It’s October and the first of the seasonal celebrations will soon be upon us. It’s dark outside and there’s a chill in the air – so what else is there to do other than settle down in a warm, happy living room with a truly terrifying read?
Stock up on mulled wine, chocolate-covered ghosts and scare yourself silly with these highly recommended scary books.
16 of the best scary books
Dracula by Bram Stoker
There’s just something about Dracula. It’s easily the definitive vampire novel that features the iconic shadowy figure who’s been resurrected so many times. Bram Stoker took a creature from folklore and created a rip-roaring adventure – one that is actually truly terrifying.
The cast of characters is exceptional. Jonathan Harker, the young, naive English gent invited to Transylvania and immediately paralysed by an ever growing sense of unease, makes a perfect narrator. He’s joined by the enigmatic Van Helsing and the ever-charming Count Dracula, a creature who instils such terror that surrounding communities won’t mention his name. Vampires are renowned for their ability to allure and entice, but Stoker won’t let the reader forget that those fangs can be deadly.
The Fog by James Herbert
This is one scary book. The plot – as you may well have guessed from the title – revolves around a deadly fog that drives those who come into contact with it insane. Combining many elements of a fast-paced thriller with a good dollop of horror, we promise you’ll be hooked from the start. The cast of likeable and believable characters who struggle against this silent killer make it an all-round winner.
There are a few dated scenes – it was written in 1975 – but if you embrace them you’ll be back in Shining territory in no time!
It by Stephen King
Is there anything more sinister or scarier than a murderous clown? Dead eyes and a machete. I for one am certainly not laughing.
This book is a masterstroke: not only does it deal with the differences between adults and children and what they fear, but it looks forensically into the way we lie to ourselves on a daily basis rather than face up to the monsters in our lives. An unbelievably scary book that will make you think. And hide behind the sofa.
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
An iconic novel from one of the most influential thriller authors of our time, The Silence of the Lambs is a must-read for fans of the multi award-winning film starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.
With his master storytelling, Thomas Harris makes it all too easy to imagine yourself as a character in this creepy, hair-raising game of cat and mouse. Beware: this book will give you the chills!
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House: Dr Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely assistant; Luke, the future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers – and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
Twice filmed as The Haunting, and the inspiration for a new ten-part Netflix series, this book is a powerful work of slow-burning psychological horror.
The Quick by Lauren Owen
There are so many wonderful things about this book. The Quick is gothic storytelling at its very best. There is a real sense of history throughout this book – think Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell with an added creeping sense of dread. I was fascinated by London’s mysterious Aegolius Club, a society of some of the richest, most powerful men in England, protected by the shadowy elitest nature of the gentleman’s club.
Epic and beautifully handled, there is something here for every reader: romance, crime, mystery and adventure.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Even forty years after it was first published, The Exorcist still has the power to shock and terrify.
We follow eleven-year-old Regan, the character at the heart of this scary book, as subtle changes to her personality start to emerge with no apparent explanation. At the same time, the family experience sudden icy chills, strange noises in the attic, furniture moving around… Distraught, they call in Jesuit Priest Father Damien Karras and all hell breaks loose.
Ghost Stories by E F Benson
There’s nothing sinister about a London bus. Nothing supernatural could occur on a busy Tube platform. There’s nothing terrifying about a little caterpillar. And a telephone, what could be scary about that? Don’t be frightened of the dark corners of your room. Don’t be alarmed by a sudden, inexplicable chill. There’s no need for a ticking clock, a limping footstep, or a knock at the door to start you trembling. There’s nothing to be scared of. Nothing at all.
Sherlock star Mark Gatiss selects and introduces chilling tales by the unsung master of the classic ghost story in this unmissable collection.
The House on Cold Hill by Peter James
A creepy and twisting tale, this newly published novel sees Peter James take a departure from his Roy Grace series and instead turn his hand to a classic and unforgettable ghost story.
Within days of moving in, it becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents of the haunted Cold Hill House. It’s a brilliantly written tale that delivers on everything you could want – it’s creepy, spooky, suspenseful and will grip you from start to finish. The perfect read for a dark and chilly night!
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Where to begin? It is with trepidation that I write about this book as it took months of romantic fiction to get over it.
Welcome to a post-apocalyptic world where a new, unidentified ‘breed’ will drive you mad and kill you if you look at them and simply leaving your house could result in your mind being completely altered beyond repair. To survive, you must live in near complete blindness. This psychological thriller plays on the eternal fear of the unseen and unknown and is both disturbing and compelling in equal measures.
The Whisper Man by Alex North
When a father and son move to a small, sleepy town, they could never suspect that it would bring them straight into the path of a serial killer. If you love C J Tudor and Thomas Harris, you’ll find this incredibly creepy psychological thriller as gripping as they come.
The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones
The hunter and the hunted are the focus in this tale of a being that has been chasing the same family through their generations. The being hasn’t aged; his extraordinary strength is undiminished. Mother Hannah knows that if she fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. She must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.
Brilliantly told through diary entries and first person narrative, the creeping sense of dread is here in spades.
The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor
The Chalk Man author C J Tudor returns this month with a chilling, creepy new tale. Packed full of tension, this absorbing page turner transports us to a claustrophobic small town that’s hiding a secret darker than anyone could imagine. It’s eerie, unnerving and seriously addictive, so prepare to be thrilled.
Perfume: The story of a murderer by Patrick Süskind
A terrifying examination of what happens when one man’s indulgence in his greatest passion – his sense of smell – leads to murder.
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift: an absolute sense of smell. But his genius is not satisfied, and he soon becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of different objects – until one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on a terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume” using the scent of a beautiful young virgin. A hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Full of menace, The Turn of the Key is a modern-day haunted house thriller from the author of In A Dark, Dark Wood and The Death of Mrs Westaway. It’s a genuinely suspenseful read permeated with a creeping sense of dread, and it’s sure to have you holding your breath right up to the dramatic conclusion.
Psycho by Robert Bloch
Psycho is a horror classic and not a tale for queasy stomachs or faint hearts.
Influenced by a real story, it captivated the nation when it was first published in 1959. Suspenseful, chilling and dramatic, it’s still absolutely timeless, both on the page and the screen.
After stealing $40,000 from her employer, Mary Crane flees and takes refuge at Bates motel. This sets off a chain of horrific events which lead to the discovery of a macabre secret that lays within. A must-read.
The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen
This haunting standalone novel from the author of the Rizzoli and Isles series follows Ava, a woman with a dark past, as she retreats to a house that also has something to hide. It’s as chilling and creepy as they come, and the perfect spooky read for Halloween season.
Have we missed any seriously scary books? Let us know in the comments below!