A good book has the ability to transport its reader to a completely new world through vivid descriptions, a cast of captivating characters, and a plot so compelling you're reluctant to put it down. And if horror novels are your thing, you'll know that the greatest part of reading a truly consuming scary book is the choice you have to put it down if it gets to be too much!
Though not for the faint of heart, horror novels can offer a refreshing escape from reality into a world much darker and scarier than your own — and sometimes it's that perspective that can make you feel much more appreciative of your own life. If you're in the market for a novel that'll spook you, these unsettling books ranging from well-known classics like The Shining and The Silence of the Lambs to contemporary novels like The Apartment and Inspection will leave you reaching for a night light.
There's no name more synonymous with horror books than Stephen King, making him the perfect choice to get into the Halloween spirit. Carrie follows a unpopular high schooler who falls victim to bullying and uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to get revenge on her enemies.
Halloween is all about ghoulish spirits, and The Exorcist chronicles the demonic possession of 11-year-old Reagan MacNeil. To make things even spookier, the book was inspired by an alleged real-life case of demonic possession, and a subsequent exorcism, that Blatty heard about while he was studying at Georgetown University in 1949.
Before the story became a Netflix success, The Haunting of Hill House was a spooky novel by Shirley Jackson. The terrifying book follows Dr. John Montague who is looking for scientific evidence of the supernatural at Hill House — a manor whose own caretakers refuse to be near it at night. The story builds as the house's guests begin to experience unexplainable and eerie phenomenons.
Stoker may have written Dracula in 1897, but the spooky novel still holds up today. Although most people associate the character of Dracula with living in Transylvania, the book follows the vampire's attempt to move to England so that he can find fresh blood and spread the curse of the undead.
Perfect for a younger crowd who has an interest in horror, Bad Girls Don't Die follows Alexis, whose little sister, Kasey, becomes obsessed with an antique doll. While Alexis doesn't think anything of it at first, odd things start happening around their house. Water boils on an unlit stove, doors open by themselves, Kasey's eyes turn from blue to green, and she starts using old-fashioned language.
A book that's equally horrifying and enticing, The Butterfly Garden tells the story of a beautiful garden filled with "butterflies" — women held captive and covered in intricate tattoos to make them look like their namesake. When the garden is discovered, FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison must piece together this disturbing mystery.
Witches are the epitome of Halloween, and Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, will get you into a spooky mood. The book follows four centuries of the great Mayfair family of witches, whose history is filled with murder, philosophy, incest, and poetry. Despite their powers, the family is haunted by a powerful and dangerous being called Lashed. The novel covers their long and mysterious history, traveling from present-day New Orleans to the France of Louis XIV to the coffee plantations of Port-au-Prince.
Merricat Blackwood, her sister Constance, and their Uncle Julian live in a large house, secluded from the village. Having not left the grounds in six years, events of the family's past are slowly revealed through Julian, including what happened to the rest of the Blackwood family. Filled with mystery, murder, and magic, you won't be able to put this book down.
Edgar Allan Poe had a knack for writing truly haunting prose that sticks with readers long after they've finished it. This anthology includes Poe's most popular stories and poems like The Tell Tale Heart and Annabel Lee, as well as his lesser-known yet just as grisly works like The Imp of the Perverse and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.
From the author of Fight Club comes Haunted, a deeply disturbing novel about 17 people lured to a secluded, cavernous old theater under the guise of a writer's retreat. Told in 23 bone-chilling stories from varying perspectives, the chapters become more desperate and shocking as the host withholds heat, power and food and the characters must fight for their survival.
Whether you liked the original 1990 adaptation or the 2017 remake better, it's likely you've already seen the movies — so why not give the book a shot? Like the plots of most Stephen King novels, IT is positively chilling: a murderous clown lurking in the shadows lures children to their deaths in a small town in Maine. King's vivid imagery will pull you in and the story moves quickly enough to make the 1168 page-count (yes, you read that right) feel less daunting.
