Book Cover Picture

The Drowning Girl

By caitlin r. kiernan.

Fever Dream Book Cover Picture

Fever Dream

By samanta schweblin.

Fiend Book Cover Picture

by Peter Stenson

The Fifth Child Book Cover Picture

The Fifth Child

By doris lessing.

Fledgling Book Cover Picture

by Octavia E. Butler

Hardcover $27.95.

The Frangipani Hotel Book Cover Picture

The Frangipani Hotel

By violet kupersmith.

Frankenstein: The 1818 Text Book Cover Picture

Frankenstein: The 1818 Text

By mary shelley.

Frankenstein in Baghdad Book Cover Picture

Frankenstein in Baghdad

By ahmed saadawi.

From Hell Book Cover Picture

by Alan Moore

Hardcover $39.99.

Ghost Story Book Cover Picture

Ghost Story

By peter straub.

Gothic Tales Book Cover Picture

Gothic Tales

By elizabeth gaskell.

The Haunting of Hill House Book Cover Picture

The Haunting of Hill House

By shirley jackson.

The Turn of the Screw Book Cover Picture

The Turn of the Screw

By henry james, paperback $8.00.

Horrorstor Book Cover Picture

by Grady Hendrix

Paperback $16.99.

House of Leaves Book Cover Picture

House of Leaves

By mark z. danielewski, hardcover $55.00.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls Book Cover Picture

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

By john bellairs, paperback $7.99.

The Hunger Book Cover Picture

by Alma Katsu

Interview with the Vampire Book Cover Picture

Interview with the Vampire

By anne rice.

The Last Werewolf Book Cover Picture

The Last Werewolf

By glen duncan.

The Lesser Dead Book Cover Picture

The Lesser Dead

By christopher buehlman.

The Library at Mount Char Book Cover Picture

The Library at Mount Char

By scott hawkins.

The Little Stranger (Movie Tie-In) Book Cover Picture

The Little Stranger (Movie Tie-In)

By sarah waters.

Maplecroft Book Cover Picture

by Cherie Priest

Meddling Kids Book Cover Picture

Meddling Kids

By edgar cantero.

Night Film Book Cover Picture

by Marisha Pessl

Paperback $19.00.

Pandemonium Book Cover Picture


By daryl gregory.

Parasite Eve Book Cover Picture

Parasite Eve

By hideaki sena.

The Passage (TV Tie-in Edition) Book Cover Picture

The Passage (TV Tie-in Edition)

By justin cronin.

Rebecca Book Cover Picture

by Daphne du Maurier

Hardcover $30.00.

Ring Book Cover Picture

by Koji Suzuki

Paperback $13.95.

The Road Book Cover Picture

by Cormac McCarthy

The Ruins Book Cover Picture

by Scott Smith

The Silent Companions Book Cover Picture

The Silent Companions

By laura purcell.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys Book Cover Picture

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

By april genevieve tucholke, paperback $12.99.

The Stand Book Cover Picture

The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales

By edgar allan poe, mass market paperback $5.95.

Things We Lost in the Fire Book Cover Picture

Things We Lost in the Fire

By mariana enriquez, hardcover $24.00.

Those Across the River Book Cover Picture

Those Across the River

Three Moments of an Explosion Book Cover Picture

Three Moments of an Explosion

By china miéville.

Whispers Book Cover Picture

by Dean Koontz

White is for Witching Book Cover Picture

White is for Witching

By helen oyeyemi.

The Woman in Black Book Cover Picture

The Woman in Black

By susan hill.

World War Z Book Cover Picture

World War Z

By max brooks.

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings Book Cover Picture

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings

By charlotte perkins gilman, mass market paperback $7.95.

Zone One Book Cover Picture

by Colson Whitehead

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The Best Horror Books of 2023 Will Scare You Sh*tless

Our favorite hell-raising reads of the year (so far) are pushing the genre in outrageous new directions.

Headshot of Neil McRobert

Horror truly is enjoying a renaissance. Maybe it’s because of the pandemic, as authors have had more time than ever to sit and mull over their darkest fantasies. Or maybe a whole generation raised on Stephen King has finally come of age and taken the reins. Whatever the reason, the genre is now more expansive, more inclusive, and more innovative than at any point in its history. That upward trajectory looks to reach new heights throughout the year, with horror creeping in to dominate the literary landscape from several directions at once. There are major titles from huge names, nasty little gems from literary darlings, and, as ever, the small presses continue to push the genre in new, outrageous directions.

Plus, horror is a broad church. Anyone can attend. Whether you’re looking for a story that will chill your blood, darken your soul, or turn your stomach, this year’s macabre offerings will provide. It’s scary out there alone though, so let us be your guide. We’ll be here throughout the year to update the list of horror titles you mustn’t miss.

How to Sell a Haunted House, by Grady Hendrix

Grady Hendrix made his name as the horror trickster par excellence. His novels melt down pop culture references, movie tropes, and horror motifs, then mold them into new shapes as darkly camp as they are creepy. Hendrix follows the same recipe in How to Sell a Haunted House , but whips up the emotional stakes and adds in some genuinely unsettling scenes of supernatural weirdness and familial psychodrama. When Louise returns to her childhood home following the sudden death of her parents, she’s forced to contend with both her brother’s resentment and the malign presence that won’t relinquish the house. Do you think puppets are scary? You will.

Tell Me I'm Worthless, by Alison Rumfitt

Tell Me I’m Worthless is a state-of-the-nation howl hidden inside a horror story. Rumfitt’s short, scathing novel represents modern Britain as a haunted and hateful house. Following a hideous night in said Albion House, Alice and Ila’s friendship is in ruins. Alice, a trans woman, finds some meager refuge online, while Ila falls into the clutches of militant gender-critical feminists. As in all good haunted house stories, they must eventually return to the scene of trauma in pursuit of closure, but there are plenty of demons to fight along the way. Rumfitt’s very personal approach to haunting intentionally evokes Shirley Jackson ’s American classic The Haunting of Hill House , but this is a book baked in the bleak hostility of British life. The phrase “novel for our time” is overused, but in this case, it’s entirely valid.

Lotería, by Cynthia Pelayo

Sometimes you want a short, sharp hit of horror and magic. Lotería uses the conceit of the Mexican card game to deliver over fifty miniature tales, each drawn from the deep well of Latin American folklore and beliefs. Not all are horrific, but the collection tends in that direction, with plenty of ghosts and monsters, vengeful murders and sinister rituals. Pelayo is an award-winning poet, and it shows in her ability to present a startling image without wasting a word. At times, her prose is pared back enough to make Hemingway applaud, but the stories themselves do not lack for atmosphere or unsettling detail. Indeed, as a Puerto Rican born writer, Pelayo creates tiny pocket worlds that are both culturally specific and imaginatively universal. A pink quinceañera dress, a crow’s feather, the scratching from the walls of a little boy’s bedroom:

Lotería ’s tiny nightmares hinge on these details, barely glimpsed before they’re gone, but coming together to form a dark celebration of otherworldly Otherness.

The Drift, by C.J. Tudor

After a sequence of novels that push crime fiction to the very cusp of horror, C.J. Tudor has finally tipped over into the guts and gore. The Drift takes place in the aftermath of a global pandemic, focusing on three sets of characters in different apocalyptic varieties of the locked-room mystery. One group is trapped aboard the wreckage of a bus; another wakes up dangling in a broken-down ski lift. The last is situated in the titular research complex, where Very Bad Things Indeed are taking place. Each of the nested stories features a murder, among other pulpy nastiness, but it’s the intricate way the narratives lock together that provides the most satisfying surprise. Tudor may be the queen of British crime fiction, but she’s gunning for the horror throne now.

Don't Fear the Reaper, by Stephen Graham Jones

Back to Proofrock, Idaho, the epicenter of self-aware carnage in Stephen Graham Jones ’ award-winning My Heart is a Chainsaw . In this volume, the second of a proposed trilogy, we reconnect with the indomitable and slasher-savvy Jade Daniels for another night of extreme violence and niche movie trivia as the mythic native American killer, Dark Mill South, comes to town. Whereas the first installment demanded the reader slowly peel back layers of trivia to get at the heart of its protagonist, Don’t Fear the Reaper benefits from us already knowing Jade. She’s still fierce, but now she’s unafraid to be vulnerable, and this time she has friends to fight alongside her. It makes for a warmer story that wields both emotion and intellect like a knife. When we look back on this trilogy, we may well see Don’t Fear the Reaper as the horror version of The Empire Strikes Back . Though I’m pretty sure the final part, when it comes, won’t feature anything as cuddly as an Ewok.

