The 56 Best Horror Books of All Time
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The best horror books
From bestselling fiction books, mystery books and fantasy books to classic books, vampire books and true-crime books, there are plenty of fantastic reads to keep you on the edge of your seat. But is there anything more suspenseful than a nightmarish novel that makes you too scared to turn off the lights? Some folks love to read horror books because of the adrenaline rush. Others enjoy the mental release of feeling all the feels—terror, disgust, rage and more. Either way, the best horror stories reel you in and take you for a terrifying roller-coaster ride. Some are also grounded in reality, familiar enough to make the reader wonder, What if …
Whether you’re a horror fanatic or jumping into the genre for the first time, we have the perfect books for you. By scouring the library and bestseller lists for horror books beloved by critics and readers, we’ve pulled together a list that includes some of the best books of all time and new releases too. You’ll find the best Stephen King books here, of course, as well as other novels that have been made into our favorite scary movies.
But consider yourself warned: You’ll be thinking about these scary stories long after you’ve finished them—and probably looking over your shoulder!
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1. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (1975)
If you’re looking for a book you won’t be able to put down, reach for Salem’s Lot, one of the earliest books written by Stephen King. This story of a small town overrun by vampires is deliciously chilling. As residents experience a growing list of strange encounters and start putting the pieces together, you’ll feel yourself tensing up in anticipation of the final reveal and confrontation. Sometimes slow burns make the best horror books!
2. Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman (2011)
In 1935, a professor fleeing scandal moves with his wife to a family home in Georgia, located near the ruins of a plantation that his ancestors owned. Every month, in a strange, sacrificial ritual, the townspeople adorn two pigs with flower garlands and send them across the river. The animals never return. What, exactly, is consuming them? And what will happen when the residents stop sending pigs? This supernatural-inflected Southern Gothic illustrates the price we pay for the sins of the past, and is one of the best books to read on Halloween and beyond.
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3. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)
The reason The Exorcist was made into one of the scariest movies of all time is that it was one of the scariest novels of all time. It follows the demonic possession of an 11-year-old girl named Regan. Descriptions of the child’s erratic behavior, which includes spitting and screaming obscenities, build to a crescendo as her mother desperately hunts for an exorcist. If you’ve seen the classic movie adaptation, you have an idea of just how scary this situation gets … but the book is arguably even more terrifying.
4. The Ruins by Scott Smith (2006)
In this novel by Scott Smith, a group of young, happy-go-lucky travelers in the Mexican jungle stumble upon the site of ancient ruins—and ancient evil. When one of the friends goes into the jungle alone and subsequently disappears, the others form a search party. But this is no ordinary jungle. And if you think that a botanical kingdom can’t be turned into a source of fear, well, you haven’t read this special brand of survivalist horror. Not sure what you’re in the mood to read? Pick a book based on your zodiac sign.
5. White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (2009)
In a spooky house near the cliffs of Dover, the Silver family is grieving. Matriarch Lily has died, leaving twins Miranda and Eliot to keep the family and labyrinthine house from collapsing. But something strange has overtaken Miranda. She starts suffering from unfamiliar illnesses, eats chalk and turns inward as her family looks on helplessly. This spine-tingling Gothic tale seamlessly weaves together ghosts, dark family secrets and the way a fear of outsiders can take over when a family becomes an echo chamber. This is one of the books by female authors that will stay with you long after you finish it.
6. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)
Here’s another of the scariest horror books that has been made into a movie—and a successful Netflix series. If you loved those, you’ll be pleased to know the book is even better. (Isn’t it always?) Here’s what happens: A quirky researcher gathers together a bunch of strangers in a haunted house. They’re meant to record supernatural stirrings, but they’re soon swept away by the nightmarish sights and sounds in the house. Will anyone make it out alive?
7. It by Stephen King (1986)
It should come as no surprise that Stephen King shows up on this list of the top horror books more than once. He is, after all, the reigning king of terror. This novel taps into a pretty pervasive phobia: clowns. Pennywise, the killer clown, dwells in the sewers of Derry, Maine, and he preys upon the young residents of the town by shapeshifting into their deepest fears. The group of kids (the so-called Losers Club) must band together to defeat him.
8. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962)
The premise of Something Wicked This Way Comes—two young boys meet the malevolent, wish-granting Mr. Dark at a carnival—is pure Ray Bradbury. It may not be his best-known book, but it just might be the best of his horror books. Through the turbulent, colorful setting of a traveling carnival, the author drags you through the boys’ and townspeople’s greatest fears. If you’re creeped out by halls of mirrors, dark corners and sinister figures masquerading as carnies, this book will terrify you. To keep the scares coming, sign up for a book subscription box based on your reading preferences.
9. The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager (2022)
Isolated cabins and lake houses make the perfect setting for horror novels, and the Vermont vacation home in The House Across the Lake is no exception. After widowed actress Casey Fletcher escapes to the countryside to recalibrate, she develops a penchant for peeping on her neighbors through a pair of binoculars. The more time she spends watching, the clearer it becomes that the high-society couple’s life is not as perfect as it seems. When one of them mysteriously disappears, Casey dives into a story where she doesn’t belong—one where dark, twisted secrets lurk below the surface and a murderer might be on the loose. You’ll definitely want to add this book to your summer reading list.
10. The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (1994)
This nonfiction book recounts the evolution of the Ebola virus, including how it began, spread like wildfire and laid bare health-care vulnerabilities. Though a Contagion-like story would be entertaining as fiction, it’s even scarier knowing the virus is real—and that it came very close to enveloping the United States. In the age of COVID-19, a fast-paced nonfiction story about a virus certainly classifies as horror.
11. Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh (2022)
Fancy a read on the supernatural side? Called “a relentless gore fest” by New Republic, this dark story of a medieval village grappling with ancient forces of life and death is one of the best horror books of the year. It’s about a young shepherd boy whose mother died in childbirth. Growing up, he learned to navigate a cruel culture of cannibalism, self-flagellation and threats by powerful men. Lapvona‘s chilling look at life in the middle ages will haunt you well after the last page. Thinking of starting a book club? This new release would make a perfect first read.
12. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002)
This book contains perhaps the scariest idea of all: a dark villain who takes the shape of someone you love and trust. Young Coraline stumbles into an alternate reality where familiar things turn dark and scary, and someone who looks like her own mother—but with creepy buttons for eyes—rules the roost. Though Coraline is geared toward readers ages 8 to 12, you may want to avoid giving it to those who scare easily and instead give them one of these Halloween books for kids.
13. The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon (2022)
New York Times bestselling author Jennifer McMahon delivers a deliciously creepy horror book with The Children on the Hill. Told in dual timelines, the story centers on a Vermont psychiatric facility. In the 1970s, renowned doctor Helen adopts a feral child who learns to hunt monsters. Later, in 2019, monster aficionado and podcast host Lizzy travels back to Vermont to investigate a kidnapping and becomes involved in a monster hunt that feels extremely personal. The author’s deep dive into themes of monsters and mental illness makes this a fascinating and chilling read.
14. The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas (2022)
The Hacienda is a classic Gothic ghost story that might be one of the scariest books of all time. When Beatriz is offered the chance to marry handsome, rich Don Rodolfo Solórzano, she jumps at the chance. She moves to his family’s grand estate, while her new husband works in the capital. But Beatriz soon begins to hear voices and feel eyes watching her every move, and she turns to a local priest who promises a transformative exorcism.
15. Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons (1989)
Carrion Comfort is “one of the three greatest horror novels of the 20th century,” according to the master of horror himself, Stephen King. The villains here represent an intriguing twist on a familiar antagonist: They’re “mind vampires” who, instead of feasting on humans, can inhabit victims’ minds and manipulate them into doing the unspeakable. The book follows psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Dr. Saul Laski on a quest to track down these evil henchmen. One word of warning: This blend of horror and historical fiction includes some potentially triggering racist language and situations.
16. Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier (2016)
On Vanessa Castro’s first day as police chief in Seaside, she is faced with the mystery of a rotting corpse inside Wonderland, an old-fashioned amusement park. Soon enough, a young amusement park employee goes missing, and the hunt is on for the killer. The suspense in Wonderland builds as Vanessa’s sleuthing takes her around the clown museum, wax replicas and antique porcelain dolls—and finally, the chilling House of Horrors.
17. Doing Harm by Kelly Parsons (2014)
People die in hospitals all the time. So there’s no better place to cover up a murder—especially if the psychopathic killer is a staff member. Kelly Parsons’s riveting medical horror story follows Steve Mitchell, a young, ambitious surgeon on the cusp of a career-making promotion. But when patients start dropping like flies and Steve falls under a cloud of suspicion, the surgeon must find a way to uncover the murderer without putting himself in the crosshairs. If you’ve ever thought going to the hospital was scary, Doing Harm will make you jump out of your skin.
