A top ten of the best horror books ever

A list of 10 of the best horror books to make you shudder while reading. With Stephen King, of course, but there are still plenty of other authors who are equally capable to make you tremble in fear. Books that, while reading, you might want to put away but can't. To read in your bed at night or in the couch downstairs when you are all alone at home. Horror books are less popular than they used to be, but you can still find some literary gems if you know where to look.

Several books in this list deserve to be on number one, but we reserve this honor to 'master of suspense' Stephen King. King has written so many excellent horror books that we could have easily put him in this list with several books. But we chose not to do so in order to be able to highlight more other fine horror book authors. But what book to include from Stephen King? We opted for the book with the shortest title, but, for us, the most scary content: the stunning 'It', one of the most frightening horror stories ever written.

best horror books ever top ten
Book cover from It: A Novel by Stephen King

1 It, by Stephen King

It is a very exciting and creepy horror novel by Stephen King about seven eleven-year-old children who in 1957, in the little town of Derry, come into contact with the ultimate evil. This ultimate evil often takes the form of a clown to young children, but it can also take the form of one's greatest fears. 27 years later, the children, who now have become adults, decide to face their fears and confront this horrible monster to destroy it once and for all.

A real page turner by Stephen King that will often give you the shivers down your body, but that is hard to put down. For us here at Books To Read, It is simply the best horror book ever. The plot is sometimes a bit difficult to follow and the end is not really the strongest part of the book, but still this is for us one of the best Stephen King novels ever written, if not the best. Other excellent horror books by King are, among others, The Stand, The Shining, Misery and the excellent Salem's Lot about vampires.

Book cover from The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

2 The Exorcist (1971)

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty is, of course, best known for the movie, but the book is even more terrifying than the movie. The story starts with father Merrin, a Jesuit priest who works in Iraq as an archeologist. One day he finds a small, old figurine of the Akkadian deity Pazuzu. Merrin is worried he has released an ancient demon by digging up the statuette. When some strange events start to happen Merrin gets more and more convinced in the believe he has brought something of pure evil in the world. Far away, in Georgetown in the United States, Chris MacNeil starts hearing strange things in her home. There are also a number of other strange phenomena that start to take place. Chris doesn't realize that a released demon has invaded her house. Her daughter, Regan, soon afterwards begins behaving erratically. All of a sudden, the child starts using the most obscene language and at a diner party she urinates, in front of dozens of people, on the ground. At first Regan thinks her daughter might be psychologically ill, but research from psychiatrists suggests that nothing is out of the ordinary. But after Chris has experienced a supernatural phenomenon up close, she is convinced that her daughter is possessed. Then the real horror begins.

The Exorcist is an exciting, suspenseful book that is written in its own original style. Often short, nervous phrases, but the interesting characters succeed in bringing the story to life. The book contains much more sexually suggestive scenes than the movie, which to some readers can be disturbing since it is about the possession of a twelve-year-old girl. But all the same The Exorcist is a must for those who love a good horror book and an exciting thrill.

Book cover from Piercing by Ryu Murakami

3 Piercing

Ryu Murakami (note, this is not the still more famous Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami,) is a Japanese author who has several novels to his name but who also wrote a genuine horror novel with the infamous Piercing. To quote an English critic: This novel isn't "boo" scary; It's more like "set your teeth on edge for days and make you never want to be close to anyone for the rest of your life" scary.

The main character of the story is overwhelmed by an urge to pierce the flesh of his newborn child. He realizes, however, that he can't really do that. So he decides it might be a better strategy to catch himself a prostitute and try out his obsessions on her ... A chilling book that is highly recommended for fans of horror that like to get something more from their favorite genre.

Book cover from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

4 American Psycho

American Psycho is a very shocking and brutal book by American author Bret Easton Ellis. It's about a yuppie and a psychopath who commits brutal murders in New York. The description of the brutal murders leaves little to the imagination, so the book is not really suitable for the more sensitive souls among us. It is a monument of the American novel that requires some effort by the reader because of its graphic style, but also because of the wayward pace of the book that is in line with the decadent yuppie style of the main character Patrick Bateman. The ultimate capitalis as the ultimate night predator.

Other interesting books by ret Easton Ellis are, among others, Less Than Zero and The Rules of Attraction.

Book cover from Books of Blood, Vols. 1-3 by Clive Barker

5 Books of Blood

Clive Barker, together with Stephen King, is one of the most popular English-language horror authors. He is obviously very well known because of the Hellraiser movies that are based on one of his horror stories. As a writer of horror stories, he is best known for his original six-part short story collection the Books of Blood. In more than thirty stories Barker demonstrates his mastery as a narrator of horror tales.

