Podcasts & Books

9 Of The Creepiest Horror Books That Are Guaranteed To Keep You Up At Night

By Jessica Best
13th Jul 2021

collage of the best horror books

If you’ve clicked on this page, you’re no doubt the type of being who likes a little fright from time to time. And though you may be misunderstood by the general population, rest assured, you’re in a safe place. 

Because at Urban List, there’s nothing that we like more (well, some of us, at least) than dimming the lights, curling up in bed and starting a damn good horror book. And lucky for you, we’ve gone and found the absolute scariest horror books to dig into right now. Check out the best horror books below:

The Hollow Ones

Guillermo Del Toro, Chuck Hogan

Alright, horror fiends, we’re kicking things off with a bang because in the world of horror—that’s exactly how all the good things start. If there’s only one horror book you should read in 2020, let it be The Hollow Ones. Written by Oscar-winning director turned author Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape Of Water), this horror fiasco contains several gruesome murders, think X-Files meets Ben Aaronovitch. This paranormal thriller tales a horrific crime which defies all logic, a mysterious figure called John, lots of evil, much corruption and as you need any more convincing.

Night Train

By David Quantick

David Quantick needs no introduction. The Emmy-winning author is an absolute wordsmith and his new page-turner is no exception. Night Train is a science-fiction horror story that starts as most eerie plots do, on a train. A woman wakes up, frightened and alone. The room is shaking, as if it’s quite literally alive. She gets up, looks around and realises—suspenseful pause—the train is full of the dead. Find a more gripping opening—we’ll wait. 

Survivor Song

Paul Tremblay

If horror is your religion and horror books are your bible, then you already know all about Paul Tremblay. This guy, (a casual Bram Stoker award-winning author) was born to write books that scare the living bejesus out of you and he’s already done so with his previous read The Cabin At The End Of The World and A Head Full of Ghosts (which you should have also have read by now). In a pandemic-stricken world, Survivor Song kind of brings all your worst fears to life. There’s an insidious rabies-like virus which spreads through saliva but unlike rabies, the disease has a short incubation period of one hour or less. Quarantine, curfews and government emergency protocols are failing. Honestly, this is one of the best horror books 2021 readers can endure, with an undeniably meta element of truth.

The Only Good Indians

Stephen Graham Jones

It was one of the most anticipated horror books of 2020 and now it’s one of the best horror books to devour. Stephen Graham Jones has been called the “Jordan Peele” of horror fiction, with The Only Good Indians building his repertoire of thrilling stories. It covers a tale of revenge, cultural identity and the cost of breaking from tradition. Expect a tale of four American Indian men who are ravaged by a disturbing event in their younger years and an entity that is hell-bent on haunting them

The Haunting Of Hill House

Shirley Jackson

You’ve no doubt binged your way through The Haunting Of Hill House on Netflix but now, trade your vice for the original story on paper. Written by Shirley Jackson back in 1959, this epic gothic horror is not for the faint of heart, it’s been dubbed one of the best literary ghost stories of the 20th Century. And why is it so dang great (and scary)? Because Jackson tells this story through several characters within the book, all exploring their own psyche inside a haunted house. Note, you should probably read this one with the lights on.

House Of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski

Basically, House Of Leaves is 740-pages of full-blown heart-palpitating horror from start to finish. This horror tells, nay, eerily drips, the story of a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Treet Lane where they discover something incredibly confusing—their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. What does this mean? You’ll have to read it and find out for yourself, but we can tell you the two children go missing and something in the walls begins to consume everyone’s dreams.

IT

Stephen King

Ok, so we had to have a Stephen King book in here—this is IT. Whoever found clowns scary as a child (or adult) is totally validated by this horror classic. If you don’t already know the book, you’ve probably seen the movie that turned Bill Skarsgård from a gorgeous Swedish man into terror personified. Pennywise is the dreaded clown that lurks beneath the unassuming town of Derry in Maine. Every now and then, IT reaches up from the drains and sewers. You’ll never stand in front of a drain again. 

Tales of Horror

Edgar Allan Poe

If you love your horror but prefer it in bite-size pieces, then Edgar Allan Poe is your man. He’s the original master of gothic horror and practically invented the genre in the US. His short stories span murder, the plague, the fear of being buried alive, and a grieving lover who awakens to find himself holding a box of blood-stained teeth that belonged to his lover—just casually. Tales of Horror includes over 25 stories that are bound to get your heart racing. Definitely an author to read if you’re after the best horror books of all time.

Watchers

Dean Koontz

If you like Stephen King, then you’ll love this thrilling offering from Dean Koontz. It features two mutant creatures that escape from a secret government-run laboratory. Both have been drastically changed from the animals they used to be and they’re now on the loose, ready to wreak havoc on quiet suburbia. Let’s just say, Watchers might make you a little wary of dogs in future. A lonely widow, a government agent, a woman and a ruthless assassin make up the cast of this horror that will hook you in from the first page. 

Once you’ve worked your way through these horrors, try your hand at the best thriller books. 

Editor's note: Urban List editors independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. Urban List has affiliate partnerships, so we get revenue from your purchase.

Design credit: Kate Mason

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