Our Share of Night, by Mariana Enriquez

For an author known for tightly written tales of the contemporary uncanny, Mariana Enriquez has certainly embraced maximalism. Our Share of Night is her first novel to be translated into English, and at over 700 pages, it’s epic in every sense of the word. The story spans several decades of Argentina’s military dictatorship, putting the political corruption and human rights abuses to excellent use as both backdrop and allegory for a wholly other kind of devilry. Each of the book’s lengthy segments pivots around different members of the Reyes family, one of a trio of wealthy dynasties in pursuit of occult knowledge. Their decades-long project leaves a trail of bodies—many of them children—and be warned, there are numerous scenes of shocking cruelty that leap, unexpected, from the dark corners of this story. At times, Our Share of Night is mean as hell. It’s also meandering. But the journey, like the lives of its hideously privileged characters, is so very richly textured.

The Spite House, by Johnny Compton

You can trace the tradition of the American ‘Bad Place’ from Edgar Allan Poe through Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, and Stephen King , all the way to Johnny Compton and The Spite House . Compton’s starting concept is potent: if a house is built purely for spite, what malignancies might be mixed in with the mortar? He follows up on the premise beautifully, with a redefined notion of what a ghost is, but the real magic trick is how he packs so much more into a relatively compact novel. The backstory that traps the beleaguered Ross family in the Spite House is sufficient for a novel in itself, but Compton adds layers of history and haunting, family curses, madness, and a restrained commentary on racial and economic inequality. Oh, yeah, and it’s properly scary too.

Wasps in the Ice Cream, by Tim McGregor

This is a slight outlier on this list, as it’s not so much a horror novel as a coming-of-age story that hangs on the precipice of horror—never quite tipping over, but always threatening to. McGregor takes us to small-town 1987, where Mark Prewitt wastes summer nights with his loser friends (they really are losers, not the cool Stephen King kind). A cruel trick played on the witchy Farrow sisters prompts a tumultuous relationship between Mark and the middle sister. From there, Wasps hints at the supernatural, but revels in the more mundane murk of dysfunctional families, hollow friendships, and small-town intolerance. It’s a Springsteen song in prose form, with a melody twisted just out of tune.

The God of Endings, by Jacqueline Holland

Is immortality a blessing or a curse? That’s the question that drives The God of Endings through centuries and across continents, as we follow Collette LeSange through her many human lifespans. What begins as a traditional vampire tale, satisfyingly taking in both New England and Eastern European lore, soon morphs into a wartime romance, and then again into a psychological thriller in the modern, 80s-set story strand, in which Collette runs a preschool for privileged children. There’s mordant humor in situating a vampire so close to these “little sacks of blood,” but a bond with a troubled child leads to a genuinely shocking climax. Holland has been praised for her lush prose, but ornamentation never gets in the way of a propulsive story, nor obscures the truly terrible possibilities of existence without end.

Piñata, by Leopoldo Gout

Possession horror is commonly rooted in Catholic ritual and Judeo-Christian demonology. Leopoldo Gout’s novel spins the entire tradition on its head, switching focus to the indigenous Mexican cultures who suffered under the yoke of the Vatican. A scorching prologue depicts the conquerors’ brutality, establishing a history of colonization, cruelty, and suffering that resurfaces in the present day. When Carmen’s daughter, Luna, removes a Nahua artifact from a pre-Hispanic site, the scorned gods awaken and take a special interest in Carmen’s family. Gout extracts a great deal of unease from incidental domestic moments and microaggressions, but never lets the supernatural machinery still for too long. Piñata is a slow-burning story of corruption and cosmic revenge that makes a nice alternative to same old same old scuffles with crosses and holy water.

Abnormal Statistics, by Max Booth III

When I asked Max Booth about his intentions in compiling this collection of ultra-bleak short stories, he said, “Maybe I like to feel bad.” If so, it’s an achievement that he passes on to the reader. The thirteen stories in Abnormal Statistics are filled with lonely people. Outcasts, the bullied, those working the nightshift, and those living itinerant lives in soulless hotels: these are Booth’s people, and he writes about them beautifully and mercilessly. A child falls down a hole and makes a desperate bargain with the monsters beneath his town. A pair of teens commit one of the worst crimes imaginable. A man is forced to choose between the life of his wife and the life of his child, while another unfortunate soul struggles to keep his baby alive in the apocalypse. Abnormal Statistics is not interested in your hurt feelings or your moral outrage; it wants to hurt you and make you welcome the pain.

Lone Women, by Victor LaValle

In his first novel since 2018, Victor LaValle leaves the hustle and clutter of New York for the wide expanse of 1915’s Montana. Adelaide Henry is a homesteader, one of the “lone women” who braved the dangers of the prairies for a chance at freedom and autonomy. That alone would make for a good novel, but Adelaide’s circumstances are further complicated by two things: her race and the monster trapped in her steamer trunk. Yes, Lone Women is a monster story, but the nature of monstrosity is constantly under debate. LaValle populates his Western with an array of grotesques, killers, hypocrites, and sinners, but he also makes room for diversity that the genre has too long suppressed. It’s a corrective to the founding myth of America, a book filled with bloodshed and pain, but always holding out for the hope of a happy ending.

The Marigold, by Andrew F. Sullivan

Just like the rotting apartment block of the title, The Marigold contains many stories. It’s a techno-thriller, an occult fantasy, and a coming-of-age horror adventure, all taking place in a near-future Toronto plagued by extreme weather and insidious fungus. In particular, Sullivan excels at blurring the lines between dystopian nightmare and our very present environmental crisis. But whenever the drear of the real threatens to overwhelm, Sullivan injects a fresh surreal detail to liven the atmosphere. By the end, as the multiple plot strands coalesce, The Marigold proves to be a light-footed punk tour through our worrying tomorrow. It’s more fun than you think an oppressive urban hellscape could possibly be.

Headshot of Neil McRobert

Neil McRobert is a writer, researcher and podcaster, with a specialism in horror and other darkly speculative topics; he is the host and producer of the Talking Scared podcast.  

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The Scariest Horror Books of All Time

Ranker Community

The greatest horror books of all time are books that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up just from the rustle of turning the pages. These scary horror novels are books you don't want to read at night (or by yourself) because they're just a little too scary. Many of these scary books have been turned into the scariest movies ever made , while others are too frightening to be imagined in real life.

From Stephen King classics like "The Shining" and "It" to classic stories like Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", these scary horror novels are known for their fright factor and smart writing that makes you believe the horrific events in the books are really possible. Even recent horror novels like NOS4A2 or Birdbox captured the terrified hearts of the public enough to become shows and movies.

What are the best horror novels? What is the scariest horror book? This list of the best horror novels is here to help you find a good scare on the written page. If you don't see your favorite horror book on the list of great scary novels, make sure to add it so other people can get the same fright you did.

If you're still looking for a good scare after peeking at this greatest horror books list, check out the scarefests in the best found footage films for a good scare, or see what new horror novels you can add to your collection.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist


'Salem's Lot

'Salem's Lot

The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

The Shining

The Shining


Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe

Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe

The complete works of Edgar Allan Poe

The complete works of Edgar Allan Poe

Night Shift

Night Shift

The Stand

The tell-tale heart and other writings

The tell-tale heart and other writings


The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories


Hell House


Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Mist

Skeleton Crew

Skeleton Crew

The Dunwich Horror and Others

The Dunwich Horror and Others

Red Dragon

Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter

The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror

Needful Things

Needful Things

At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of Madness


What To Watch If You Love 'Ghost Whisperer'

Much of England is underwater in Perilous.

