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Fall Reading: The 13 Scariest Books of All Time

As sure as the scent of pumpkin spice fills the air, Halloween is coming. That means indulging a little in the spooky side of life, whether that means decorating the house with jack-o’-lanterns and ghouls or checking out the local haunted houses and creepy cornfields. Halloween is also a good time for reading a few terrifying books to set the mood for this scary season.

If you love nothing more than curIing up on a rainy autumn evening with a book full of spine-tingling suspense, bone-chilling horror and heart-pounding thrills, then you’re in for a treat. We have some recommendations that are sure to keep you busy for the entire spooky autumn.

1. “The Shining” by Stephen King

Why not put the master or horror and suspense at the very top of the list? “The Shining” is the all-time classic tale of haunted minds and a haunted hotel where malevolent forces seek to add to their number by destroying the lives of the winter caretaker and his family.

2. “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

This atmospheric masterpiece is a true psychological thriller that will leave you questioning the boundaries between reality and the supernatural, sanity and madness. Join a paranormal investigator, his assistants and the house’s new owner as they try to determine if evil really does live inside the walls of this mysterious home with the unsettling architecture.

3. “Dracula” by Bram Stoker

This is the classic novel that has left a most indelible mark on the horror genre. Through a collection of journal entries and letters, readers are drawn into a Gothic horror that brings an Old World monster into the Victorian era. Stoker’s vivid descriptions, the hauntingly alluring Count Dracula and the desperate struggle to stop him from claiming a new bride make for a timeless tale of terror and seduction.

4. “Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris

The character of Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter has inspired numerous movies and television shows, and this is the book where he was introduced to the world. The horror in this book creeps up on readers slowly, as FBI agent Will Graham gets closer and closer to capturing a madman who wipes out entire families in his pursuit of transformation into something other-than-human.

5. “The Exorcist” by William Peter Blatty

Regarded as one of the most frightening novels ever written even before it became a movie, this book tells the story of a young girl possessed by a malevolent demon and the priest determined to save her. The relentless battle between good and evil is portrayed in gut-wrenching detail, making it a true classic in the horror genre. Folks may need to leave the lights on when they go to bed after reading this one.

6. “NOS4A2” by Joe Hill

Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, has proven himself a master of horror in his own right. In “NOS4A2,” he weaves a dark and imaginative tale about a supernatural serial killer who abducts children and takes them to a twisted Christmasland. A determined survivor with supernatural abilities of her own, the only person to escape the killer’s clutches, becomes his nemesis in a chilling game of cat and mouse.

7. “Interview With the Vampire” by Anne Rice

This is the novel that launched a thousand other novels and movies alike, totally reinventing the vampire story and making it darkly romantic – but still deadly. The novel takes the form of an interview between a young journalist and the vampire Louis, and Rice’s writing is lush and poetic as it explores the emotional torment of being neither really living nor dead – and the existential horror of loneliness.

8. “Relic” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

This is a straight-up mystery and tale of horror that pits FBI Special Agent Pendergast against a supernatural monster with immense cunning and strength that is hunting its prey in the dark underbelly of a massive New York museum. This thriller keeps readers on the edge of their seats with its eerie atmosphere and virtually relentless suspense.

9. “The Wood Wife” by Terri Windling

Part fantasy, part horror, this book is practically lyrical as it follows a writer who inherits the home of her mentor as she tries to unravel the mystery of his death – unaware that she’s stepping into the middle of a battle between inhuman spirits all around her. This one will entwine readers in a dark web of mystery and wonder, with a little bit of creeping terror thrown in as the main character realizes that the spirits are neither good nor evil, but something entirely beyond human comprehension.

10. “Winterset Hollow” by Jonathan Edward Durham

What if the beloved fictional woodland animals of your favorite childhood stories were actually real, and not so gentle or sane as you might hope? What if you were trapped on an abandoned island with them? This book is fantasy gone mad, and darkly disturbing – but it’s perfect if you’re looking for a delightfully nightmarish October read that has teeth…and claws.

11. “The Amityville Horror” by Jay Anson

Reading almost like a true-crime story, this is a bone-chilling tale of one family’s nightmarish experience in their new home. When the Lutz family moves into their dream house in Amityville, they are soon terrorized by inexplicable phenomena, sinister apparitions and a malevolent presence. Even though the story has widely been called a hoax, it’s presented in such a way that it’s difficult to walk away from this read without questioning the boundaries between the living world and the supernatural.

12. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury

Set in the quiet, autumnal town of Green Town, this is a mesmerizing dark fantasy that will scare the wits out of you. A coming-of-age story follows two young friends, Jim and Will, as they encounter the enigmatic and malevolent Mr. Dark’s traveling carnival. The carnival promises to grant the deepest desires of those who visit, but all things come at a sinister cost – and evil is most certainly afoot.

13. “Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King

King is just too good at this genre to only appear on the list once – and this book is a blood-curdling masterpiece that re-imagines the classic vampire myth, letting it play out in a small New England town instead of a Transylvanian village. When writer Ben Mears returns to Jerusalem’s Lot, he quickly realizes that something sinister lurks beneath the surface – a centuries-old vampire who is spreading his curse.