18. The Resting Place by Camilla Sten (2022)
There are two types of horror books: slow, suspenseful burns and action-packed, gory thrillers. The Resting Place is the former. Eleanor, a young woman with prosopagnosia (an inability to recognize faces), has recently inherited a sprawling mansion in the woods. She’s also recently brushed shoulders with her benefactor’s killer—if only she could remember the person’s face. As Eleanor and her boyfriend settle in, they begin to feel disturbances in the air. What have they awoken, and how does it relate to the murder? This one feels chillingly close to a true crime book because the horror feels so realistic—and maybe a little too close to home.
19. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)
One of Toni Morrison’s most influential works, Beloved takes place in Ohio after the Civil War and follows Sethe, an escaped slave who has lost her husband and child. Years after her escape, Sethe is still plagued by the horrors she endured. In a chilling twist, she’s also haunted by her deceased baby, whom she must eventually confront in a terrifying blur that will have you questioning what’s real and what’s not. Here are more books by Black authors you won’t want to miss.
20. The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (1957)
Aliens invading earth? We can fight them with every weapon at our disposal. Aliens inside our children? That’s a trickier problem—and the premise of the sci-fi horror book The Midwich Cuckoos. The golden-eyed, hyper-intelligent kids who communicate by telepathy rank among the greatest (and spookiest) villains of all time, and humanity’s race to extinguish the aliens among them gets seriously ghoulish. Fun fact: The 1960 film Village of the Damned was based on this book.
21. The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker (2022)
Artist Sylvia Wren has lived under a false identity for years. It’s her way of distancing herself from her family and their tragic deaths. But when a nosy journalist comes knocking, she’s confronted with her demons and an opportunity to untangle the mess once and for all. The Cherry Robbers is a mash-up of historical fiction, Gothic horror and good, old-fashioned suspense. Fans of dystopian books will gobble this up in one sitting.
22. Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories, selected by Roald Dahl (1983)
Roald Dahl, the spinner of so many off-center tales for young readers, claimed that he pored through 749 short stories at the British Museum Library before selecting the 14 featured in this anthology. His main criterion for inclusion was that the story “should give you the creeps and disturb your thoughts.” This spooktastic collection makes for perfect reading aloud around the campfire, curling up on Halloween or any good reading session on a dark and stormy night.
23. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
This book is a prime example of how an atmospheric setting can enhance suspense and fear. An isolated mansion by the sea, an evil housekeeper and an absentee husband? What a fantastic setup. In Rebecca, a young bride sent to her new family estate hears rumors that her husband might be responsible for the death of his first wife. As her suspicions grow, her senses heighten, and the lines blur between reality and imagination.
24. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (2003)
This novel is terrifying for any parent, anyone considering becoming a parent or anyone who knows a teen. Eva never dreamed of becoming a mother, but she concedes to her partner’s wishes. And once she gives birth to their son, she regrets it almost immediately. Kevin is odd. Shrewd. Manipulative. And that’s before he murders seven of his classmates just before his 16th birthday. Eva’s rage, guilt and fear leap from the pages as she processes how a child can grow into a stranger capable of perpetrating terrifying wrongs.
25. Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid (2022)
Here’s one for those who love their scary books brimming with monsters and witches. Juniper & Thorn centers on the city of Oblya, where magic is fading. But Marlinchen and her sisters, who live under the thumb of their wizard father, still make a pretty penny dealing in the supernatural. When the girls’ sneaky forays into the city start to make waves, an ancient and bloodthirsty power awakens. Can Marlinchen use her family’s powers to face this formidable foe and save her town from destruction?
26. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (1911)
Perhaps you read this classic book in high school and hated it. That’s probably because you were too young to understand the horror fully. Read it now that you’re an adult, and you’ll understand why it earned a spot on the list of scariest horror books. The unnerving love affair between farmer Ethan and his wife’s cousin highlights the everyday horrors of ill-fated love triangles, lustful obsession and romantic tragedies. It’s a melancholy horror novel that you won’t be able to get out of your head.
27. Minion by L.A. Banks (2003)
Here’s a dark twist on the vampire genre for all the Twilight lovers out there. Damali Richards is a successful spoken-word artist during the day and a vampire hunter at night. After an alarming number of murders occur in her city, Damali realizes she’ll have to fight the most powerful vampire she has ever seen. If you love this book, you’re in luck: Minion is the first book in a 12-part series.
28. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
There’s a reason Frankenstein has stood the test of time: The tale of a mad doctor and his creation will grip you differently each time you read it. Ultimately, the plot begs the question: What could go wrong when a human plays God? A Gothic horror, romantic tragedy and philosophical musing all in one, this classic by Mary Shelley definitely deserves a read, or reread.
29. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
In this favorite of English teachers everywhere, a plane crash leaves a group of schoolboys stranded on a deserted island. At first, they celebrate their newfound freedom, but eventually, they find themselves embroiled in a terrifying and violent war of their own making. Lord of the Flies is a frightening book because it suggests that no matter how “civilized” we believe we are, it might only take a bit of time and isolation to bring out our inner monsters.
30. Dawn by Octavia E. Butler (1987)
Science-fiction pioneer Octavia E. Butler kicks off her haunting Xenogenesis series with Dawn. In a post-apocalyptic world, aliens have kidnapped the last remaining humans. They don’t want to hurt the humans. Instead, they want to study them and genetically merge with them to repopulate earth. But is that even worse? Told through the eyes of Lilith, a human widow awakened hundreds of years after earth’s destruction, this story of forced reproduction, half-alien children and a devastated planet will unsettle you for months to come.
31. Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (2014)
Modern-day horror master Grady Hendrix provides a contemporary twist on the familiar haunted-house motif: Instead of a creepy old mansion, the hauntings take place in an Ikea-like furniture store. To get to the bottom of the unexplained destruction that’s been greeting shoppers every morning, three employees volunteer to take overnight shifts. Naturally, horror ensues. This one might sound a little cheesy, but once you’ve plunged into the story, you might find yourself reluctant to reenter your local Ikea.
32. The Hunger by Alma Katsu (2018)
In this reimagining of a real-life, 19th-century mystery, arguments and the strange death of a little boy have driven the Donner Party to madness. They can’t seem to escape tragedy and the feeling that someone (or something) is watching them. As the group of survivors struggles through blood-boiling hot days and stark, snowy nights, their terror grows … and their numbers shrink. What ravenous evil lurks in these mountains, and who will disappear next? This horror book seamlessly combines psychological terror and historical fiction.
33. The Other by Thomas Tryon (1971)
Do you know the classic horror trope of the evil twin? Blame it on The Other. Twins Holland and Niles have opposite personalities, but that doesn’t stop them from telepathically communicating. But after the passing of their father, Holland’s pranks escalate into dangerous territory. It’s up to Niles to get through to his brother and discover the root cause of the issue. Of course that’s easier said than done. This formidable psychological thriller explores the disturbing darkness that could live within us.
34. Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (2017)
A mysterious virus makes all animal meat poisonous to humans. In desperation, the government makes cannibalism legal. Some are sent to “special meat” processing plants, while others—like a man named Marcos—must keep the supply chain intact despite their own questions and misgivings. If you’re a fan of dystopian fiction, this speculative horror story should be on your must-read list.
35. The Shining by Stephen King (1977)
No list of the best horror books is complete without The Shining. Jack Torrance is a middle-aged writer in search of inspiration, and landing a job as the winter caretaker of the historic Overlook Hotel seems like the perfect way to spend time brainstorming. But as snow and temperatures fall, the grand hotel feels more like a prison than an oasis. His imagination runs wild at every creak and whistle of the wind, and no, that’s not a good thing, especially for his wife and 5-year-old son.
36. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson (1977)
The Lutz family has finally moved into their new home on Long Island. Sure, they knew a series of murders had occurred in that house, but the price was too good to pass up. Over the next 28 days, the family experiences enough paranormal mischief to make them pack up and leave in a frenzy. But what makes it so scary is perhaps the way it’s told from multiple viewpoints. Readers get an interview with the family, a report from an investigator and a narrative from a priest afflicted by illness after he tries to exorcise the house. In case you didn’t know, The Amityville Horror was also based on real-life events. There’s definitely no shortage of things to talk about with horror books, but these book club questions will focus your conversations.
37. Ring by Koji Suzuki (1991)
In this terrifying Japanese mystery that spawned an equally terrifying movie, an enigmatic video warns watchers that they will die in exactly one week unless they follow specific instructions. The video ends abruptly, seemingly taped over by an advertisement. After four teenagers die post-viewing, journalist Kazuyuki Asakawa sets out to investigate what actually happened. But can he watch the tape and solve the mystery before a week has passed?
