18 Scary Books: You Won’t Sleep with the Lights off Again

If you thought horror movies were scary, books in the horror genre are even scarier. Authors tend to take horror to another level in their books since space isn’t a constraint, and they can add as much attention to detail as needed. It’s time for you to dig deep into some of the best pages of horror ever written:

18. The Right Hand of Evil, by John Saul

First Published: 1999

What It’s About:

Ted Conway inherits an ancestral house that has stood empty for more than four decades. With a sinister and mysterious past that he has no idea about, he shifts to his ancestral abode to give a fresh start to his life with a long-suffering wife and three children. Instead, his experience ends up being chilling, horrific, macabre, and nightmarish.

Why You Should Read It:

Are you an adrenaline junkie with enough capability to withstand a tinge of hideousness along with a good dose of fright, horror, and a good length of a twisted tale? The Right Hand of Evil by John Saul gives you just that. As the Conways move into their ancestral home in Lousiana after the death of their estranged aunt, the family has no idea about the soul-shattering secrets that lie in the house. What you are going to get is the relentless terror that awaits the family.

Best Quote:

“Hide. Got to hide. Hide from him. Hide from It.”

 ​17. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, by M.R James

First Published: 1999

What It’s About:

If a single horror book is too much for you to digest, try a disparate collection of short stories on horror. The Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R James is a great collection of short, scary stories that you don’t want to read when the lights go off. You get eight little nuggets of ghostly terror. Get acquainted by the supernatural stories that usually surround an ancient artifact.

Why You Should Read It:

If you are short on time but you still have to get your hands on a book that can keep you up and wake, get your hands on this horror drill. Be warned that it’s a pretty old book but it’s been very popular for a long time now – using rural settings with quiet protagonists getting caught up with supernatural beings. Even with the passage of time ever since the book was published, none of the horror has gone out of the story and you can add your own imagination to each of these stories.

Best Quote:

“In another infinitesimal flash he had taken it in. Pale, dusky skin, covering nothing but bones and tendons of appalling strength; coarse black hairs, longer than ever grew on a human hand.”

16. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving

First Published: 1820

What It’s About:

Did you get a chance to see Tim Burton’s film starring Johnny Depp and the ensuing series on television featuring the gory headless horseman? It’s all been a retake of this classic called The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and it’s a book you just can’t miss. Washington Irving is also the author of Rip Van Winkle. The book is magical to say the least and is very descriptive

Why You Should Read It:

In the mood for some really good skin creep? Try the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and you won’t be able to put the book down. If you’ve ever read Irving’s books, this happens to be one of the greatest stories Irving ever managed to pull up. It lends you a breath of fresh air and “cleans the palate”, as book reviewers like to put it. You will not have an easy time with it since it’s guaranteed to feel the chills up your spine. The stories are told with a dark undertone and directly matches with the staple of Northern European storytelling.

Best Quote:

“The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander in chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head.”

​15. Gods of The Nowhere: A Novel of Halloween, by James Tipper

First Published: 2013

What It’s About:

James Tipper leads you into a world of witches, skeletons, and vampires with a singular pursuit to scare the hell out of you. The words almost make your hair rise with fright as he takes you through a roller-coaster ride into a world that’s haunted. The epic horror fantasy book is about the ancient celts’ belief that the divide between the worlds of the living and the dead are the thinnest on Halloween. That was when the dead can come through into the world of living. Now, can it happen the other way around? Reading it is the only way to find out.

Why You Should Read It:

Creepy and scary is what you get when you catch up with the tales of James Tipper in his book Gods of Nowhere making you wonder why these spirits, skeletons, demons, and ghosts want this world back, forcing themselves into our own Halloween nights.

Best Quote:

“The head made of dead leaves turned to face Bairen, holes for eyes flashing moonlight.”

​14. Seven Gothic Tales, by Isak Dinesen

First Published: 1934

What It’s About:

Early twentieth-century gothic fiction is a different genre, from different times. The world you are put in, the scenes, characters, and everything from the story to narration is unique. Now, put horror into the equation and what you get is nothing less than spooky. Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) presents a full roll of suspense, intrigue, and drama around an unconventional woman.

