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2021's Most Terrifying Horror Bestsellers

The Lineup's community has chilling taste—these were our most beloved titles in 2021.

horror bestsellers
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  • Photo Credit: Cover of The Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi

If you’re anything like us, you’re constantly hungry for that next terrifying read—and when you find a book you love, you can’t wait to find someone else to share that satisfaction with. When you do find your reading soul mate with similar creepy reading tastes, there’s just no comparable feeling—it’s like being in a secret spooky book society. 

Here on The Lineup, we take our role very seriously (in a fun way!) We are committed to sharing the very best horror has to offer—all year round. Our team of writers keeps their finger on the pulse of horror fiction, and we’re always chasing that next adrenaline-filled terrifying tale to share with our readers.

But guess what? The Lineup community has great taste, too. So it's your turn: Today, we're bringing you The Lineup’s creepiest horror bestsellers of 2021. These books are consistently popular among readers in our community—and it’s not an accident. This list has it all; from folk horror to occult lore, quiet horror to extreme. There are chilling haunted house tales and thrilling paranormal romps; stories filled with vampires and ancient gods. From Gemma Files and Ray Garton to Robert McCammon and Elizabeth Hand, this list of 21 horror books is sure to offer something for every type of scare chaser. 

Red Harvest

Red Harvest

By Patrick C. Greene

The rural community of Ember Hollow comes alive every Halloween. Pumpkins are carted off for carving, ghoulish costumes are thrown together, and parents horde mountains of candy. The town is abuzz with preparations for the Pumpkin Parade. And then comes Devil’s Night.

Related: Trick or Treat: 6 Creepy Halloween Urban Legends

But the celebrations this year are set to be more horrific than ever. Dark visions have been plaguing the townspeople, causing ripples of worry over lost minds—or worse, lost souls. A talented, recently sober singer is offered and tempting and fateful deal. And one home is full of terrible secrets as an odd boy is kept under lock and key in the shed.

The Great God Pan

The Great God Pan

By Arthur Machen

Dr. Raymond is exploring pursuits of what he calls “transcendental science.” His friend, Mr. Clarke, is reluctant to accept his invitation to bear witness to his experimental procedure. The doctor makes a small incision in a woman’s brain, meant to open her up to a world that exists beyond the senses. A world containing the great god Pan. The experiment is a bust, but Clarke’s experience with the sinister beyond is just beginning.

Years later, a woman named Helen Vaughan is found to be at the heart of a series of odd and tragic happenings. As she has crosses from London to the Americas and back, suicides and disappearances have followed in her wake. She is a seductress of evil who Clarke is certain cannot be of this world.

Shackled

Shackled

By Ray Garton

What happens to children when they disappear? Washed-up reporter Bentley Noble is about to know all too well. He’s writing up a missing child case for a tabloid when he comes across the disturbing lead. What seems like one singular incident is really just one among a horrifying human trafficking ring, centered around sexually exploiting children.

The society behind it is beyond evil. They’re professional pedophiles brought together by Satanist beliefs. There’s nothing they won’t do to train their “merchandise” and stay hidden. But with the help of a hacker, a researcher, and a true crime writer, Noble risks everything to expose and destroy this dark world.

Related: Straight Out of Hell: 10 Sinister Tales of Holy Horror

Come Closer

Come Closer

By Sara Gran

Amanda used to be a successful architect with a happy marriage. But her destruction begins simply. With a strange and constant noise in her apartment. An inexplicably obscene memo to her boss. She picks up smoking again, and one night, for no reason at all, she burns her husband with the cigarette. And her dreams are filled with a beautiful woman, a mouth full of sharp teeth, and a blood-red sea.

She’s not in control of her thoughts anymore. There’s a voice worming through her brain telling her to steal and strike up conversations with strange men in bars. Everything she holds dear is slipping through her fingers. But is she possessed by some dark entity? Or is she just going mad?

