For some, horror is a genre built on tropes and conventions: blighted houses and monstrous secrets, men in masks and women in white nightgowns. Others are influenced by the atmosphere and tone.
Horror books have been a part of the literary world for many years, but it appears that horror has been on the rise in recent years. Finally, perhaps people realize how satisfying it is to immerse themselves in a scary story, feel the rush of adrenaline, close the book, turn off the movie, or walk away from that haunted house at the end.
We've compiled a list of the best horror books to help you on your spine-chilling journey. So, we hope you find some of your favorites here and discover some new books to add to your list. What were our standards? Keep reading to find out.
Wilkie Collins' fifth published novel, The Woman in White, was written in 1859 and is set between 1849 and 1850. It is a mystery novel that falls into the category of "sensation novels."
With protagonist Walter Hartright employing many of the sleuthing techniques of later private detectives, the story can be seen as an early example of detective fiction. In addition, Collins' legal training is evident in using multiple narrators (including nearly all of the main characters). As he stated in his preamble: "the story here presented will be told by more than one pen, just as the story of an offence against the laws is told in Court by more than one witness."
Collins also drew inspiration from his father, the artist William Collins, in the creation of drawing master Walter Hartright and populates his story with several Italian characters, most likely inspired by two years spent in Italy as a child.
So, if you're looking for a trip to the past and love female-lead books, check this out.
The Shining By Stephen King
Jack Torrance, a failing writer and recovering alcoholic, stays in the infamous Overlook Hotel with his wife Wendy and their young son Danny during a cold winter. While there, Jack develops cabin fever like it's no big deal. Have you read the book upon which the film adaptation of Jack, featuring a deranged Jack Nicholson, was based? If not, do, advise its many supporters. The Middleburg Heights Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio's Ron Block comments, "It's the classic 'book was better than the movie' conversation starter. It's the first book I've ever thrown across the room out of fear, he continues.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
One of the most well-known ghost stories in modern history, written by a master of the genre, Jackson's genuinely terrifying tale gave rise to two feature films and a popular Netflix series in 2018. Four researchers are staying in a supposedly haunted ancient mansion to find out if the legends are true; nevertheless, when one of them starts to feel the home's desire to be its own, the situation turns horrifying. As a "great ghost story and one that everyone should read at some point in their life," according to Rachel Conrad, a bookseller at Wellesley Books in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
The Turn Of The Screw By Henry James
In a distant rural home called Bly Manor that seems to be plagued by eerie happenings and ghastly animals, a young woman serves as the governess for two unsettlingly fearless and unmistakably weird children named Miles and Flora. The Portrait of a Lady author Henry James initially published this classic Gothic story as a serial in Collier's magazine in 1898. It has stood the test of time. Block recalls, "It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up." It hits all the right notes, including eerie apparitions, children who act strangely, enigmatic caregivers, and a plot that leaves you shaken.
Pet Sematary- Stephen King
Possibly Stephen King's most spooky book to date is this one. Everything about the Creed family's move into a gorgeous old house in rural Maine seems too perfect to be true: a doctor father, a stunning wife, a lovely young daughter, a cute baby son, and now an amazing home. They have all they need as a family, even the amiable cat. However, the neighboring forests conceal a horrifying truth that is both hideously stronger and more dreadful than death itself. The Creeds will discover that sometimes being dead is preferable.
Stephen King wrote the horror book Pet Sematary, released in 1983. The Creed family is followed in the novel when they relocate from Chicago to a remote area of Maine and find a pet cemetery that serves as a portal to the undead. According to King, the book is about "the things we do for love" and was inspired by the passing of his cat.
A 1989 movie based on the book, directed by Mary Lambert, and a 2019 remake, helmed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, were both adaptations of the book.
Frankenstein By Mary Shelly
Mary Shelley's work "Frankenstein" or "The Modern Prometheus," which she wrote in 1816 when she was nineteen years old, chillingly depicted the dangerous potential of life created on a laboratory bench. Frankenstein is still one of the best horror stories ever written and considered a masterpiece of its genre. It is a terrifying creation myth for our day.
Salems' Lot By Stephen King
Even though this scary story is only King's second book, it is as terrifying as any of his other classics. We meet author Ben Mears, who goes back to the little Maine town where he was raised to research the past of a particularly unsettling home currently owned by Kurt Barlow, a particular individual who turns out to be an old vampire. The fear gradually spreads after another little boy turns into a vampire. According to Klinger-Horne, the book will "keep you up all night and looking over your shoulder in the day."
