I’m a certified (or certifiable) horror fan, so if you’re anything like me, you know that Halloween should really be celebrated year round. But even though we only get one opportunity a year to dress up and scare ourselves silly, that doesn’t mean we need to limit our reading options as well. Horror can (and should!) be enjoyed at any point during the year, so if you’re looking to add some madness and mayhem to your reading life, or if you’re just really excited about Halloween in the fall, take a look at these titles. I’ve divided them up based on approximate scare level, so if you’re a horror newbie, don’t worry – I have just the thing to ease you into the Halfway-to-Halloween spirit. Click on any of the covers or titles to place a hold on the item, and be sure to check out our Pinterest board and our Goodreads shelf for more horror suggestions.
I get it…not everyone enjoys horror, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun of a classic scary story! No gore, no intense scares, just some good old-fashioned spooky fun.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Arthur Kipps has been sent to Eel Marsh House to settle the affairs of a recently-deceased client. But a routine business trip turns horrifying when Arthur is haunted by terrifying sounds and visions, including the apparition of a ghostly woman dressed in black. A very eerie story – perfect for reading on a dark, windy night!
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Four strangers come together inside the mysterious Hill House to document its supernatural activity, but it’s the timid Eleanor Vance who starts experiencing strange things that the other visitors cannot see. Is Hill House haunted, or is all of this happening inside Eleanor’s damaged mind? This tiny novel has become THE quintessential haunted house story, and for good reason. The atmosphere is creepy and claustrophobic, and Jackson’s prose is exquisite.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Malorie, a survivor of a post-apocalyptic world, is the mother of two children, named simply Boy and Girl. They have not looked outside of their house for four years, because whatever is lurking outside causes everyone who sees it to become violent murderers and lose their minds. But one day, Malorie prepares herself and her children to leave the house, in the hopes of finding a safe place. Although this is technically an apocalyptic story, the terror of the unseen is what really drives the story. Lots of reluctant horror readers have really enjoyed this book.
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
The small town of West Hall, Vermont, has been plagued by ghost sightings and mysterious disappearances for over a century, ever since Sara Shea lost her daughter, and then died herself just a few months after. Now, 19-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara Shea’s old house, where the mysteries of the past are colliding with the present in this spectacularly compelling and creepy novel. If you’re looking for a book to curl up with on a dark and stormy night, this is the perfect choice.
Keep the Lights On
When you want something more intense, but aren’t brave enough for the hardcore scares.
The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin
After his wife dies, Nicholas Close is plagued by visions of people in the last moments of their lives. Fearing for his sanity, he returns to his childhood home in Australia, where he becomes entangled with a monstrous, ancient evil lurking in the nearby woods. The story has the feel of a modern Grimm’s fairy tale, but with an extra edge of creepiness. Beware if you’re afraid of spiders!
I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
This novel takes the idea of the vengeful ghost and transforms it into a supernaturally tinged mystery with some seriously spooky moments. The author does a masterful job of drawing out the suspense to its breaking point…just be careful about reading this book with the lights out!
The Terror by Dan Simmons
Horror meets historical fiction in this partially true story of a mid nineteenth century expedition to the Arctic and the supernatural beast that stalks the crew. The realistic descriptions of 1800’s exploration and wilderness survival make the story even more unsettling.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Ten years ago, the Barrett family’s life was torn apart as their oldest daughter, Marjorie, began exhibiting signs of demonic possession and the entire family became the stars of a paranormal reality show. Now, Marjorie’s sister Merry, gives her account of what happened during those tumultuous months, and how the show ended in tragedy. This is a great reading suggestion for fans of found-footage horror movies, and the ending will leave readers dumbstruck.
Scare Your Socks Off
These books don’t pull any punches when it comes to gore and intense scares. NOT for people with faint hearts or weak stomachs. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
The Troop by Nick Cutter
A weekend retreat for the boys of Troop 52 turns into a horrific nightmare when a man with a gruesome and deadly disease stumbles into their camp. Nick Cutter delivers big-time on the gross-out factor, but there’s a massively disturbing psychological element as well…think Lord of the Flies meets Cabin Fever, and then crank the intensity up to 11. It’s the literary equivalent of watching a train wreck – you know right away that nothing good can come from this story, and then things just get worse. So if you think you’re brave enough, I dare you to try this one.
Urban Gothic by Brian Keene
A group of teenagers seek shelter in a supposedly abandoned house in Philadelphia, but they soon find out that they are horribly, horribly mistaken. They have disturbed a family of mutated, sadistic cannibals, and before the night is over, they will pay with much more than their lives. Good suggestion for fans of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes.
It by Stephen King
An ancient evil lives beneath the sewers of Derry, Maine, murdering and terrorizing children for centuries. In 1958, a group of twelve-year-old friends banded together to kill It, but they made a promise to each other to return to Derry if It ever came back. Thirty years later, they’ve all gone their separate ways, but now all of them are being summoned back home… This is undoubtedly one of Stephen King’s masterpieces, and is probably the biggest driving force behind our cultural fear of clowns. It’s a massive novel, but if you have the courage and the time to devote to this story, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
The Ruins by Scott Smith
A group of young tourists in Central America set out into the jungle to find their friend’s missing brother. Along the way, they stumble upon an ancient ruin, which is home to a presence beyond anything they could have ever imagined. This novel has one of the most unusual monsters in all of horror literature and combines survival horror with some serious gore and one of the bleakest endings I’ve ever read.
— Katie, Adult Reference