Diving into a scary story is a great way to get in the mood for Halloween. There's something about reading a horror book that can be so much more terrifying than watching a movie. With a movie, you're reacting to the images placed before you. But with a book, your imagination is free to sketch out the scariest scenery possible. And there are plenty of scary books to read for Halloween that will get you in the spooky spirit, whether you're into gothic horror, modern tales of terror, or even non-fiction.
As a long time horror reader myself, I can personally vouch for most of the books on this list. The few that are still on my "to read" list all get top reviews on site like Good Reads and Amazon, so they should be more than worth your time. Some of the entries on the list are long reads — think 900 to 1000 pages — but when you can't put a book down because it's so spine-tinglingly good, you won't even notice how many more chapters are left.
These 13 books will have you up past your bedtime tearing through the pages — although drifting off to sleep afterward might be a little harder than usual.
The cover alone is enough to send a chill down your spine. Stephen King's tale of a murderous clown terrorizing a Maine community might just give you nightmares. It's well over a thousand pages long, but there's a good chance you'll fly right through it. If you really love it, you can check out the movie version as well.
2. Salem's Lot
It's hard to pick just one book when you're talking about the master of the horror genre, so another King novel makes the list. Salem's Lot is about another Maine town doing battle with the forces of evil. There's a menacing old house, some scary new residents, and a writer who grew up in the town who's trying to unravel the mystery of it all. The book is slated for an upcoming movie adaptation, too, according to Cinema Blend.
3. Rosemary's Baby
A young couple moves into a trendy Manhattan building in Ira Levin's novel, but their new neighbors aren't at all what they seem. Rosemary's Baby came out in 1967, but reading it in 2019 adds a whole new layer of terror to it — honestly, the gaslighting is basically as scary and disturbing as the horror stuff.
4. The Haunting Of Hill House
Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is a classic. It tells the tale of four people who arrive at Hill House determined to get at the truth of whether it's really haunted. The book was recently turned into a Netflix series, and it's already gotten the green light for a second season, according to The Wrap.
5. The Witching Hour
Anne Rice's The Witching Hour is a massive, multi-generational horror saga. It tells the tale of a New Orleans family with strange powers. But they've paid a dear price for those gifts, as tragedy has haunted them for centuries. If you fall in love with this book, you'll be happy to know it's a trilogy and there are two more books for you to sink your teeth into.
6. The Exorcist
It's one of the most famous horror movies of all time — who could forget that pea soup scene? But you might not realize that The Exorcist was a book first. As of this writing, you can read this tale of a little girl's demonic possession for free if you're an Amazon Prime member.
If you weren't already forced to read Dracula at some point during your school days, there's no time like the present. The book basically laid the foundation for all future vampire books and movies, according to Brittanica.com. It follows a young English lawyer named Jonathan Harker to Transylvania, where he must meet his new client at Castle Dracula. I'm sure you can guess where things go from there.
8. The Historian
The Historian is another take on the vampire novel. It follows a young woman who's trying to unravel the secrets of her family's mysterious past, while also getting to the root of the legend of Dracula. I read this book when it first came out, and it's on my list of books to re-read. It's that good.
The title character of Rebecca is the second Mrs. de Winter — which begs the question: what happened to the first? Things may not be what they seem at the rambling old mansion where Rebecca and her new husband live. But figuring out what's going on isn't easy under the watchful, intimidating eye of the creepy housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.
10. The Graveyard Apartment
Big, decrepit houses tend to be the focus in horror stories, but this time, it's an apartment. Japanese author Mariko Koike unspools the tale of a family who think they've purchased their dream apartment, only to find that there's a sinister presence lurking within. I suppose they should have suspected that – The Graveyard Apartment is right next to a cemetery, after all.
11. I'll Be Gone In The Dark
This true crime offering proves that reality can be stranger — and way scarier — than fiction. Late author Michelle McNamara delved into the long unsolved mystery of the Golden State Killer — which would be solved in dramatic fashion shortly after her untimely death. This book had me double checking all my windows and doors before going to bed for weeks after I read it.
12. House Of Leaves
Fair warning: you might not have any idea what's going on as you read this book (I certainly didn't), but you'll be hooked nonetheless. House of Leaves centers on a young family and their new home, which is filled with sinister secrets. Why exactly is it bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and what's behind that mysterious closet door? You'll have to delve into the book to find out.
13. My Soul To Keep
A young wife learns a terrifying secret about her husband in My Soul to Keep. How far will he go to keep that secret from coming out, and to keep his wife and daughter by his side? Tananarive Due's page turner has hundreds of five star ratings on Goodreads, making it a great option for an engrossing Halloween read.