The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup

Perilous Times by Thomas D Lee; The Grief Nurse by Angie Spoto; Airside by Christopher Priest; Hokey Pokey by Kate Mascarenhas; The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson

Perilous Times

Perilous Times by Thomas D Lee (Orbit, £16.99) Merlin ensured that King Arthur’s knights would return from a magical sleep whenever the kingdom was in peril. Having fought in many wars over the centuries, Sir Kay knows the drill. But when he wakes in a 21st-century Britain ravaged by the climate crisis and social unrest, it’s hard to identify the enemy. After rescuing a young woman fleeing from armed guards near a blazing fracking facility, he allies himself with feminist eco-terrorists trying to save the planet. The appearance of a fire-breathing dragon suggests somebody is messing around with magic, and he has a duty to stop them. Humorous fantasy based on magical mishaps may not be a comfortable fit with the grim vision of a very near future in which half of England is underwater, but it works. This audacious, original debut is angry as well as entertaining, and an exciting new take on the Matter of Britain .

The Grief Nurse

The Grief Nurse by Angie Spoto (Sandstone, £16.99) Lynx is the titular Grief Nurse, marked from birth by the pale eyes and white hair that indicate her special power to absorb and relieve the sorrow, fear, anxiety and heartaches of her employers. She is kept by the wealthy Aster family to banish every negative feeling, so they always glow with health and happiness, even at the funeral of their eldest son. Lynx has never questioned her role, until the arrival of another Grief Nurse on the Asters’ private island opens her eyes to her own unhappiness. The island comes to seem more like a trap when bad weather makes it impossible to leave, and people start dying. A powerful debut novel that explores serious, sensitive issues through a unique prism of fantasy.


Airside by Christopher Priest (Gollancz, £22) In 1949, a Hollywood film star flew from New York to London and vanished. In the 1960s, Justin Farmer, a film student in London, is charmed by her movies and intrigued by the unsolved mystery of her disappearance, though it is not until years later, when he’s a respected film historian and critic, that he meets people who may know what happened to her. He also has his own uncanny experience in the liminal space of an international airport. The spirit of La Jetée, Chris Marker’s 1962 short SF film, hovers over the latest novel from the author of The Prestige . Reviews of real movies complement interviews with fictional characters and musings on people who choose to disappear; the mixture of stress and boredom that permeates modern air travel is interwoven with Farmer’s investigation to create an absorbing, distinctive narrative.

Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey by Kate Mascarenhas (Head of Zeus, £16.99) The new novel from the author of The Psychology of Time Travel is set in 1929, mainly in and around a hotel in central Birmingham where Nora, a half English, half Czech doctor with the uncanny ability to precisely mimic the speech of anyone she hears, has arrived to spy on another guest. What begins as a compelling psychological mystery in a vividly real setting turns to the supernatural, when Nora wakes one night to find a huge dog on her bed. A local woman confirms she has seen the ghost of an axe murderer who used to work nearby, and Nora knew him. The story plunges into full-on visceral horror as we learn about Nora’s childhood connection to a terrible murder that affected the course of her life. A well-plotted, original, nightmare blend of madness and monsters.

The Shadow Cabinet

The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson (HarperVoyager, £16.99) The sequel to Her Majesty’s Secret Coven takes up the story of modern witches following the cliffhanger ending of the first. We finally get the inside scoop on Niamh’s “evil twin”, Ciara, and some shocking revelations relating to a couple of previously minor characters. It’s a great read, every bit as exciting, intelligent and addictive as the first, with a third (final?) volume still to come.

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Jonathan Safran Foer

Best Horror Books

best fiction books horror

Pet Sematary: A Novel

By stephen king.

Now a major motion picture! Stephen King’s #1 New York Times bestseller is a “wild, powerful, disturbing” (The Washington Post Book World) classic about evil that exists far beyond the grave—among King’s most iconic and frightening novels. When Dr. Louis Creed takes a new job and moves his family to the idyllic rural town of Ludlow, Maine, this new beginning seems too good to be true. Despite Ludlow’s tranquility, an undercurrent of danger exists here. Those trucks on the road outside the Creed’s beautiful old home travel by just a little too quickly, for one thing…as is evidenced by the makeshift graveyard in the nearby woods where generations of children have buried their beloved pets. Then there are the warnings to Louis both real and from the depths of his nightmares that he should not venture beyond the borders of this little graveyard where another burial ground lures with seductive promises and ungodly temptations. A blood-chilling truth is hidden there—one more terrifying than death itself, and hideously more powerful. As Louis is about to discover for himself sometimes, dead is better…  

Our favourite quote from Pet Sematary: A Novel

Hell House

by Richard Matheson

"Hell House is the scariest haunted house novel ever written. It looms over the rest the way the mountains loom over the foothills." -- Stephen KingRolf Rudolph Deutsch is going die. But when Deutsch, a wealthy magazine and newpaper publisher, starts thinking seriously about his impending death, he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums, one physical and one mental, $100,000 each to establish the facts of life after death.Dr. Lionel Barrett, the physicist, accompanied by the mediums, travel to the Belasco House in Maine, which has been abandoned and sealed since 1949 after a decade of drug addiction, alcoholism, and debauchery. For one night, Barrett and his colleagues investigate the Belasco House and learn exactly why the townfolks refer to it as the Hell House.

Our favourite quote from Hell House

The Hunger

by Alma Katsu

As featured in The New York Times Book Review Summer Reading Issue "Supernatural suspense at its finest...The best thing about The Hunger is that it will scare the pants off you."--The New York Times Book Review "Deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down, not recommended reading after dark."--Stephen King A tense and gripping reimagining of one of America's most fascinating historical moments: the Donner Party with a supernatural twist. Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy...or the feelings that someone--or something--is stalking them. Whether it's a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history. As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains...and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along. Effortlessly combining the supernatural and the historical, The Hunger is an eerie, thrilling look at the volatility of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.  

Our favourite quote from The Hunger

Ghost Story

Ghost Story

By peter straub.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Peter Straub’s classic tale of horror, secrets, and the dangerous ghosts of the past...   What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?   In the sleepy town of Milburn, New York, four old men gather to tell each other stories—some true, some made-up, all of them frightening. A simple pastime to divert themselves from their quiet lives.   But one story is coming back to haunt them and their small town. A tale of something they did long ago. A wicked mistake. A horrifying accident. And they are about to learn that no one can bury the past forever...  

Our favourite quote from Ghost Story

Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby

By ira levin.

A masterpiece of spellbinding suspense, where evil wears the most innocent face of all . . . Rosemary Woodhouse and her struggling actor husband Guy move into the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with an ominous reputation and mostly elderly residents. Neighbors Roman and Minnie Castavet soon come nosing around to welcome the Woodhouses to the building, and despite Rosemary's reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises that she keeps hearing, her husband takes a special shine to them. Shortly after Guy lands a plum Broadway role, Rosemary becomes pregnant, and the Castavets start taking a special interest in her welfare. As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castavets' circle is not what it seems . . .  

Our favourite quote from Rosemary's Baby

Something Wicked This Way Comes: A Novel

Something Wicked This Way Comes: A Novel

By ray bradbury.

Patrick Rothfuss

One of Ray Bradbury’s best-known and most popular novels, Something Wicked This Way Comes, now featuring a new introduction and material about its longstanding influence on culture and genre. For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. Two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes…and the stuff of nightmares. Few novels have endured in the heart and memory as has Ray Bradbury’s unparalleled literary masterpiece Something Wicked This Way Comes. Scary and suspenseful, it is a timeless classic in the American canon.  

Our favourite quote from Something Wicked This Way Comes: A Novel

The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw

By henry james.

Widely recognized as one of literature's most gripping ghost stories, this classic tale of moral degradation concerns the sinister transformation of two innocent children into flagrant liars and hypocrites. The story begins when a governess arrives at an English country estate to look after Miles, aged ten, and Flora, eight. At first, everything appears normal but then events gradually begin to weave a spell of psychological terror. One night a ghost appears before the governess. It is the dead lover of Miss Jessel, the former governess. Later, the ghost of Miss Jessel herself appears before the governess and the little girl. Moreover, both the governess and the housekeeper suspect that the two spirits have appeared to the boy in private. The children, however, adamantly refuse to acknowledge the presence of the two spirits, in spite of indications that there is some sort of evil communication going on between the children and the ghosts. Without resorting to clattering chains, demonic noises, and other melodramatic techniques, this elegantly told tale succeeds in creating an atmosphere of tingling suspense and unspoken horror matched by few other books in the genre. Known for his probing psychological novels dealing with the upper classes, James in this story tried his hand at the occult - and created a masterpiece of the supernatural that has frightened and delighted readers for nearly a century.

