No matter how we consume horror stories, the truth is that it is an overwhelmingly popular genre.
Its success is easy to demonstrate in fields such as cinema, television, social media, video games, and, of course, in books. Everything seems to indicate that, even though fear is a negative emotion, we want to feel it constantly.
For whatever reason, many need that adrenaline rush and the nervousness of embracing uncertainty. The readers’ need to know the darker side of their humanity also plays a big role in the success of the genre.
We need stimulation, and horror books simply expose us to negative but pleasurable feelings.
The best horror stories and novels ever written have one thing in common: they include a sea of emotions, ranging from joy to anger.The best-selling horror and suspense stories are those in which the reader feels like another character. From Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King, here are the most famous titles in the genre.
It by Stephen King
It is one of the most popular horror books in history. Published in 1986, it tells the story of a group of children who live in fear due to the constant death threats from a terrifying killer dressed as a clown.
His name is Pennywise, and he has the power to shapeshift and become stronger out of fear of his victims, particularly children.
Although it is a novel published more than 30 years ago, the masterpiece was on everyone’s lips in 2017 when its film adaptation was released.
The film was produced by Warner Bros and allowed fans of Stephen King’s book and horror audiences to rediscover a classic scary story, the kind that gives you goosebumps.
It is one of Stephen King’s most ambitious projects as he managed to hone his writing style around the genre.
There are children, a clown with a creepy mind and monstrous appearance, an unbreakable friendship, and a wide variety of characters. King explores themes such as the loneliness children can feel and the joy of finding real friends.
The story is narrated in the third person and some fragments in the first person. You already know that if you are looking for a masterpiece of the horror genre, don’t think twice and get this title.
If you are still doubting, you will also find a hooking plot, very well-developed characters, and the satisfaction of experiencing a new reality, an overwhelming one.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
The Exorcist is a horror story written by William Peter Blatty and published in 1971.
The novel has become an icon of the genre and one of the most influential supernatural horror books of all time. The film adaptation was released in 1973.
The novel tells the story of Chris MacNeil, a divorced actress who begins to have problems with Blake, her daughter. The 11-year-old girl with a calm character begins to have convulsive episodes, fainting, and disturbing memory loss.
Once the symptoms worsen, the girl begins to suffer from violent attacks full of curses and profanity. Her body begins to undergo physical mutations.
Chris decides to go to the doctors, but they cannot identify the girl’s problem, so the mother decides to call the priest Damien Karras to fight against the supernatural.
In 1973, the image of a possessed girl engaging in sexual behavior with a crucifix was unprecedented in the history of cinema. During its premiere, viewers suffered all kinds of negative reactions, such as fainting, vomiting, and heart attacks.
In some cities, the film was completely banned to prevent children from being exposed to strong images.
The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
The Black Cat is a horror story written by Edgar Allan Poe. It was published in 1843 as part of the 19th issue of the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post.
For critics, it is one of the creepiest and most sinister horror books in the history of literature. The story revolves around psychological terror and a gothic narrative.
Poe created a story in which the protagonist is the narrator himself. He is a good man with a docile character who loves animals. He lives together with his wife and his cat named Pluto.
However, the protagonist is lost in the vice of alcohol, and in a fit of fury, brutally kills the animal.
One night, at the bar where he was drinking, the man sees a cat similar to Pluto and decides to take it home to redeem himself with his wife.
However, the cat’s affection for his wife generates feelings of jealousy, so he decides to take action accordingly. We will not tell you more. You just have to know that violence is the protagonist and the outcome is terrifying.
The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
The Call of Cthulhu is a short story written by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, considered the pioneer of contemporary horror stories.
The work was published in 1928 and became the essential piece for the construction of the literary cycle of The Cthulhu Mythos. This cycle includes video games, novels, and films by other authors.
The narrator of the story undertakes an intense investigation into the death of his great-uncle in strange conditions. The deceased was a professor of Semitic languages, so he was linked in some way to “the darkness.”
The narrator investigates his uncle’s studies and discovers a horrifying reality at the hands of a cosmic monster called Cthulhu.