Blue World

Blue World

By Robert McCammon

Blue World is a gripping collection of short stories by a master of horror. A man goes to bed next to his wife, only to wake up in the morning next to a skeleton. A hero dons a costume to hunt down a serial killer. A common thief stumbles upon the secret of a dead horror star. And in the titular novella, Father John develops an obsession with porn actress Debra Rocks—only to find they’re both being stalked by a third presence.

Related: 12 Creepy Robert McCammon Books

They Thirst

They Thirst

By Robert McCammon

And while we're talking Robert McCammon, They Thirst is also beloved by The Lineup readers. In Los Angeles, the Kronsteen castle towers darkly over the city. It’s an unsightly reminder of the past—an ode to a long-dead movie star with a fascination for the macabre. No one has lived there since the owner was murdered. But centuries-old Prince Conrad Vulkan, Hungarian master of the vampires, occupies the space.

Vulkan plots to turn every living human into one of his own kind, and Los Angeles’s wild population is the perfect place to start. Each night his growing legion of the dead increases. But the body count spurs the retaliation of a band of misfit vampire hunters, setting them off on a suicide mission to put an end to Vulkan’s evil desires.

The Other Child

The Other Child

By Joanne Fluke

Karen and Mike Houston, with a baby on the way, are eager to renovate their old Victorion home to its fullest potential. There’s no end to the number of rooms and hidden places for their nine-year-old daughter, Leslie, to play in as they work. But the family should have paid attention to the dark rumors about the house’s evil history.

A child’s voice whispers from the rose garden in the night, calling Leslie out to the broken steps beneath the storm door. It calls out to their unborn child, too. It wants something from the new residents. And the other child has come to collect it.

House of Bones

House of Bones

By Dale Bailey

Chicago’s Dreamland Housing Project was created to be a haven for people in desperate need of a second chance. But, like many dreams, the project eventually fell into disrepair—overrun by gangs and drug dealers. One building in the complex housed an evil so foul, it overshadowed anything human-created. Regularly soaked with human blood and the dark deeds of rapists and murders.

Decades later, Dreamland is crumbling and empty. Excerpt for that one building…and billionaire Ramsey Lomax is determined (along with a writer, former cop, a doctor, and a psychic) to lay the horrifying legends to rest, once and for all. A disturbing twist on the haunted-house story, House of Bones is the story of five strangers who resolve to spend two weeks inside the abandoned high-rise. But in Dreamland, every nightmare comes true . . . 

Related: 21 Haunted House Books

The Girl in the Basement

The Girl in the Basement

By Ray Garton

No surprise here—yet another Ray Garton title makes the list. This tale of terror comes from Bram Stoker-Award nominated author Ray Garton, the man who Cemetery Dance says “has consistently created some of the best horror ever set to print.” In and out of foster care, 15-year-old Ryan Kettering has spent most of his young life in abusive homes. He likens the foster experience to Russian roulette, which each new home offering equal possibilities of reprieve or terror.

When he arrives to the Prestons’ two story home in Shasta County, after first it appears to be a safe haven. He splits the chores with the other foster kids…all except for one, that is. Nine-year-old Maddy stays in the basement. Her voice is strange—adult, gravelly. But Ryan feels for what he perceives as the girl’s loneliness, and he’s determined to make a difference—and that’s when he decides: he’s going down to the basement.

Related: When Horror Hits Home, A True Story by Ray Garton 

Wicked Angel

Wicked Angel

By Taylor Caldwell

From the bestselling author of Dialogues with the Devil, Wicked Angel is a tale of family horror akin to The Bad Seed and The Omen. Angelo’s mother thinks he is perfect and categorizes his nasty bursts of rage as childish pranks. But as he grows up, these outburst become increasingly disturbing. When a pet dog disappears and he breaks his teacher’s arm in a playground encounter, Angelo’s dad and aunt begin to suspect that something more sinister is going on inside the child. His mother doesn’t what to believe it’s true… 

Crawlspace

Crawlspace

By Herbert Lieberman

Albert and Alice Graves never had children, but they are content to retire in their lovely New England farmhouse. When a quiet young man arrives to fix their furnace, Alice invites him to dinner. The man is strange, but the Graves feel a fondness for him. But then … he doesn’t leave. The Graves had no idea that their simple act of kindness would leave to a horrifying discover in the crawlspace of their house.