The Exorcist- William Peter Blatty
William Peter Blatty wrote a book titled The Exorcist, which was initially released in 1971. It is a supernatural horror story about priests who try to expel a demon that has taken control of a young girl. A mother in despair and two priests battle to save a young girl's soul from a strong supernatural force purely malevolent and evil. Blatty's masterpiece of unrelenting chills, which is widely regarded as the most terrifying book ever written and is an extraordinary classic work of faith and dark paranormal suspense, served as the inspiration for the acclaimed Academy Award-nominated film directed by William Friedkin and starring Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, and Max Von Sydow.
In 1973, Linda Blair starred in a blockbuster film adaptation of the book. The film received two wins for Best Sound Mixing and Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium out of its ten Academy Award nominations, which included Best Picture. It is regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever produced.
The Woman In Black by Susan Hill
A rocking chair, a child's cry that breaks through the fog, and, of course, the enigmatic Woman in Black are all characteristics of this haunted house located in a small English village. To administer Alice Drablow's estate, attorney Arthur Kipps visits her home. While there, he encounters a ghostly woman whose presence foretells the impending death of a child. Pamela Klinger-Horne of Excelsior Bay Booksellers in Excelsior, Minnesota, suggests this chilling ghost story became a popular play in London and a 2012 film starring Daniel Radcliffe. She considers it "a conventional Gothic tale that will make you keep all the lights on."
Dracula- Bram Stoker
A young English barrister finds himself amid a string of terrifying events while on a business trip to Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania. Three phantom ladies attack Jonathan Harker, he witnesses the Count change into a bat, and he finds puncture wounds on his neck that appear to have been caused by teeth. After escaping from Dracula's ominous castle, Harker returns home, but a friend's unusual illness—which includes sleepwalking, unexplained blood loss, and mysterious throat wounds—starts a maddening vampire hunt.
Bram Stoker wrote the book Dracula, which was first released in 1897. It describes Count Dracula's attempt to go from Transylvania to England to seek out new blood and spread the curse of the undead, as well as the conflict between Dracula and a small band of individuals under the leadership of Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
Rosemary's Baby, By Ira Levin
Guy, a struggling actor, and Rosemary Woodhouse go to an aging New York City apartment complex with predominantly senior citizens as residents. Roman and Minnie Castevet, the Woodhouses' new neighbors, quickly drop by to say hello. Despite Rosemary's worries about their eccentricity and the strange noises she keeps hearing, her husband takes a particular liking to them. Rosemary falls pregnant soon after Guy lands a prestigious Broadway role, and the Castavets begin showing particular concern for her welfare. The sick Rosemary feels increasingly alone, and she starts to wonder if the Castavets' circle is really what it seems.
The best! Due to her nosy, spooky neighbours and her ambitious actor husband, a young woman fears that the child she expects may very well be the progeny of Satan. And it was turned into a great cult classic.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Anne Rice wrote a book titled Interview with the Vampire, released in 1976. The book's protagonist is a vampire named Lestat, who decides to turn into a vampire hunter when he becomes tired of being immortal. Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise starred in the 1994 movie adaptation of the book.
Carrie By Stephen King
Yes, it's another Stephen book on this piece. But they're all worth it. Stephen King wrote the book Carrie, which was initially released in 1974. It depicts the tale of a young girl with telekinetic abilities who her mother persecutes at home and by religious fanatics and her classmates at school. The book was successfully adapted into a film in 1976 and a remake in 2013.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
A young family moves into a modest house on Ash Tree Lane, where they soon realize a serious problem: the inside of the house is larger than the outside. Their two young children started wandering off, and their voices eerily started to return to another story—of creature darkness, an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and that unholy growl that would soon enough tear through their walls and consume all their dreams. A young family moves into a house that is anything but a home in an unorthodox best-selling debut novel. They soon learn that a ferocious, growling presence is getting closer and closer, in addition to the fact that their home is larger inside than out. Do you have goosebumps yet?
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The program is about to start. A little after midnight, the carnival arrives, bringing a week early Halloween. All are drawn in by the alluring calliope's harsh siren cry, which holds out the enticing promise of dreams and youth reclaimed. Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has arrived in Green Town, Illinois, during this season of death, and it intends to end every life it has touched with its odd and sinister mystery. And two boys—friends who will soon realize all too well the high price of wishes and the material of nightmares—will learn the secret of its fog, mazes, and mirrors.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
You can tell a book is scary if Stephen King admits it "scared the crap" out of him, as he did in the blurb for this tale. Marjorie Barrett, a teenage girl who seems to be going crazy and is believed to be under the influence of demons, ends up on the reality series The Possession, where even more horrible devilment occurs. Years later, her sister Merry goes back to the episode to discover what actually transpired and why. "It took me two tries to get through A Head Full of Ghosts," says several reviews. Would you be brave enough to read it at once?