The 10 Scariest Books To Read This Halloween
With Halloween just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to find yourself a scary book to cozy up with indoors. Yet, a common problem that many of us face is finding scary books that will keep us entertained. Although most of us know the best scary movies to watch this Halloween, we are not too clued up on horror novels that will have us suitably scared.
There are just as many horror books as there are horror movies. You can find novels about killer clowns, ghastly monsters, spooky ghosts, diabolical madmen, and creatures of the night. Some have even argued that reading a scary book is far more entertaining as you can vividly let your imagination run wild with what you’re reading about.
So if you’re after unforgettable adrenaline rushes, nightmarish skin-crawling scenes, carefully crafted plots, and delightfully horrific twists, you might want to consider picking up one of the novels on this list. Each one is a literary masterpiece that belongs in the horror genre, making them perfect Halloween reads.
1. The Hellbound Heart - Clive Barker
Should you enjoy novels that tackle the themes of insatiable pleasure and unimaginable horror, you will likely enjoy The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. This novella has been touted as a gory masterpiece because of its ingenious plot and nightmarish characters. The Hellbound Heart instantly became a fan favorite and was first published in 1986 and was the basis for the film Hellraiser and its subsequent franchise.
This novel introduced the world to one of the greatest horror villains, Pinhead. Although some might not be able to stomach the writing, many have praised the novel for expertly blending disgusting and disturbing imagery.
In this novel, a hedonistic criminal with an insatiable sexual appetite acquires a mysterious puzzle box. He discovers that this puzzle box summons Cenobite demons, who he believes will grant him his deepest desires. Instead, these demons cannot distinguish pain from pleasure, and what follows are some of the most nightmarish torture scenes ever written. This one is not for the faint-hearted.
2. Dracula - Bram Stoker
If you’re a new reader that is new to the horror genre, you should consider reading the classic novel Dracula. This superbly written horror novel has been the inspiration for countless television shows, movies, and books. In fact, it’s plausible that without the story of Dracula, many popular media works would not exist.
Dracula was written by the ingenious Bram Stoker and was astonishingly first published in 1897. It has sold millions of copies worldwide despite the novel having an original print run of only 3,000 copies. Interestingly, this novel is in an epistolary format, meaning it is told through a series of newspaper articles, ship log entries, letters, and diary entries.
The story of Dracula is about an immortal vampire and Transylvanian count who has an insatiable bloodlust. In its base form, the novel is about Dracula trying to move from Transylvania to England to recruit more vampires by spreading the vampiric virus. It is also about his battle between a small group of men and women led by the vampire hunter and Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
3. It - Stephen King
One of the very best horror novels of the 1980s that has been made into two movies is titled It and was written by Stephen King. Interestingly the first film adaption of this novel became the highest-grossing horror movie of all time. It was first published in 1986, and shockingly it took King four years to write.
It is much more than just a clown horror novel. This book focuses on seven children and is told through alternating narratives. The novel spans two different time periods and deals with themes of childhood trauma, malevolent small town undercurrents, the power of memory, and the will to overcome evil through sacrifice and trust.
In this novel, there is a haunted town that is the hunting grounds for an evil entity that feeds off children’s fears. King has expertly woven a tale that focuses on seven children that are terrorized by an evil clown entity that manages to disguise itself while hunting them by exploiting their fears. These children become adults who are drawn back to the town and the evil that lives there.
4. Frankenstein - Mary Shelly
The superbly written novel Frankenstein is often considered the birth of the science fiction genre despite the many horror elements contained within its pages. Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelly, who only wrote the book because she was involved in a competition with her husband and friends.
This novel was first published in 1818 by a small publishing house in London. Despite the publishing house only producing 500 copies at the time, Frankenstein still managed to become one of the most influential books to ever be written. Additionally, the novel was adapted into a movie and was the inspiration for many Frankenstein flicks that strayed from the original storyline.
The Frankenstein novel is about a gifted scientist who, after countless experiments, manages to grant the gift of life to his very own creation through scientific methods. Yet, after his initial joy, he quickly becomes horrified that the monster he created as Frankenstein is not how he wanted him to be. The novel progresses to show how Frankenstein seeks revenge through acts of murder and terror against those who treat him as a hideous creature.
5. The Others - Thomas Tyron
If overly gruesome storylines are not to your liking and you prefer your horror more refined, you might enjoy the physiological horror novel The Other by Thomas Tryon. Like other horror classics, this novel was adapted into a film of the same name after it attained critical acclaim and became a bestseller.
