13 Scary Books to Read Before Halloween

FALL IS COMING! When fall comes, it means that Halloween is right around the corner. If you love reading and want to add some incredibly scary books to your list, I have some awesome ones for you. As you know, if you’ve been following my blog, I love reading & I LOVE horror/all things scary. (Odd because of my anxiety, I know). I have read countless horror novels and finally narrowed down the scariest I’ve ever read. Here they are: (This article may contain affiliate links)

1. Hell House – Richard Matheson

Hell House is one of the most unsettling books I’ve ever read. When it comes to “haunted house horror” this is at the very top. It deals with mediums, who are hired by a dying millionaire to find out information about life after death. The entire novel is written in such a way that the house is actually a character in the book. It’s a seriously scary book that all lovers of horror simply must add to their reading list.

Buy Here on Barnes and Noble

2. Pet Cemetery – Stephen King

I probably read this when I was wayyy too young but to this day, it’s still one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read. The story is so good, it’s really hard to put down. What’s more terrifying than a beloved pet, (or loved one), coming back as a murder machine? Eh, so scary!

Buy Pet Cemetery Here.

3. The Exorcist – Willaim Peter Blatty

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I know this probably makes every single “scary book” list you’ve ever seen but it truly is terrifying. If you thought the movie was scary, the book is 10x scarier. You probably already know the premise of the book, but if you’ve seen the movie and not read the book – you need to. It’s utterly terrifying.

Buy “The Exorcist” Here.

4. IT – Stephen King

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Another classic for good reason. This is another one I read when I was a bit too young. It kept me up for days! I think I was around 11 when I first read it and man, did it scare the living sh*t out of me. Did I fear clowns before reading this? Nope. Did I after reading this? Hell yes. IT is a masterpiece of horror, in my opinion. Pennywise is and always will be one of the most terrifying horror monster of all time!

Buy IT here!

5. Books of Blood – Clive Barker

This book a series of scary stories that are all truly terrifying. Most are dark fantasy stories that bring in a good amount of horror and unease. The first story, “The Book of Blood” gives you a good feel of what you can expect from the rest of the tales. It deals with a con-psychic who who ends up encountering the real deal while in an allegedly haunted house. You can expect a lot of blood, as the title suggest. There are demons, evil spirits and a whole lot of scary surprises throughout. I HIGHLY recommend this collection to anyone who loves horror.

You can Buy Volume 1-3 HERE.

6. Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill

I was probably one of the few people to read “Horns” before I read “Heart-Shaped Box.” Although I highly recommend “Horns” as a thriller, “Heart-shaped Box” is an amazing modern horror novel and to this day, I haven’t read anything else like it. So, an old rock star decides to buy a piece of memorabilia that is far more than it seems.

Buy this awesome book HERE!

7. The Complete Tales and Poems – Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe will always fascinate me. I’ve read all of his work multiple times and LOVE every single piece. This collection of stories and poems is one of my all-time favorites! Some of the most terrifying stories in his collection include:

  • Tell-Tale Heart (A personal favorite short story that is written from the perspective of a clearly deranged individual).
  • The Pit and the Pendulum (A very dark piece of writing involving rats and torture).
  • The Cask of Amontillado (a bit of humor that leads to some serious horror).
  • The Raven (A poem that is pure perfection).

8. The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum

Yikes! This book bothered me far more than I expected. It’s an exaggerated version of something that actually happened, which just makes my skin crawl even more. It dives into the heinous actions people will commit whist in a group and damn do they get brutal! This is a story that reveals that not everything is as it appears and a whole hell of a lot can go on behind closed doors.

Buy it here!

Trigger warning: Sexual violence.

9. The Ruins – Scott Smith

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There is a movie based on this book but it honestly does not do the story justice, (but still is a unique horror movie). Talk about some serious gore. What if there were plants and even grass that just wants to kill us? Well, this book answers that question with undeniable terror and gore.

10. The Ritual – Adam Nevill

I think I finished this book in just two days. I simply couldn’t put it down. From the beginning, the characters are compelling and the story feels all too real. The atmospheric tone of this novel is terribly haunting. It’s one that will leave you questioning whether or not you ever want to go into the woods again.

11. Penpal – Dathan Auerbach

A seemingly innocent grade-school project turns into a nightmare. It’s one of those books that will leave you looking over your shoulder. It’s well-written and creepy as hell. The ending of this novel is amazingly haunting.

You can buy it here.

12. Those Across the River – Christopher Buehlman

This book deals with a man interested in writing his own family history, so he and his wife move to Whitbrow, a place that appears perfect & quaint. At first, it seems like the quiet town is a wonderful place to live but as the story progresses, the town is not what it appears. There is something seriously up with the woods across the river. It’s a spooky novel that builds and builds until the true horror is discovered.

Purchase this creepy book here!

13. Ghost Story – Peter Straub

Peter Straub is one of my favorite horror authors. He has a way of building suspense that will make your hands sweat. In this story, old friends unite to discuss all their ghost stories with each other. However, there is a secret in their past that becomes a serious threat. This story is haunting from beginning to end!

Honorable Mentions:

Most stories by H.P Lovecraft

H.P Lovecraft takes some awesome sci-fi premises and turns them into terrifying stories. If you want your horror with a side of sci-fi, there are few better writers than Lovecraft. A favorite story of mine is “At the Mountain of Madness.” 

Here are other Excellent Horror Books: 

  • The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
  • The Shining – Stephen King
  • A Head Full of Ghosts – Paul G. Tremblay
  • Something Wicked this way Comes – Ray Bradbury
  • Bird Box – Josh Malerman
  • The Passage – Justin Cronin
  • Drood – Dan Simmons


Final Thoughts:

If you’re looking to get a good scare out of a novel, any of the ones I mentioned should do the trick. I love horror novels and am always looking for new ones 🙂 . If you have any suggestions that I haven’t mentioned, PLEASE let me know in the comments 🙂

I wish everyone an utterly awesome Halloween 🙂


Krissy October is a professional freelance writer, aspiring novelist and knowledge nerd who is dedicated to consistent self-improvement and finding clever ways to solve everyday problems.

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