15 Best Horror Books of all Time | 2021

best scariest horror books of all time
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People often think that books can not be terrifying. Movies can be scary. Animations can make your blood run cold. Ghost stories by the fire bonfire might give you the heebie-jeebies. But books? Nah!

Books can’t make you jump out of your skin. Well, I have got news for you. You might be reading the wrong ones because horror books are certainly one of the most petrifying, page-turning things in the world. 

Although there are thousands of horror books available for you to read, today I will list the ultimate best and scariest horror books of all time.

Stay with us.

Does Horror Have Subgenres?

Within horror as a genre, six subgenres are worth to be highlighted.

Firstly, there are gothic stories that mainly focus on death and the ways death “comes to visit”.

Secondly, the paranormal stories involve ghosts or supernatural elements in their plots and that seems out of the reach of scientific explanation.

Thirdly, the occult stories, on the other hand, focus on ritual practices and behaviors that look led by the devil.

On the brighter side, there are dark fantasy stories where fantasy is combined with certain dark elements. This is the fourth subgenre.

The fifth is the survival subgenre refers to those stories where the main characters are chased or hunted by some evil creature or phenomena.

Finally, science fiction horror is one where the terrifying is presented in a science fiction setting. 

Horror, as a literary genre, started to be recognized around the 18th century with the boom of gothic novels. This sort of chilling narrative was mainly “a thing” after Horace Walpole’s book Castle of Otranto.

Since then, authors have become more aware of the genre and proclaiming themselves as writers of gothic. However, horror stories have always existed.

And, most importantly, horror always was and always will be a genre that appeals to people. It calls us with their dark, hairy hand to come, come closer to it until it absorbs us and we find ourselves horrified but not willing to stop!

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What makes a good horror novel?

Not every horror book is good. A good horror book must, literally, transport you to the terrifying reality of the book and make you live in it for as long as you read – and most likely after, in your dreams as nightmares!

The best horror books of all time combine the ordinary, familiar, and secure with the unexpected and unbearable. What’s more, it makes us care about the characters and then, suffer on behalf of them!

What are the best horror books to read?

I’m super biased here but I better shoot: The Shining by the prince of horror Stephen King is the best horror books of all time.

It makes your heart miss a couple maybe hundreds of beats!

What is the best horror story?

I might go with Dracula by Bram Stoker in this one.

I could say it’s The Shining but then I thought about when Dracula was written and the enormous shock it represented for the society at the time. It was a story never told before! And it put horror on the pedestal of literary genres. 

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Who writes the best horror books?

Please let me go with two authors here. One is dead, one is alive. The former, Edgar Allan Poe, an absolute cornerstone of horror. The latter, Stephen King who had the invincible brain to create masterpieces such as The Shining or It, among many others!

What is Stephen King’s scariest/best horror books?

According to Barnes and Noble ranking, King’s scariest book is Pet Sematary followed by – my favorite, The Shining.

I have to confess I agree that Pet Sematary is a blood-curdling book whereas The Shining involves much more suspense and psychological terror.

At the end of the day, both will make you wet your pants!

What are the 20 best horror books of all time?

The 15 scariest books of all time was a fairly hard task. If you take a look at the several lists on the internet, you might realize that the number of titles available is appalling.

However, I do have my favorites and, as a horror book passionate, I am really selective and critical about my choices. Let me go ahead with my list and the reasons why I included every title in the “15 best horror books of all time”:

1. Frankenstein

Written by Mary Shelles and published in 1818. Grab your copy here.

Frankenstein is a statement! This book came to smash every rule or guideline of horror and science fiction. No plot can be more original than this macabre, paranormal, and thrilling story.

What’s more, the compassion that readers develop for the monster reaches unimaginable levels. It is, certainly, a call for humans to appreciate their dark and bright nature.

2. The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales

Written by Edgar Alan Poe and published in 1839. Grab your copy here.

Edgar Alan Poe has gained the name of the king of gothic! This achievement is not gratuitous and started with the publication of this petrifying book.

These chilling tales occurred within a relatable and familiar household where the spookiest events are yet to happen.

Poe’s prose is captivating and hypnotizing – actually, not only in this book but in every piece of text he wrote!

3. Dracula

Written by Bram Stoker and published in 1879. Grab your copy here.

Oh dear Dracula! You are, I must say, a nerve-racking book. Dracula came to build the idea of what we know as a vampire.

He is a tremendous beast that goes on spreading his blood-sucking obsession among innocents.

My question always is; how did Stoker make us all fall in love with such an evil creature? 

4. At The Mountains of Madness

Written by H. P. Lovecraft. Grab your copy here.

