Over the years I have read a ton of horror novels. Mostly due to the fact that when I was younger I wasn’t allowed to see horror movies but my parents were completely fine with me reading books. Any book I wanted. The first Stephen King book I read was when I was 11 years old. My parents assumed I couldn’t understand it, so there was no harm in letting me read it. I don’t know why they thought that because I understood it just fine (except for some words which I went and looked up in the dictionary). The point is, ever since that moment I was hooked on scary books. Even before that point. I was into age appropriate books for my reading level. Here are my top ten picks (in no particular order) for scary and awesome books. Most of them are probably going to end up being Stephen King books so I apologize in advance.
- Pet Sematary (Stephen King): This book is amazing. So amazing that I have read it multiple times over. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it. Seen the movie a ton too, but this isn’t about movies. The book follows a man named Louis Creed who lives with his family in Maine and is a doctor at a local college. He has two kids and a wife and a cat named after Winston Churchill. He also has a somewhat creepy neighbor named Judd who is married to a nice woman. They are a much older and retired couple who take care of the kids when they can and befriend Louis and his wife Rachel. During a trip that Rachel and the kids take (Ellie and Gage) the cat dies on Louis’ watch. They just call him Church for short. Since the cat is Ellie’s cat, Louis knows she’ll freak out when she comes home but Judd knows about an Indian burial ground that can supposedly bring things back to life. The only problem is that the thing that you put in the ground isn’t the thing that comes back. As you can imagine this leads to horrible consequences because it’s a Stephen King book.
- Ring (Koji Suzuki): It’s just called Ring. It’s the book that the movie was based on. You know the one, “Before you die, you see the ring”, that one? Anyway, the book is far darker and more chilling that anything you’ll see in that movie (or the original Japanese movie) and it’s definitely a page turner. The differences are numerous and the main character is a male, not a female. The book also goes into a lot of detail explaining the backstory of the girl who creates the cursed tape as well as an explanation as to how the tape kills people (which has nothing to do with a girl crawling out of a TV to come and get you). This book is part of a trilogy and though I’d recommend the second book in this series I wouldn’t recommend the third. That’s because I didn’t like the twist ending but a lot of people report liking it so I won’t say to completely avoid it. I’d say, read it and find out for yourself. In any case, this is definitely one you should check out.
- Thinner (Stephen King): Considering how this book is written it is creepy in two different ways. The entire story is told from the point of view of the main character, Billy. Due to this tactic, it’s nearly impossible to tell if he’s going insane or what he thinks is happening is really happening. The man is on the bad end of a gypsy curse that causes him to slowly get thinner and thinner until he wastes away to nothing. This is after Billy runs over one of the gypsies with his car (while getting a blow job from his wife) and him and his friends who all work in the small town and law enforcement (Billy being a lawyer) allow him to walk away from it with no comeuppance. The leader of the gypsy tribe decides to take matters into his own hands in the form of a curse. Of course, the curse is real, wanted to be clear on that, but Billy is kind of paranoid and weird through the book after the curse and that’s what makes you question if he’s sane or insane. He decides he’s going to track down the gypsy and terrorize him and his group until he gets the curse removed.
- The Ruins (Scott Smith): This is a novel about a group of American tourists who go toMexico only to find themselves in a horribly fucked up situation. They go to see some Mayan ruins and get trapped on them by the local natives. The reason being, that the vines that surround and grow on the ruins are carnivorous. They easily populate the area and the locals are not going to let anyone who came in contact with the plants leave, as they are infected by the spores of it at that point, and it’s too late. The main characters all try to fight to stay alive having no clue until it’s much too late how damn evil the plants actually are. This book is amazingly well done and accurate to how people would behave in real life. The author takes what could easily be a horrible and even humorous premise if not written correctly and turns it into an amazing horror novel (the movie is great too). Once I bought this book I honestly couldn’t put it down until I finished it three days later.
- IT (Stephen King): The book that spawned the movie that made millions of people terrified of clowns. I’m sure most people have at least heard of it even if they don’t know much about it. Pennywise the clown became somewhat iconic and inspired a shit ton of knock off films of crazy ass murderous clowns but it all started with this book. Also, let’s not discount Tim Curry’s portrayal of the clown but I digress. The story is mainly about a novelist named Bill. It’s split into two different parts. The intro, where we meet the main characters as adults (and read about their interactions as kids with the evil clown) and the second half which is about them all going back to the town they grew up in to kill the evil clown. This clown turns out not to be a clown at all and to be honest, the ending really pisses me off, but the journey to get there makes it well worth the read. The book is over a thousand pages long so it’s not a quick novel or for beginners but I’ve read it through at least four times so it shows what kind of favoritism I have for it. If you are willing to put in the effort it’s definitely rewarding.
