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The Scariest Horror Books of All Time

Updated August 28, 2020 83.9k votes 6.7k voters 247.0k views186 items

List RulesScary / horror novels or other freaky works of fiction

The greatest horror books of all time are books that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up just from the rustle of turning the pages. These scary horror novels are books you don't want to read at night (or by yourself) because they're just a little too scary. Many of these scary books have been turned into the scariest movies ever made, while others are too frightening to be imagined in real life.

From Stephen King classics like "The Shining" and "It" to classic stories like Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", these scary horror novels are known for their fright factor and smart writing that makes you believe the horrific events in the books are really possible. Even recent horror novels like NOS4A2 or Birdbox captured the terrified hearts of the public enough to become shows and movies.

What are the best horror novels? What is the scariest horror book? This list of the best horror novels is here to help you find a good scare on the written page. If you don't see your favorite horror book on the list of great scary novels, make sure to add it so other people can get the same fright you did.

If you're still looking for a good scare after peeking at this greatest horror books list, check out the scarefests in the best found footage films for a good scare, or see what new horror novels you can add to your collection.

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  • 1
    'Salem's Lot
    1,992
    545

    'Salem's Lot

    Stephen King

    First Published1975-09-05

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Horror Film, Gothic fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    'Salem's Lot is a 1975 horror fiction novel written by the American author Stephen King. It... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 2
    It
    2,699
    789

    It

    Stephen King

    First Published1986-09-15

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Horror Film

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    It is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King. The story follows the exploits of... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 3
    The Exorcist
    1,676
    288

    The Exorcist

    William Peter Blatty

    First Published1971

    SubjectsDemonic possession, Exorcism

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Horror Film, Fiction, Science Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Exorcist is a 1971 novel by American writer William Peter Blatty. The book details the... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 4
    Pet Sematary
    2,005
    571

    Pet Sematary

    Stephen King

    First Published1983-11-14

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Suspense, Horror Film, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Pet Sematary is a 1983 horror novel by Stephen King, nominated for a World Fantasy Award for... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 5
    The Silence of the Lambs
    1,238
    310

    First Published1988

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Suspense, Horror Film, Mystery, Thriller

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Silence of the Lambs is a novel by Thomas Harris. First published in 1988, it is the... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 6
    The Shining
    2,373
    842

    The Shining

    Stephen King

    First Published1977-01

    SubjectsAdventure, Family

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Horror Film, Fiction, Gothic fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Shining is a horror novel by American author Stephen King. Published in 1977, it is King's... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 7
    Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe
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  • 8
    The Haunting of Hill House
    1,039
    234

    First Published1959

    SubjectsLiterary, Ghost, Horror Film, Haunted house, Gothic fiction

    Genres (Book)Horror Film, Fiction, Gothic fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 novel by author Shirley Jackson. Finalist for the... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 9
    The complete works of Edgar Allan Poe
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  • 10
    The Stand
    1,579
    608

    The Stand

    Stephen King

    First Published1978

    SubjectsResearch

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, Children's literature, Horror Film, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Stand is a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel by American author Stephen King. It... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 11
    Something Wicked This Way Comes

    First Published1962

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Soft science fiction, Horror Film, Fantasy

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Something Wicked This Way Comes is a 1962 fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury. It is about... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 12
    Misery
    1,200
    399

    Misery

    Stephen King

    First Published1987-06-08

    SubjectsSuspense

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Psychological thriller, Horror Film, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Misery is a psychological horror novel by Stephen King. The novel was nominated for the World... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 13
    Night Shift
    943
    346

    Night Shift

    Stephen King

    First Published1978-02

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Horror Film, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Night Shift is the first collection of short stories by Stephen King, first published in 1978.... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 14
    Rosemary's Baby
    970
    355

    First Published1967-03-12

    SubjectsDeal with the Devil

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Horror Film

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Rosemary's Baby is a 1967 best-selling horror novel by Ira Levin, his second published book.... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 15
    Psycho
    694
    237

    Psycho

    Robert Bloch

    First Published1959

    SubjectsPopular literature, Horror Film

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Horror Film, Thriller, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Psycho is a suspense novel by Robert Bloch, inspired by a bizarre murder case in Wisconsin,... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 16
    The Amityville Horror
    806
    299

    First Published1977-09-13

    SubjectsPhilosophy, Hauntings, New Age, Ghost, Amityville

    Genres (Book)Suspense, Horror Film, Mystery, Fiction, Inspirational

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Amityville Horror: A True Story is a book by Jay Anson, published in September 1977. It is... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 17
    Hell House
    575
    166

    Hell House

    Richard Matheson

    First Published1971

    SubjectsClassics

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Horror Film, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Hell House is a novel by American novelist Richard Matheson, published in 1971.Amazon buy button
  • 18
    Dracula
    1,559
    666

    Dracula

    Bram Stoker

    First Published1897-05-27

    SubjectsLiterary, Ghost, 19th century, Vampire, British Cuisine

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Horror Film, Mystery, Fiction, Epistolary novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 19
    Carrie
    829
    275

    Carrie

    Stephen King

    First Published1974-04-05

    SubjectsClassics

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Suspense, Horror Film, Mystery, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Carrie is an American epistolary novel and author Stephen King's first published novel,... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 20
    Skeleton Crew
    637
    218

    Skeleton Crew

    Stephen King

    First Published1985-06-21

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Horror Film, Fiction, Short story

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Skeleton Crew is the second collection of short fiction by Stephen King, published by Putnam... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 21
    Needful Things
    824
    324

    Needful Things

    Stephen King

    First Published1991-10

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Horror Film, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Needful Things is a 1991 horror novel by American author Stephen King. It is the first novel... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 22
    The Dunwich Horror and Others
    903
    328

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Horror Film, Fiction, Short story, Science Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Dunwich Horror and Others is a collection of fantasy, horror and Science fiction short... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 23
    At the Mountains of Madness
    668
    258

    First Published1936

    SubjectsSupernatural, Antarctica

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Lost World, Horror Film, Mystery, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    At the Mountains of Madness is a novella by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 24
    The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories

    First Published1999-10-01

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Horror Film, Short story, Science Fiction, Fantasy

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories is Penguin Classics' first omnibus edition of... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 25
    Ghost Story
    888
    374

    Ghost Story

    Peter Straub

    SubjectsErotica

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Horror Film, Fiction

    Ghost Story is a horror novel written by Peter Straub. It was published on January 1, 1979 by... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button