Why You Should Read It:

The book is a perfect read for a feminist, strong characters, and a stomach with a capability to take in the twists, the vivid imagination, and bone-chilling horror, coming to you straight from the nineteenth century gothic tales. You’d feel like you are in a labyrinth as the story unfolds. Emerge from one side, go over to another, meet a dead end, and always be unsure of where you are while you gobble up one story after another.

Best Quote:

“No young woman could, even from a nun’s cell, have thrown herself into the imaginary excess of Miss Malin without fear and trembling.”

13. The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, by H.P Lovecraft

First Published: 1999

What It’s About:

What happens when you let your creative imagination flow, straight to Satan? You only have to read H.P Lovecraft’s episodic The Call of Cthulhu to experience weird, morbid, and haunting flow that Lovecraft is a master of. It’s the story of a man who unearths evidence of beings of another world residing deep beneath earth’s surface. Already regarded as one of the most influential writer specializing in horror fiction in history, Lovecraft has an ability to wreck your night’s sleep. You’ll be introduced to mountains that talk, malevolent creates, and an endless saga of speculative fiction.

Why You Should Read It:

Looking for much more than regular, run-of-the-mill horror fiction? Can you withstand morbid tales that can put your sanity in line with a train wreck? The Call of Cthulhu is the perfect answer to immerse yourself in indescribable levels of imagination. Catch up to the horrific tale of what happens when the weakness of the human mind is confronted by powers that lie beyond the world we know.

Best Quote:

“Then suddenly I saw it. With only a slight churning to mark its rise to the surface, the thing slid into view above the dark waters. Vast, Polyphemus-like, and loathsome, it darted like a stupendous monster of nightmares to the monolith…”

​12. House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski

First Published: 2000

What It’s About:

Have you had enough with casual reading? If you are done with normal fiction, maybe you’d like to work your mind a bit. Enter the world of complex horror, and that’s what you get from Mark Z. Danielews’s House of Leaves. The book is pretentious, a little over the top, incredibly complex, difficult, and is almost a workbook of horror.

Why You Should Read It:

The book isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s not for causal reading. No matter what time you pick the book up, you’d have to work your way into the story. If you like to engage, deep dive, and give it a little, Mark’s House of leaves is for you. If it all goes well, you’d very well belong to a tribe of ardent followers who can’t get enough of this terrifying story. There’s literally a cult around this story. It’s not one of those little books you can read and feel special about it. It makes you work and what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

Best Quote:

“The first time Is aw it, I mean when I discovered what was inside, it appalled me. Like I was staring at the old guy’s corpse.”

​11. The Amityville Horror, by Jay Anson

First Published: 1977

What It’s About:

Fictional stories are just that: fictitious. True stories, however, are another thing altogether. They are real. Add a layer of horror to it and it gets scarier. Better still, when true stories relate to supernatural, paranormal, and out of the world. When that happens, it’s horror at its best. If you’ve been scared out of your skin by The Conjuring, then you should grab The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson and prepare to walk out of your skin all over again.

Why You Should Read It:

Get the book if you’d like to get a glimpse of what a family of five actually went through soon after moving into a large house with a boathouse, swimming pool, and even a complete basement gives way to the Lutz family’s experience with one of the most famous supernatural horrors ever. The horror was so real that the family’s experiences were telecast on TV and it garnered a large amount of press.

Best Quote:

“I wonder if I should have told you which house this was before or after you saw it, the broker mused.”

​10. Neverland, by Douglas Clegg

First Published: 1991

What It’s About:

A story from the early nineties and you’d think that It’d lose its sheen. Not for Neverland By Douglas Clegg – a masterpiece of dark suspense that remains as frightening and eerie as it was over twenty years ago. Neverland is the name a young Beau gives to an old Victorian house one particular summer. But he doesn’t know that Neverland has a history. The rundown shack in the woods is a forbidden place where a creature lurks. Get the book to unlock some nasty and deadly secrets that come unearthed as the Jackson family goes to vacation at an old Victorian house on Gull Island.

Why You Should Read It:

Care to chill your spine for a while? Take a trip through the thrilling tale that Douglas Clegg captures you with. Haunting, horrific, tragic, and a thorough masterpiece of supernatural literature.

Best Quote:

“There was a story that it had belonged to a dwarf who had been a ship’s mascot all his life and had built it thee so he could watch the boats come in. Another story was that it had been built on the site of an old slave burial ground.”