Our favourite quote from The Turn of the Screw

Carrion Comfort: A Novel

Carrion Comfort: A Novel

By dan simmons.

Stephen King

"CARRION COMFORT is one of the three greatest horror novels of the 20th century. Simple as that." --Stephen King"Epic in scale and scope but intimately disturbing, CARRION COMFORT spans the ages to rewrite history and tug at the very fabric of reality. A nightmarish chronicle of predator and prey that will shatter your world view forever. A true classic." --Guillermo del Toro"CARRION COMFORT is one of the scariest books ever written. Whenever I get the question asked Who's your favorite author? my answer is always Dan Simmons." --James Rollins"One of the few major reinventions of the vampire concept, on a par with Jack Finney's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, and Stephen King's Salem's Lot. --David MorrellTHE PAST... Caught behind the lines of Hitler's Final Solution, Saul Laski is one of the multitudes destined to die in the notorious Chelmno extermination camp. Until he rises to meet his fate and finds himself face to face with an evil far older, and far greater, than the Nazi's themselves…THE PRESENT... Compelled by the encounter to survive at all costs, so begins a journey that for Saul will span decades and cross continents, plunging into the darkest corners of 20th century history to reveal a secret society of beings who may often exist behind the world's most horrible and violent events. Killing from a distance, and by darkly manipulative proxy, they are people with the psychic ability to 'use' humans: read their minds, subjugate them to their wills, experience through their senses, feed off their emotions, force them to acts of unspeakable aggression. Each year, three of the most powerful of this hidden order meet to discuss their ongoing campaign of induced bloodshed and deliberate destruction. But this reunion, something will go terribly wrong. Saul's quest is about to reach its elusive object, drawing hunter and hunted alike into a struggle that will plumb the depths of mankind's attraction to violence, and determine the future of the world itself…

Our favourite quote from Carrion Comfort: A Novel


by Neil Gaiman

New York Times bestselling and Newbery Medal-winning author Neil Gaiman’s modern classic, Coraline—also an Academy Award-nominated film

"Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house...."

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there's another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

Neil Gaiman's Coraline is a can't-miss classic that enthralls readers age 8 to 12 but also adults who enjoy a perfect smart spooky read.

Our favourite quote from Coraline

The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

By thomas harris.

A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname-Buffalo Bill-is stalking women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states. Clarice Starling, a young trainee at the FBI Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, chief of the Bureau's Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter-Hannibal the Cannibal-who is kept under close watch in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.Dr. Lecter is a former psychiatrist with a grisly history, unusual tastes, and an intense curiosity about the darker corners of the mind. His intimate understanding of the killer and of Clarice herself form the core of The Silence of the Lambs-and ingenious, masterfully written book and an unforgettable classic of suspense fiction.

Our favourite quote from The Silence of the Lambs

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (Book Analysis): Detailed Summary, Analysis and Reading Guide (BrightSummaries.com)

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (Book Analysis): Detailed Summary, Analysis and Reading Guide (BrightSummaries.com)

By bright summaries.

Unlock the more straightforward side of Interview with the Vampire with this concise and insightful summary and analysis! This engaging summary presents an analysis of Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, which tells the story of Louis de Pointe du Lac, a 200-year-old vampire. After being turned into a vampire by the handsome but utterly amoral Lestat, Louis lived on a planatation and grew close to Claudia, a five-year-old girl who was also turned into a vampire by Lestat, before travelling to Europe to try to unravel the mystery of his origins. Interview with the Vampire is the first book in Anne Rice’s series The Vampire Chronicles, and remains one of the most popular and influential vampire stories ever written. It was largely responsible for introducing many of the tropes we associate with the genre, such as sleeping in coffins and the black attire of vampires, and was adapted into a film starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in 1994. Find out everything you need to know about Interview with the Vampire in a fraction of the time! This in-depth and informative reading guide brings you: •A complete plot summary •Character studies •Key themes and symbols •Questions for further reflection Why choose BrightSummaries.com? Available in print and digital format, our publications are designed to accompany you on your reading journey. The clear and concise style makes for easy understanding, providing the perfect opportunity to improve your literary knowledge in no time. See the very best of literature in a whole new light with BrightSummaries.com!  

Our favourite quote from Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (Book Analysis): Detailed Summary, Analysis and Reading Guide (BrightSummaries.com)

Night Film

by Marisha Pessl

'THE BOOK EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT.' ObserverOn a damp October night the body of beautiful Ashley Cordova is discovered in a Manhattan warehouse. The last time McGrath got too close to the Cordova dynasty, he lost his marriage and his career.

Our favourite quote from Night Film

At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of Madness

By h p lovecraft.

Professor William Dyer of the the Miskatonic University knew that the antarctic was a forlorn, dangerous place, but nothing could have prepared him and his expediting for what they would find in the Mountains of Madness. They discover an abandoned city from ancient times. But is it really abandoned? And will any of them be able to get out alive? A sublime horror novel by one of the greatest horror writers of all time.  

Our favourite quote from At the Mountains of Madness

The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story

The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story

By susan hill.

The classic ghost story from the author of The Mist in the Mirror: a chilling tale about a menacing spectre haunting a small English town. Now a major motion picture starring Daniel Radcliffe. Arthur Kipps is an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford—a faraway town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway—to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Mrs. Drablow’s house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images—a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black. Psychologically terrifying and deliciously eerie, The Woman in Black is a remarkable thriller of the first rate.  

Our favourite quote from The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story

Ring (Ring Trilogy)

Ring (Ring Trilogy)

By koji suzuki.

The Inspiration for the New Major Motion Picture RINGSA mysterious videotape warns that the viewer will die in one week unless a certain, unspecified act is performed. Exactly one week after watching the tape, four teenagers die one after another of heart failure. Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, is intrigued by his niece's inexplicable death. His investigation leads him from a metropolitan tokyo teeming with modern society's fears to a rural Japan--a mountain resort, a volcanic island, and a countryside clinic--haunted by the past. His attempt to solve the tape's mystery before it's too late--for everyone--assumes an increasingly deadly urgency. Ring is a chillingly told horror story, a masterfully suspenseful mystery, and post-modern trip. The success of Koji Suzuki's novel the Ring has lead to manga, television and film adaptations in Japan, Korea, and the U.S.

Our favourite quote from Ring (Ring Trilogy)

White is for Witching

White is for Witching

By helen oyeyemi.

Winner of the Somerset Maugham Award One of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists From the acclaimed author of What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Gingerbread, and Peaces There’s something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, it’s been home to four generations of Silver women—Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda’s mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed. At once an unforgettable mystery and a meditation on race, nationality, and family legacies, White is for Witching is a boldly original, terrifying, and elegant novel by a prodigious talent.  

Our favourite quote from White is for Witching

Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In

By john ajvide lindqvist.

**The international bestseller and the book behind the film and play Let Me In** The novel behind the Paramount+ UK series Let the Right One In 'The new Stephen King' The Times Oskar and Eli. In very different ways, they were both victims. Which is why, against the odds, they became friends. And how they came to depend on one another, for life itself. Oskar is a 12-year-old boy living with his mother on a dreary housing estate at the city's edge. He dreams about his absentee father, gets bullied at school, and wets himself when he's frightened. Eli is the young girl who moves in next door. She doesn't go to school and never leaves the flat by day. She is a 200-year-old vampire, forever frozen in childhood, and condemned to live on a diet of fresh blood. John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel, a huge bestseller in his native Sweden, is a unique and brilliant fusion of social novel and vampire legend. And a deeply moving fable about rejection, friendship and loyalty.  

Our favourite quote from Let the Right One In


It: Chapter Two—now a major motion picture! Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real. They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers. Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It. “Stephen King’s most mature work” (St. Petersburg Times), “It will overwhelm you…to be read in a well-lit room only” (Los Angeles Times).

Our favourite quote from It

Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel

Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel

By joe hill.

“Wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty….A Valentine from hell.” —Janet Maslin, New York Times

The publication of Joe Hill’s beautifully textured, deliciously scary debut novel Heart-Shaped Box was greeted with the sort of overwhelming critical acclaim that is rare for a work of skin-crawling supernatural terror. It was cited as a Best Book of the Year by Atlanta magazine, the Tampa Tribune, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and the Village Voice, to name but a few. Award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling Neil Gaiman of The Sandman, The Graveyard Book, and Anansi Boys fame calls Joe Hill’s story of a jaded rock star haunted by a ghost he purchased on the internet, “relentless, gripping, powerful.” Open this Heart-Shaped Box from two-time Bram Stoker Award-winner Hill if you dare and see what all the well-deserved hoopla is about.

