Our Best Horror Books
What might shock one reader is laughable to another. Ghosts, serial killers, great heaving monsters, the loss of self-control, plagues, impossible physics and a creepy clown all figure into our countdown, with entries spanning from the s to the last few years. One obvious author makes five! And while we kept an eye on the diversity of our featured authors, the inclusion of women, authors of color and queer creators came naturally as we gathered the best of the best. Without further ado, we present our choices for the best horror novels of all time. But The Summer Is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved gets the nod for importing the genre from film into prose while layering in subtle, smart commentary on our thirst for teen blood.
Eleven-year-old Martin is used to entrails—his mother does special-effect makeup for horror movies—but would like to keep his inside of his body. A maniac employed at his bible camp has other intentions.
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The Woman in Black by Susan Hill Night Things by Michael Talbot Fans of Mark Z. Grady Hendrix is building a brand: gimmicky on the outside, surprisingly scary on the inside. Abby and Gretchen are best friends for life on the eve of the first Bush presidency…until Gretchen gets lost in the woods and comes back different. Ring by Koji Suzuki The Damnation Game by Clive Barker The Damnation Game proved that Books of Blood wunderkind Clive Barker could sustain his brand of fear beyond the duration of a short story.
In this depraved galleria of a novel, with graphic depictions of incest and cannibalism, an in-over-his-head bodyguard attempts to interfere a Faustian pact to save the relatively innocent daughter of a wealthy degenerate. After the first few years of his career, Barker more often delved into dark fantasy than straight-up horror.
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Audition by Ryu Murakami Piercing and In the Miso Soup are similarly disturbing tales from this master of Japanese thrillers. Bird Box by Josh Malerman With your eyes closed and your imagination unfettered, you can envision creatures whose monstrosity knows no bounds. Detroit-based author Josh Malerman manifests an apocalypse of the obscured in Bird Box , in which undiscovered entities start appearing around the world and just one glance of their grotesquery drives people to suicide.
Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco The Rolfe family rent a vacation home at the far end of Long Island to get away from their Queens apartment for the summer months. John Dies at the End by David Wong A rollercoaster of weird, sprung from a hallucinogenic and possibly demonic drug known as soy sauce and written in bracing, punchy style shooting swift sentences, often sliced to seven words or less, and stung with spicy diction detailing psychedelic imagery and delivered with sustained breathlessness.
Something of a punk-rock-ified, video-game-esque tear and tumble into the Weird Tales tradition, Wong a. Savaging the Dark by Christopher Conlon Whereas Tampa introduced an admitted predator from the first page, Conlon takes care to build a believable case for how Mona justifies her taboo actions, even as her control of the situation—and her sanity—slip out of her grasp.
Of all the novels on this list, Savaging the Dark may be one of the scariest if only because of its plausibility. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Geek Love by Katherine Dunn Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill An over-the-hill rock star buys a haunted suit on the Internet. World War Z by Max Brooks Zombie fiction has never come close to the cultural impact and artistic importance of zombie cinema, until World War Z came along. He shows us how the infection could realistically spread around the globe thanks to human trafficking. He shows us how modern militaries could possibly be defeated via poor planning and mass defections.
He shows us how society might be after 90 percent of humanity has been killed and an uneasy rebuilding period has begun. The Other by Thomas Tryon Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist With shades of Carrie , Little Star does little to dissuade that similarity. Two young girls, one extraordinary and one suffocating under her own feelings of mediocrity, connect online and form a friendship that will have terrible consequences.
Lindqvist taps into the modern-day fears that drive adolescent anxiety—less locker room, more Internet comment section—and stretches them out to their most disturbing logical conclusion. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes While horror has always flourished on the small-press scene, Lauren Beaukes is helping to forge a continued legacy for the genre at major publishers as well. As in her exceptional follow-up, Broken Monsters , South African novelist Beukes weaves together a diverse cast of characters and just enough science fiction to complicate her premise without distracting from the horror at hand.
Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum House of Leaves , by Mark Z. Danielewski There is no other book like House of Leaves , full stop. Beginning with a premise that is subtly creepy—a chronicle of house just slightly larger on the inside than the outside—Danielewski manages to replicate the feeling of going insane, playing with every aspect of the form of the novel readers have been trained to rely on, from the narration, to the existence of original sources in the footnotes, to the typography and page layout.
And then you realize the house is a book, and what are books if not larger on the inside? A wealthy man is facing death, and hires a small team to investigate whether there really is an afterlife. They move into a notorious haunted house in Maine—known officially as the Belasco House, but as Hell House to the townsfolk—in order to explore the question. The Little Stranger , by Sarah Waters Set in a crumbling estate in Warwickshire after World War II, this novel combines Gothic classic ingredients—a once-great house gone to seed, a family in dire straits, inexplicable illnesses, haunting spirits, encroaching madness—into a modern, meaty, character-driven story.
A dwindling family, the Ayres, struggles to survive in the dilapidated, crumbling family estate known as Hundreds Hall as the world outside, transformed by war and technology, becomes less and less familiar. Kersten R.
Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse. Green Thoughts and Other Stories. Honolulu Magazine. Help for the Haunted. Hostage to the Devil. Hunt for the Skinwalker.
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Midnight Twins trilogy. Jacquelyn Mitchard.
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Monsters in America. Arielle North Olson. More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. Morpheus Road trilogy. Horror Novel Reviews. Night Stalks the Mansion. Nightshade: 20th Century Ghost Stories. Robert S. Paranormal Obsession. Deonna Kelli Sayed. Paranormal Phenomena: Opposing Viewpoints edited.
Pamela F. Shades of London series. Shadows of the Dark.
Horror Books & Ghost Stories
The Best Ghost Stories Ever edited. Christopher Krovatin. The Big Book of Ghost Stories. Many different authors. The Body Snatcher. Robert Louis Stevenson. The Dead and Buried.