Horror books are enjoyable reads if you’re someone who loves to indulge in stories that give you the adrenaline rush of terror. Halloween is coming up, and we have come up with a few heart-pumping books to get you in the mood for the spooky season this year! If you’re new to the horror and thriller genres, the books on this list are sure to get you hooked on the genre. Whether there are ghosts or just plain disturbing plots with a great amount of psychological fright, these classic horror and thriller books will keep you up all night!
What are the differences between horror and thriller?
Horror books rely on inciting feelings of terror and distress while thriller books depend on suspense and anxiety-filled plots. Both genres do not necessarily need supernatural elements at all times as there are other things that could scare people such as gory murders and extremely mad characters. The horror genre needs to have that constant eerie ambiance and usually with scary supernatural elements to elevate fear throughout the novel. It scares you with elements you are not sure if they exist.
However, thriller books tend to dabble more with thrills (as the name itself suggests) such as anticipation, excitement, dread, and of course, surprise. Suspense is the most important factor for a book to be considered a thriller and it may not necessarily dabble in the supernatural realm. It scares you with multiple, possible, horrible realities.
Edgar Allen Poe’s Short Stories
A list of horror books is never complete without mentioning Edgar Allen Poe, arguably one of the most famous authors in the horror genre. Evil, supernatural, and disturbing elements are constantly present in any of Poe’s stories. His short story, ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ will sure to get you gripped in your seat and set fear in your chest as you await the gruesome ending of a man who takes revenge on a friend who has insulted him. ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ is as terrifying as it sounds because the story spares no horrible details of the murder scene and the description of the dead bodies. Most of Poe’s stories are fast-paced but his disturbing stories will etch onto your minds and fill your heart with dread.
Stephen King’s The Shining
Needless to say, Stephen King’s legacy on horror books will stay in the literary world until the end of time. Anyone would immediately see his name when they walk around the horror section in any bookstore. One of his most famous books is The Shining and the tale was inspired by the real haunting stories in The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, USA. The Torrance family where the husband, Jack is hired as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. The management informs the family that the previous caretaker murdered his whole family inside the hotel. From this chilling start, the story escalates to a more horrifying plot that sends readers into a whole new world of fear and suspense. A movie of the same name was also adapted in 1980 and similar to the book, it has become a staple in pop culture for movies. Published in 1977, the story is still loved and talked about among avid horror book readers. Its long-awaited sequel, Doctor Sleep was released in 2013. Check out his website for more exciting information about the legendary storyteller and his books!
Toni Morrison’s Beloved
Unlike any other horror book authors, Toni Morrison is known for most of her novels that center around racism and the search for identity within the Black community, particularly Black females. The Nobel laureate’s works are prominent in American literature and her book, the 1987 novel takes the cake when it comes to a classic ghost novel by her. Set in the post-American Civil War era, the main character was born a slave and after more than a decade, she is still psychologically tormented by her traumatic past, and illusions of her past come to engulf her into darkness. Beloved is a Pulitzer Prize novel that examines past trauma and guilt incorporated with haunting elements that will send shivers and sorrow down your back.
Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked Comes This Way
Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury had written numerous novels in different genres, from science fiction to horror! His most notable horror book is called Something Wicked Comes This Way and indeed wicked things happen in the book. If you think no book could scare you on Halloween, then you should give this book a try as it will give you a fright with its scary and suspenseful plot.
Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House
If you are a bookworm and a fan of Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House then you’ll be pleased to know that the famous Netflix TV series is based on Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name. Stephen King himself views Jackson’s novel as one of the greatest horror novels in the late twentieth century. Although there are new touches added by the production team to the show, the novel is just as spooky and filled with much anxiety. Unlike the many cliches that happen when a ghost story is set in a long-abandoned mansion, Jackson redecorated that cliche with her own unique style in her novel.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Fans of Twilight are in for a shock when they read Bram Stoker’s portrayal of vampires. Contrary to popular belief, the vampires in Dracula are not sparkly or immensely romantic. Vlad Dracula is a scary image of a vampire and drinks human blood to survive. The Victorian novel does not only present a macabre image of vampires through Count Dracula, but it is also a story that challenges the idea between good and evil. It’s been over a century since it was first published in 1897, nonetheless, the novel is still considered great horror literature and is the basis for vampires that we know today in popular culture. If you haven’t read this classic book, then now is the time for you to pick it up!
