13 of the Best Frightful Fiction Reads to Add to Your Horror Book List

Blog Category: Lifestyle

Whether you are preparing your fall reading list or are just a lifelong lover of horror, get ready to bombard your Goodreads’ Want-To-Read section! From cozy to chilling, here are our best horror novel choices to keep you up at night, reading. To keep this horror book list a healthy mix of authors, Stephen King and other huge names in horror have been limited, otherwise, those two would fill the whole list.

The further into the horror book list you read, the darker the content of the books will get. Consider yourselves warned.

If this list seems a little too scary for you, try traveling the world from the comfort of your own home with our destinations book list.

Cozy Horror Book List

That’s right, cozy horror. These are scary stories that are pretty low on the grim, bleak, gory factors that accompany darker stories in the genre. Though as a rule, cozy horror is not young adult (YA), younger individuals could read them and be fine — in case you are thinking of birthday gifts.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

The first of this intertextual adventure trilogy, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter follows Mary Jekyll as she investigates the mysteries of her deceased father’s past. In an unexpected discovery, she finds evidence that her late father has been involved in a secret society as well as Diana Hyde. The half-wild child of Mary’s father’s partner, Mr. Hyde.

This story includes many classic characters and their descendants for a fun and mysterious mash-up of gothic proportions.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Joining the ranks of classic Gaiman leading characters, Nobody Owens is a boy with a perfectly abnormal life. And by normal, we mean extraordinarily strange. After the murder of Nobody’s entire family when he is eighteen months old, he is raised by his adoptive parents after he runs into a graveyard in the middle of the night. Oh, and did we mention his adoptive parents are ghosts?

Well, they’re ghosts.

And his life gets weirder as he gets older. From his first friend in the flesh (as it were) to her parents who believe Nobody is her imaginary friend, this story is as strange and delightful as we could expect Gaiman to deliver.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

A dystopian alternate history set in 1984 Tokyo, IQ84 opens as Aomame takes a taxi to work. When the taxi gets caught in traffic, Aomame decided to get out and walk to the location of her work assignment. Her assignment? To murder a hotel guest and make it look like an accident. 

But after, she starts to notice some strange changes that make her question her sanity and the reality in which she lives.

Classic Horror Book List

Who doesn’t love a classic? In this section, we are turning the fright factor up a little and getting into some existential dread and cosmic horror. And we can’t talk about cosmic horror without mentioning…

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Spinning off of the Lovecraftian Mythos, Lovecraft Country is a classic in the making. Taking a note from the father of cosmic horror himself, Ruff updates the elements of the genre. 

In this dark fantasy, join Atticus Turner in 1950’s Chicago as he returns from the Army to discover that his father has gone missing. In his search for his father, he discovers a strange lineage, an enchanted manor, and cosmic creatures of the Eldrich persuasion.

The October Country by Ray Bradbury

If you have read our other book blogs, you may know that this is the second appearance Ray Bradbury has made on our book lists. Which should come as no surprise for such a prolific author. 

In this collection of short stories, aptly named for the time of year best to read it, Bradbury flexes his muscles of the mysterious and macabre. With nineteen different stories ranging from a carnival worker who wishes he was taller to a child who drowns in a lake, there is something for every horror connoisseur within these pages.

I Have No Mouth Yet I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

This short story quickly became a cult classic upon its publication in 1984. Exploring ideas of consciousness, being, and technology this psychological horror is a mind-twisting read.

Opening with the arrival of a new consciousness to “our group” some strange events are revealed as the narrator exposits the most recent events. This story is quite short and to say more would get into spoiler territory, however, it is worth a read. Perhaps more so now than when it was originally published.

A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Join us as we visit Basil Hallward in his Victorian English home and gaze upon a strange picture of a man named Dorian Gray. 

Gray is a youthful muse who Hallward — an artist — has asked to sit for a portrait painting. Though this sounds innocent enough, the story descends into a gothic philosophical critique of beauty and explores what one man will do to keep his skin deep.