- The Dead Zone (Stephen King): This is also somewhat well-known thanks to a movie portrayal by another iconic man (Christopher Walken). The movie has absolutely nothing on the book, though, which is far darker and creepy but using 99% realistic situations. The 1% of which being that Johnny (the main character) is psychic and can gain different images and flashes from the future by touching people or certain objects. This happens after a car crash and Johnny is in a coma for a few years. I like this book because it discusses a lot of philosophical situations. Things like “If you could go back in time and stop Hitler, would you?” Many discussions of the butterfly effect and how changing the outcome of a situation could potentially make things far worse instead of far better. It goes through a period of time where Johnny is investigating a serial killer until the point where he meets a corrupt politician who is going to marry the girl he was dating before he was in a coma. Should he stop the man? Should he not? The ending is great and leaves everything open to interpretation and I absolutely love it!
- Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (Alvin Schwartz): First off, there are three of these books but you can easily get them in one large book. Secondly, yeah they are meant for kids. Still, I’m somehow captivated by them as an adult. They aren’t really going to be stories you’ve never heard before. They are also watered down and not exactly meant to be the most scary thing you’ll ever read unless you are 8 years old. The thing is, I really like these books. Even as an adult in my 30’s I really like these books. They are also a great, quick read too. I own an anthology copy of them and have been reading them since I was young. I’m fairly sure that these books are what turned me on to scary things (me and my entire generation). Plus, the artwork in the book is vastly unsettling so even if you don’t want to read the stories, the art is something worth taking a look at. Obviously, it’s age appropriate for children, but it still leaves some kind of underlying dreadful feeling as well.
- Night Shift (Stephen King): This is a collection of short stories by King and I love them. In a lot of ways, his short stories are a lot better than his full novels. I’m guessing this is because he doesn’t get so long winded that he forgets what he’s writing and shits his pants by the end. Of course, not all of the stories are AWESOME but I suppose that’s up to opinion. The stories I recommend in this book would be as follows: Quitters Inc, The Ledge, The Lawnmower Man, The Boogey Man, The Mangler, The Children Of The Corn, and I Know What You Need. The other stories don’t totally and completely suck but they weren’t good enough to stand out to me in any particular way and these are the stories that I have read many times over because they are just THAT good.
- Blindness (Jose Saramago): I suppose this one could be interpreted as a horror novel, I certainly think of it that way. It could also be seen as science fiction but the situation that the world is driven into is utterly terrifying. The book is about something unknown happening where 99% of the population goes completely blind. It happens quickly and everyone is left blind except for one women. As you would imagine, this drives the world into absolute fucking chaos. The one woman who can still see manages to find a group of people to help in this situation while pretty much everyone else has gone violent and in some cases, completely insane. It’s a good twist on the whole survival horror genre. In the end, it’s kind of unsatisfying (as there’s no real explanation as to why or how anyone went blind) but the journey is good enough and the movie that came out shortly after the book was good enough to give a watch to as well. It’s also a shorter book so it’s not something you’ll be spending ages reading.
- Cell (Stephen King): This was another one of those books that I just couldn’t put down once I picked it up. It’s a shorter novel by King so if you are looking for a quick read by him, try this one. In this book, there is some sort of audio pulse or signal that goes out through the cell towers and phone lines and turns everyone into flesh-craving violent ass zombies. In this day and age with the overuse of cell phones and such, obviously infection is widely spread and very quick. You can’t call anyone to tell them what is happening as you will be infected as well, and there is only a small group of people who have figured out what is happening. They have to survive amongst all the zombie chaos. The main character is trying to find his son, the whole while knowing he can’t call to find him or check out if he’s okay. Within the first ten pages of this book, you will be met with horrific events and discoveries and it has a great power of pulling you into the story quickly. Though I can’t say I loved the ending it’s at least open-ended enough that you can draw your own conclusions. At least books, unlike movies, aren’t usually open to having sequels (unless they are planned in advance) so thankfully I don’t think King will ruin this book even further with a Cell 2 in the future.
These are my top ten picks for horror novels and as I said, most of them would be Stephen King. I know this would cause people to question if I read anything other than him, and yes I do. I read plenty of horror authors other than King. The problem is that his sheer volume of output has created many MANY good horror books that are highly recommended. As you’ll notice I have four other books in here that have nothing to do with him so it’s obvious that I get around. I just can’t help it if I have a bias and a favorite author in the genre.