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Poll: Best Horror Novels of All Time

The Monk Matthew Lewis

The Monk by Matthew Lewis

What are the best horror novels of all time? The scariest novels of all time? When it comes to “best” I simply mean the scary stories  and scary books that I enjoyed the most, that unsettled me the most, or that are the most memorable because I can’t forget about them. And by “all time” I just mean “my time,” since I’ve only been around for three decades.

Although some of the good scary books I’ll mention below have some historical, groundbreaking significance in the literary timeline, the historical sense isn’t what I’m most interested in as a reader.

I think it is that memorable quality in the best horror novels that is most important to me. I’ve read a lot of books. I can give you memorable moments from just about anything I have read if you give me a minute. But ask me about a horror novel that has stuck with me and I can probably give you at least ten memorable moments.

Unforgettable, for better or worse.

October is only a few months away and I’ve already started putting together the list of horror books I’ll be reviewing during the unholy month, but I’m always looking for more, so if you have books you’d like to have me read and/or review, please let me know in the comments or you can email me as well.

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • It, also by King
  • The Monk by Matthew Lewis
  • Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
  • At The Mountains of Madness by HP Lovecraft (I’m sneaking this in even though it’s a novella)
  • We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Off Season by Jack Ketchum
  • The Day of the Tryffids by John Windham
  • The Long Walk by Stephen King
  • Lair of The White Worm by Brahm Stoker (I prefer this to Dracula)
  • Koko by Peter Straub
  • About half of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • The Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale
  • The Terror by Dan Simmons
  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
  • World War Z by Max Brooks (horror elements–zombies–but a fun, silly story)
  • Let The Right One In by Ebba Segerberg
  • The Navidson Record bits of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  • Books of Blood by Clive Barker (this is short stories but it freaked me out so I’m going to sneak it in)

I’ll come back and add to this as I remember things. There are so many that I am leaving out, I know it. Feel free to add to the list.

Good horror books. I love ’em.


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  • your sister June 2, 2011, 5:44 pm

    Josh….you’re forgetting your favorite book once again…. BABY DOLLY! Remember the terror that book reigned down upon your mind?

    • Avril McCormack November 4, 2012, 10:08 am

      The best horror book is Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story

      This book is awesome! It is very intriguing, and I have read it four times! I have recommended it to many people and the people that I have recomended it to also like it almost as much as I do. It is one of my favorite books probably because it is written by my favorite author.


  • Heather June 3, 2011, 7:03 am

    Short stuff gets my vote every time, as opposed to huge, honkin’ novels. One that I re-read every year is Lovecraft’s “Dunwich Horror,” and there’s a new one on the list this year from Dan Dillard, “The Demon of Walker’s Woods”. Shirley Jackson’s “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” gets my vote as well! Good pickin’ there, Josh! King’s shorter stuff, such as “Apt Pupil” and “Breathing Lessons,” also gets my vote. There’s an entire compendium of good, spooky stuff out there from Cemetary Dance Press, “October Dreams,” (808.8 at Cabell Public) that is chock-full of scary stories, poems, and artwork. I highly recommend it!

  • Sarah June 3, 2011, 8:15 am

    I’m not much of a horror fan, but the ones I’ve read are the classics like Frankenstein and The Castle of Otranto. Of those, my favorite is definitely Otranto. I liked Frankenstein, but the story was so familiar it wasn’t all that shocking, as I’m sure it was when no one knew it. I’d never heard of Otranto before my Horror and Fantasy class in college, so it was all new to me. I remember thinking it was one of the best assigned books I’d ever read.

  • Gustavo June 3, 2011, 9:37 am

    I am a big Stephen King fan. I must have read more than 15 novels and short stories and the scariest -for me- is “Pet Sematary”

    Other novels that gave me the chilly willies are:
    The sentinel (Jeffrey Konvitz)
    The Mephisto Waltz (Fred M. Steward)
    The Hellbound Heart (Clive Barker)

  • Jim Lochner June 3, 2011, 11:45 am

    I’m with Gustavo on this one. “Pete Sematary” creeped me out when I read it back when it was published.

