We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to improve user experience. By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies and other technologies.


13 People Share the Scariest Books They’ve Ever Read

Dying for your next creepy read? We've got you covered.

scariest books read
  • camera-icon
  • Photo Credit: Joe deSousa / Unsplash

Reddit can be a scary place—and a useful one, too. And, sometimes, it’s both: Subreddits like r/horrorlit are great places to find book recommendations.

But you don’t have to dig through Reddit’s old posts or use its horrible search engine feature to track down some great horror suggestions. We’ve done it for you! Here, with thanks to the original posters, are some of the best suggestions we’ve ever seen on subreddits like r/horrorlit and r/horror.

scariest books ever

The Exorcist

By William Peter Blatty

This classic horror novel was the inspiration for the infamous movie. The story of a little girl’s demonic possession is every bit as scary on the page as it was on the big screen. The Exorcist has thoroughly earned its reputation as an all-time horror great.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty- recommending because it's scary, well written, a classic imo, really delves into the whole exorcism and possession topic which I find creepy and interesting. – u/madandmacabre 

Related: 9 Disturbing and Deadly Cases of Real-Life Exorcisms and Possessions 

scariest books ever

The Passage

By Justin Cronin

The Passage is a post-apocalyptic novel with a twist, and that twist is vampires. Drawing on influences like I Am Legend and countless zombie stories, Cronin presents us with a ruined world in which a disease is responsible for turning humans into horror-story monsters.

vampire apocalypse... amazing :) – u/serpymatt 

You said it, serpymatt.

scariest books

House of Leaves

By Mark Z. Danielewski

A perennial favorite on r/horrorlit, House of Leaves is an innovative horror novel that uses multiple narrators and experimental prose (including footnotes–and even footnotes within footnotes) to disorient the reader and mirror the frightening happenings occurring on the page.

It's a challenging and lengthy read, but it really is one of the greatest horror novels. – u/Beatdrop
scariest books ever

A Terrible Vengeance

By Nikolai Gogol

There are some literary heavyweights on this list, and Gogol–one of the great Russian writers–is among them. A Terrible Vengeance opens with a wedding and gets a whole lot weirder from there. Evil spirits and an Antichrist figure make this a very disturbing read.

Get comfortable, open your mind, and read...
A Terrible Vengeance by Gogol. It's got a family curse, a shape-shifting warlock, an avenging knight, a Cossack battle, zombies that rise from the grave, and a hell of a mad scene. All in about 60 pages. And it's from 1831, son.
The only books that come close to Vengeance's sheer madness are manga. Must read – slowly, in the dark. – u/Smell_Ron_Hubbard 

Related: 10 Horror Books Too Terrifying to Handle 

scariest books ever

The Haunting of Hill House

By Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House tells the story of a paranormal researcher and his handpicked guests, who stay in an allegedly haunted house looking for evidence of something beyond this world. Jackson’s novel finished fourth on r/horrorlit’s user-generated all-time list, and it just so happens to be a personal favorite of your dear blogger’s, too.

I read this novel twice and it still scared me the second time. – u/characterulio 
scariest books ever


By Stephen King

This thick volume from the master of horror has two movie versions and countless fans. A shapeshifting something–“It”–lurks in the sewers of a Maine town. Voters at r/horrorlit picked It as their all-time top horror book.

King's book is a great, big, messy, meandering, over-the-top book about growing up, leaving childhood behind, and how sweet (and bitter) that is. It's an ambitious book, and it's a book a lot of us encountered for the first time in our teens. It actually gives me hope that so many people went on this journey with King as he dreamed himself back into his childhood, and then woke up and celebrated its end. That a book about triumph and failure, a book about unknown heroes, a book about bullying, and the bullied, a book about forgotten friendships and terrible monsters, and parents who can't help, and monsters who can't be killed but only laid to rest, is a book that made such an impact on so many of us. – u/GradyHendrix 

Related: 9 Terrifying Stephen King Novels You May Not Have Read 

Want more terrifying books? Sign up for The Lineup's newsletter, and get our scariest picks delivered straight to your inbox.

scariest books ever

Dark Gods

By T.E.D. Klein

This collection features four stories from horror writer T.E.D. Klein. Subjects include monsters that stalk cities and a ritual murder. Are you scared yet?

[O]ne of the scariest books I've ever read. It's out of print but well worth tracking down – u/Frank_Wotan
scariest books ever

The Cipher

By Kathe Koja

Science fiction and horror blend in this inventive novel, published in the early 1990s and since gaining a cult following. When two friends find a strange hole in an abandoned storage room, they decide the best thing to do is to drop things into it. But what gets dropped in emerges violently transformed.

The Cipher by Kathe Koja. It's a great work of cosmic horror where a couple finds an impossible hole in their apartment's utility closet. Apparently, things that go in the hole come out... different. It has a unique writing style that you will either love or hate, but I haven't been able to shut up about it since I read it. – u/Ten_Geese 
At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of Madness

By H. P. Lovecraft

Few horror writers are as revered as H.P. Lovecraft, who invented iconic monsters in his disturbing fiction. In At the Mountains of Madness, Lovecraft takes us on an expedition to Antarctica. Naturally, our explorers encounter some horrifying stuff.

Read this a few years ago, and it’s probably my favorite horror story. Loved the atmosphere and sense of dread that Lovecraft is so good at. – u/roger_ 

Related: Scary Good Book Sales This Month 

scariest books ever


By José Saramago

If you thought we weren’t going to meet any Nobel laureates on this horror-filled journey, you were wrong. Saramango’s novel is rightly considered literary fiction, but if you don’t find this tale of a sudden worldwide epidemic of blindness horrifying, then you don’t know horror fiction.

Blindness by Saramago. It's not your typical horror novel, but it made me sick to my stomach, and come to think of it, I never finished it either. – u/The_Prof 
Song of Kali

Song of Kali

By Dan Simmons

The award-winning Song of Kali tells the tale of an American intellectual in India. Culture shock gets real when he encounters a creepy cult that worships Kali, a Hindu goddess.

Dan Simmons' Song of Kali was worth the read. I'm fairly jaded, and not much gets to me, but that one has a creep factor to it. – u/KittyLaurus:
scariest books ever

Battle Royale

By Koushun Takami

In Battle Royale, a dystopian Japanese government has taken to forcing middle school kids to fight to the death. The disturbing premise is delivered with plenty of horrifying gore, and the novel got plenty of criticism for its content when it debuted in the 1990s.

It's a good size novel, but a disturbing bloodbath throughout. It's not afraid to kill characters you like. – u/cyberklown28 

Related: 9 Gothic Horror Books That Will Make Your Blood Run Cold 

scariest books ever

John Dies at the End

By David Wong

Wong’s tale of a pair of slackers and amateur paranormal investigators is well known for its humor, but it’s plenty scary, too–just ask its fans on r/horrorlit. And Redditors say that the series only gets scarier with subsequent installments. 

They're loaded with hilarity and absurdity, which I think masks some of the scarier parts (especially in the first book), but they're pretty tense and loaded with creativity. The second and third books were particularly unnerving. – u/beatdrop

Featured photo: Joe deSousa / Unsplash