Crawlspace, Herbert Lieberman’s spine-tingling suspense novel, will leave you checking your locks and vowing to think twice about who you allow into your home.

The Worm in Every Heart

The Worm in Every Heart

By Gemma Files

This is Gemma Files’ second collection—and it doesn’t disappoint. Two-time Bram Stoker Award winner Paula Guran said in Horror Garage, “Nobody in a Gemma Files story puts a hand on a doorknob and opens the door they shouldn’t—these folks are already in the other side.” And it’s true. 

The characters within the pages of The Worm in Every Heart include gods and madmen, arsonists and ancient vampires, monsters and mothers. No matter where they are in space—whether Warsaw during World War II, British India, or modern-day Toronto—they exist in strange realities, worlds deeply distorted compared to our own. But that doesn’t stop us from willingly immersing ourselves in the terrifying worlds tucked between the pages of this book. 

Floating Staircase

Floating Staircase

By Ronald Malfi

This book is a favorite for a reason—and Ronald Malfi is quickly becoming a beloved icon in the horror world. When horror author Travis Glasgow discovers that a former occupant of his house—a 10-year-old boy—drowned in the lake near his Maryland house, he mentally revisits his own childhood tragedy. His wife, Jodie, and his brother both warn him not to go down that road, but Travis can’t help himself. He’s soon caught up in obsession, following the clues that lead him to the floating staircase—and into the madness beyond.

Related: 32 Horror Authors Every Scare-Chaser Needs to Know

Wylding Hall

Wylding Hall

By Elizabeth Hand

Wylding Hall, told in a “documentary” style, takes place many years after the disturbing and unexplained events which occurred back in the 1970s. Members of the folk rock band Windhollow Faire recall the events that transpired at Wylding Hall, the old and decaying house where they stayed one golden summer to record their (now-iconic) album. Something strange happened in that house—and something mysterious happened to their heartbreakingly talented lead singer. The story unfolds a bit at a time, as band members and others involved recount their remembrances of what happened that haunted summer. 70s British folk rock culture. The folklore and strange folk magic of the British countryside. Old occult books and unsettling birds. A bizarre, sprawling old house whose interior layout doesn’t make sense. What more could you want from a creepy little folk horror book? Read an excerpt of Wylding Hall.

3 Gates of the Dead

3 Gates of the Dead

By Jonathan Ryan

Aidan Shaeffer, a young assistant pastor, is grappling with the hypocrisy of the church. In a state of constant spiritual turmoil, he experiences a crisis of faith. When his ex-fiancee is the first victim in a string of local—and bizarrely ritualistic—killings, he begins to be tormented by demonic threats and haunting spirits. His questions lead him to a paranormal investigation group—meanwhile, an ancient evil threatens to rip apart his entire life.

Usher's Passing

Usher's Passing

By Robert McCammon

Rix Usher distanced himself from his family years ago, wanting to pursue a career as a horror writer instead of continuing the violent legacy of making millions off of sales of military weapons. But when he learns that his father’s death is imminent, he returns to the Usherland estate in the hills of North Carolina. Rix is suddenly the Usher patriarch and must deal with all the skeletons in his family’s closet. 

Upon his arrival, Rix is reminded of why he left Usherland in the first place. His family is cruel and uncaring and there is something lurking in the surrounding Briartop Mountains, something connected to the folk legends of missing children. Rix knows that the terrifying something he saw when he was a boy is still there, waiting for him. An ancestral horror comes to light in this modern-day continuation of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tale.

