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23 of the Scariest Books Ever Written

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Some readers just love being scared. You can find horror, thrillers, and suspense books on their bedside tables all year around. Especially if you sneak into their bedroom while they sleep, tiptoe over to them, and… well, anyway, other readers just don’t understand why you’d set yourself up to be frightened.

But then Halloween rolls around, and the spirit of the season makes it easier to embrace the fear. Even readers who usually play it safe are tempted to wander into scarier literary territory.

So, even if you usually avoid books like this—especially if you do—we hope you’ll find something tempting on our list of 23 of the scariest books ever written.

With so many of the scariest books having been adapted for film, you might be surprised by how many of the titles below are familiar to you. But we hope you’ll also discover books you haven’t heard of before.

Afraid - A Novel of Terror

A helicopter has crashed on the outskirts of Safe Haven, Wisconsin, and something terrible has been unleashed. It's headed for the nearest lights to do what it does best. Isolate. Terrorize. Annihilate. Soon all phone lines are dead and the road is blocked.

Safe Haven's only chance for survival rests on the shoulders of an aging county sheriff. And as the body count rises, the sheriff realizes something even more terrifying—maybe death hasn't come to his little town by accident...

And Then There Were None

Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N. Owen. Over dinner, a record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret.

That evening, former reckless driver Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide. The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but is preparing to strike again… and again.

Bird Box

Something is out there... something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from. Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children, living in an abandoned house.

Now that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. 

Broken Monsters

Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. She’s seen stupidity, corruption and just plain badness. But she’s never seen anything like this. Clayton Broom is a failed artist, and a broken man. Life destroyed his plans, so he’s found new dreams—of flesh and bone made disturbingly, beautifully real.

He is a killer opening doors into the dark heart of humanity. A killer who wants to make you whole again…

Carrion Comfort

The past: Saul Laski is destined to die in the notorious Chelmno extermination camp, until he rises to meet his fate and finds himself face to face with an evil far older, and far greater, than even the Nazis.

The present: Compelled to survive at all costs, Saul take a journey that plunges him into the darkest corners of 20th century history, revealing a secret society of beings who may often exist behind the world's most horrible and violent events. Saul is about to be drawn into a struggle that will plumb the depths of mankind's attraction to violence, and determine the future of the world itself…


Lilith lyapo awoke from a centuries-long sleep to find herself aboard the vast spaceship of the Oankali. Creatures covered in writhing tentacles, the Oankali had saved every surviving human from a dying, ruined Earth. They healed the planet, cured cancer, increased strength, and were now ready to help Lilith lead her people back to Earth—but for a price.

The Exorcist

Summoned to a case of apparent possession, Father Karras is at first sceptical, then horrified. The victim—a 12-year-old girl named Regan—seems to be controlled by a malign supernatural force that makes her swear, blaspheme, scream in agony and perform appalling acts.

Attempting to find a rational explanation for the girl's behaviour, Karras tries to talk to Regan, only to find himself locking horns with the demon inside her head. Its many voices mock him, tormenting him with his weakness, doubts and buried guilt. With his faith in God and humanity tested to the limit, Karras turns to the ultimate solution: exorcism.

The Haunting of Hill House

This is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a haunting; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House.

At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Hell House

Rolf Rudolph Deutsch is going die. But when Deutsch, a wealthy publisher, starts thinking seriously about his impending death, he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums, one physical and one mental, $100,000 each to establish the facts of life after death.

The experts travel to the infamous Belasco House in Maine, which has been abandoned and sealed for years. For one night, Barrett and his colleagues investigate the Belasco House and learn exactly why the townsfolk refer to it as the Hell House.

House of Leaves

A young family moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story—of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash.


Posts on this profile were created by members of the Bookwitty team. Here, we discuss books, authors, publishers and other literary-related topics. You’ll find our writers based between our ... Show More

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