Warning: A list of all of the very the spookiest books we could even think of lies below…
Horror movies are great. You can watch them with friends, they’ve got the creepy music, and you can watch one start to finish in a couple of hours.
But absolutely nothing beats a spooky book. You’re either reading it alone or out loud (reading out loud is creepy!) and it’s quiet and dark and you can hear every creak of the floorboards and howl of the wind. You’re also totally immersed in the world of the story, and your imagination is in charge of bringing it to life in the eye of your mind. Nothing can scare you quite like your own brain with the assist from a truly good horror novel.
Below, we’ve collected our very favorite scary tales—the ones that have never left our consciousness since we read them, the ones that still make guest appearances in our nightmares. Some are classic tales that have frightened generations of readers and some are new releases that are just getting started, but all of them make our blood curdle and our hands shake.
The Spookiest Horror Novels
From the author of another spine-tingler, Baby Teeth, comes the sophomore novel by Zoje Stage, Wonderland. In it, a young New York City couple and their two kids decide to move to a remote farmhouse and start a new phase of their lives. But it becomes increasingly clear that while they don’t have any neighbors, they aren’t alone in the woods. This is suspenseful, slow-burning literary horror, and it will have you turning all your lights on (and maybe cutting down some trees).
One thing is for sure: you’ve never read a book like this one. At over 700 pages long, and filled with upside down text, footnotes, and appendices, House of Leaves feels more like an investigation than a novel. But how the information about the story is presented is precisely what makes it so spooky and so readable—and what’s given it a cult following over the years. This book is an experience, to say the least, and one that many of its readers claim have given them nightmares on the regular.
If you’re a fan of slasher films but also a book nerd, we have the absolute perfect pick for your spooky season read: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones. The book follows Jade, a horror film aficionado—who might know just what to do when a murderer comes to town. But this isn’t your formulaic horror story, either. It also explores ideas of colonialism, revenge, anger, and race. This one is super dark and gory, so strap in and be prepared.
Published in 1959, this horror classic has retained its popularity over the years for a very good reason: it will scare the crap out of you. With a haunted house at its center and four memorable main characters who enter its bowels, you won’t sleep until you reach the end. And here’s a great bonus: once you’re done, you can watch the 10-part Netflix series that’s based on the story for an extra spooky time.
We knew we wanted to include the undisputed king of horror on the list, but how do you choose from dozens and dozens of books? Easy: we picked the one that scared the pants off of us and that still makes us recoil in terror when we see it on the shelf. This is the story of a sinister cemetery that can bring back the dead—but not in any way that you to bring them back—as well as the story of a man who just wants his son back after a tragic accident. This is just seriously the scariest.
This is one of the scariest releases of the year—it involves a boarded-up house, a black cat, a mysterious little girl and a lot of secrets. There’s a reason this one was released just a few weeks before spooky season, because it is going to scare the heck out of you while also unraveling a mystery at the same time. Stephen King raved about it, and it will leave you raving mad.
This is a new horror classic, and it’s short and fast-paced enough that you can read it in a day or two. It also involves one of our favorite horror tropes: possession by the devil (or something similar, who knows?). This psychological thriller finds the protagonist, Amanda, starting to notice a few strange things happening, some as innocuous as hearing an odd noise in her apartment. But as her life starts to unravel by tiny degrees, she begins to wonder if there aren’t evil forces at work.
Sure, everybody loves a haunted house. But what about a haunted ship? Yes, please. And what if one of the ships involved is the ill-fated Titanic? Double yes. This new horror novel release is making waves, and we are here for it.
This is the mother of all horror novels, famously written by Mary Shelley during a contest with several notable male writers to produce the best monster story. We’re sure that you’re familiar with the story, since it’s basically part of the collective consciousness, but if you haven’t read the original text, can we tell you how amazingly good it is? Don’t miss it. As they say: the book is better.
A classic gothic horror novel set in 1950s Mexico, this new read is destined to be a new classic. This one, too, is centered in an old creaking house and has a mystery at its center that is more sinister and scary than it first seems. It all starts when a woman receives a letter from her newlywed cousin, begging for her to come visit and help her—and from there the creepiness only escalates.
This is the page-turner to end all page-turners—you will stay up all night reading this book, and when the refrigerator clicks on in the next room, you will jump and hit the ceiling. The book opens in a crumbling gothic mansion, where a visitor is introduced to the family that resides there along with its many damp and crumbling rooms. But something isn’t quite right with the place, and soon the protagonist realizes that he might not be alone.
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