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The Scariest Novels of All Time

Updated October 5, 2020 47.4k votes 4.0k voters 72.2k views110 items

List RulesVote up your favorite scary novels, horror and otherwise.

What are the scariest novels of all time? Not surprisingly, a lot of the books listed here are from the horror genre, but there are other, just as terrifying books to read as well. Can anyone argue that Cormac McCarthy's The Road wasn't terrifying in its own way? Exactly. We're all scared by different things and subjects, and our reading choices reflect this quite often. So vote for the scariest books you've ever read (or really want to read) and vote down any you didn't like. And please, definitely add any scary novels that might be missing from the list!

Some of the scariest novels of all time involve monsters. After all, readers have been obsessed with the supernatural for hundreds of years. There is a reason that Bram Stoker's Dracula consistently winds up at or near the top of lists like this one. Ghosts also make for frightening novels: Hell House, anyone? If you haven't read it, make sure you do so - but not at night. And not if you are alone. Ever. It is without a doubt deserving of a place among the greatest horror books of all time.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the books on this list of scary novels were made into excellent horror movies. Some also have heavy elements of science fiction - I Am Legend is a great example, though nearly all of Richard Matheson's novels and stories would certainly qualify for a place on this list. Some of the best science fiction authors wrote some seriously creepy stuff.

And yes, no list of anything involving the scariest books of all time would be complete without a hefty dose of Stephen King. King is a master. In doubt? Check out this list of the greatest all-time Stephen King works. It's impressive.
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  • 1
    It is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    1,589
    342

    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

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    Horrifying Things That Happened In The Book 'IT' Way Too Awful for the MoviesEverything 'IT Chapter Two' Changed From The Book

  • 2
    Pet Sematary is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    1,119
    271

    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
  • 3
    The Exorcist is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    954
    251

    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
    'Salem's Lot is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    1,063
    301

    '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
  • 5
    The Shining is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    1,288
    396

    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
  • 6
    Misery is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    900
    284

    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

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    #66 of 193 The Greatest American Novels#8 of 67 The All-Time Greatest Works of Stephen King

  • 7
    The complete works of Edgar Al is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
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  • 8
    The Stand is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    938
    326

    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
  • 9
    Dracula is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    789
    377

    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
  • 10
    The Amityville Horror is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    625
    275

    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

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    #30 of 60 The Best Suspense Novels#49 of 56 The Best Books About Demonology

  • 11
    The Haunting of Hill House is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    529
    233

    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
  • 12
    Rosemary's Baby is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    534
    241

    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
  • 13
    Carrie is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    717
    279

    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
  • 14
    Night Shift is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    549
    231

    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
  • 15
    Needful Things is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    569
    280

    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
  • 16
    Jaws is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    506
    256

    Jaws

    Peter Benchley

    SubjectsGreat white shark

    Genres (Book)Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Jaws is a 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. It tells the story of a great white shark that preys... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 17
    The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    451
    243

    First Published1820

    SubjectsOld Dutch Burying Ground

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is a short story by American author Washington Irving, contained... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 18
    Helter Skelter is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    408
    178

    Helter Skelter

    Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry

    First Published1974

    SubjectsSerial killer, Espionage, California, Charles Manson, Murder

    Genres (Book)Crime Fiction, Mathematics, Science, True crime

    Helter Skelter is a true crime book by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. Bugliosi had served... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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    #2 of 61 The Greatest Non-Fiction Novels#2 of 21 The Best True Crime Novels Ever Written

  • 19
    Frankenstein is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    586
    353

    Frankenstein

    Mary Shelley

    First Published1818-01-01

    SubjectsScience, Love

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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    #5 of 179 The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time#12 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time

  • 20
    Ghost Story is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    470
    352

    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

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    #445 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written#25 of 186 The Scariest Horror Books of All Time

  • 21
    The Call of Cthulhu and Other  is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time

    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
  • 22
    Interview with the Vampire is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time

    First Published1976-04-12

    SubjectsGhost, Vampire

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Interview with the Vampire is a debut gothic horror and vampire novel by American author Anne... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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    #21 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Read#284 of 704 Books That Changed Your Life

  • 23
    The Picture of Dorian Gray is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time

    First Published1890

    SubjectsMusic, Popular literature, Supernatural, Literature, Classics

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Fiction, Gothic fiction, Philosophical fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Picture of Dorian Gray is an 1891 philosophical novel by writer and playwright Oscar... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 24
    The Silence of the Lambs is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    791
    218

    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
  • 25
    Phantoms is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Scariest Novels of All Time
    329
    307

    Phantoms

    Dean Koontz

    First Published1983-03

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Phantoms is a novel written by best-selling author Dean Koontz, first published in 1983. The... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
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