Top 10 Horror Books

Book Reviews

horror books

Horror is one of my favorite genres all around. I love horror manga, I love horror books, I love ghost stories by camp fires, I love horror movies, I love haunted houses, and I love people telling me creepy true stories about their own encounters. Basically, I love all things haunted and creepy. So I’m going to talk about my top 10 horror books (in no particular order) to celebrate October, the month of scary things! Keep in mind that I don’t spook too easily when it comes to reading, so if you are easily frightened you should take my reviews with a grain of salt. The only movie that freaked me out a little bit recently was Oculus, and only because it really screwed with my perception of reality during the movie. Let’s begin, shall we?

  1. IT – Stephen King: I had to put something by Stephen King on this list, I’ve read SO MANY of his books. (and seen most of the movie counter parts as well) King is obviously known for writing scary books, so I couldn’t leave him off this list….but it was also hard to pick on of his books. I’m not particularly afraid when I read his books, they don’t make me want to curl up under the covers and fend of nightmares, and I’ve been reading Stephen King books since probably late middle school/early high school. I decided on IT because it’s one that is frequently brought up and it deals with all ranges of fear, and of course because Pennywise the clown is CREEPY AS ALL HECK! This book probably made me distrust all clowns, and is the reason that I will sacrifice whoever I’m with at a haunted house if there is a clown. (Funny story about that actually….but another time)
  2. Uzumaki – Ito Junji: You’ll see Junji on this list twice, only because dude, I had to write a little blurb about both of these because they disturbed me greatly. Junji is a horror manga master, seriously. This series was suggested to me back when I was in junior year of college by a friend who was also in love with horror. I sat down and started reading it and immediately freaked myself out. The story is all about spirals, and how a small town is literally “invaded” by them. It creeps into my mind and you start realizing spirals are LITERALLY EVERYWHERE!!!! It got to me to the point where I was leaving the condo one morning and I stepped out of the stairwell, glanced down into the entryway of the building AND NOTICED THE CARPET HAD SPIRAL DESIGNS ON IT AND ACTUALLY LOOSED A SCREAM. I had never noticed it before, but then I read this damned manga. It made me paranoid. Also paired with his drawing style (realistic and creepy) it’s a wild ride of terror, spiraling downward. Spirals. (Warning: If you don’t like body horror, this is not for you, in fact none of Ito Junji’s stories are for you)
  3. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski: STOP! If you have never heard of this book before, don’t read my little blurb, just go get the book and let it work it’s magic. So, there is a reason that this book is on here, and it’s not horror in a traditional Stephen King sense. It’s horror in the way that as I was reading it, I was beginning to question my grip on reality. Now, I read the book a ways back, and it was suggested by a barista at a coffee shop who noticed I liked to read. I had heard nothing about it previously and it wasn’t all hyped up like it is today. For me, reading it was like slowly slipping off a cliff. Danielewski is an…..interesting author. His way of writing isn’t what one would call conventional. The story makes you believe it’s all real, there is so much there, and you descend with the narrator into insanity as he becomes consumed by the story itself. If you know someone who has never heard, read this before and you want to make them probably hate you, find an old battered copy of this book and give it to them. Part of the magic is knowing nothing about it previously and letting it consume you (Which I’ve just ruined for you, because I’m terrible)
  4. Haunted – Chuck Palanuink: This book is on here because it’s the only book I actually had to stop reading and put down for fear that I might vomit/faint. In fact, at the end of the book Palanuink talks about how while doing readings for this book, at least one person per crowd DID actually faint. The content of the stories inside the story is what really got to me, they are at the very least disturbing and at the most, downright vile. I loved it.scary book stack
  5. In the Miso Soup – Ryu Murakami (Also Piercing): So, I grabbed this at a used bookstore seeing Murakami on the side and thinking it was a different Murakami, well, I was in for a surprise, a very twisted, violent kind of surprise. I wasn’t expecting a book that made me want to avoid people. The amount of detail was what really got to me. Also just the premise for Piercing: “A father is overcome with the desire to pierce his newborn’s skin.” If that doesn’t already set you on edge, I don’t know what would. His books are less “boo” scary and more teeth clenched and wincing scary.
  6. The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty: You’ve probably heard of the movie. I wasn’t allowed to even bring it into my parent’s house because my mother had very deeply traumatic dreams after seeing the movie when she was a young girl. Well, like you always hear, “The book was better” It’s a classic, along with books like Rosemary’s Baby (Which also probably belongs on this list) A lot of classic horror movies were all inspired by books first!
  7. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis: This is on here for the same reason Haunted is, the amount of sickening detail in the murder scenes made me have to put the book down and take a deep breath. The book is all over a psychological roller coaster. A look into the mind of a ruthless, calculated killer. The book was a lot worse than the movie, and by worse I mean the movie didn’t really effect me, but the book had me squirming. Also, the detail in which he talks about music was so off-putting, it’s so bizarre! The book really does it better, in making you realize just how this guy’s mind works.
  8. Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix: While this book wasn’t really too scary in my mind, it plays off of those thoughts that bounce around in my head whenever I’m a in a big shop like Target or Ikea. “What would it be like to be here when the lights go off?” The book takes place in an IKEA-like store, after hours. The staff is plagued by something that doesn’t want them to leave. It’s creepy in the way that, yes, I would also probably be scared if I was in an IKEA and all the lights were out. I’d probably think that there was something behind every table and chair. Also the story took place near where I used to live, which always makes things hit a bit closer to home.
  9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Alvin Schwartz: If you grew up in the 80’s or 90’s, you might remember this collection. I mean, the freakiest part about this book might be the illustrations, they were nightmare fuel. I remember reading these when I was rather young and being a little shaken, maybe less by the stories and more by the illustrations before each chapter. Most of these are based on folklore as well, which I always appreciate!
  10. The Enigma of Amigara Fault – Ito Junji: All right, this short manga by Junji is seriously so freaky. (Steven Universe totally did a shout out to this story as well, which makes it less scary) Anyways, the story is about a fault that gets unearthed during an earthquake, raising a large bit of rock above ground. In the rock, are holes, but these aren’t just any holes, these holes are shaped like people. From all around the world people are drawn to this mysterious unearthed rock, because they realized something while seeing pictures…..that hole, was made for me. It’s my hole. My spine tingled just thinking about it!

