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The Scariest Horror Books of All Time

Updated August 28, 2020 79.2k votes 7.1k voters 254.6k 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
    William Peter Blatty
    1,590
    296

    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 demonic possession of twelve-year-old Regan MacNeil, the daughter of a famous actress, and the Jesuit...  more
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  • 2
    Stephen King
    1,889
    526

    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 was his second published novel. The story involves a writer named Ben Mears who returns to the town where...  more
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  • 3
    Stephen King
    2,500
    758

    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 seven children as they are terrorized by the eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its...  more
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  • 4
    Stephen King
    1,874
    550

    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 Best Novel in 1984, and adapted into a 1989 film of the same name. In November 2013, PS Publishing...  more
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  • 5
    Stephen King
    2,259
    765

    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 third published novel and first hardback bestseller, and the success of the book firmly established King...  more
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  • 6
    1,188
    311

    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 sequel to Harris' 1981 novel Red Dragon. Both novels feature the cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal...  more
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  • 7
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  • 8
    1,006
    247

    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 National Book Award and considered one of the best literary ghost stories published during the twentieth...  more
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  • 9
    Stephen King
    1,482
    560

    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 expands upon the scenario of his earlier short story, "Night Surf". The novel was originally published in 1978...  more
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  • 10
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  • 11
    Stephen King
    1,129
    384

    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 Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1988, and was later made into a Hollywood film and an off-Broadway play...  more
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  • 12
    Robert Bloch
    663
    225

    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, though not directly based on it. The story was adapted into Alfred Hitchcock's seminal 1960 film of the...  more
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  • 13

    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 13-year-old best friends, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, and their nightmarish experience with a traveling...  more
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  • 14
    Stephen King
    875
    332

    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. In 1980, Night Shift received the Balrog Award for Best Collection, and in 1979 it was nominated as best...  more
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  • 15
    902
    333

    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. It sold over 4 million copies "making it the top bestselling horror novel of the 1960s."...  more
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  • 16
    Richard Matheson
    554
    160

    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....  more
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  • 17
    Bram Stoker
    1,445
    609

    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 character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from...  more
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  • 18
    756
    298

    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 also the basis of a series of films released between 1979 and 2013. The book is claimed to be based on...  more
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  • 19
    Stephen King
    782
    263

    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, released on April 5, 1974, with an approximate first print-run of 30,000 copies. Set in the then-future year of...  more
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  • 20
    865
    310

    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 stories by American author H. P. Lovecraft. It was originally published in 1963 by Arkham House in an...  more
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  • 21

    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 works by seminal 20th-century American author H. P. Lovecraft. It was released in October 1999 and is still...  more
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  • 22
    633
    242

    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 February/March 1931 and rejected that year by Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright on the grounds of its length....  more
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  • 23
    Stephen King
    750
    306

    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 King wrote after his rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol. According to the cover, it is "The Last Castle...  more
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  • 24
    Stephen King
    581
    211

    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 in June 1985. A limited edition of a thousand copies was published by Scream/Press in October 1985,...  more
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  • 25
    Richard Matheson
    798
    349

    First Published1954

    SubjectsApocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, Horror tales, American, Horror Film, Vampire

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

    Original LanguageEnglish 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 apocalypse due...  more
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List Rules: Scary / horror novels or other freaky works of fiction