 ​9. The Shining, by Stephen King

First Published: 1977

What It’s About:

Anything by Stephen King could pass off as a good read. Grab his book The Shining and you’d wonder why you didn’t pick it up sooner. A master story teller that Stephen is, expect to be gripped by the tale. Laden with a creepy and intense atmosphere, you’d almost get into the story yourself. The Shining has also been produced as a film but you can expect a lot more from the book. As winters close and blizzards pass by, the Overlook hotel takes on a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but it isn’t.

Why You Should Read It:

Doubtless, every Stephen King fan should read the book. Like all Stephen King books, this one is a movie in print format. He takes you in and out of plots and characters. For the lovers of the Horror Genre, The Shining is really a treat as Stephen guides you slowly into his intense and horrifying story – about jack Torrance’s fresh start with a job at the Overlook Hotel.

Best Quote:

“The attic. Absolutely nothing up there but bric-a-brac. The Overlook has changed several times since World War II…”

​​8. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

First Published: 1959

What It’s About:

It’s a classic supernatural thriller should scratch your itch for unpolluted and unnerving terror. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is the story of four seekers of truth – doctors and scientists – who go to investigate Hill House. What should have been a merely spooky stay turns into a nightmare for the group hammered with unexplainable evil. The Hill house seems to be gathering its own powers, only to take one of them and makes its own.

Why You Should Read It:

Die-hard readers, adventure seekers, and horror genre addicts can never get enough of the expertly written tale of how the evil from within a house rises up to swallow its poor, unassuming inmates. It’s a book with clever prose, using words cleverly to charge you up and leave you with tons of melodrama. The narration remains consistent and makes you wonder what will finally happen? Will house leave them unscathed or take prisoners?

Best Quote:

“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more.”

7. The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury

First Published: 1972

What It’s About:

Every Halloween, if you so wish to, you should end up reading Ray Bradbury. Especially The Halloween Tree which is regarded as the bible of all Halloween books. Apart from the truly graphic black-and-white drawings, the book is full of mystery, adventure, and a truly scary journey of a group of bonus through funeral processions, cavemen, persecution of witches, and what not.

Why You Should Read It:

Get a healthy dose of adventure and an almost unhealthy dose of scare with The Halloween Tree. Halloween will always remind of the masterful story telling that Ray is so good at. As eight costumed boys head out to meet their friend Pipkin at a haunted house outside town, the boys take off on a tail of a kit through time and space. Experience a myriad of images, wild and vivid imagination, and a quirky but worthy read. It’s best for a juvenile and young audience though and it’s a well-crafted story.

Best Quote:

“They waited, sad for no reason, lost for no reason.”

6. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

First Published: 1985

What It’s About:

Enough of positivity and the make-believe world we live in; let’s try the dystopian world instead. The world where human condition itself is viewed as both cynical and doomed. Margaret Atwood’s popular book The Handmaid’s Tale is the account of a near-future America run by an authoritative and all-Christian government. It’s the story of handmaid who works at a commander’s home and finds herself in a world where women aren’t allowed to read. It’s a world where handmaids are only valued for their ovaries and are slaves to men. It’s a full account of a biblical and patriarchal society. At best, it’ll strike fear. At worst, you’ll enjoy the book.

Why You Should Read It:

Sometimes, you want the unexpected — the horrifying, and utterly convincing even if you don’t want any part of it. Check out Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale that tells you the story of Offred – a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. It’ll affect you personally. It’ll stay in your head for long after you put the book down.

Best Quote:

“Yes, Ma’am, I said again, forgetting. They used to have dolls, for little girls, that would talk if you pulled a string at the back; I thought I was sounding like that, voice of a monotone, voice of a doll. She probably longed to slap my face.”

​5. American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis

First Published: 1991

What It’s About:

Pure madness, courting controversy, and colorful narration is what you get when you lay your hands on the American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Prepare to lose your head to the graphic retelling of Patrick Bateman’s descent into the dark recess of the human mind. Gory murders, glorification of vapid consumerism, it all lives here.