Aging death-metal rock legend Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals...a used hangman's noose...a snuff film. But nothing he possesses is as unique or as dreadful as his latest purchase off the Internet: a one-of-a-kind curiosity that arrives at his door in a black heart-shaped box...a musty dead man's suit still inhabited by the spirit of its late owner. And now everywhere Judas Coyne goes, the old man is there—watching, waiting, dangling a razor blade on a chain from his bony hand.

Our favourite quote from Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel

Horrorstor: A Novel

Horrorstor: A Novel

By grady hendrix.

It's a classic old-fashioned haunted house story - set in a big box Swedish furniture superstore. Designed like a retail catalogue, Horrorstor offers a creepy read with mass appeal-perfect for Halloween tables!

Our favourite quote from Horrorstor: A Novel


by Dathan Auerbach

In an attempt to make sense of his own mysterious and unsettling childhood memories, a man begins to reconstruct his past. As the games and adventures of his youth become engulfed by a larger story, he finds that it forms a tapestry of unbelievable horror that he never could have expected. Each chapter completes a different piece of the puzzle for both you and the narrator, and by the end of it all, you will wish that you could forget what he never knew.

Our favourite quote from Penpal

The Silent Companions: A Novel

The Silent Companions: A Novel

By laura purcell.

“[An] extraordinary, memorable and truly haunting book.” —Jojo Moyes, #1 New York Times bestselling authorLaura Purcell's THE SHAPE OF DARKNESS is now out from Penguin!Some doors are locked for a reason. When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But pregnant and widowed just weeks after their wedding, with her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her late husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure—a silent companion—that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of the estate are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition—that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, The Silent Companions is a tale that

Our favourite quote from The Silent Companions: A Novel

The Ruins

by Scott Smith

Eerie, terrifying, unputdownable—Scott Smith’s first novel since his best-selling A Simple Plan (“Simply the best suspense novel of this year—hell, of the 1990s”—Stephen King). The Ruins follows two American couples, just out of college, enjoying a pleasant, lazy beach holiday together in Mexico as, on an impulse, they go off with newfound friends in search of one of their group—the young German, who, in pursuit of a girl, has headed for the remote Mayan ruins, site of a fabled archeological dig. This is what happens from the moment the searchers—moving into the wild interior—begin to suspect that there is an insidious, horrific “other” among them . . .  

Our favourite quote from The Ruins

Come Closer

Come Closer

By sara gran.

A recurrent, unidentifiable noise in her apartment. A memo to her boss that's replaced by obscene insults. Amanda—a successful architect in a happy marriage—finds her life going off kilter by degrees. She starts smoking again, and one night for no reason, without even the knowledge that she's doing it, she burns her husband with a cigarette. At night she dreams of a beautiful woman with pointed teeth on the shore of a blood-red sea. The new voice in Amanda's head, the one that tells her to steal things and talk to strange men in bars, is strange and frightening, and Amanda struggles to wrest back control of her life. A book on demon possession suggests that the figure on the shore could be the demon Naamah, known to scholars of the Kabbalah as the second wife of Adam, who stole into his dreams and tricked him into fathering her child. Whatever the case, as the violence of her erratic behavior increases, Amanda knows that she must act to put her life right, or see it destroyed.

Our favourite quote from Come Closer

Gothic Tales

Gothic Tales

By elizabeth cleghorn gaskell.

In "Gothic Tales," Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), the eminent Victorian author, brings us nine chilling gothic stories. Collected here are tales that set a precedent for ghost and horror stories of the era. In "The Poor Clare" a young innocent girl named Lucy is haunted by an unrelenting ghost invoked by her aging grandmother. In the novella "Lois the Witch" the young Lois sails to America to join her distant family. She is greeted by a New England engulfed in the fever of the Salem witch trials. Soon all goes wrong when she is deemed one of the cursed. The reader confronts the peaks of suspense in "The Grey Woman" - a terrifying psychological thriller. These among others shape this well rounded collection of one of the most respected Victorian authors. Gaskell was championed and published by Charles Dickens in his literary magazine "Household Words." Her style, vision, and delivery are seen at its best here in "Gothic Tales."

Our favourite quote from Gothic Tales

The Case Against Satan

The Case Against Satan

By ray russell.

By the 20th century, the centuries-old Roman Catholic exorcism ritual for combatting demonic possession was all but dead, eviscerated by the ascent of modern science and rationalism. But Ray Russell's 1962 novel, The Case Against Satan, set the stage for a proliferation of exorcisms on page, screen, and even bizarrely, in real life.

Our favourite quote from The Case Against Satan

The Frangipani Hotel

The Frangipani Hotel

By violet kupersmith.

An extraordinarily compelling debut—ghost stories that grapple with the legacy of the Vietnam War   A beautiful young woman appears fully dressed in an overflowing bathtub at the Frangipani Hotel in Hanoi. A jaded teenage girl in Houston befriends an older Vietnamese gentleman she discovers naked behind a dumpster. A trucker in Saigon is asked to drive a dying young man home to his village. A plump Vietnamese-American teenager is sent to her elderly grandmother in Ho Chi Minh City to lose weight, only to be lured out of the house by the wafting aroma of freshly baked bread. In these evocative and always surprising stories, the supernatural coexists with the mundane lives of characters who struggle against the burdens of the past.   Based on traditional Vietnamese folk tales told to Kupersmith by her grandmother, these fantastical, chilling, and thoroughly contemporary stories are a boldly original exploration of Vietnamese culture, addressing both the immigrant experience and the lives of those who remained behind. Lurking in the background of them all is a larger ghost—that of the Vietnam War, whose legacy continues to haunt us.   Violet Kupersmith’s voice is an exciting addition to the landscape of American fiction. With tremendous depth and range, her stories transcend their genre to make a wholly original statement about the postwar experience.   Praise for The Frangipani Hotel “[A] subversively clever debut collection . . . These stories—playful, angry, at times legitimately scary—demonstrate a subtlety of purpose that belies [Kupersmith’s] youth.”—The New York Times Book Review “Magical, beautiful, modern stories, all based on traditional Vietnamese folktales, [The Frangipani Hotel] invokes the ghosts of the land that was left behind.”—San Francisco Chronicle   “[A] sparkling debut . . . playful and wise, an astonishing feat for a young writer.”—Chicago Tribune   “A series of short stories that are as fresh as they are mesmerizing, The Frangipani Hotel will haunt you long after the last words have drifted off the page.”—Lisa See   “Auspicious . . . wildly energetic.”—Elle   “Enthralling stories . . . teeming with detail and personality.”—Asian Review of Books   “Chilling and lovely . . . Kupersmith has combined traditional storytelling with a post-modern sense of anxiety and darkness, and the result is captivating.”—Bookreporter   “The stories shimmer with life. . . . Kupersmith [is] one to watch.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)  

Our favourite quote from The Frangipani Hotel

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Heads Exploding and ‘Bright Scarlet Ribbons Fountaining’

If your idea of a good summer read involves abject terror, we’ve got some recommendations for you.

This brightly colored illustration shows a group of people reading on the beach, arrayed on towels and beneath umbrellas. In the middle sits a pale, fanged vampire.

By Danielle Trussoni

Danielle Trussoni, who reviews Gothic and horror fiction for The Times, is the author of six books. Her new novel is “The Puzzle Master.”

Buried artifacts, lost treasures, ancient puzzles — archaeological excavations make for frightening fiction, especially when their unearthings wreak havoc on those living in the present. It’s easy to forget that Pazuzu — the demon who caused so much mischief in “The Exorcist” — emerged from an archaeological dig in Iraq.

Eric LaRocca’s debut novel, EVERYTHING THE DARKNESS EATS (Clash, 224 pp., paperback, $16.95), opens with a similar cursed discovery. It’s 1944 in Wales, and a primitive drawing surrounded by ancient hieroglyphics has been found in a cave. When asked about its meaning, Heart Crowley, the treasure-seeker behind the excavation, replies that it is an “invocation,” then promptly proceeds to make everyone’s head explode, “bright scarlet ribbons fountaining.” Indiana Jones meets “Hellraiser,” anyone?

