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Don’t Read Alone: The 13 Scariest Books of 2016

It's time to add these scary books to your to-read pile.


Ah, 2016. It’s been a horror-filled thrill ride down the primrose path of pain, psychos, and unadulterated evil. If all that wasn’t enough for you, then these creepy reads are sure fill you with dread.

Here are the scariest books of 2016. From the apocalyptic vision of Joe Hill, to the uncanny world of Mr. Splitfoot, or America’s all-to-real haunted history in Ghostland, the tales on this list will get under your skin and stay there well into the new year.

scariest books of 2016

The Fireman

By Joe Hill

In major cities across the U.S., a fire plague is sweeping the nation, where a strange communicable skin disease called Dragonscale causes people to burst into flames. Now Harper, a compassionate nurse, has become infected herself. Though she and her husband vowed to destroy themselves before the virus took hold, there’s one complication: Harper is pregnant, and she’s determined to carry the baby to term. Terrified and alone, there’s only one person who can help her—they call him The Fireman, and he's learned to control the deadly disease. 

Aided by The Fireman, Harper finds temporary sanctuary in a commune of infected hiding in an abandoned summer camp. Together, they control their Dragonscale by entering a near-trance state called "The Bright." But with corruption eating the community from within, and cremation crews sweeping the country and bent on killing the sick, Harper and The Fireman will have to rely on each other entirely in a world gone to hell.

This apocalyptic novel by Joe Hill is perhaps the perfect gift for those suffering from post-traumatic 2016 disorder.

Related: 8 Award-Winning Horror Books You Need to Read Now 

scariest books of 2016

Mr. Splitfoot

By Samantha Hunt

This unusual road trip novel by Samantha Hunt transcended the horror and suspense genre to land on the best books lists of the year. The narrative is split in half, and on one side tells the story of orphans Ruth and Nat. Nat can speak to the dead, and the two are conned into a sideshow business. Fast forward years later, and Ruth shows up at her sister’s home, convincing her pregnant niece Cora to follow her on a walking journey. Where is Ruth leading Cora, and why won’t she speak? Who is the horrifying one-eyed man stalking them across the country? And what is Ruth's connection to a mysterious cult?

The secrets at the heart of this book lead towards its shock ending, but the ride itself is filled with colorful characters and thrilling subplots thanks to Hunt’s unnerving talents. This is a lyrical ride through the eerie backroads of America, and a horror story you'll want to read with the lights on and a box of tissues nearby. 

scariest books of 2016

Children of the Dark

By Jonathan Janz

For most teens, high school feels like the end of the world—but for young Will Burgess, it’s literally the case. Jonathan Janz’s young adult horror novel centers on the Moonlight Killer, a serial murderer who recently escaped from a nearby prison. The jail break puts Will’s hometown of Savage Hollow on high alert. To make matters worse, there’s a storm brewing that will put everyone in the line of danger, and the mysterious Children are beginning to surface again. 

Luckily for Will, who was abandoned by his father and currently lives with his drug-addicted mother, he’s accustomed to taking care of things. Now he must put his strength to the test. When his friend is taken by a mysterious force into the woods of Savage Hollow, and carnage is loosed on the town, Will must rely on all his strength to survive. 

scariest books of 2016

Disappearance at Devil's Rock

By Paul Tremblay

A young boy’s disappearance lies at the heart of this creepy novel by Paul Tremblay, also author of the very spooky A Head Full of Ghosts. When 13-year-old Tommy disappears in the wilds of a local park, many believe he has been the victim of some violent crime. 

But a series of terrifying incidents at his mother’s house suggest that Tommy is still out there, trying to communicate with his mother and younger sister. When pages from his journals—reproduced here in the text—surface, containing sketches of Tommy’s uncanny visions, his mother Elizabeth and the police department suspect this is no typical missing person’s case. Determined not to give up the search for her son, Elizabeth becomes increasingly obsessed with a creepy local legend about the area where Tommy disappeared, and with the sinister adult drifter he befriended soon before vanishing. 

scariest books of 2016

My Best Friend's Exorcism

By Grady Hendrix

For those who take their horror with a side of humor and revel in movies like Shaun of the Dead, Grady Hendrix’s novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism is equal parts terror and John Hughes hilarity. Set in 1988, Abby and Gretchen are BFFs. But after a crazy night experimenting with LSD, Gretchen’s behavior changes … and strange things start happening. 

An allegory to the transformation of adolescence, My Best Friend’s Exorcism doesn’t shy away from gross-out scenes of demonic possession. The creepy narrative strikes a nice balance for fans of the genre, while cashing in on the nostalgia of horror’s golden age. If you can't get enough of nostalgia-fueled horror with heart like Stranger Things or the recent movie adaptation of It, consider letting Hendrix's unique novel possess you.