Why You Should Read It:

It’s an account of weird, sadistic, brutal, and totally devoid of empathy. There are victims and you’ll read through the disgusting details as the “psycho” goes about his motions. You’ve had it too easy with “easy” books. Get ready to “not” finish the book at all. Say hello to gratuitous violence and nerve-wracking plots that can kick your sensibility goodbye. After reading this book, you’d want to wait for your brain to cool down. You might have to heal. The book is so illustrative and gory that you might not even want to read it ever again. But then, you just might.

Best Quote:

“Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do?”

​4. The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty

First Published: 1971

What It’s About:

If we aren’t too far off the mark judging you, chances are that you already got a chance to see the movie – the bone-chiller movie that you can’t forget. It was a movie that paved an entire generation of horror movies and books years after. Forget the movie, and get the original book – The Exorcist by William Peter is a fantastic saga that spreads itself into shocking, deeply religious, exciting, and superior narration.

Why You Should Read It:

Total horror-heads. People who want to deal with their own fears while enjoying a powerful and intense read. This book shook the nation, and then it shook the world. It’s a masterful work that has faith, religious connotations, and demonic possessions all rolled into one. It remains as the ultimate divide between good and evil and it makes for one of the most terrifying horror novel ever written. Whatever you do, whoever you are, you should read The Exorcist.

Best Quote:

“The dig was over. The tell had been sifted, sratum by stratum, its entrails examined, tagged, and shipped: the beads and pendants; glyptics; phalli; ground-stone mortars stained with ocher.”

3. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

First Published: 1934

What It’s About:

Forget just being scared, how about a little dose of disgusting? Get Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller and you’d know what I’m talking about. The book was originally banned in America because the court had this to say about the book: “(It is) not a book. It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.” It’s a shocker. It scares you. It probably gives you the gift of a detailed portrayal of how low humans are prepared to go to satiate their primal needs.

Why You Should Read It:

One word: Are you gutsy enough? Do you have it in you? How much will your stomach be able to take? The book is macabre, obscene, and it’s probably one of the greatest books ever written. You’d wonder how much words can convey: there’s defamation, slander, libel, and more. It goes and spits against everything you knew – time, destiny, beauty, love, and God.

Best Quote:

“I’ve found God, but he is unsufficient.”

 ​2. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

First Published: 1954

What It’s About:

Not every book that scares should be about vampires, ghosts, and the paranormal. It could just be about how we sometimes realize we don’t control anything we think we do. Or it could be about how society can quickly descend into madness. Just like that. Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a story of a bunch of well-heeled boys stranded on a desert island.

Why You Should Read It:

Lord of the Flies is a book that makes you question what you thought you had it all figured out. It makes you question the very fabric of human character. It reveals savagery and about how we haven’t really departed from the ruthlessness that our ancestors possessed. Strangely, the book also helps you to relate to the world we live in now. It reveals what brutes and bullies are made of, and how they think. What starts off as conventional adventure leads itself into scenes with unpleasant graphics.

Best Quote:

“Maybe there is a beast…maybe it’s only us.”

​1. Dracula, by Bram Stoker

First Published: 1897

What It’s About:

Dracula, the book: It’s a legend. It’s the original. It’s what horror is supposed to be. Dracula is the category defining, finest example of Victorian gothic horror. Vivid characters, memorable narration, and an unsettling experience at best, Dracula can’t ever disappoint you. Count Dracula and his nemesis Abraham Van Hesling aren’t enough, Stoker’s rich and masterful story telling bring bloodsuckers back to life and make the undead scare you until you forget your fears.

Why You Should Read It:

Classic lovers who are in for a good treat will love Dracula. Wait for the dizzying and horrifying experience of Jonathan Harker – a young English solicitor – as he finds himself attacked by three phantom women at Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania.
Stoker sets the benchmark for what Dracula should be like. It’s a nightmare journey through a landscape that can only give you darkness, horror, wolves, flames, and frightened horses. Plus, there’s then the rest of the horror story that’s masterfully narrated as one of the best work of horror fiction ever.

Best Quote:

“Despair has its own calms.”

Conclusion

On a positive note, scary books can pump up your adrenaline, keep you engaged, help ease your daily stress levels (while stressing you out in another way), and they give you an anesthetic effect. Horror books can help you burn calories, boost your immune system, help you handle your fears better, and give you something out of the world to deal with (which is a good thing). Which of these books are you going to use to induce some fear now?

  • Very interesting! Great read!

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