    Runner Up:

  11. The Merciless – Danielle Vega: It’s such a pretty pink book, but holy crap is it anything but pretty and pink inside. The story is about a group of girls that become convinced that they need to perform an exorcism on a girl in their school, but things begin to go very, very, very wrong. What makes it scary in my opinion is just the intensity that they teenage girls exhibit, how sure they are that this needs to happen.

There are all sorts of scary books. Books that are scary because of fiction and books that are scary because they are true. There are books that make you cringe because of murder, torture, ghosts, or because you can imagine the world coming to that. I think the genre of horror can expand to a lot of different books. You could consider a book horror that someone else might not. Fear, and what we consider to be scary, is very interesting. You might read one of these books and not find it scary in the slightest, but then read something else and be horrified of it while I would find it not creepy at all. I have always found it interesting that books like Uzumaki and House of Leaves, didn’t have the same effect on Alex as they did on me. They freaked me out, but for him he just kinda shrugged his shoulders. Then we watch a horror movie and Alex can’t sleep for a week while I’m munching on popcorn and totally at peace with the world.

I also have some horror books on my to-read list that I can’t wait to dive into:

  1. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

2. Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt

3. My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

4. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders – Vincent Bugliosi

5. The Darkest Corners – Kara Thomas

Do you have a favorite horror book? Can you not handle horror books/movies? Share in the comments, I’d love more suggestions on what to read this fall!


By Jess

A bookworm since the tender age of whenever I stopped chewing on books and started actually reading them. A cat-mom, graphic designer, and introvert originally from Pittsburgh, but now resides in the humid, hot, state of Texas. Cheers!