The Other was first published in 1971 and was Tyron’s debut novel. This novel is spoken through the consciousness of one of the main characters, Niles Perry, who is an inmate in a mental institution. Set in 1935, the novel focuses on recounting the horrific events that nearly destroyed his family years earlier.
There are supernatural elements in this novel that are intriguing and eye-opening. These supernatural elements are expertly combined with the psychological elements present in the book. Essentially, the novel is about the twisted and sadistic relationship between 13-year-old identical twin brothers. One brother is good, while the other is a sociopath who does everything he can to make his family miserable.
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6. Hell House - Richard Matheson
Hell House, a 1971 novel written by Richard Matheson, is one of the best horror mystery novels for those who like to be kept guessing at the truth while being bombarded with supernatural revelations. Interestingly Hell House was adapted into a film titled The Legend Of Hell House in 1973 and a mini-comic book series titled Richard Matheson’s Hell House in 2004.
The plot in Hell House centers around Blanco House – which is haunted – and four people, a psychiatrist, a housewife, and two mediums that are visiting it. These people have been hired by a millionaire and given a one-week time limit to discover if there is truly life after death.
During this week, the four people are immersed in the Blanco House that is known for its unimaginable horror and depravity. In addition to trying to uncover and prove or disprove the true secrets of life and death, they are also on a mission to learn why most people who visit the house die by the end of their visit. Yet, while they are working to identify these mysteries, the house itself exploits their deepest desires and tries to turn them against one another.
7. Ghost Story - Peter Straub
The Ghost Story by Peter Straub is perfect for people who enjoy reading about those who have done wrong receiving the justice they deserve. This novel was first published in 1979 and received a film adaptation of the same name that was released 10 years later in 1981.
In this novel, many horror themes are woven with themes of justice and revenge. Ghost Story focuses on four old men who all carried out a heinous act during their youth. Each of these men becomes convinced that the person they killed has come back to haunt them for what they did.
During the novel, readers are told about the lives of the men, and the plot slowly tells the tale of what happens when criminals believe they can bury the past.
8. The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson
Recently The Haunting of Hill House, a gothic horror novel, was adapted into an equally thrilling and terrifying Netflix series that was incredibly well-received by fans and critics. The Haunting of Hill House was penned by the extraordinary Shirley Jackson and was first published in 1959.
The Haunting of Hill House was a finalist for the National Book Award because it is considered by many avid readers to be one of the very best 20th century published ghost stories. Besides being adapted into a Netflix series, this novel has also been made into two films and a play.
Unlike other novels in this genre, The Haunting of Hill House focuses on the theme of terror rather than horror to ignite readers’ emotions. In this novel, the plot concerns the lives of four strangers who agree to stay at Hill House, which has long been rumored to be haunted.
These strangers are studied by Dr. Montague, who is trying to prove scientifically that the supernatural exists. As the novel gradually progresses, it becomes clear that the house is haunted, and the events that transpire are bone-chillingly enthralling.
9. Beloved - Toni Morrison
Not all horror novels rely solely on the supernatural. Some depict real-life horror and weave in supernatural elements. Beloved by Toni Morrison is one such novel that uses the supernatural to highlight the wrongs of the past.
This much-loved novel was first published in 1987, and it won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. Additionally, it was a finalist in 1987 for a National Book Award and was adapted into a film that starred Oprah Winfrey.
Beloved is set after the events of the American Civil War and is inspired by a true story. The author drew inspiration from the story of Margaret Garner, who was a slave. Garner had managed to escape slavery but decided to kill her children to save them from a life of slavery.
Although Beloved is inspired by this horrifying real-life event, its plot is unique. The novel focuses on a family of former slaves who uncover that a malicious spirit haunts their home.
10. The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories - H.P. Lovecraft
Unlike the other horror novels on our list, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories is a collection of stories written by the esteemed H.P. Lovecraft. This collection was first published in 1999 and is still in print today.
With this collection of horrifying tales, many believe Lovecraft reinvented the 1920s horror genre. Instead of focusing on the supernatural, Lovecraft wrote a series of stories that focuses on the disorderly and malicious universe and the ever-dwindling sanity of humanity.
Lovecraft displayed his mesmerizing narrative style in the short stories in this novel. These stories allowed him to firmly establish himself as one of the best American writers.
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