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The 50 Scariest Books of All Time

The air is getting crisper, the nights are getting longer, and All Hallow’s Eve draws near. You know what that means: it’s time to curl up with a book guaranteed to give you the shivers — or at least make you check the locks twice. Here, for your horrifying pleasure, are 50 of the scariest books ever written in the English language, whether horror, nonfiction, or speculative futures you never want to see. One caveat: the list is limited to one book per author, so Stephen King fans will have to expand their horizons a little bit. Check out 50 books that will keep you up all night after the jump, and add any other scary favorites to the list in the comments.

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IT, Stephen King

All right, let’s get this out of the way up front: Stephen King is the you-know-what of horror, and if there wasn’t this pesky rule about keeping it to one book per author, this list could almost be wholly populated by his terrifying reads. This book might be the scariest of the lot, and has the added bonus of being about fear itself — the scariest thing of all. There’s also a murderous, shapeshifting clown.

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18 comments
JorHaya
JorHaya

Well balanced list. My personal favorite is Stephen King's Pet Cemetery, which I read when I was around 15 or so and made me a lifelong King fan. Another book I read at the same period (it was on my school's reading list) was 1984, not only a literary masterpiece but also a terrific page turner.

AbrahemAlsady
AbrahemAlsady

الباحثون عن التطوير والتغيير . مع المبدع ابراهيم السعدي

beep54
beep54

A fine list! Of course, everyone is going to have their own, but this list has some truly interesting choices. Exceptionally glad that The Cipher is here as it is just awesome (unfortunately a bit difficult to actually find as it is now a collectible and very expensive! You can score a paperback copy at Amazon for a mere $99.99). It was the book that Dell kicked off there sorely missed Abyss series with. I have a few more very obscure books that I'd like to mention. One was another in the Abyss series titled 'Toplin'. Written by Michael McDowell, it is even more upsetting than The Cipher. Two others are by Richard Forsythe. One is titled 'Fangs' and is not at at all what you might expect. This is pulp fiction to rival Jim Thompson; so far over the top that it becomes transcendent. The other is 'Bishop's Landing' which can easily be compared to Hell House. I've written reviews for some (if not all) on Amazon should anyone be interested and that is probably your best bet for actually acquiring any one of them as they really are difficult to find.


Very happy that you didn't pick The Stand. Recently reread it and it just isn't one of King's better books [ducks]. But would like to second another poster in that a Skipp and Spector book needs to be mentioned. 'The Scream' possibly. Also, Joe R. Lansdale, who can make the goofiest premise plausible (I'm thinking 'The Drive-In' here).

IvanDavison
IvanDavison

This list is brilliant. A lot of these books are a very dear to my heart, but including The Wasp Factory and House of Leaves is something else. I love them both so much and they get so little credit for being breaking-the-mold horror. Both were two of my favorite books at one point (HoL currently I'd say, but it changes on re-reads of both) and both were the only adult books that gave me nightmares. 

rescuewriter407
rescuewriter407

excellent!  some tasty new ones to devour.  Interesting aside - even though only one book from the master (SK) is allowed in, you've included many that have recommendations from his majesty, including a novel from his own son.  Papa must be so proud!


Hex Nottingham
Hex Nottingham

What an amazing list you have. All the better to scare us with. Damn, I wish I was a speed reader.

Having never read a Stephen King novel yet, good choice. Here's a fact though: Pet Semetary scarred the hell out of HIM when he was writing it.

Rogojin
Rogojin

Why isn't "The Stand" by Stephen King included here? I missed it or what? The uncensored version just gave me nightmares, really, i had nightmares and as i was reading the book i felt insecure whenever i heard someone sneeze, i found myself avoiding shaking hands. this is the only book that did this to me. American Psycho is another nightmare , and a nonfiction book "Mehmed's Book" - a Turkish book about PKK guerillas and the Turkish army, the confessions of the soldiers that participated in the war--is another very scary book. It gave me thrills for weeks.

Johnpart2
Johnpart2

Great list, I would add pretty much anything by Joe R. Lansdale.  Bubba Ho-Tep and his short story anthologies High Cotton and Bumper Crop mix the bizarre, hilarious, and the macabre into a wonderful east Texas blend that is a thoroughly enjoyable scary, funny ride.

ConnerHobson
ConnerHobson

Awesome list! I was really glad to see my all-time favorite book at #1 and the little-known Ryu Murakami at #2. I was also glad to see Lovecraft and Kafka. The Ruins is also a GREAT horror novel that seems to be really underrated. You definitely know your literature!

JoSerra
JoSerra

I have some reading to do!  Only read 17!


J.ScottWilson
J.ScottWilson

Nicely done!  I was a bit disappointed not to see anything from the demon pairing of John Skipp and Craig Spector, but you can't have everything.  Great to see some love for Robert R. McCammon ... his writing is blue-collar bloody and truly well-realized.

CraigRosser
CraigRosser

Hi just found the cipher on Amazon uk for 2:30 think I might buy it now :)

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