Best, Scariest Horror Books of All Time

Horror is one of the oldest genres of storytelling. The fear of the unknown, of monsters visible in the corners of our eyes, has thrilled and delighted us for millennia. Reading a scary story is a safe way to get that rush of adrenaline with none of the danger. 

We’ve collected a list of some of the best-selling horror stories of all time for you to check out this spooky season. Whether reading the source material of one of your favorite movies or finally reading a classic, there’s sure to be a title you’ll love! 

1 | It by Stephen King

Adapted both as a 2-part film and a TV movie, one of Stephen King’s most famous works is also one of his biggest at over 1,100 pages. IT, the shape-shifting monster, takes on the form of your greatest fears, though his clown form is the one he’s known best for.

2 | The Stand by Stephen King

Originally published in 1978, it found a new surge in popularity in recent years. Set in a post-apocalyptic United States, where a virus destroys the world, and things somehow get even worse. Sometimes the best scary books are the ones that reflect our current reality.

3 | The Shining by Stephen King

It shouldn’t surprise you that Stephen King is one of the best-selling horror writers of all time. Many of his novels have been adapted to film and TV, and one of the most famous adaptions is Stanley Kubrick’s film of the same name. A family is trapped inside a hotel for months and madness sets in.

4 | The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

A woman hasn’t left her house for ten months—there seems to be a theme with these best sellers! —and lives vicariously through the people she watches from her window. Her new neighbors seem quite lovely at first, but when things take a dark turn, she’s determined to uncover the truth. But who will believe her when she can’t even believe herself?

5 | The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

First published in 1959, it’s been adapted multiple times, the latest a popular Netflix series. The eponymous Hill House is supposedly haunted, and a doctor want to find scientific evidence of the supernatural. The house has a long history of suicide and violent death, and the happenings affect the residents.

6 | Killing Floor by Lee Child

Jack Reacher arrives in a small town and is immediately arrested for murder. This is the first novel to feature Jack Reacher, a popular character. The novel has been adapted into a web series.

7 | House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Most horror stories scare you with monsters or murderers. House of Leaves, though, creates a sense of horror from the experience of reading the text. The plot concerns a fictional documentary, but the layout of the pages and the structure of the narrative disorients the reader, mirroring the experience of the characters in the story.

8 | Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King

Another Stephen King novel, but this one was a collaboration with his son, Owen. When the women of the world fall asleep, they’re enshrouded by a mysterious cocoon. If disturbed, they turn homicidal. But in their sleep, they find themselves transported to another world.

9 | Pet Sematary by Stephen King

When King was a writer in residence at the University of Maine, his home was near a busy road, where pets were frequently killed by drivers. This was the fate of his daughter’s cat, whom they buried. He then imagined what would happen if the cat came back, but different. In the novel, it’s not long before the characters realize it’s more than just pets who come back to life when buried.

10 | Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Stephen King’s second novel, and one of his personal favorites, concerns a small town where the residents are turning into vampires. King has said the novel is about such small communities, as they are slowly dying out. Anyone familiar with his body of work knows how much he appreciates settings such as these (especially when they take place in Maine).

11 | The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Harriet Westaway’s prayers are answered when she learns she is set to inherit a large estate from her grandparents. However, the letter was intended for someone else, as her true grandparents died decades ago. She believes in her ability to con her way through the process. But things are never that simple, are they?

12 | Misery by Stephen King

Another novel that many know by the film adaption, Misery shares the name with a fictional character that Paul Sheldon had just killed off. She made him famous, but he now despises the character and wants to write what he wishes. But after a car accident, he’s found by Misery’s number 1 fan, who isn’t happy with his latest book. So now he has to fix the story, under threat for his life.

13 | Swan Song by Robert McCammon

AThe Cold War escalates, with America being destroyed by nuclear war. The survivors try to rebuild but discover things have changed: people now possess supernatural powers and a demon known as The Man with the Scarlet Eye seeks to destroy a powerful ring.

14 | Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

This novel serves as the sequel to The Shining. King always wanted to know what came of Danny Torrance, the boy at the Overlook Hotel. He’s struggled ever since that one terrifying winter, but has now learned a new, horrifying truth. A group of immortals search across America for children who possess “the shining,” torturing them to death to harness their powers to keep living.

15 | Carrie by Stephen King

Stephen King was so frustrated with Carrie that he threw it into the trash. His wife pulled it out and told him how good it was and begged him to finish it. It was his first novel and the start of his meteoric success. Carrie is a high school girl with telekinetic powers, making her an outcast. But when she’s invited to prom, things seem to be getting better. And, as we all know, things are more sinister than they seem.

16 | The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

A boy once visited a magical realm, but that all changed when his father died. But now he needs to return to the Daydreams to find the eponymous Talisman. It’s an item of cosmic significance and wanted by many, but he needs to find it in order to save his mother’s life.

17 | The Eyes of Darkness by Dean Koontz

A mother recieves paranormal messages that her son is still alive. She never saw his corpse after the accident, and government agents are determined to keep her from investigating further. Koontz originally published this under the penname Leigh Nichols.

18 | Complete Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft is more than just a master of horror. He created an entirely new genre, cosmic horror, and is the creator of the Cthulhu mythos. The Complete Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft contains 65 stories and is a must for any Lovecraft fan.

19 | World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Another story that became a successful movie adaption. The novel, however, is quite different, presented as a piece of nonfiction journalism about the events of the global plague that forever shaped the world. It’s considered to be the work that brought zombie fiction to the modern age.

20 | The Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

The New York Musuem of Natural history has an extensive collection of items not on display. Many of them just happen to be in catacombs beneath the venerated building, and two mutilated corpses were found inside. The NYPD are in search of a murderer, but, in truth, it is something much more.

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