Best Horror Novels

Blonde woman reading a horror novel with finger held to her lips and bathed in eerie light from below.

Whether you settle down under the scorching sun or curl up on the sofa, any time of year is perfect for bone-chilling horror novels.

So entertaining you can’t stop reading—yet so terrifying you’ll dread every turn of the page—here are the best horror novels when you need a frightful night in.

 

Winterwood (2009)

Cover for Winterwood by Patrick McCabe featuring illustration of snowy woods in black and white with red text and accents.

Author: Patrick McCabe
Goodreads: 3.1/5

This beautifully written story set in Ireland takes the reader through a fantastical journey. It’s almost impossible to tell which events are real and which only take place in the narrator’s vivid imagination.

Winterwood paints a compelling story filled with increasing dread and horror, revealing certain “scary things” piece-by-piece as the narrative unfolds.

Check it out on Amazon here.

 

The Shadow Over Innsmouth (1931)

Cover of Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft with mythical being Cthulhu emerging from the sea under a full moon.

Author: H.P. Lovecraft
Goodreads: 4.1/5

An oldie but goodie, The Shadow Over Innsmouth explores Lovecraft’s deep fears of the sea and all its mysterious creatures.

The story follows a student touring dreary New England who stops in the town of Innsmouth. As he spends more time in this strange place, he begins to regret ever hearing its name.

Whether you’re looking for a novella to whet your appetite for the Cthulhu mythos, or just want to check out something with evil fish, this is definitely the right book for you.

Find it on Amazon here.

 

Burnt Offerings (1973)

Cover for horror novel Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco featuring illustrative leaves and text against dark background.

Author: Robert Marasco
Barnes & Noble Rating: 3/5

A family rents a summer home in Long Island, New York, hoping to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few months.

The Rolfes, their son, and a sister all move into a large, well-kept house. After the owners inform the family that their elderly matron will be staying upstairs throughout the summer, they’re quick to assure them she won’t be a bother.

As the Rolfes soon discover, however, the house is anything but a getaway. Strange occurrences only increase those unpleasant revelations.

Read this title on Amazon here.

 

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962)

Cover for Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, featuring a boy on a carousel horse looking scared as it emits green glows and turns into a skeletal figure.

Author: Ray Bradbury
Goodreads: 3.9/5

Ray Bradbury’s works never fail to unsettle, and Something Wicked This Way Comes is certainly no exception.

Two boys experience something entirely out of the ordinary when a traveling circus visits their sleepy Illinois town.

Led by the eerily powerful Mr. Dark, the carnival comes a few days before Halloween to give the town a good scare. The boys are fascinated with the carnival, as well its strange employees.

That fascination soon takes a turn towards the morbid. Supernatural happenings begin changing the inhabitants of the town for the worse.

Find this title on Amazon here.

 

Imaginary Friend (2019)

Cover for the horror novel Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky, portraying a child standing before a large tree with eerie lighting.

Author: Stephen Chbosky
Goodreads: 3.5/5

After his award-winning novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, fans were excited to read Chbosky’s follow-up, Imaginary Friend.

It takes a much darker turn than his initial novel, following a mother and son running away from an abusive home. They then take shelter in the small town of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania, hoping to stay hidden.

The paradise quickly loses its luster when the son goes missing for nearly a week. Following his return home, he hears a voice that no one else does—that of a mysterious “Nice Man.” To his mother’s apprehension, the boy decides he wants to build a treehouse out in the woods.

Praised by critics and fans alike, Imaginary Friend brings Chbosky’s expert pacing and careful eye for human nature…but that’s where the similarities to The Perks of Being a Wallflower end.

Rather, this novel weaves a heart-pounding tale of horror reminiscent of Stephen King stories, while still being entirely unique.

Find this title on Amazon here.

 

Rebecca (1938)

Cover for Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, with a composite of a man and woman in red, orange, and green behind a silhouette of a figure on a cliff.

Author: Daphne du Maurier
Barnes & Noble Rating: 4.3/5

Recently adapted into a Netflix Original, Rebecca tells the unfortunate story of a naive young lady who becomes infatuated with a rich Englishman. Hoping to improve her financial situation and social station, she accepts his marriage proposal after only a few weeks of dating.

Following the marriage, she accompanies him back to his estate, Manderley—and first encounters its creepy housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.

Mrs. Danvers informs the woman that her husband’s first wife, Rebecca, passed away only a year before she met him. Rebecca now haunts the halls of Manderley…through Mrs. Danvers.

She constantly compares Rebecca’s superior beauty, taste in decor, and manners to the new Mrs. de Winter. This is unnerving enough on its own, but even more so when revelations about Rebecca’s death begin to raise some ugly suspicions.

Find this title on Amazon here.

 

World War Z (2006)

Book cover for World War Z, text overlaid on corroded or worn surface with blood splatters.

Author: Max Brooks
Goodreads: 4.01/5

World War Z isn’t written as a consistent narrative. Rather, the story is told through a series of interviews, making it a pretty unique zombie novel.

The narrator interviews key figures in various governments and militaries to understand how the worldwide zombie apocalypse happened—and why none of those strategies to stop the invasion succeeded.

This novel’s greatest element of horror isn’t the zombies themselves, but rather the idea that all of the best people making the best decisions can still fall entirely powerless against nature.

Find this title on Amazon here.

 

Let’s Go Play At The Adams’ (1974)

Cover for Let's Go Play at the Adams' by Mendal W. Johnson, with an open door revealing an apprehensive woman gagged and bound to a chair.

Author: Mendal W. Johnson
Goodreads: 3.6/5

In this tale of children’s games gone terribly wrong, a young college student agrees to babysit for a neighbor’s kids, ignorant to the fact that many of their friends will come over to play and that she must account for all of them.

Even while tied up, Barbara believes it’s all a game—and, in a naïve display of optimism, one that she’ll survive.

Find this horror novel on Amazon here.

 

The Godsend (1976)

Cover for horror novel Godsend by Bernard Taylor, featuring a sinister looking child and a red-and-gray house with dead trees around it.

Author: Bernard Taylor
Goodreads: 3.7/5

The Marlowe family believes that their newest child, Bonnie, must be a godsend. She is adorable, well-mannered, and the apple of her mother’s eye.

However, following nefarious acts in the household, her adoptive father suspects Bonnie to be the cause.

As his other children suffer and die, Alan desperately tries to convince his wife that their newest daughter is not at all the gift she appears.

Read this novel on Amazon here.

 

via GIPHY

Although many people’s knowledge of horror novels begins and ends with King, the genre extends far beyond any singular author’s works.

These books prove just about anything—from kids’ games to treehouses, to full-on zombie invasions—can give a great scare, when written well.

For more reading recommendations, check out the best psychological thriller books, zombie novels, or pandemic books.