This page-turner follows a journalist who becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of a reclusive filmmaker's prodigious daughter. Though her death is ruled a suicide, he's not buying it — instead, he dives deeper into her story, determined to get to the root of the situation.
Stephen King has a reputation for writing truly grisly, horrific stories that stick with readers long after they've finished them and Pet Sematary is no different. When Dr. Louis Creed's family pet is accidentally killed, he's instructed to bury the cat in the ground near the old pet cemetery, where the cat will return from the dead. Though this seems like a good thing at first, Louis soon learns that some pets — and people — are better off dead.
The first in the internationally-known horror series following the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Red Dragon follows former FBI agent Will Graham, who comes out of retirement to find a serial-killer dubbed The Tooth Fairy. When the Tooth Fairy proves elusive, Will begrudgingly goes to the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter for advice.
Arguably better known than the first in the series, The Silence of the Lambs surged in popularity after it was adapted on screen. The plot is similar to that of Red Dragon — FBI trainee Clarice Starling is tasked with finding a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. Unable to do it on her own, she seeks the help of Hannibal Lecter.
If there's anything to take away from this classic horror novel, it's this: Be careful whom you trust, because evil can be hiding in the most innocent of places. When Rosemary and her husband move into a New York City apartment building, their nosey, eccentric neighbors are keen to welcome them. They become especially interested in Rosemary's welfare once she becomes pregnant — and as her health begins to deteriorate, she realizes that her neighbors are not who they say they are.
A fun, sun-drenched Mexican vacation turns into a waking nightmare when a group of friends venture into the jungle in search of their missing friend. When they stumble upon an ancient ruin site, they find him — along with a horrifying presence.
Fans of Lost will love The Three. In this bone-chilling novel, four planes crash within hours of each other on different continents and only three children survive. Even more unsettling, a fanatical preacher insists that this is a sign of an impending apocalypse... and when the three begin exhibiting signs of disturbing behaviors, even their loved ones begin to suspect that this conspiracy theory might be true.
This horror thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat — even if you've already seen the Netflix adaptation. In this apocalyptic future world, people are driven to violence if they see what's out there; the problem is, no one knows what it is until it's too late. Five years after it began, Malorie has decided it's time to escape, but to do so, she and her two young children must travel downriver blindfolded to survive.
Are you surprised to learn that this novel takes place in a remote cabin in New Hampshire, where the closest neighbor is still a two mile drive down a dirt road? Though the secluded-house-in-the-woods premise is a classic staple of the genre, this gripping story is anything but predictable.
Stephen King's most recent novel — published in May 2018 — proves that the prolific horror writer has still got it. In The Outsider, a respectable member of the community is arrested when an eleven-year-old boy's body is found in a town park. He's got an alibi, but the police also have an ironclad case against him. Mysterious, unsettling, and downright maddening, this novel will hook you in a way that only a Stephen King can.
This spooky thriller follows two very different women who are tethered together by one commonality — although to reveal that similarity would be to spoil this book! You'll have to read the book yourself to learn how Liz, a single mother of two, and Fran, a 16-year-old child-abduction survivor, get tangled up in this psychological whirlwind.
When a Cape Town couple swaps apartments with a Parisian couple for a romantic getaway, they're hoping to put a traumatic event from their past behind them. But the apartment is not what was advertised and when their vacation takes a violent turn, the rift in their marriage splits wider than ever.
No list of horror novels is complete without Stephen King's The Shining, which is, like most books, better than the movie — and the movie is pretty damn good, so that's saying something. Jack Torrance's new job as an off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel seems like perfect chance to reconnect with his family and work on his novel. But as with most of King's novels, things at the hotel are not as they seem and Jack's stint will be anything but rela.
In this unsettling coming of age story by Bird Box author Josh Malerman, boys and girls are trained at separate schools for geniuses. Forbidden to the leave their respective educational institutions, they don't know the other exists — until one boy starts to wonder what else could be out there. Described as creepy and claustrophobic by the Washington Post, Inspection will have you hooked until the very last page.