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Books To Give You Chills

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on June 9, 2016

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No matter how hot it is outside, no matter how the sun shines and the nights grow shorter there are still ways to give yourself shivers and bring a chill to your heart. Here are ten books that you can read on the short summer nights to turn them into long summer nightmares.

The Witches by Roald Dahl

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A children's book might seem like an odd choice for a list of books that are going to terrify and haunt you for the rest of your life and I will readily admit that this story may be a little time sensitive. However, if you happen to have a young person in your life that you feel could do with a little more childhood trauma this story of cannibal crones and forced shapeshifting may be just the ticket.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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By contrast to the last book, this is a children's book that won't even perturb the little ones. It has a fairytale vibe that will work perfectly for every child and it is only an adult that will realise just how horrifically messed up this whole thing is. Even if the “other mother” wasn't trying to steal the titular character's soul and stitch buttons into her eyes, this story would be haunting, as a slightly neglected child is drawn away into danger by the gentle application of a little fake kindness.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

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I have already talked at length about how well this book blends its supernatural elements with the possibility that the child heroine is simply losing her mind to sickness, starvation and isolation. What I never mentioned is just how frightening the experience is, regardless of its source. The wasp priest, representative of the God of the Lost is still wedged firmly into a dark corner of my mind. One of the only times a supernatural horror has really spooked me.

The Woman by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee

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This is the novelisation of a film that was known less for being frightening and more for being disturbing. It follows a feral woman who has been captured by a white-collar American family who devote themselves to civilising her. The misogyny, cruelty and ultimately the sickness at the heart of suburban culture and the pure evil inside every one of the characters is enough to make you run away to live in the woods yourself.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

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We all knew that one kid who was a bit of a dick when we were growing up. Well here he is taken to his natural extreme. School shootings are always going to be a touchy subject for any book to tackle, taking it on from the perspective of the mother of one of the shooters just makes everything so much worse. Addressing the true nature of the school shooter was also a brave move in a world where we constantly hear apologies and excuses for “troubled youngsters.”

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

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If writing a book from the perspective of the mother of a psychopath gave us some frightening insights then writing one from inside the mind of one should go a step further. Due to the chaotic nature of the protagonist's mind and the constant jumps in perspective it is just as impossible for the reader to know what crimes are committed and which are only imagined as it is for the character.

I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

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Imagine for a moment that god exists and he hates you. He doesn't just hate you in an abstract sense, he hates you personally. Then imagine that you are trapped within the cavernous body of god where he has complete control of everything that you experience. Imagine living with that for many times your natural life-span, because you are a part of the environment that can be changed with a single thought on the part of your tormentor. All of that is just the starting point for the agonising story of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.

Black Hole by Charles Burns

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This graphic novel translates the dread that accompanied growing up during the AIDS epidemic into physical expressions of the otherness that the infected felt. A horrible twist on the hippy commune dream played out through the lives and relationships of teenagers just waiting for sickness and death to catch them unaware.

Cold Print by Ramsey Campbell

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Ramsey Campbell is one of the best writers of horror fiction, and specifically of short stories, that I have ever encountered. In Cold Print he fuses his own unique style of writing with the cosmic horror of the Cthulhu Mythos, creating strangely poignant and personal horror stories with tiny elements that creep back to you in the dark. Each one is the perfect length for a little bed-time story before you settle down for the night and each one ensures that you will not be able to settle down for the night easily.

Teatro Grottesco By Thomas Ligotti

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Thomas Ligotti's writing always has a dreamy, nightmare quality of faintly remembered memories viewed through a nihilistic filter. There are no happy endings in Ligotti's stories, there are very rarely even endings that could be considered bitter-sweet. He deals in desolation, dead towns, roadside attractions, disconnected communities and severed families. If you can bear the weight of the writing there is something in this collection for everyone, except for happiness.

G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More

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