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 best horror novels of all time — it's safe to say that we hope they'll keep you up at night. Happy reading! 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.
Lovecraft-style cosmic horror. The titular Pym stows away on the Grampus, a whaling ship headed for southern waters. 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 this work of gothic fiction that centers on the spooky Usher 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. Just as the tin says! Gothic Tales is a collection of surprise! 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. Looking for something new to read? Trust real people, not robots, to give you book recommendations. Or sign up with an email address. Before Dracula , there was Carmilla. Meet the most famous vampire of all time.
Dracula is his story, one in which he roams from Transylvania to England to spread the curse of the undead amongst innocents. Perhaps the most influential of American horror writers, H. 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 collection includes a whopping 30 stories, most of which involve a mild-mannered academic stumbling upon an artifact that calls forth some malevolent, otherworldly presence. 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.
After a whirlwind romance, a shy American marries a wealthy Englishman and returns to his estate in Cornwall. 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.
You know how some people say that the setting is almost like another character in the story? 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, this is a must-read for any fan of the genre.
From the supreme master of shivers-down-your-spine horror comes a tale of Gothic surroundings and even more sinister, yet inscrutable, inner lives. If you like the other two, why not give this one a chance? 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.
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. 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. Whether any of them make it out alive — without going mad — is another question altogether. It looms over the rest the way the mountains loom over the foothills.
Part family drama and all horror, it delivers on all fronts. 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. Want more King? Check out this list of every Stephen King novel , ranked from most popular to least popular. 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. What do you get when you take a frustrated writer, a creepy old hotel, and a blizzard that locks everyone inside? 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. A group of old men in a quiet town call themselves The Chowder Society.
Discover the 26 scariest horror books to read in 12222
Every so often, they gather to share ghost stories with each other. Hilary Thomas is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. One day, she is attacked by Bruno Frye, the proprietor of a vineyard she recently visited. 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.
Not to be confused with the Jim Carrey comedy, this shudder-inducing novel from Koontz follows Carol and Paul, a hopeful couple who welcomes a young, amnesiac foster girl into their home. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Readers who love a slow build-up and the sensation of being watching will be thrilled. Frank Cauldhame is sick in the head, even by the standards of the horror genre. While cinephiles may recognise his works Candyman and Hellraiser , he first appeared on the horror radar with his short story collection, Books of Blood.
The Best Horror Books of All Time | Penguin Random House
Compulsively blood-curdling, these contemporary stories see regular people sucked into grotesque, disturbing, and often comic scenarios. A brilliant gateway for Barker newbs. 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 , this incredibly thick tome over 1, pages is packed with fascinating tangents that expertly flesh out the sad, traumatized, and occasionally nostalgic natives of this quiet Maine town. Eighteen years later, the child still haunts her — in some ways more than others.
In the s, 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. 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 order to do so, the inner workings of a very dark mind are probed, and spine-chilling suspense ensues. 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 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.
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. 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. Uzumaki is a seinen horror manga series. As the hold of the curse over the town strengthens, its inhabitants begin to fall deeper and deeper into a whirlpool of madness. 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 s.
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. This mammoth 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.
Skin Folk is a short story collection that includes science fiction, Caribbean folklore, passionate love stories, and downright chilling horror. From the mind of the bestselling author who brought you American Gods and Neverwhere comes a novel of wondrous and chilling imagination. 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.
Come closer, indeed. This 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.
100 Best Horror Books of All Time
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. The Good House was the most beloved home in Sacajawea, Washington… until a young boy died behind its doors. 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.
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. To read one of Octavia E. In Fledgling , Butler demonstrates her mastery of horror once again. Mira, who can best be described as a moral center of the novel, is a young woman whose mother is a shadow sipper but is too weak to feed her habit on her own.
Mira yearns to leave home but spends her days hunting for shadows from small animals—birds, mice, rabbits—and then bringing them home to her mother. Carr was born in Texas and still spends time there.
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No matter how unusual his stories may be, they have the bones of a Western story and Sip is no exception. The action ramps up when Mira makes her way to The Town of Lost Souls, presided over by a brutish majordomo named Doc who has invented a machine that keeps severed limbs alive so that shadow sippers can feed. The blood slowed to a stall. The limbs wriggled and fidgeted, kicked and punched.