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The Scariest Horror Books of All Time 

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Originally by Ranker Community
Updated June 29, 2020 71.1k votes 6.1k voters 237.3k views 196 items

List Rules Scary / 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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list ordered by
1
It is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Stephen King

First Published: 1986-09-15

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Horror Film

Original Language: English Language

It is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King. The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by the eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of ...more
2
Pet Sematary is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Stephen King

First Published: 1983-11-14

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

Original Language: English Language

Pet Sematary is a 1983 horror novel by Stephen King, nominated for a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1984, and adapted into a 1989 film of the same name. In November 2013, PS Publishing ...more
3
'Salem's Lot is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Stephen King

First Published: 1975-09-05

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

Original Language: English Language

'Salem's Lot is a 1975 horror fiction novel written by the American author Stephen King. It was his second published novel. The story involves a writer named Ben Mears who returns to the town ...more
4
The Shining is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Stephen King

First Published: 1977-01

Subjects: Adventure, Family

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

Original Language: English Language

The Shining is a horror novel by American author Stephen King. Published in 1977, it is King's third published novel and first hardback bestseller, and the success of the book firmly established ...more
5
The Exorcist is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
William Peter Blatty

First Published: 1971

Subjects: Demonic possession, Exorcism

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

Original Language: English Language

The Exorcist is a 1971 novel by American writer William Peter Blatty. The book details the demonic possession of twelve-year-old Regan MacNeil, the daughter of a famous actress, and the Jesuit ...more
6
The Stand is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Stephen King

First Published: 1978

Subjects: Research

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

Original Language: English Language

The Stand is a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel by American author Stephen King. It expands upon the scenario of his earlier short story, "Night Surf". The novel was originally ...more
7
Stories and Poems of Edg... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
8
Dracula is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Bram Stoker

First Published: 1897-05-27

Subjects: Literary, Ghost, 19th century, Vampire, British Cuisine, + more

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

Original Language: English Language

Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from ...more
9
The Silence of the Lambs... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Thomas Harris

First Published: 1988

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

Original Language: English Language

The Silence of the Lambs is a novel by Thomas Harris. First published in 1988, it is the sequel to Harris' 1981 novel Red Dragon. Both novels feature the cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal ...more
10
Night Shift is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Stephen King

First Published: 1978-02

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

Original Language: English Language

Night Shift is the first collection of short stories by Stephen King, first published in 1978. In 1980, Night Shift received the Balrog Award for Best Collection, and in 1979 it was nominated as ...more
11
Misery is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Stephen King

First Published: 1987-06-08

Subjects: Suspense

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

Original Language: English Language

Misery is a psychological horror novel by Stephen King. The novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1988, and was later made into a Hollywood film and an off-Broadway ...more
12
Rosemary's Baby is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Ira Levin

First Published: 1967-03-12

Subjects: Deal with the Devil

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Horror Film

Original Language: English Language

Rosemary's Baby is a 1967 best-selling horror novel by Ira Levin, his second published book. It sold over 4 million copies "making it the top bestselling horror novel of the 1960s."
13
The Amityville Horror is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Jay Anson

First Published: 1977-09-13

Subjects: Philosophy, Hauntings, New Age, Ghost, Amityville, + more

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

Original Language: English Language

The Amityville Horror: A True Story is a book by Jay Anson, published in September 1977. It is also the basis of a series of films released between 1979 and 2013. The book is claimed to be based ...more
14
Psycho is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Robert Bloch

First Published: 1959

Subjects: Popular literature, Horror Film

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

Original Language: English Language

Psycho is a suspense novel by Robert Bloch, inspired by a bizarre murder case in Wisconsin, though not directly based on it. The story was adapted into Alfred Hitchcock's seminal 1960 film of ...more
15
The complete works of Ed... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
16
Something Wicked This Wa... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Ray Bradbury

First Published: 1962

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

Original Language: English Language

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a 1962 fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury. It is about 13-year-old best friends, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, and their nightmarish experience with a ...more
17
The Haunting of Hill Hou... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Shirley Jackson

First Published: 1959

Subjects: Literary, Ghost, Horror Film, Haunted house, Gothic fiction

Genres (Book): Horror Film, Fiction, Gothic fiction

Original Language: English Language

The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 novel by author Shirley Jackson. Finalist for the National Book Award and considered one of the best literary ghost stories published during the twentieth ...more
18
I Am Legend is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Richard Matheson

First Published: 1954

Subjects: Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, Horror tales, American, Horror Film, Vampire, + more

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, Dystopia, Horror Film, Fiction, + more

Original Language: English Language

I Am Legend is a 1954 horror fiction novel by American writer Richard Matheson. It was influential in the development of the zombie genre and in popularizing the concept of a worldwide ...more
19
Needful Things is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Stephen King

First Published: 1991-10

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

Original Language: English Language

Needful Things is a 1991 horror novel by American author Stephen King. It is the first novel King wrote after his rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol. According to the cover, it is "The ...more
20
The Dunwich Horror and O... is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
H. P. Lovecraft

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

Original Language: English Language

The Dunwich Horror and Others is a collection of fantasy, horror and Science fiction short stories by American author H. P. Lovecraft. It was originally published in 1963 by Arkham House in an ...more
21
At the Mountains of Madn... is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
H. P. Lovecraft

First Published: 1936

Subjects: Supernatural, Antarctica

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

Original Language: English Language

At the Mountains of Madness is a novella by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in February/March 1931 and rejected that year by Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright on the grounds of its ...more
22
Carrie is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Stephen King

First Published: 1974-04-05

Subjects: Classics

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

Original Language: English Language

Carrie is an American epistolary novel and author Stephen King's first published novel, released on April 5, 1974, with an approximate first print-run of 30,000 copies. Set in the then-future ...more
23
Ghost Story is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Peter Straub

Subjects: Erotica

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 Coward, McCann and Geoghegan. The book was adapted into a film by the same name in 1981. The novel ...more
24
Frankenstein is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Mary Shelley

First Published: 1818-01-01

Subjects: Science, Love

Genres (Book): Romance novel, Speculative fiction, Suspense, Horror Film, Romanticism, + more

Original Language: English Language

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley about the young student of science Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque but sentient creature ...more
25
Skeleton Crew is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Scariest Horror Books of All Time
Stephen King

First Published: 1985-06-21

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

Original Language: English Language

Skeleton Crew is the second collection of short fiction by Stephen King, published by Putnam in June 1985. A limited edition of a thousand copies was published by Scream/Press in October 1985, ...more