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WHAT IS SCARY?

Horror novels ask that question continuously.

Are ghosts scary? How about science fiction aliens? Or is psychological crime horror what gives you goose bumps? Horror is a difficult genre to pinpoint. Horror novels, or thriller novels in general are more than B-movie scares and gore. There is a place for that in the genre, but the horror genre encompasses so much more. Each reader has their thing that gives them chills. For myself as a reader, the good ole’ fashioned scares as a child do me in. The proverbial and unescapable boogie man that is waiting to corner me when I least expect it. Or, child demons or pretty much anything with kids. Yech.

I have put together my top 10 horror novels that have given me chills and thrills for years on many a reread. I have included both my favorite book and my favorite horror book. The books are all from different types of horror and represent various styles. I noted different types of horror novels with an asterisk. I also tried to limit the Stephen King books to two. He has written many amazing books and I could do an entire list of his work.

1. - Religious Horror

The Exorcist

By William Peter Blatty

“We mourn the blossoms of May because they are to whither; but we know that May is one day to have its revenge upon November, by the revolution of that solemn circle which never stops—which teaches us in our height of hope, ever to be sober, and in our depth of desolation, never to despair.”

About The Exorcist

Georgetown, Washington D.C. Actress and divorced mother Chris MacNeil starts to experience ‘difficulties’ with her usually sweet-natured eleven-year-old daughter Regan. The child becomes afflicted by spasms, convulsions and unsettling amnesiac episodes; these abruptly worsen into violent fits of appalling foul-mouthed curses, accompanied by physical mutation. Medical science is baffled by Regan’s plight and, in her increasing despair, Chris turns to troubled priest and psychiatrist Damien Karras, who immediately recognises something profoundly malevolent in Regan’s distorted fetures and speech. On Karras’s recommendation, the Church summons Father Merrin, a specialist in the exorcism of demons . . .

2. - Psychological Horror

The Silence of the Lambs

by Thomas Harris

“When the Fox hears the Rabbit scream he comes a-runnin’, but not to help.”

About Silence of the Lambs

A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname—Buffalo Bill—is stalking women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states. Clarice Starling, a young trainee at the FBI Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, chief of the Bureau’s Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter—Hannibal the Cannibal—who is kept under close watch in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

Dr. Lecter is a former psychiatrist with a grisly history, unusual tastes, and an intense curiosity about the darker corners of the mind. His intimate understanding of the killer and of Clarice herself form the core of “The Silence of the Lambs”—an ingenious, masterfully written book and an unforgettable classic of suspense fiction.

3. - Ghost Horror

The Shining

by Stephen King

“Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in.”

About The Shining

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

4. - Society Horror

The Long Walk

by Stephen King

“They’re animals, all right. But why are you so goddam sure that makes us human beings?

About The Long Walk

Against the wishes of his mother, sixteen-year-old Ray Garraty is about to compete in the annual grueling match of stamina and wits known as The Long Walk. One hundred boys must keep a steady pace of four miles per hour without ever stopping… with the winner being awarded “The Prize” – anything he wants for the rest of his life. But, as part of this national tournament that sweeps through a dystopian America year after year, there are some harsh rules that Garraty and ninety-nine others must adhere to in order to beat out the rest. There is no finish line – the winner is the last man standing. Contestants cannot receive any outside aid whatsoever. Slow down under the speed limit and you’re given a warning. Three warnings and you’re out of the game – permanently…

5. - Psychological Horror

The Only Good Indians

by Stephen Graham Jones

“This is all you really need, isn’t it? Just one good friend. Somebody you can be stupid with. Somebody who’ll peel you up off the ground, prop you against the wall.”

About The Only Good Indians

The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

6. - Slasher Horror

Clown in the Cornfield

by Adam Cesare

“We’re from where we’re from,” she says back. “Scars are part of the deal, aren’t they?”

About Clown in the Cornfield

Set a year after the first book, it looks at how the surviving characters are dealing with fame and infamy when a new threat, wearing an old clown mask, reaches out to upend their lives.

“And if you had any favorite characters in Clown in a Cornfield, I’m preemptively sorry. #FrendoLives” – Adam Cesare

7. - Gothic Horror

Mexican Gothic

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

“Books, moonlight, melodrama.”

About Mexican Gothic

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

8. - Psychological Horror

A Head Full of Ghosts

by Paul Tremblay

“Ideas. I’m possessed by ideas. Ideas that are as old as humanity, maybe older, right? Maybe those ideas were out there just floating around before us, just waiting to be thought up. Maybe we don’t think them, we pluck them out from another dimension or another mind.”

Our Interview with Paul TremblayRead Our Review of A Head Full of Ghosts

About A Head Full of Ghosts

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

9. - Zombie Horror

The Post

by Kevin A. Munoz

Read Our Review of The Post

About The Post

Ten years after the world’s oil went sour and a pandemic killed most of the population, Sam Edison is the chief of police of The Little Five, a walled-in community near Atlanta, Georgia. Those who survived share the world with what are known as hollow-heads: creatures who are no longer fully human.

A man and a pregnant teenager arrive at the gate and are welcomed into the town. They begin to settle in when suddenly both are murdered by an unknown assailant. In the course of investigation, Chief Edison discovers that the girl was fleeing a life of sexual slavery, and that some members of the Atlanta community were complicit in the human trafficking network that had ensnared her.

In retaliation for Edison’s discoveries, agents of the network abduct the stepdaughter of the town’s mayor. Sam Edison and three companions track the kidnappers to Athens, Georgia, where they discover that the entire city is engaged in human trafficking. By the time Edison has recovered the kidnapped girl, the other three rescuers have been killed, leaving Edison alone to bring the mayor’s stepdaughter home. Further complicating their return is Sam’s realization that a prominent member of the community is in truth the ringleader of the slave-trading network. Against such great odds, will Sam ever make it to Little Five alive?

10. - Comic Horror

Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror, Vol. 1

by Junji Ito

About Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror, Vol. 1

Shortly after Shuichi Saito’s father becomes obsessed with spirals — snail shells, whirlpools, and man-made patterns — he dies mysteriously, his body positioned in the shape of a twisted coil. Soon, the entire town is afflicted with a snail-like disease

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