Josh Malerman’s Bird Box
You’ve probably watched the hit film Bird Box on Netflix but did you know the movie is based on a novel of the same name by Josh Malerman? Similar to the movie, the novel itself is a page-turner, and the level of suspense is much deeper with the detailed description and the wild imagination that happens when you read it. Some might argue that Bird Box is a horror book but it is also a psychological thriller book because it challenges readers’ minds to ponder upon what we should value in life. The sequel called Malorie was released in mid-2020 and you can see more of his works on his website.
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a classic thriller book that will get you on the edge of your seat and also a classic that is read by many literature students for class. Golding’s novel is horrifying not because it has scary supernatural plots but because it is gruesomely violent and miserable. The 1954 book revolves around a group of British boys that are stranded on an uninhabited island after a plane crash. Disaster succeeds after the young boys try to govern themselves in an attempt for survival. What’s scarier than preadolescent boys who are frightened and will do just about anything to each other to survive?
Stephen King’s The Stand
Unsurprisingly, Stephen King has also a knack for thriller books and The Stand is a novel that lives up to King’s other works. The book is set in a post-apocalyptic fictional world where a plague has almost destroyed much of the world’s civilization. Technically, it is not a horror book but the plot is extremely distressing that can cause readers to feel unsettled. Starts off with a patient that flees from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly flu virus, the novel continues to spark suspense and horror as dozens of panicky characters go through survival and ultimately need to decide the fate for all of humanity. If you’re looking for a book that relates to the current pandemic but with more ghastly, King’s The Stand is a perfect choice.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Stevenson’s classic novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one that will always haunt his readers. Published in 1886, the story presents a thrilling insight into dark Victorian England laced with a scientific discourse that set to test if humans can actually suppress their dark urges in an attempt to control themselves? Stevenson’s book explores the duality of human nature and questions the idea if one’s innate depravity can be kept at bay.
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl
Suffice to say that Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has made its way through huge success after the array of positive reviews for its film adaptation released in 2014. People always say books are always better but for Gone Girl, it’s safe to say that both versions are the best. Flynn’s dark and twisted plot that centers around Nick Dunne who is accused of the disappearance of his wife but as the story progresses, readers are faced with unreliable voices and conflicting evidence that make them question if Nick was truly involved in the crime. With the intense suspense and plot twists, this book deserves all the fame and praise for its thrilling story. Flynn continues to surpass her talent through her other great writings and you can check out her website for more!
Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All The Time
Deranged, tense, and full of suspense are the words to describe Pollock’s debut novel The Devil All The Time. The story follows the different events faced by many characters in the book that are interconnected with one another. It takes place in Southern Ohio and West Virginia after World War II. From murders to miserable suicides, this story is not for the weak-hearted as the shock and suspense are sure to get your heart pumping fast. Pollock brilliantly weaves the different and mind-boggling events into a whole logical plot with an ending that does not quite make you happy but the book definitely ends on a hopeful note. You should give this a read if you’re looking for a fresh and thrilling book. Not only that, but Netflix has also adapted the hard-boiled book into a film of the same name, starring big Hollywood names such as Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, and more.
During these trying times, we hope this list could uplift your spirit for this year’s Halloween season to explore more books! Although spooky parties or trick-or-treating are not happening this year, a book can still be a companion and fill your mind with imaginations. As they always say, if you want an escape, all you have to do is open a good book. For introverts, this is your golden chance to be all cosy on your bed alone with these great books to read! #introvertsunite