  • Paul June 3, 2011, 6:19 pm

    I was also freaked out by “Pet Sematary”. I found “The Monk” and “The Castle of Otranto” at the Project Gutenberg website. I’m looking forward to reading them.

    • Paul June 3, 2011, 6:20 pm

      Lair of The White Worm is there as well.

  • Pim June 20, 2011, 2:33 am

    Salem’s Lot by Stephen King is my number 1. It and the Stand were scary, but Salem’s Lot left me lying awake in my bed scared at every sound in the house. I was convinced a vampire had come in my room. Also these vampires were the scary ones not these doe eyed wraiths you get these days.

  • Brad August 22, 2011, 10:24 pm

    John Ajvide Lindqvist wrote “Let the right one in” not Emma Segerberg. Emma just translated it into English.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 24, 2011, 1:09 pm

      Awesome, thank you. our library just got a copy. I’m going to go grab it right now.

  • Nezzidee January 13, 2012, 11:21 am

    How do I add your list of free kindle books to my kindle from your website?

    • Josh Hanagarne January 13, 2012, 2:40 pm

      You don’t. You have to go through Amazon.

  • Jamie February 19, 2012, 9:26 pm

    Check out Verland: The Transformation by B.E. Scully! One of my top 25 of all time!

  • Angel March 3, 2012, 11:31 pm

    Very cool list. Should “open season” be “Off Season”? As stated by others, Pet Sematary kept me up late reading it and even later from the memories. The book “It” still haunts me to do this day. I have three recommendations: The Conqueror Worms, The Rising, and Dead Sea all by Brian Keene. I am not into a lot of good vs evil books, but also check out Sandman Slim – fun, but not very scary. Robopocalypse is also a similar read to WWZ but with robots, very awesome in its own way. Monster island is pretty cool as well. Sorry to ramble. Happy reading!

    • Josh Hanagarne March 4, 2012, 9:34 am

      Whoops, you’re right. I’ll fix that ketchum title.

  • Seven-X March 4, 2012, 2:33 am

    Are you brave enough to venture into the demonic realms of Seven-X and unravel the mystery that lies beneath it’s charred surface

    This book will shatter you to your core. Dare to read it

    • Josh Hanagarne March 4, 2012, 9:35 am

      Send me a copy and i will try it. The libraries don’t own it and i’m not buying your book on a dare.

  • Jamie June 23, 2012, 1:50 pm

    Hiya. For the last few years, I’ve been trying to replace a bood that had been stolen from me. I’ll give you the best info on it that I can, but it may not be much.
    The title is “The Animals”. I can’t remember who the author is (sorry) or when it was written. The book is about a guy who meets a girl who turns out to be a warewolf. She turns the guy into a warewolf. I can’t remember the names of the characters (if I heard them, I might).
    My hope is to at least find out who the author is so that I can replace the book. I hope you can help.
    Cheers……. ~Jamie

    • Craig July 5, 2012, 8:29 am

      “Animals” by John Skipp and Craig Spector 1993. I think the
      girl’s name is Nora.

      • Josh Hanagarne July 5, 2012, 11:01 am

        Awesome, thanks Craig.

        • Craig July 5, 2012, 2:10 pm

          No problem. Like the list. Have you read “Summer of Night” by Dan Simmons?
          How about any Robert R. Mccammon? He has some great titles ( Swan Song, The Wolf’s Hour )

          • Josh Hanagarne July 5, 2012, 3:47 pm

            Yes, I’m a huge Dan Simmons fan. His publicity team actually sent me a reissue of Summer of Night. One of the best. Loved Swan Song as well. I have reviews for that and McCammon’s The Five on the blog.

  • Jonathan September 13, 2012, 12:19 pm

    Let us not forget The Shining and Misery from the King himself.

    The Damnation Game and Cabal by Cliver Barker are also fantastic. His other stuff is great too, but it isn’t pure horror.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 13, 2012, 1:46 pm

      Books of Blood will always be my favorite Barker, but I loved the Damnation Game. And good call on The Shining and Misery. I’d probably put just about everything King wrote pre-Misery on this list.