Crowley’s sinister path continues in the village of Henley’s Edge, where he draws the locals into his dark scheme: Ghost Everling, a man mourning his dead wife; Nadeem Malik, a Muslim cop whose family has been threatened; Gemma, whose daughter, Piper, is blind. LaRocca’s characters embody a broad spectrum of human desire, from the old woman attracted to Crowley to Everling, who is bisexual, to Malik, who is gay.

LaRocca’s writing is as lush as a baroque painting. A strawberry rhubarb pie is “a human artery in full bloom,” and a woman under Crowley’s spell feels her body “hardening like cooling beeswax.” But LaRocca’s true talent lies in his ability to bring his readers into the lives of his characters — a mother’s desperation to help her blind child; a widower’s mourning; a gay couple’s fight against discrimination. It’s through such explorations that readers can enter other lives, and feel empathy for those who are like us, and those who are not. That, LaRocca’s novel seems to argue, is the point of fiction — to crack open the shell of otherness and explore all that’s inside.

LaRocca’s talent is even more pronounced in his story collection, THE TREES GREW BECAUSE I BLED THERE (Titan, 204 pp., $19.95). The short-story form, by definition an act of compression, distills LaRocca’s vision to its essence. The stories collected here are by turns confident, brutal and breathtaking.

In “You’re Not Supposed to Be Here,” a gay couple are tricked into playing a sadistic game, one that brings to light their most hidden secrets and undermines everything they love. In the brilliant “I’ll Be Gone by Then,” a woman must contend with caring for her aging mother, “an affliction” she “wouldn’t wish on anyone,” a situation that reveals the depths of fear and repulsion we all feel when confronted with the body’s decadent decline. “She’s smaller than I remember from when I saw her last … I can hardly recall such a loathsome scent shadowing her — a stench as vile as rotted flowers.” And yet, by the end of the story, this daughter longs for her mother. The contradictory feelings that LaRocca evokes, and the internal tensions of his characters, make “The Trees Grew Because I Bled There” must-read horror.

Cynthia Pelayo’s THE SHOEMAKER’S MAGICIAN (Agora, 306 pp., $27.99) is an homage to the supernatural, to horror films and — perhaps most of all — to Chicago, a dark, cold place of “cursed and haunted things.”

“Chicago isn’t the home to that one creepy unkempt cemetery where people claim to see spirits rise,” Pelayo writes. “Chicago, the entire city, itself is the heinous and menacing thing that sprung from a swamp.”

It’s perhaps no surprise that the crime at the center of the novel occurs at a historic Chicago theater. And the murder is, as one says in the Midwest, a doozy. “This is deviant,” a detective notes as he surveys the scene, where a woman has been killed with a stainless steel popcorn scoop and candy from the concession stand — Reese’s Pieces, Skittles, Twizzlers — lies scattered about her body. “This is disturbed.”

A vintage horror film poster has been pinned to the woman like a calling card. A clue left by the killer, it is “the star of the show, and the body on display and everything to come is just a side character.” The novel keeps this promise. The narrative weaves through various characters’ perspectives — a detective on the case, his horror influencer wife, their son with autism spectrum disorder — but ultimately focuses on “the possibility of a cursed film, the idea that images flitting across the screen can compel us into some wicked action.”

Pelayo’s collision of magic and history is so smart and sophisticated that you’ll find yourself Googling the nonfiction that forms the bedrock of her tale. While a few moments seem forced — a deadly car accident comes out of nowhere, creating a tone and texture so different that it feels tacked on as an afterthought — “The Shoemaker’s Magician” is a delicious foray into the occult.

Riley Sager is in high form in his latest horror-inflected thriller, THE ONLY ONE LEFT (Dutton, 382 pp., $28) , a dizzying Gothic whodunit that revolves around the Lizzie Borden-esque massacre of the Hope family in 1929. Fifty years later, in the 1980s of Walkmans and Duran Duran, Kit McDeere is hired to care for the only surviving member of the Hope clan.

Kit arrives at Hope’s End — a Gilded Age mansion “wide as a cruise ship” that’s perched precariously atop a Maine cliff — to find a world frozen in time, with the carpets still stained by the blood of the murder victims. When she discovers that the elderly Miss Hope is ready to reveal what really happened all those years ago, and had, in fact, already written a “tell all” for a previous caregiver, all of the elements are in place for a propulsive mystery.

The story, which cuts between Miss Hope’s typed first-person account and Kit’s overly chatty perspective, rests on a high-wire act of deceptions, camouflaged identities and (sometimes convenient) forgetfulness. Sager’s signature breakneck pace, with twists that stretch believability just to the snapping point, will please his many fans.

Zoje Stage’s latest novel, MOTHERED (Thomas & Mercer, 301 pp., $28.99) , opens with Silas, a psychotherapist at a state hospital, pondering his latest patient. Grace has murdered her mother in an incomprehensibly coldblooded fashion, stabbing her 91 times: “The details of her case made it all the more confounding as to how someone so frail had committed an act of such brutality.”

Grace, an out-of-work hairdresser, spends her time online catfishing “young women who would take her advice,” a hobby that gives her a sense of power. When the pandemic strikes, her mother, Jackie, moves into Grace’s Philadelphia home, piercing her daughter’s self-imposed isolation. When Jackie hangs up a photo of Hope, Grace’s dead twin sister, it becomes apparent that a past tragedy is at the heart of their acrimonious mother-daughter relationship.

While the setup is intriguing, and the pandemic-era setting brings a rush of vertiginous PTSD, Stage leaves too much unexplored. Who is Grace? What motivates her? When the police ask why she has murdered her mother, she says, “I had to kill her! She was contagious!” It’s a confession that says everything and nothing at once. Grace remains unfathomable — to the psychotherapist puzzling over her case, and to us.

Danielle Trussoni is the author of five books. Her new novel, “The Puzzle Master,” will be published later this month.

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

Elliot Page’s Memoir: In “Pageboy,” the actor recounts the fears and obstacles to gender transition , and the hard-won happiness that has followed.

An Unusual Collaboration: E. Jean Carroll and Mary Trump are working together on a Substack novel about an American who finds love in Tuscany. There’s no mention of Donald Trump .    

A Surprise Best Seller: Gabrielle Zevin didn’t expect a wide audience for “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow,” her novel about video game developers. Here’s how it became a blockbuster with staying power .

Neil Gaiman: In his stories of horror, humanity and uncomfortable truths, the author is never afraid to go into dark places looking for the light. Here’s where to get started .

How to Be a Better Reader: Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Listen to Our Podcast:  Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review Podcast  to talk about the latest news in the literary world.

best fiction books horror

Truly Terrifying: 24 Must-Read Nonfiction Books for Horror Fans

The truth may be stranger than fiction, but it’s often scarier as well. Don’t believe me? I’ve compiled a list of must-read nonfiction for horror fans that’s sure to change your mind.

We live in frightening times. Terror is the fear of what might be; horror is the fear of what is. To quote The Body Scout author Lincoln Michel , “Terror is the sounds of unknown creatures scratching at the door; horror is seeing your roommate eaten alive by giant rats.” In many ways, then, the nightly news is a horror broadcast.

Horror doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The societal fears that popular horror explores change over time — zombies are popular during economic downturns , for example — but the fact remains that whatever is going on in the real world will wind up mirrored in horror media. That means that, if you want to know where horror comes from, you need to read nonfiction.

The authors of your favorite scary books have spent years ripping story ideas from the headlines. The real-life story of an exorcism at Georgetown University Hospital inspired William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist . Alma Katsu’s The Hunger gives the Donner party’s fate a supernatural cause. The tragic horror of the Sylvia Likens case inspired Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door . I could keep going, but you get the picture.

