The 16 Scariest Books of All Time

Do yourself a favor: Don't read these scary books right before bed.

Previous
1/16 View as List
Next

'Salem's Lot' by Stephen KIng

Barnes & Noble

If you really want to not be able to put a book down, go back to the earliest books written by King. This was his first vampire novel, which he wrote before vampires became a thing. Deliciously chilling. (Related: These scary vampire legends might just be true.)

'Those Across the River' by Christopher Buehlman

Barnes & Noble

In 1935, a professor fleeing scandal and his wife move back to a family home in Georgia; it’s located near the ruins of a plantation that was owned by his ancestors. Every month in a strange, sacrificial ritual, the townspeople garland two pigs with flowers and send them across the river; inevitably, the animals never return. What exactly is consuming them? And what will happen when the residents stop sending pigs? A supernatural-inflected Southern gothic that illustrates the price we pay for the sins of the past.

'The Exorcist' by William Peter Blatty

Barnes & Noble

The reason this was made into one of the scariest movies of all time is because it was one of the scariest novels of all times. It was fresh and new when it was written, and nobody’s devil has ever topped it. (Related: These horror films were inspired by true stories.)

'The Ruins' by Scott Smith

Barnes & Noble

A group of young, happy-go-lucky travelers in the Mexican jungle stumbles upon the site of ancient ruins—and ancient evil. Think Jaws, but with plants. And if you think that the botanical kingdom can’t be turned into a source of fear, well, you haven’t read this book.

'Coraline' by Neil Gaiman

Barnes & Noble

This book contains perhaps the scariest idea of all time: your other mother. And this novel shows you what happens when the brilliant Neil Gaiman sets out to write a children’s book. I suggest that you do not give it to your own children if you ever want them to sleep through the night again—or, at least, wait until they’re grown up enough to handle it.

'The Haunting of Hill House' by Shirley Jackson

Barnes & Noble

Another one that’s been made into a slam bang movie, but the book is even better. (Isn’t it always? Debate among yourselves, please.)

'It' by Stephen King

Barnes & Noble

Yes, it’s another Stephen King book but this one taps into a phobia that’s both very old and very current: clowns. Pennywise, the killer clown, dwells in the sewers of Derry, Maine, and he preys upon the young residents of the town. A group of residents return to vanquish him. But how are they going to take on such an ancient, formidable foe? You’ll have to read and find out. We'd, of course, be remiss not to mention another frightening King book, The Shining, which was made into such a nail-biting film.

'Something Wicked This Way Comes' by Ray Bradbury

Barnes & Noble

The premise of this book—a traveling carnival where two young boys meet the malevolent wish-granting Mr Dark—is pure Bradbury. Not perhaps his best known book, but maybe his best.

'The Hot Zone' by Richard Preston

Barnes & Noble

This book is nonfiction, about an Ebola virus almost destroying America. Would be entertaining if it were fiction, but it’s scary as hell when it’s real and came THISCLOSE to happening.

'Carrion Comfort' by Dan Simmons

Barnes & Noble

The villains here represent an intriguing twist on a familiar antagonist: They’re “mind vampires,” who, instead of feasting on humans,  can inhabit their minds and manipulate them into doing the unspeakable. Oh, and Stephen King called this book “one of the greatest horror novels of the 20th century.” If that’s not enough, the distorted face on the cover of the new paperback will be enough to haunt your dreams.

Previous
1/16 View as List
Next

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.