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10 Scary Novels

Updated on September 7, 2013

The Scary Novel

Scary books can have a wide range of genres.  Is it ghosts, vampires, werewolves that make you wake at night from the smallest sound?  How about a psychopathic serial killer on the loose?  For the horror fiction reader there are many, many books to choose from.  Some readers gravitate towards a particular genre and usually stick to reading those types of books.  Some prefer a more contemporary, modern setting and rarely ventures into gothic horror.  Some readers just love a scary story so they run the whole spectrum of genres to find the perfect book that keeps them up at night.

Here is a list to ponder over.  They are not in any order of importance or spookiness.

The Haunting of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson:

"I could live there all alone, she thought, slowing the car to look down the winding garden path to the small blue front door with, perfectly, a white cat on the step. No one would ever find me there, either…” These are the opening sentences to this book that is now considered a classic. This book is more spooky than scary but it does have its moments.

Salem's Lot

by Stephen King:

This is one of the scariest vampire books I have every read. I made sure at night that my windows were all closed and locked. This is not like “Twilight”; there are no nice vampires in this book. This is more traditional like the classic vampire book “Dracula” by Bram Stoker.


by Stephen King:

This book made me think of clowns differently and still do not like them. This is a story of good and evil with the story centered on seven kids that come together as adults to fight evil. They have come together to finally put a stop to the horror that has plagued their small town for decades.

The Shining

by Stephen King:

Jack Torrance and his family set off to the Overlook Hotel to be the caretakers during the winter months. What happens to the Torrance family is chilling and will have you turning each page with anticipation. For many this King novel will forever be an all time favorite.


by Mary Shelley:

This is a given when it comes to reading horror, just like “Dracula”, “Picture of Dorian Gray”, and “Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. Though I think with younger readers, Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and Dr Jekyll are often over looked. With all the attention with young readers being on the “Twilight” series I know some young readers have read “Dracula” and a later vampire novel “Interview With a Vampire”.

Silence of the Lambs

by Thomas Harris:

Hannibal Lecter is the ultimate spooky bad guy. He is intelligent, cunning, sociopath and has an unusual appetite. This is a well executed thriller that takes you on a suspenseful ride. This is the second in a series of three having Lecter as a character. I know some will think this book does not belong here but I would have to disagree.

The Exorcist

by William Peter Blatty:

What can one say about the Exorcist? For my generation this is one book that we won’t forget due to the movie that came out. The story centers on an 11 year old girl named Regan who is possessed by a demon. What always got to me about this story was that Regan was just like any other 11 year old girl, she reminded me of myself at that age; except for the possession part.

I Am Legend

by Richard Matheson:

This is a book about survival after a global catastrophe. This book isn’t spooky scary it’s scary in the sense that you think in the dark recesses of your mind that this could happen. How can one go wrong with mutated vampires and the lone man fighting them off?


by Dean Koontz:

This is a favorite, partly due to the fact that it takes place where I was living at the time. Even while lying out in my backyard in sunny California reading this book I still kept an eye out for the unexpected. This book offers a twist of the classic, Frankenstein novel with two of the characters being animals. I fell in love with the Golden Retriever, Einstein and rooted for him throughout the book.

Ghost Story

by Peter Straub:

This book starts in present time with a young man with a woman that he has kidnapped. So what does this have to do with four elderly gentlemen that have a past worth hiding? Sometimes things we do in our youth come back to haunt us. Peter Staub has written other novels that are also very good. This particular book was made into a movie in 1991.

More Great Books

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Omen by David Seltzer
  • Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
  • Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Alan Poe
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • Hell House by Richard Matheson
  • Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
  • Koko by Peter Staub
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

Final Thoughts On The Book List

There are books that I did not include in the list of ten for various reasons.  Some of the classics where not listed because they are after all "classics".  I would hope readers already know that these great books are a given when it comes to horror books.  Though I did include Frankenstein in the list of ten mainly because I think Mary Shelley pushed the envelope of horror books when she wrote it.

For me a scary book does not always need to include ghost, demons or other supernatural occurrences to be scary.  That is why 'Silence of the Lambs' is in the list of 10 because Dr Lecter is truly a horrific character.  Now sit back with a nice glass of Chianti and pick up a good scary book that will keep you fearful of dark places.

Happy Reading!



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