So let’s dive into the nonfiction books horror fans need to read, from explorations of the genre to real-life horror stories.

a black and white photo of a dilapidated house

Nonfiction About the Horror Genre

Untold Horror by Dave Alexander book cover

Untold Horror by Dave Alexander

This book from Rue Morgue co-owner Dave Alexander compiles his best interviews with the biggest names in horror . Behind-the-scenes insights from Joe Dante ( Gremlins , The Howling ), Ruggero Deodato ( Cannibal Holocaust ), Vincenzo Natali ( Cube , Splice ), George A. Romero ( Night of the Living Dead , Dawn of the Dead ), and more await you here.

the cover of An Illustrated History Of Horror And Science-fiction Films

An Illustrated History of Horror and Science-Fiction Films: The Classic Era, 1895-1967 by Carlos Clarens

First published in 1967, Carlos Clarens’s Illustrated History of Horror and Science-Fiction Films offers an in-depth look into the inspiration, creation, and legacy of your favorite classic horror movies. Complete with full cast and crew lists for more than 300 pictures, this Illustrated History is a must-read for any film buff.

Horror Noire by Robin R. Means Coleman book cover

Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present by Robin R. Means Coleman, PhD

This is the first of two books on this list from film scholar Robin R. Means Coleman, PhD. Initially published in 2011, Horror Noire received a second edition printing in 2023. The book traces more than 100 years of Black actors, writers, and directors’ contributions to horror movie history, as well as the evolving ways Blackness is presented on the big screen.

The Black Guy Dies First cover, showing a Black power fist punching out from a grave

The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar by Robin R. Means Coleman, PhD and Mark H. Harris

Coleman co-authored this nonfiction book about modern Black horror movies with BlackHorrorMovies.com founder Mark H. Harris. Here, Dr. Coleman and Harris explore representation and inclusivity in horror cinema since the 1968 Civil Rights Act. You can read an excerpt here: The Black Character Horror Movie Survival Guide .

the cover of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

Guggenheim Fellow Ruth Franklin digs deep into the life of famed horror writer Shirley Jackson in this multi-award-winning biography. Despite her premature death in 1965 at age 48, Jackson was one of the 20th century’s most prolific horror writers, authoring six novels — including We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House — three memoirs, and dozens of short stories.

Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix book cover

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix

We’re in the midst of a horror renaissance, but horror fiction had its true heyday in the 1970s and ’80s. In Paperbacks from Hell , author Grady Hendrix traces the genre’s 20th century successes, and how publishers sold readers on all things horror for two solid decades.

the cover of Behind the Horror

Behind the Horror: True Stories That Inspired Horror Movies by Dr. Lee Mellor

We’ve already talked about the real-life events that inspired some of your favorite horror novels, including The Exorcist and The Hunger . In Behind the Horror , author Dr. Lee Mellor dives into the headlines behind 21 famous horror movies across nearly 90 years of cinema history, from M: A City Searches for a Murderer to The Lighthouse .

Unquiet Spirits by Lee Murray and Angela Yuriko Smith book cover

Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women in Horror , edited by Lee Murray and Angela Yuriko Smith

American slashers rely on nigh-unstoppable male villains, like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Leatherface. Asian horror, on the other hand, tends to focus on the spirits of wronged and vengeful women — the onryō, the ohaguro-bettari, the cheonyeogwisin. In Unquiet Spirits , 21 Asian women come together to talk about their unique experiences in, and perspectives on, the horror community.

the cover of Nightmare Fuel

Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films by Nina Nesseth

Fear is a negative emotion, so why do we love horror movies so much? Nina Nesseth’s pop-science exploration of our affinity for scary movies sheds some light on how we respond to horror, why we seek it out, and the ways in which it evolves with us as a society.

the cover of The Lady from the Black Lagoon

The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara

Creature from the Black Lagoon premiered in 1954, making the titular Creature the most recent of the Universal Classic Monsters — a line of classic movie villains that includes the Bride of Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and Dracula. You’re undoubtedly familiar with all of the UCMs, but did you know that it was a woman, Milicent Patrick, who designed the Creature? Patrick, who also created Chernabog for the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment of Disney’s Fantasia , was at risk of fading into obscurity when Mallory O’Meara brought her into the spotlight once more, in The Lady from the Black Lagoon .

the cover of Women Make Horror

Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, Feminism, Genre , edited by Alison Peirse

You only need to scroll through this list to see that women’s contributions to horror cinema are routinely overlooked and undervalued. Women Make Horror contains 18 essays on female horror filmmakers, their work, and the myriad representations of women — for better or worse — in scary movies.

the cover of Recreational Terror

Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing by Isabel Cristina Pinedo

In this slim 1997 text, Hunter College’s Isabel Cristina Pinedo examines the roles that race and gender play in horror cinema. At a time when many writers lambasted horror for its frequent juxtaposition of sex and violence, Recreational Terror offered a different perspective: that women could find empowerment in the genre.

Horror by Xavier Aldana Reyes book cover

Horror: A Literary History , edited by Xavier Aldana Reyes

Horror: A Literary History is a 250 year chronology of developments in horror fiction. Here, scholars explore the breadth of this spooky history, from The Castle of Otranto to Harriet Beecher Stowe, Weird Tales , Stephen King, and beyond. This slim but powerful volume belongs on every horror aficionado’s bookshelf.

the cover of It Came from the Closet

It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror by Joe Vallese

Queerness isn’t unique to horror, but horror does share a rather unique relationship with queerness. Horror is about otherness , and few things have been othered more in recent history than queerness. It Came from the Closet collects 25 essays that focus on both queerness in horror films and those movies’ impact on individual queer identities.

Horror Nonfiction

Redhanded cover

RedHanded: An Exploration of Criminals, Cannibals, Cults, and What Makes a Killer Tick by Suruthi Bala and Hannah Maguire

RedHanded podcast co-hosts Suruthi Bala and Hannah Maguire go deep inside our fascination with humanity’s worst specimens here. Why do we care so much about serial killers? Cannibalism? Religious abuse? And, perhaps more importantly, why do some of us choose to harm others for fun? Find out, in RedHanded .

the cover of House of Evil

House of Evil: The Indiana Torture Slaying by John Dean

Nearly 60 years after 16-year-old Sylvia Likens died as the result of three months of abuse at the hands of her foster mother, the case continues to fascinate, largely due to its abject cruelty. The details of Likens’s abuse and death are not for the faint of heart. Jack Ketchum drew inspiration from Likens’s story for his 1989 novel, The Girl Next Door , which was adapted for the screen in 2007.

Book Cover for Tell My Horse

Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston

Voodoo shows up a lot in American horror media. Unfortunately, the depictions audiences may be most familiar with aren’t exactly kind or true-to-life. Based on the author’s experiences as a Voodoo practitioner in 1930s Haiti and Jamaica, Tell My Horse may help to separate fact from fiction in the minds of horror fans and occultists alike.

Book cover of The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II by Iris Chang; photo of a soldier in front of a Japanese flag

The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II by Iris Chang

Iris Chang’s microhistory of the Nanjing Massacre is not for the faint of heart. The Japanese Army’s wartime atrocities in the winter of 1937 and ’38 rival — or perhaps even eclipse — those at the Battle of Berlin and Mỹ Lai. A difficult and eye-opening read, this is not a book you’ll soon forget.

A graphic of the cover of In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Fans know just how inventive an author Carmen Maria Machado is. Her 2019 book, In the Dream House , blends horror with memoir as it unravels the lingering questions regarding her relationship with an abusive, unnamed girlfriend during her time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

the cover of Survival in the Killing Fields

Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor and Roger Warner

Haing Ngor won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Cambodian photojournalist Dith Pran in The Killing Fields . Unlike other actors who worked on the 1984 film, however, Ngor had firsthand experience with Pol Pot’s regime, having survived three imprisonments under the Khmer Rouge. He tells his heartbreaking story in Survival in the Killing Fields .

Ghostland by Edward Parnell book cover

Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country by Edward Parnell

Researching the UK’s haunted places — the landscapes that served as backdrop to classics like The Blood on Satan’s Claw and The Wicker Man — didn’t just help Edward Parnell parse through the recurring nightmare that plagued his young adulthood. It also led to the creation of Ghostland , which examines the UK’s ancient forests, spooky moors, and other natural features that inspired our favorite English ghost stories.

the cover of The Hot Zone

The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus by Richard Preston

When it comes to truly terrifying nonfiction, it’s hard to beat The Hot Zone . The filoviruses — a family that includes the Ebola and Marburg viruses — pose a unique threat to humanity. They have high contagion and mortality rates. We have few vaccines or cures readily available. If you’re already a hypochondriac like yours truly, consider skipping this one.