38. The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (2021)
The “final girl” is the last woman standing at the end of a slasher movie. (Think Laurie Strode in the Halloween franchise.) But what happens to these women when the film is over? According to Grady Hendrix’s latest novel, survivors go to therapy to cope with their respective horrors—until one of them stops showing up. This delightful new horror book weaves a suspenseful tale of nerve-wracking thrills and grisly terror as the remaining girls band together to face their mysterious common enemy.
39. Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine (2017)
In Stillhouse Lake, Gina and her family live an average life until the aftermath of a car accident sheds light on a shocking secret: Her husband is a serial killer. To escape public scrutiny, Gina gathers her two children and heads to a secluded lake house. But then a body is found in the lake, and threatening letters arrive in the mail. Gina must fend off police suspicion and untangle a dark web of family secrets before the murderer gets to her and her children. If you need a slight break from the outright scares, try these cozy mysteries instead.
40. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (2020)
It’s 1982, and Viv Delaney desperately wants to move to New York City. To save up her pennies, she snags a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel. Then one night, Viv vanishes. Poof. No body, no trail. Fast-forward to 2017. Viv’s niece, Carly Kirk, heads to the motel, determined to find out what happened to her aunt all those years ago. That’s when all paranormal hell breaks loose. Fans of The Twilight Zone and Hitchcock noir, The Sun Down Motel is the perfect shudder-inducing horror read for you.
41. The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup (2018)
A psychopath known as Chestnut Man is causing chaos in Copenhagen. His trademark post-murder clue is a handmade doll built from matchsticks and chestnuts. When a forensics team discovers the fingerprint of a long-dead girl on one of the dolls, two detectives forge an unlikely partnership to solve the case. While The Chestnut Man sounds like a straightforward police procedural, it takes the horror up a notch with gripping descriptions, incredibly dark scenes and plenty of gory twists and turns.
42. Bird Box by Josh Malerman (2014)
You may have caught the Netflix adaptation, but Bird Box is definitely worth a read. Malorie is one of the sole survivors after a mysterious creature took over the world. Every time someone looks at this monster, they are driven to deadly violence. To escape the madness and bring her children to safety, Malorie blindfolds herself and sets out on a 20-mile rowboat journey. Through masterful descriptions, Josh Malerman reminds us that what’s left unseen can be just as horrific as a gruesome play-by-play.
43. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager (2019)
At the beginning of Lock Every Door, Jules is ready for a new beginning. Heartbroken and just plain broke, she takes on an apartment-sitting position at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most sophisticated buildings. The rich, the famous, the dark and mysterious live here—but as a lowly sitter, Jules has been instructed to remain utterly invisible to them. But when she learns that the Bartholomew has a history of disappearing apartment sitters, Jules starts to investigate the building’s sordid past. Can she make friends and pinpoint her enemies before she becomes the next victim?
44. Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky (2019)
Kate and her son, Christopher, are on the run from Kate’s abusive boyfriend. But not long after settling into a new town, Christopher goes missing. A few days later, he comes out of the woods, claiming he hears voices in his head. Though Kate seeks psychiatric help, nothing seems to calm Christopher, and soon, the feverish imaginings and mysterious voices transfer to other people in town. Kate and her new beau, the town sheriff, are up against the clock and their neighbors to get to the bottom of the forest-borne curse. Creepy would be an understatement for this one. Another way to find great reads? Check out these book recommendations based on your favorite TV shows.
45. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
Dracula is the vampire book that has defined all vampire books. A solicitor named Jonathan Harker takes a business trip to a foreboding castle in Transylvania. Despite being warned about Count Dracula’s strange appetites, Jonathan trudges to meet the nobleman. Surely you can guess what dreaded deeds unfold next.
46. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2020)
In Mexican Gothic, Noemí Taboada is summoned to the Mexican countryside to comfort her newlywed cousin, who seems beside herself with anxiety. Once Noemí arrives, she can see why: The new husband and his father are foreboding, threatening figures, and the house itself seems to cause bloody nightmares. As the women band together to uncover the strange family’s secrets, they discover a heritage of violence and madness. Can they escape this wretched place before it entraps them forever? Next, check out more recent books by Latinx authors.
47. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)
A young lawyer named Arthur Kipps travels to the English countryside to settle a dead widow’s affairs. The case should be open and shut, but the townsfolk act awfully edgy when Arthur arrives. At the widow’s funeral, Arthur can’t help but notice a gaunt woman dressed in black from head to toe. The situation gets stranger when no one else remembers seeing her. Back at the estate, Arthur catches glimpses of the woman again. Could the house be haunted, or are the locals messing with the lawyer’s head? This creepy horror story has all the classic elements: a dark house, mysterious strangers and a possible ghost.
48. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (1979)
In The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter takes on classic fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and retells them with hair-raising panache. The short-story collection makes a perfect bedside companion in dark and dismal October or any of the chilling winter months. Full of dark magic, sexually explicit horror and languid, Gothic descriptions, the yarns have been transformed from children’s tales to adult bedtime stories.
49. The Bad Seed by William March (1954)
For years, Rhonda’s mother, Christine, thought her daughter was the epitome of innocence. But then a neighbor suffers a series of accidents. Wherever Rhonda is, terrible things seem to follow. Christine is a good mom from a good family. Could it be possible that she gave birth to a very, very bad child? Though these questions and themes are no longer new to horror literature, they were groundbreaking when William March wrote this horror classic in 1954. Of course, Rhonda—and the possibility of a Rhonda being born into your own family—is still terrifying enough to make your stomach turn.
50. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (1989)
Don’t let the title fool you. This is no romance novel. It’s also not your traditional Gothic horror story. The Binewskis are a circus family that has raised a crew full of oddities with the help of some notable drugs. When the family takes its act across the country, their bizarre, nightmarish habits are put on full display … along with their decidedly human sibling rivalries and family drama. Geek Love is one of the best horror novels for fans of American Horror Story. Here are some more drama book recommendations to add to your reading list.
51. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)
This international bestseller has been categorized as horror, psychological thriller, dark comedy and even satire. What’s so scary about a New York City investment banker in the 1980s? Well, he’s also a serial killer, for starters. This twisted, first-person narrative of a man giving into his every tortuous whim has become a modern horror classic for its glaring look at what a completely disconnected human being is capable of.
52. Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo (2021)
Published in 2021, Summer Sons mixes horror and LGBTQ+ themes. Andrew and Eddie are two best friends who did everything together. When Eddie goes off to graduate school, he dies by presumed suicide. But Andrew suspects foul play. When he starts digging into the mystery, he realizes that he might not have known Eddie as well as he thought—and that the frightening vision of a spirit with bleeding wrists might not be all in his head.
53. Horrid by Katrina Leno (2020)
After the death of her father, Jane and her mother move from sunny California to chilly Maine. To cope with bullying at school and her mother’s isolating grief, Jane turns to reading and replaying old memories of her dad. One day, she finds the “storage room” unlocked. That’s when she realizes the room isn’t as utilitarian as her mother has described. It’s a young girl’s bedroom, perfectly set up as though someone is still living there. Could her mother be going mad with grief? Or is there someone else living in the house? This twisted psychological thriller explores grief and mental illness to create a particularly haunting horror story.
54. The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (2020)
The Only Good Indians begins when hunter Richard “Ricky” Boss Ribs steps outside to pee. An angry herd of elk later, Ricky is found dead. The book, which is set on a Blackfoot reservation, blends Blackfoot legends and modern-day reality to tell twin tales of four men haunted by vengeful elk and a group of people caught between the cultures and traditions of their families and the world they left behind. Just be aware: Like many horror books, this one offers its fair share of hair-raising gore and violence—to both people and animals.
55. The Outsider by Stephen King (2018)
No one ever imagined that Little League coach Terry Maitland could kill anyone, especially a child. But he was the only one traced back to the crime scene, so he is eventually convicted of murder. As Terry continues to maintain his innocence, detective Ralph Anderson also begins doubting the conviction. But if it wasn’t Terry, who was it? The investigation leads the men to a trail of death and destruction that goes far beyond the murder of one young boy. In classic Stephen King form, The Outsider grows more and more monstrous with each new clue.
56. Ghost Story by Peter Straub (1979)
In upstate New York, four older men reunite to tell ghost stories. But the most terrorizing tale is their shared history, the story they lived together long ago. Sorry, no spoilers here, but let’s just say that if you’re a fan of layered horror stories that build tension until you’re practically ripping the pages to get to the next scene, this cryptic murder mystery is for you. Now that you’ve had your fill of good horror books, what should you read next? Try these banned books that have been in the news lately.
Additional reporting by Daryl Chen and Emma Taubenfeld.