Related: 10 Horror Books Too Terrifying to Handle

Charnel House

Charnel House

By Graham Masterton

When Seymour Willis shows up at the San Francisco Department of Sanitation claiming that his house is breathing, John Hyatt is skeptical. He’s sure it’s nothing more than a rat infestation, but the truth turns out to be much worse. An ancient demon, like one described in the darkest chapters of Native American folklore, has taken over the whole house. It is all-powerful and is determined to break free to unleash untold horrors on the city. 

All that stands between the creature and its goal are Willis, Hyatt, a Native American shaman, and a small group of people willing to believe them. But will they be enough to withstand the monster’s insatiable hunger for blood and flesh?

Wild Fell

Wild Fell

By Michael Rowe

Jameson Browning is in desperate need of an escape. He finds an opportunity when he sees an ad for a turn-of-the-century estate on a private island. With its optimal location and low price, it seems too good to be true. But there is a reason the locals avoid Wild Fell.

The estate is haunted by its sinister past, and no one has lived at Wild Fell for over 50 years. Jameson is willing to overlook superstitions in favor of some rest and relaxation. But something is waiting for him, and Jameson will come to realize that he can’t even trust himself.

The Loveliest Dead

The Loveliest Dead

By Ray Garton

Ray Garton has made this list three times for a reason—he's a master of horror storytelling. When Jenna Kellar inherits her estranged father’s home in a coastal town in California, it seems like the perfect distraction after her son Josh’s sudden death. She, her husband David, their son Miles, and Jenna’s mother all move in, hoping for a new start. But strange occurrences begin almost as soon as the family moves in. Mysterious children are seen playing in the backyard, noises and music coming from nowhere sound through the walls, and a man is watching Miles sleep every night - and then Jenna sees Josh.

Unsure if she is losing her mind or someone is playing a sick joke, Jenna consults a local psychic. The reality appears to be far from a joke or the tricks of a grieving mind, it’s a warning. The house and its ghostly inhabitants have been waiting for the Kellars, and the past is just starting to come alive. Read an excerpt of The Loveliest Dead.

House of Windows

House of Windows

By John Langan

When a young writer attends a party at the vacation home he’s been staying at, he doesn’t expect to be cornered by Veronica Croydon. A woman surrounded by scandal, she first became known as the young mistress her famous professor left his wife for. Now, that professor has left her a widow. When she offers to tell her side of the story, he knows he can’t turn down the opportunity. 

What follows goes far beyond interpersonal drama and scandalous affairs. It is a story that spans decades and continents, of a father and his only son, and of the connections between this world and the next. And it is all connected to a mysterious mansion with secrets of its own.

The Willows

The Willows

By Algernon Blackwood

Algernon Blackwood’s novella was praised by horror master H. P. Lovecraft as the best “weird tale” of all time. It is the story of two men sailing along the Danube. One night, they decide to sleep on an island covered in willows, but they soon realize that all is not as it seems. The land itself seems to reject their presence, and the men may have stumbled into a world that is not our own. 

Written over a century ago, The Willows  is a staple of the horror genre that continues to send a chill down the spine all these years later. 

Related: 8 Surreal Horror Novels That Will Leave You Questioning Reality

Shadows in Summerland

Shadows in Summerland

By Adrian Van Young

In 1859 Boston, anyone who claims to have a connection to the spiritual realm - psychics, mediums, and others like them - become instant celebrities. For a con artist like William Mumler, it is a perfect opportunity. He soon allies himself with Hannah, a young girl who can communicate with the dead. The couple becomes famous for William’s supposed photographs of the spirits Hannah manifests, and they become staples in the homes of Boston’s elite.

But their notoriety comes at a price, and their circle is soon heavily populated by grifters, rogues, and fanatics. Soon, death comes far closer to the Mumlers than they could have ever imagined, and they realize that the forces of the afterlife cannot be underestimated. Loosely based on the real lives of William H. Mumler and his wife Hannah,  Shadows in Summerland is a classic gothic tale for the modern age.