From psychopaths to monsters, vampires to spirits, to whatever might be scary, and often mixed with the fantastic elements that are so typical for him as a writer. The stories usually take place play in our modern time and are about ordinary people that are suddenly confronted with alarming or mysterious events. Best not to read this collection in one go, but one or a few stories at a time. The Books of Blood are published in two volumes: 1 to 3, and 4 to 6.

Book cover from Haunted: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

6 Haunted

Chuck Palahniuk (born 1962) is an American writer and journalist. He was born in Pasco, Washington. His best-known book is the bestselling novel Fight Club (1996), the book that was later made into a film with Brad Pitt in the lead role. With Haunted he wrote a true modern horror classic.

In Haunted 18 people respond to an advertisement and end up spending three months in an abandoned theater to write a masterpiece. Soon there is no electricity, water or food. They tell each other stories to stay alive and to survive the others. Excesses like self-mutilation, murder and cannibalism are soon to follow. Meanwhile, each tells the story whereby he or she came to get their nickname, preceded by a short poem. The common thread in the whole book is a central storyteller who expresses the sentiment of the 18 persons together as a group. Chuck Palahniuk combines a very creative use of language with bizarre angles which are both sad and often downright nasty. Sharp, satirical and occasionally particularly distasteful, but also entertaining and clever.

Book cover from My Best Friends Exorcism: A Novel by Grady Hendrix

7 My Best friend's Exorcism

Grady Hendrix is fast a becoming a household name within the horror genre. Stories that appear to be a gimmick at first glance, soon turn out to be particularly terrifying once you start reading. Horrorstor was his horror debut, think of some sort of an Ikea store for torture equipment. His successor, My Best friend's Exorcism, published in 2016, seems a throwback to one of the best horror traditions with the central theme of being possessed by the devil and the obligatory exorcism that follows. But in the hands of Grady Hendrix this typical horror story gets a very unique and modern twist.

In My Best friend's Exorcism Abby Gretchen are best friends since secondary school. But when they go to college everything changes. Gretchen starts to behave differently. And as a strange coincidences and bizarre behavior are beginning to pile up, for Abby there is but one possible explanation: her best friend is possessed by a demon. And Abby is not going to just surrender her best friend to a demon. With the help of some unlikely allies Abby begins a quest to save her friend of the devil. But is their friendship strong enough to overcome this evil? The best horror book of 2016.

Book cover from Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti

8 Songs of a Dead Dreamer

Most readers may not recognize the name of the author, Thomas Ligotti, but are probably indirectly familiar with his work. The immensely popular TV series True Detective of HBO has derived much from the work of this lesser-known horror master, especially in the text spoken by the character played by Matthew McConaughey, Rust Cohle. Ligotti writes "philosophical horror" that expresses deeper existential fears. He was a horror writer who was particularly famous with other horror authors, but has gained wider recognition now with a publication of his 2 story bundles Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe in the Penguin Classics series. The Washington post called the writer 'the best kept secret in today's horror'. The stories in these two bundles are sometimes called "supernatural" horror and often play in dying cities or scenic landscapes, where the writer uses a varying writing style, sometimes cool and distant, then again more rich and baroque.

For people that want to read another kind of horror.

Book cover from Ghost Story by Peter Straub

9 Ghost Story

Peter Straub (1943) is an American writer of mainly horror books. During his career, he won several prestigious prizes, such as the World Fantasy Award (1989) and four times the Bram Stoker Award. He may be well-known to the general public because he has written several books in collaboration with Stephen King, such as the excellent fantasy book The Talisman. In Ghost Story, the author, as the title indicates, goes back to the classic theme of a ghost that is disturbing people's lives, but he does this with a lot of workmanship.

In the sleepy town of Milburn in New York, four old men come together to tell each other stories. Some stories have really happened, others have been invented, but they're all terrifying. An easy way to spend some time in an interesting way. But one story in particular comes back to terrorize them and their little town. A story about something they did together in their past. A terrible mistake. A horrible accident. And the four old men will experience that you can not bury the past forever.

Book cover from Hell House by Richard Matheson

10 Hell House

Richard Burton Matheson (1926-2013) was an American writer of fantasy, horror and science fiction books. He is also known as a scriptwriter, including for the television series The Twilight Zone. Among the most famous works of Matheson are I Am Legend (1954), The Shrinking Man (1956), A Stir of Echoes (1958), Hell House (1971) and What Dreams May Come (1978). Many of his works have been filmed. Hell House is a typical horror book about a bewitched house, but like Stephen King said, "Hell House is the scariest haunted house novel ever written. It looms over the rest the way the mountains loom over the foothills."

In Hell House, all attempts that are made to discover the secrets of Belasco House end in murder, suicide or madness. But then a new survey is undertaken. Four strangers are looking for the ultimate secrets of life and death.

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