Related: Read It and Scream: 10 Horror Books That Inspired Movies 

The Doll Master and Other Tales of Terror

The Doll Master and Other Tales of Terror

By Joyce Carol Oates

From the prolific novelist Joyce Carol Oates comes a collection of scary stories that will get under your skin. Yes, the title story revolves around creepy dolls, so beware, all ye who enter here. When a young boy's cousin passes away, he becomes obsessed with her doll. As he grows up, his interest in dolls leads him to develop a sprawling collection, but his prized possessions are even creepier than they seem.

We’re also fans of the subtle but unsettlingly realistic story "Gun Accident: An Investigation,” in which a teenage girl’s favorite teacher asks her to house-sit … but all does not go according to plan.

scariest books of 2016

We Eat Our Own

By Kea Wilson

For those who relish tales of bizarre behavior on horror movie sets, you’ll love this novel by Kea Wilson. A struggling actor receives a mysterious call from a director who offers him a job in the Amazon—to replace the previous actor on set, of course. The performer jumps at the chance. Upon arriving, however, it turns out that not all is well … between the locals, the financing, and the director’s demands. Now the doomed actor wonders if he’ll even survive to see the final cut.

Based loosely on the real-life controversy behind the 1970s horror film Cannibal Holocaust (believed by some to be an actual snuff film), We Eat Our Own is a claustrophobic meditation on violence and the dangerous ways life and art can become conflated. This book will change the way you see horror movies forever. 

scariest books of 2016


By Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Whoever is born in Black Spring is doomed to live and die there. Stephen King called this novel, translated from its original Dutch, “totally, brilliantly original," and George R.R. Martin dubbed it "creepy and gripping," so you know it's bound to be good. 

Located in upstate New York, the small town of Black Spring is said to be haunted by a 17th century witch. In an attempt to contain the curse, Black Spring’s elders forbid anyone from leaving. But a group of teenagers are determined to escape, and they’ve got the Internet on their side. What happens when ancient evil meets with modern technology? Nothing good.

Related: The Books That Fueled Your Childhood Nightmares Are Back—and Scarier than Ever 

scariest books of 2016

The Graveyard Apartment

By Mariko Koike

Originally published in 1986, this rediscovered gem was translated into English from its original Japanese this year. The family in Koike’s terrifying novel thinks they’ve finally found the perfect apartment. The fact that it’s just across the street from a cemetery matters little to them. But when strange, unexplained events start to spook the other tenants, the family is left alone in the big apartment building, facing off against something that seems to make its home … in the basement.

A suspenseful, psychological story by a writer renowned in Japan for detective and horror fiction, The Graveyard Apartment will leave you permanently creeped out. If you don't already have a near-immobilizing fear of basements, Mariko Koike's masterful story will change that. 

scariest books of 2016

The Haunting of Ashburn House

By Darcy Coates

When the elderly Edith lived in Ashburn House, she rarely ventured outside and never let anyone come inside. But now Edith is dead, and her niece Adrienne has inherited the decrepit property, with its spooky portraits and its mysterious, scribbled-over wallpaper.

Adrienne doesn’t believe in ghosts and she’s determined to make the best out of the situation, despite the warnings from her new neighbors. But the longer she spends in Ashburn House, the more she learns about the chilling history of the family she never knew. And the closer she comes to admitting that the dead of Ashburn House are restless...

scariest books of 2016

The Vegetarian

By Han Kang

In this subtle but terrifying novel, translated from its original Korean, one young wife’s decision to become a vegetarian soon takes a turn for the disturbing. Her husband finds he cannot control her after her dietary change, and appeals for help to her family, who are just as perplexed by her sudden independent streak. But when the novel could veer off into spectacle, or enter the realm of the supernatural, Kang instead turns to the unexpected—and the all too real depths of the disturbed human psyche.

Winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, The Vegetarian brutally exposes the violence that lies within all of us, and may be far less dormant than we'd like to believe.

Related: 9 Suspenseful Books That Will Leave You Questioning Everything 

scariest books of 2016


By Colin Dickey

In this spooky survey of United States folk culture, Colin Dickey takes readers on a tour of American legend through its most haunted places. He focuses not so much on the existence of ghosts, but rather what these spooky stories tell us about ourselves, and about our country. 

Expected stops on the tour include the labyrinthine Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, and the House of Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts, which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel. Dickey unearths an especially surprising history when he reveals the ghost stories connected to race. The passages about Southern plantations, Native American burial grounds in West Virginia, and a woman who perished in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina take a particularly thoughtful look at the ways America continues to be figuratively and perhaps even literally haunted by the atrocities committed against its people of color. 

scariest books of 2016

The Winter People

By Jennifer McMahon

People always warned Ruthie's family that the old Shea farmhouse was haunted. Back in 1908, Sara Harrison Shea was discovered dead in the field behind the house, just months after the tragic death of her daughter. But that didn't stop Ruthie's mother Alice, from moving in, or from cutting off contact from the outside world. When Alice turns up missing, however, Ruthie knows it's no coincidence; and now, after discovering Sara's diary in her mother's room, she's got the evidence to prove it. In this spooky novel by Jennifer McMahon, Ruthie must solve a 100-year-old mystery in order to save her own mother.