My favorite horror books are the psychological terror books. I guess I believe the demon doesn’t live very far from us. Actually, it might be in us!

This outstanding novel explores human evilness in an Antarctic expedition.

It goes beyond a good horror book, it is an exceptional and touching story!

5. The Haunting of Hill House.

Written by Shirley Jackson and published in 1959. Grab your copy here.

I absolutely love encountering good horror books written by women. It proves that we are not only capable of writing nostalgic verses and romanticist bland stories, but are rotten enough on the inside to produce a masterpiece of the terror.

That’s exactly what Shirley Jackson did in this novel where a hunted house becomes a definite main character.

6. Psycho

Written by Robert Bloch and published in 1959. Grab your copy here.

OH – MY – GOD! (Janice’s intonation) , Psycho is another statement of horror stories.

This is, I believe with confidence, one of the scariest books of all time. It was even made into a movie by the genius Alfred Hitchcock.

The madness of Norman Bate’s mother leads the plot of this excellent and sinister psychological thriller.

7. Something Wicked This Way Comes

Written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1962. Grab your copy here.

Just look at the title of this book. It’s a terrifying omen. Now, look at who wrote the book. The master of the words, the ultimate creator of the wicked: Ray Bradbury.

I think that is enough to convince you to read this book and, just to throw it at you, start looking at the sinister side of bubbly and lovely carnivals. 

8. Rosemary’s Baby.

Written by Ira Levin and published in 1967. Grab your copy here.

This is one of the most famous horror books. It is part of the boom of the horror genre in the decade of 1960.

It plays with human’s appreciation of family and home. It pushes our strings with the spookiest twist ever!

A masterpiece among the sinister literature.

9. The Exorcist

Written by William Peter Blatty and published in 1971. Grab your copy here.

It is fair to say that the movie of this book scared the hell out of me! Let alone reading the book.

You will be sleeping with your parents – if around- or snuggled only with your eyes out after finishing it.

This book denoted a new era in the horror genre. It shows us that we are all vulnerable and that the scariest stuff can even happen to us. Watch out!

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10. Carrie

Written by Stephen King and published in 1974. Grab your copy here.

Carrie was the first novel published by King. It was the first step to a successful career as a horror writer. It shows the first glimpses of what King is today. It reflects the sinister and tangled plots that cleverly, he put on paper.

Carrie relates to all of us and, after gaining our trust, King makes us suffer alongside Carrie.

A handy tactic that he used for almost every book he wrote!

11. The Shining

Written by Stephen King and published in 1977. Grab your copy here.

I might sound bias here, but this book is a must-read. I already named it as the best horror book to read, and now I confess is one of my favorite books ever.

This was the first book that demonstrated to me that yes, books can be pretty scary! The story at the Overlook Hotel and the madness of Jack are events that get stuck in your head.

And you are never able to get rid of them. Cheers for that!

12. It

Written by Stephen King and published in 1986. Grab your copy here.

I just can’t understand how King thinks of these brilliant stories of sinister and macabre characters. Of these spooky events that are literary rich and complex.

It is a piece of terrifying art that has built the eerie imagery of the evil clown that we all know.

You have probably watched the movie – which is spine-tingling- but, let me tell you, the book is much more frightening than the movie. I leave you to assess that information.

13. The Silence of the Lambs

Written by Thomas Harns and published in 1988. Grab your copy here.

Disgusting is another good word to describe some horror stories. And yes, I think this story is disgusting. It is about cannibalism and crime. About the most ineffable and weird human dispositions.

This is the sequel of Red Dragon, the novel that tells the story of the murderer Dr. Hannibal.

In this story, the character appears powerless, but there is where he reflects the greatest tricks of his mind. The tricks that lead the story to be hair-raising!

14. House of Leaves

Written by Mark Z. Danielewski and published in 2000. Grab your copy here.

This novel involves many elements that make it a good story. A haunted house, a love story, mental illness, madness.

The book as an object help readers to make sense of the multiple characters that seem to entangle and blend.

It is a great book that explores the interior monologue, the psychological thriller, and, of course, the horror genre.

Written by Shirley Jackson and published in 2005. Grab your copy here.

The tales in this book were originally published in the New Yorker in 1948 and raised lots of confronting opinions in readers.

The fact is that the compilation of the stories was, later, made into a book that shows us how our normal, regular lives actually hide terror, horror, and madness. I guess that was why the former readers of the acclaimed magazine were shocked at first.

Now, the book is a best seller and is thorough evidence that horror stories don’t need ghosts, zombies, or monsters. They only need wicked human beings.

Conclusion

There are certainly many other great horror books in the market. But, undoubtedly, the above are the scariest books of all time. Would you add any other title to this list?

Talk to us in the comment section.

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