With Halloween just around the corner, it’s the best time of year to bury yourself under the covers with a spine-chilling horror novel. Here are ten of the most genuinely terrifying books ever written:
(You didn’t need to sleep anyway…)
1. Barker, Clive – Books of Blood
This collection of 30 short stories established Clive Barker as a rising talent in the horror genre when they were first published, and remain a great introduction to his bloody, twisted mind.
2. Blatty, William Peter – The Exorcist
If you love horror, chances are you’ve seen the classic film version of The Exorcist, which has been terrifying audiences since 1973. What you might not know is that the book is even scarier.
3. Danielewski, Mark – House of Leaves
House of Leaves can’t really be shoe-horned into any single genre, including horror. It’s a strange book written in an experimental style that some readers find difficult or off-putting. However difficult it may be to define, however, one thing it most assuredly is, is terrifying.
4. Jackson, Shirley – The Haunting of Hill House
An oldie but a goodie, The Haunting of Hill House has been terrifying readers for more than 50 years and is widely considered the best haunted house novel ever written.
5. Ketchum, Jack – The Girl Next Door
One of the most terrifying and disturbing books you will ever read, The Girl Next Door takes you deep into the heart and mind of real-life evil. Yes, this novel was based on the true story of 16 year old Sylvia Likens, who was tortured and murdered by Gertrude Baniszewski, her children, and several neighborhood youth over the course of several months.
6. King, Stephen – It
Stephen King is one of the grand masters of horror fiction, and it would have been easy to fill this whole list with his works alone. In the interest of diversity, however, we thought it would be best to stick with one book per author, and our vote for King’s scariest novel goes to It. Other top choices if you want the sh*t scared out of you include The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot, and Pet Sematary.
7. Lindqvist, John Ajvide – Let the Right One In
This book has been made into not one, but two different movies and though they’re both good (and the Swedish one is outstanding), neither matches the terror and brutality of the book. See our suggestions for vampire books for adults for more on this book and its films.
8. Matheson, Richard – Hell House
Like Jackson and King, Matheson is a legend of the horror genre and Hell House is another of the most terrifying haunted house novels ever written. (You should also know that his most famous work, I Am Legend, is much scarier than the movie.)
9. Smith, Scott – The Ruins
A sunny Mexican vacation turns into a nightmare for a group of friends in this visceral and bone-chilling novel.
10. Straub, Peter – Ghost Story
The past returns with a vengeance in this slow burning classic ghost story.
What was the most terrifying book you’ve ever read? Please share in comments!
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