Contemporary Horror Book List

Contemporary horror is a mixed bag of social, political, and philosophical nightmare fuel. Essentially, even though these stories might incorporate the supernatural or paranormal, the real horror here is other people. 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Though considered to be a dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale certainly contains some seriously horrific prospects.

In a future where women have become infertile, the human race as a whole is facing mass extinction. This leads people in power to resort to some pretty desperate measures, and not the least of which is public execution for agitators. We follow the narrator, Offred, as she is forced into sexual slavery under the new American regime.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Instead of going into the future to explore horrific possibilities, Beloved takes us back in time to explore one of the worst eras in American history.

Sethe may have escaped “Sweet Home” though she will never escape the horror of what it cost as she and her one surviving daughter are haunted by it. Literally. 

It killed Sethe’s mother-in-law and made her son run away. Sethe’s surviving daughter, Denver, must watch as her wastes away after finding a feral girl with a strange scar that seems to feed on her mother’s pain

Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin

Join world-renown author George R.R. Martin as he takes you on a historical horror journey down the Mississippi on the steamboat, Fevre Dream. 

Playing with the idea of vampire survival tactics throughout the American industrial revolution, the story follows Captain Abner Marsh as he agrees to take Joshua York down the mighty river. Though only a few nights into their journey, his pale passengers seem to be keeping a secret as members of his crew begin to disappear. 

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

In the vein of his father, Stephen King, Joe Hill is a true apprentice of his family craft of horror writing. 

Presenting a new twist on the vampire genre, Charlie Manx is a villain who’s inhumanity and cruelty seems all too familiar in the real world. A hunter of children with special gifts, Manx has noticed a particularly strong meal in the form of young Vikki McQueen. An eight-year-old girl with a gift to find lost things, including “missing” children.

Chilling and Dreadful Horror Book List

These are the books that hold no bars and an overall terror warning should apply to all that follows…

The Shining by Stephen King

For the one Stephen King book on this list, we thought we’d go with a good starter read. And don’t worry, if you are familiar with Kubrick’s adaptation, there is still plenty to surprise you.

Jack Torrance — an aspiring writer and failed educator — takes a job at the Overlook Hotel. He and his family are locked away in the remote Colorado location to slowly go mad together.

The Cipher by Kathe Koja

In this author’s debut novel, Koja explores issues of human potential and transcendence. She is asking the question “how can we choose what to become?” 

With some serious Pet Cemetery and The Fly vibes, we watch as Nicholas is discovering some… disturbing changes. But this is not the beginning of Nicholas’ story. It tarted years ago as someone else began to feed a hungry entity that calls to its disciple for food. This story is some of the best in mind and body horror with some deeply unsettling images.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

If you’re a horror buff you may have seen one of the two movie adaptations of Lindqvist’s novel. However, if you are a newbie to the genre this is a must-read for those craving the dreadful.

Meet twelve-year-old Oscar, a boy from Sweden with a Rubix Cube and a crush. Though the object of his affection, his new neighbor comes at the same time as a few gruesome and ritualistic murders. And notably, one of the victims is a boy who has been bullying Oscar day in and day out.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski 

Another first novel to wrap up the list, Danielewski lures us into his torrid tale by selling us on the possibility of the paranormal.

Johnny Truant has just landed a new apartment. But as he finds the manuscript of the previous tenant, a professor who died mysteriously, Truant begins to uncover the strange circumstances of the late professor’s death. And with it the enormity of the professor’s studies. But don’t get too attached to any one character. Any of them are liable to meet a graphic end.

We hope you enjoyed our list of frightful reads and hope you will find your new favorite horror novel. If you would like to read something less scary, check out this FREE A-Z guide on Living and Aging the Way You Want you can learn the ABCs of aging successfully.

Life Enriching Communities, Inc. (LEC), is an integrated family of lifestyle communities and senior living services in greater Cincinnati. Best known for our Twin Towers and Twin Lakes senior living communities, we have made aging well a top priority for nearly 120 years.

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