The Scariest Book I’ve Ever Read

The Scariest Book I’ve Ever Read


We asked nine horror aficionados—including Charlaine Harris, Jack Ketchum, Mira Grant, and Fangoria magazine—to choose the one book that keeps them up at night. Proceed at your own risk, and maybe check underneath your bed one last time before going to sleep.

  1. Book

    1. The Haunting of Hill House

    “The scariest book I’ve ever read, hands down, was and is The Haunting of Hill House by the late, great Shirley Jackson. The creepy atmosphere, the disturbed protagonist, and the malevolence of Hill House—or is the whole series of terrible events caused by Eleanor?—make this a classic. No movie can ever do it justice, though two attempts have been made.” — Charlaine Harris, author of Deadlocked: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel

  2. Book

    2. Pet Sematary

    “When I first read this book—as a 10 or 11 year old—the central horror of the book, a dead child, meant nothing to me. I was a child myself and felt immortal. But there was a creature seen by the main character, Louis, in the dark woods near his home one night. An enormous thing, six stories maybe, hardly visible in a heavy fog. The only thing Louis makes out are its great yellow eyes, gleaming like fog lamps, scanning the night as it lumbers on. That shit scared me senseless. Still does, if you want to know the truth.” — Victor Lavalle, author of The Devil in Silver

  3. Book

    3. Fahrenheit 451

    “I first read Fahrenheit 451 in the ninth grade. It gave me insomnia for two nights straight. What haunted me most was Montag’s wife, watching television all day long, and never knowing what she’d seen. Did she mean to overdose? When you’re that far gone, does it matter? Ray Bradbury was ahead of his time with that story—the media addiction, the demagoguery that sprouts from quick, easy answers to complex problems. I love books, and in high school, it’s not so cool to love books. I remember feeling validated, because somebody else held the written word sacred, just like me. I felt frightened for that same reason, because a lot of people don’t like books and they don’t like thinking. It’s so much easier to alpha dog your way through an argument than to think it through. What’s scary is, we don’t need to burn books to get rid of them. We just have to sink into our own vanity.” — Sarah Langan, author of Audrey’s Door

  4. Book

    4. I Am Legend

    “The blueprint for the contemporary zombie, the evolution of the vampire: [Richard] Matheson‘s existential, wrenching 1954 apocalyptic horror fantasy has lost none of its bite. Violent, frightening, unsettling, exciting, nightmarish, and, most importantly, unrelentingly sad. Matheson is modern dark fantasy’s premiere poet.” — Chris Alexander, editor in chief of Fangoria

  5. Book

    5. Lord of the Flies

    “For hearts of darkness. And that fly-ridden, staked and smiling pig.” — Jack Ketchum, author of The Girl Next Door

  6. Book

    6. Night Shift

    “The scariest book I’ve ever read—the one that made me lose sleep and hide under the covers crying for dawn—was actually a collection of short stories by Stephen King. I love him, he’s the author of my heart, but he’s the creepiest thing in the universe when he’s writing in the short form. Night Shift messed me up but good. It probably doesn’t help that I was ten years old at the time. I’m a grown-up now, and it still scares the pants off me.Night Shift by Stephen King: if you want to keep the kids too scared to get out of bed ever again.” — Mira Grant, author of Blackout

  7. Book

    7. Wisconsin Death Trip

    “Because bad things happened in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, at the turn of the last century, as you’ll learn from this collection of photos, letters, obituaries, articles. Beware the white horse.” — Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon

  8. Book

    8. House of Leaves

    “Few things are more fundamentally disturbing than the violation of the laws of physics, of our perceptions of reality. [Mark] Danielewski has written the magum opus on ‘wrong geometry,’ and I doubt anyone will ever best this amazing accomplishment.” — Caitlin R. Kiernan, author of The Drowning Girl

  9. Book

    9. The Road

    “Because OH GOD WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE.” — Drew Magary, author of The Postmortal


    This article originally appeared on Zola Books.


  1. I completely agree about Night Shift. I’ll be hitting 50 soon and I still can’t leave a closet door cracked open.

Leave a Reply