Best horror books

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Horror books have a wide array of subgenres, ensuring there is a terrifying tale for all spooky readers.

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Which horror books are best?

Horror stories are written to captivate readers through fear, ominous intrigue and the desire to figure out what exactly is going bump in the night. While things like Netflix watch parties and spooky decor are all the rage, finding the best tales of ghostly encounters and other deadly frights are top priority for die-hard horror fans. If your goal is to be entirely bewitched by a page-turner that will chill you to the bone, these 15 reads will satisfy all your ghoulish needs. 

Best horror genres

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the vastness of subgenres, plotlines and tropes that are the foundation of any horror book. Supernatural creatures, monsters from different dimensions, crazy curses and malevolent villains with serial killer tendencies are some common characteristics. While there are many factors that make a book truly horrific, all the best horror books possess one or more of the following three elements: sociological, psychological and allegorical distress. 

Sociological horror refers to specific aspects of society — such as traditions, social issues and values — and is then externalized into something of a heinous nature. A universal example of this horror is losing humanity in the midst of an unfathomable enemy or the dystopian nature of a fallen society. 

Psychological horror plays with the reader’s mind and directly targets the psyche. These thematic concepts are typically internal and expose the inner darkness of human nature.

Lastly, allegorical horror is incredibly symbolic and often holds a deeper meaning through both external and internal events throughout the story.   

Additionally, many readers have specific preferences in regard to the physicality of their books. If you appreciate collector items of a higher quality, hardcover books are excellent. If you fold the top corners of pages as makeshift bookmarks or bend the spine to break it in, paperbacks are a cheaper option. Or, if you want access to all your favorite reads on a singular device, e-readers are popular. 

The best horror books list can be categorized into five subgenres: classic horror, graphic novel horror, cosmic horror, paranormal horror and slasher horror. If you’re wanting to find the next Pennywise the dancing clown or expose the evil entity in the abandoned house on the hill, this list has something for everyone.

Classic horror books

“Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice

“Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice

This vampiric classic tells the story of Louis and his transition from human life to the undead at the sinister hands of vampire Lestat. Set within the vibrant streets of New Orleans, readers watch Louis recount the last shreds of humanity he has left in a novel full of immortality, loss and power. 

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“The Bad Seed” by William March

“The Bad Seed” by William March

This suspenseful masterpiece and the seemingly bright eight-year-old Rhoda Penmark will captivate any reader. Once it becomes apparent that the tragic accidents following little Rhoda aren’t accidents at all, this chilling, hair-raising thriller redefines what it means to be a serial killer. 

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“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

Readers will be obsessed with the prose and psychological frights that Jackson incorporates into this haunted house classic. Dr. Montague is on the prowl for evidence of a haunting, and as inexplicable phenomena become harder to deny, Hill House shows readers just how terrifying it can be. 

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Graphic novel horror books

“Gideon Falls” by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino and Dave Stewart

“Gideon Falls” by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino and Dave Stewart

The mysterious legend of the Black Barn will enrapture readers from beginning to end with stunning visuals. Following two men from opposite sides of the tracks, readers are thrown into obsessive ensnarement to discover what lurks within the Black Barn. 

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“The Empty Man” by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Vanesa R. Del Rey

“The Empty Man” by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Vanesa R. Del Rey

Set in a dystopian society, readers are launched into the world of the incurable Empty Man disease. As cults rise nationwide, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Centers for Disease Control work together to figure out the cause of the sickness that hurls people into violent fits of rage. Racing against the clock, readers will be hooked until the very end. 

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“Uzumaki” by Junji Ito

“Uzumaki” by Junji Ito

Join teenagers Kirie Goshima and Shuichi Saito in Kurouzu-cho, a small town on the coast of Japan that is covered in fog. Convinced that their town is cursed — haunted by the spiraling pattern uzumaki that represents the hidden shape of the world — this abstract and horrific manga will have readers spiraling.

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Cosmic horror books

“Annihilation” by Jeff VanderMeer

“Annihilation” by Jeff VanderMeer

Cosmic horror at its finest, readers join four women on the 12th exhibition to Area X, a portion of the world that has been uninhabited by human civilization for decades. Their mission is simple: map the terrain, record what they see and avoid being contaminated at all costs. 

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“The Fisherman” by John Langan

“The Fisherman” by John Langan

The creek that flows through Woodstock becomes the hangout spot for readers and main characters Abe and Dan as they succumb to the magnetic pull of the ominous waters. In this dark tale of buried secrets, finding the Fisherman comes at a price.

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“The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories” by H.P. Lovecraft

“The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories” by H.P. Lovecraft

Blending together sci-fi and the supernatural, Lovecraft’s cosmic horror classics come together in a novel that will chill readers to the bone. If you’re looking for true gothic horror, this is the collection to read this Halloween season.

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Paranormal horror books

“Imaginary Friend” by Stephen Chbosky

“Imaginary Friend” by Stephen Chbosky

After 7-year-old Christopher vanishes for six days, he emerges from the woods with one mission in mind: build a treehouse in the forest by Christmas. Childhood fears become a reality in this paranormal thriller; if it’s not built in time, there will be deadly consequences — the voice in Christopher’s head told him so. 

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“The Boatman’s Daughter” by Andy Davidson

“The Boatman’s Daughter” by Andy Davidson

Miranda Crabtree makes ends meet by doing dirty work for a corrupt preacher in this paranormal tale. Through themes of danger and desperation, readers see how far Miranda is willing to go to keep loved ones protected and away from the dark magic lurking in the bayou.

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“The Deep” by Alma Katzu

“The Deep” by Alma Katzu

Combining supernatural forces and mystery, readers board a ship destined to be suspended in an infinite loop of unsettling doom. Something sinister is haunting the vessel, and when characters who escaped death on the Titanic encounter others who weren’t so fortunate long after the sinking, the truth becomes horrifically clear.

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Slasher horror books

“And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie

“And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie brings an edge to “slasher” horror in this twisted tale of wicked pasts and a game that is to die for. When 10 strangers are invited to a private island by a millionaire with a hidden agenda, readers will succumb to the dangerous intrigue of the game as each character is killed off one by one. 

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“Clown in a Cornfield” by Adam Cesare

“Clown in a Cornfield” by Adam Cesare

A Bram Stoker Award recipient, Cesare describes the small farm town of Kettle Springs alongside high schooler Quinn Maybrook, who just wants to make it to graduation. Unfortunately, a killer clown has other ideas. Interlaced with themes of adulthood and growing up, this slasher is sure to cull the crops of readers everywhere.

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“There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins

“There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins

Young love becomes borderline obsession in this YA slasher. Follow protagonist Makani Young as she moves from Hawaii to Nebraska to escape her past. But, avid horror fans all know that the past will always catch up, no matter who gets in the way. 

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Hannah Shemke writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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