The Top Five Scariest Horror Novels

You might think you have read everything known to man during quarantine, but there is one genre that might not have caught your attention. Horror stories are far more than tales that children tell around the campfire. Indeed, the genre has been established for hundreds of years. From Dracula to The Exorcist and everything in between, there is something to please just about everyone. Are you up to the challenge of finishing some spine-tingling tales of terror? Take a look at some of our favorite horror novels that are guaranteed to keep your attention. 

Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s enduring tale of a tragically misunderstood monster is over 200 years old. First published in 1818, Frankenstein tells the story of a monster pieced together from dismembered corpses by a mad creator. While most people refer to this being as ‘Frankenstein’, it is worth noting that he is not named by his creator, Victor Frankenstein. The monster is roundly rejected by all who see him, including Frankenstein himself. He is left to wander the country in search of companionship. While he succeeds in building friendships, they are all abruptly severed the moment his ‘friends’ see his true visage. 

Frankenstein is often considered the first science fiction novel, and it remains a timeless tale that explores the depths of human vanity and the value placed upon appearance rather than substance. This is a great read for horror enthusiasts as well as those with a passing interest in the genre.

Dracula

If there is any horror tale as enduring as Frankenstein, it is most assuredly Dracula. Written by Bram Stoker in the late 19th century and first published in 1897, Dracula might not be the first vampire novel, but it is certainly one of the most well-known. The story tells the tale of the titular Dracula, a vampire from Transylvania who plagues Whitby, a small seaside town in England. The Crew of Light, headed by Abraham Van Helsing, are determined to rid the world of the monster for good.

It is interesting to note that while the book is classified as fiction, Stoker himself intended for it to serve as a warning of the evil that lurks in humanity. The novel is convincing because its author believed that the events really happened, though perhaps not quite as dramatic and detailed as he portrayed them. In fact, the original manuscript held many details to real-life events and monsters. Stoker’s publishers staunchly refused to market the book as non-fiction, however, and it was only after the first 101 pages were cut and much of the book rewritten as fiction that the tale was released.

Dracula is an interesting novel that will entertain horror fans as well as individuals interested in real-life terror. 

Let the Right One In

While the classic tales on this list are well worth the read, modern readers might find themselves a bit impatient at the heavy prose that dominates the writing. Let the Right One In is a modern tale that might better suit contemporary horror enthusiasts. Published in 2004 by author John Ajvide Lindqvist, the novel explores some of the extraordinary events that befall Oskar, a 12-year-old boy living in Sweden. After the body of another boy is found drained of blood, Oskar’s first reaction is relief. Oskar was horrifically bullied by the recently deceased, and he is content to accept the gift at face value. 

The new girl next door, however, has other plans. Oskar quickly finds himself drawn into a situation far more consequential than he ever could have anticipated.

Vampire fans are in for a treat with Let the Right One In. It is as engaging as it is scary and will keep readers enthralled until the very last page. 

The Vampire Chronicles 

Interview with the Vampire, the first in a series by Anne Rice, was published in 1976. At the time, the book garnered little attention and acclaim. Then, in 1985, she released The Vampire Lestat, and the series suddenly boomed to the top of reading lists everywhere. The first three books in the series – the third being The Queen of the Damned – captured the imaginations of millions of readers around the world. The books, which are sumptuous and well suited for slightly older readers, follow the tales of Louis, Claudia and Lestat across the world and decades, beginning in New Orleans with Louis and traveling through Europe and to the Théâtre des Vampires. 

Interview with the Vampire and The Queen of the Damned were both turned into successful movies, though not everyone appreciated the darker themes within the stories. Oprah Winfrey famously walked out of a screening of Interview with the Vampire due to the gore and unflinching concepts within it. 

Readers interested in a winding tale that blends horror with sensuality will find much to love in The Vampire Chronicles, though the series peters out after the first three entries. 

The Shining 

Would any horror list be complete without Stephen King making an appearance? The author has made a name for himself through his myriad of scary tales that explore diverse themes ranging from a haunted car to a killer dog and much more. King has written a number of books that deserve a place among the best of the best, but The Shining is particularly memorable. First published in 1977, the book was an immediate hit and led to the critically acclaimed movie that was released 1980. 

Set in Colorado, the tale focuses on the Torrance family as they move to the remote Overlook Hotel. Jack, the father, has been hired as the hotel’s new caretaker after the previous one killed himself and the rest of his family. Jack dismisses concerns about the ghastly history of the hotel and moves his family in, only to find his sanity deteriorating at a rapid pace. 

The Shining is an exquisitely dark horror tale worth both the read and the watch. Beware the chills it will likely inspire, however, and have a plan to relieve some stress afterwards, be it via a favorite game or a funny TV show.

Readers should ready themselves for scares with these books and dive right into the abyss!

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

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