Dark Archives Book Cover

Dark Archives: A Librarian’s Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin by Megan Rosenbloom

Few things continue to captivate and horrify book lovers quite like anthropodermic bibliopegy. Many libraries across the world claim to hold books bound in human skin, but how many of those are the real article? Librarian Megan Rosenbloom is part of a multidisciplinary team that authenticates these volumes. Read all about the origins of the practice in Dark Archives .

the cover of Rabid

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Disease by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

Did you know that rabies can live in a human body for up to seven years before the carrier becomes symptomatic? If that tidbit alone doesn’t leave you wanting to sleep with the lights on tonight, pick up a copy of Rabies: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Disease , for more nightmarish facts.

In the mood for more horrific nonfiction? Check out this list of nonfiction horror books and The 50 Scariest Books Of All Time , including fiction and nonfiction.

best fiction books horror

best fiction books horror

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The Insatiable Bolt Sisters, Rachel Eve Moulton, Farrar, Straus Giroux, 448 pages, $24

4 horror book recommendations ripe for summer reading

Stephen graham jones’ latest slasher novel, gothic horror from rachel eve moulton, a martian story from nathan ballingrud, and american horror tropes redeployed by johnny compton.

Don’t Fear the Reaper

Stephen Graham Jones

Saga Press, 455 pages, $34.99

With “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” the second in the Indian Lake Trilogy, Stephen Graham Jones establishes himself as the undisputed master of the literary slasher novel. Jones’ freakish knowledge of the 1980s slasher movie sub-genre alone would have earned him the title, but his powers as a storyteller and crafter of believable characters push him to the front ranks of all horror authors working today. Jade Daniels, the sardonic final girl of “My Heart Is a Chainsaw,” returns to Proofrock, Idaho, four years after surviving the Independence Day Massacre. Her arrival, one day before Friday the 13th, coincides with a nearby avalanche that waylays a police convoy carrying a notorious serial killer, “Dark Mill South,” to a maximum-security facility. When Dark Mill South escapes and makes his way to Proofrock, Jade, still a suspect in the first massacre, is forced to rescue the townies again while facing down a lifetime of trauma.

The Insatiable Volt Sisters

Rachel Eve Moulton

Farrar, Straus Giroux, 448 pages, $24

Eleven years after teenage Henrietta Volt and her mother fled their family home on Fowler Island on Lake Erie, Henrietta receives a call from her estranged half-sister Beatrice informing her that their father has passed away. The news comes with a desperate request: for Henrietta to return to Fowler. When Henrietta reluctantly agrees, she is drawn back into the curse that has afflicted generations of Volt women on the island. The shifting timelines and multiple narrators can be confusing at first, but the reader should get acclimatized pretty quickly to this complex updating of many beloved Gothic tropes.

The Strange

Nathan Ballingrud

Saga Press, 290 pages, $36.99

Nathan Ballingrud has gifted us with two of the finest collections of short horror fiction in the last 10 years — “North American Lake Monsters” and “Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell” — so expectations are perhaps preternaturally high for “The Strange,” his first novel. Set in an alternate historical timeline in which Mars was colonized in the late 19th century, “The Strange” transports readers to a Martian settlement in 1931 that had contact with Earth several years earlier. There, 14-year-old Anabelle Crisp embarks on a dangerous journey to retrieve a voice recording of her mother, who left Mars on the last transport ship to Earth. The eerie Martian setting and its feral frontier communities play to all of Ballingrud’s strengths and will evoke feelings of genuine awe and terror. Anabelle is less satisfying as a protagonist; her lack of experience, cockiness and bad decision-making inexplicably inspire loyalty from the novel’s far more interesting secondary cast of desperate frontier men and women. Mars is the real hero of “The Strange,” and it is not easily forgotten.


More book news and reviews, john vaillant’s “fire weather” should make a chill run down your spine, romance books have emerged as a billion-dollar genre. why are so many modern readers falling in love with it.

The Spite House

Johnny Compton

Tor Nightfire, 260 pages, $23.99

Eunice Houghton is an elderly heiress so terrified of a family curse that she offers a six-figure salary to anyone who can prove that a house on her property — the “spite house” of the title — is haunted. What Eunice plans to do with that evidence is irrelevant to Eric Ross, a father of two girls on the run from a recent family tragedy who agrees to move into the spite house. The mysterious residence soon obliges Eric with all the evidence of the supernatural he needs; it also works its malevolent power on his youngest daughter. A satisfying haunted house story that, like so much good American horror fiction, probes the country’s deep historical wounds.

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Book Reviews

'all the sinners bleed' elegantly walks a fine line between horror and crime fiction.

Gabino Iglesias

Cover of All the Sinners Bleed

At once a narrative about a serial killer on the loose, a tale of the lingering effects of racism in the South, a contemplation of religious zealotry, a exploration of trauma, and a love story that bubbles under a lot of fear, blood, and tension, S.A. Cosby's All the Sinners Bleed elegantly walks a fine line between horror and the kind of gritty crime fiction that has catapulted Cosby to crime fiction stardom.

It's a dark, wildly entertaining crime novel with religious undertones — and one that tackles timely issues while never losing itself or sounding preachy.

Titus Crown was born and raised in Charon County, Virginia. He moved away and spent a few years working for the FBI, but eventually returns to take care of his father. He becomes Charon's first Black sheriff — after defeating his crooked predecessor, under whom racism thrived and drugs were allowed to run rampant through the county. As sheriff, Titus must deal with the usual — petty crime, drugs, abusive husbands, and belligerent drunks — and little else. In fact, there have only been two murders in the county in the last few decades. But on the first anniversary of Titus's election, a former student walks into the local school and shoots a beloved teacher in his classroom before being fatally shot by Titus's deputies seconds after hinting about bad things in the teacher's phone.

Titus investigates the murder and soon uncovers evidence that leads to a field full of bodies of children of color. The murdered teacher and the young man who pulled the trigger were involved in some atrocious crimes, and there are videos and photos of all of them. There is also a third masked man in those videos, and he's still out there. As the investigation progresses, things get complicated. The killer apparently has connections to a local church and the bodies had religious messages carved into their flesh, Titus's ex comes to town to interview him for her true crime podcast and shakes the foundations of the sheriff's new relationship, a local far-right group wants to have a parade to celebrate the town's Confederate history, and a secret from Titus's past haunts him at all times. Everyone wears a mask, but as the bodies pile up and the killer taunts him, Titus will have to unmask a lot of people in order to get justice for the killers' young victims and restore the tenuous peace of Charon County.

All the Sinners Bleed is rough, smart, gritty, intricate, and Southern to the core. Cosby understand that thrillers need to thrill in order to work, but he spends a lot of time making sure we feel empathy for his characters and understand the historical context of everything that happens in Charon. This is a story about a town in flux and a sheriff from a small town trying to use everything he learned while working as an FBI agent to track down a serial killer in a place that lacks the resources and technology of a big city. However, it's also a novel that deals with religious zealots railing against "gay marriage, the liberal agenda, and how all lives matter." Yes, this is a novel that acts like a mirror — and that makes it necessary reading. Charon County is a mellow place on the surface, but right underneath that there is a lot of hate, racism, and what Titus calls "putrefaction of the soul." That, in many ways, makes Charon County a place we can find all across the country, and its issues are the same that affect many other places.

While Cosby's deconstruction of small-town America in the South and his critique of racism are great, he also manages to explore the effects of religious zealotry and how it contributes to the perpetuation of the status quo. Some people in Charon effortlessly hold on to their hatred without losing sleep because they belong to a church that supports their ideas. Much like Obama's presidency didn't usher in the "post-racial era" some folks thought it would, Titus becoming sheriff was not the end of Charon's deeply rooted racism, and racism is a disease that impacts everything, including criminal investigations.

Cosby became a New York Times bestselling author and one of the best-known names in the new, wonderfully diverse wave of crime fiction writers with gritty novels like Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears , both of which explored issues like racism and homophobia while bringing the Appalachian experience to the page. All the Sinners Bleed delivers more of the same, but it's also darker and more profound and complex than Cosby's previous work — which makes this his strongest outing yet and should make his fans very excited for whatever he does next.

Gabino Iglesias is an author, book reviewer and professor living in Austin, Texas. Find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias .


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