The Call of Cthulhu is one of the most important horror books in history. Thanks to him, the mythology of Cthulhu is created, made up of dozens of stories written by its original author and by other writers of the genre related to Lovecraft.
Here alien monsters, mystery, and ancient rites have a special place.
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
The Amityville Horror is a book by American author Jay Anson, published in September 1977.
It is also the basis of a series of films released from 1979 onward. The book is based on the claims of paranormal experiences by the Lutz family but has led to controversy and lawsuits over its truthfulness.
In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that, one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house, but the property, complete with boathouse and swimming pool, and the price had been too good to pass up.
However, twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror. This is a fascinating and frightening book containing a story about a house possessed by evil spirits, haunted by psychic phenomena almost too terrible to describe.
The story of The Amityville Horror was continued in a series of books by John G. Jones, with The Amityville Horror Part II (1982), Amityville: The Final Chapter (1985), Amityville: The Evil Escapes (1988), and Amityville: The Horror Returns (1989). In 1991, Amityville: The Nightmare Continues by Robin Karl was published.
Do you like sagas? Here is our article on sagas of horror books that will make you shudder.
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
20th Century Ghosts is a collection of horror short stories written by Joe Hill and published in 2005.
The compilation has won multiple awards, such as the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection, or the Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection.
The book includes works such as Best New Horror, 20th Century Ghost, Pop Art, You Will Hear the Locust Sing, Abraham’s Boys, The Black Telephone, The Cape, and Last Breath, among others.
The stories are packed with sensational themes drawn from the pop culture of the last 50 years, such as serial killers, poverty, divorce, horror and the supernatural.
The ghosts of the 20th century are broken men and children whose childhood has been destroyed.They all run to survive in the midst of ruined modernity and a world that sometimes turns surreal. In this work, terror does not take place in dark alleys, but rather in schoolyards, sports fields, and basements in the city.
Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill
Apartment 16 is a horror novel written by Adam Nevill, considered by critics to be one of the best horror stories published in England.
In the book, Nevill rescues the Anglo-Saxon tradition of “the haunted house”, but instead places an elegant apartment building in the city of London.
The building, called Barrington House, has an unoccupied apartment that no one leaves and no one can enter. This has been the case for the last 50 years.
However, one night, the watchman hears noises and decides to follow them. There appears Apryl, a young woman who arrives at Barrington House from the United States, determined to change her life.
The apartment was inherited from her aunt Lillian, who died under mysterious circumstances and whose mental health was questioned by many.Apryl discovers a terrifying truth in her aunt’s diaries: there is an evil that has affected the people who live in the building for decades, and apartment 16 hides a more chilling story.
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide
Let the Right One In is a horror novel written by John Ajvide. Published in 2004, it is one of the most popular horror books in the vampire genre.
It tells the story of Oskar, a 13-year-old boy, and his relationship with Eli, a girl of the same age. She just moved into the building, she’s mysterious, doesn’t seem to mind the cold, and only goes out at night.
Oskar is fond of forensic investigation, suffers from bullying by his classmates, and goes out at night with a knife, always imagining how to get revenge on his abusers.
Although the girl is not exactly friendly, Oskar wins her trust and her friendship. As this occurs, a series of murders take place in the neighborhood.
The novel describes what life was like in the suburbs of Stockholm during the 1980s.
The book’s themes include drugs, bullying, pedophilia, prostitution, murder, robbery, and suicide, among others that emphasize the dark side of being human.
Cabal by Clive Barker
Cabal is a horror novel written by British author Clive Barker. It was published in 1988, and its first edition was part of a book that contained it and also included short stories.
Due to its sales success, the novel was brought to the big screen in the movie Nightbreed.
It tells the story of Aaron Boone, a young man who lives tormented by constant nightmares in which he sees himself massacring 11 people.
Dr. Decker, his psychiatrist, uses therapy to convince him that his mind is ill and they are just simple nightmares. Boone, hopeless before the torture of his dreams, leaves for Midian.
Midian is a mythical and emblematic place mentioned in the Bible and many ancient stories. There, amid nocturnal creatures and “half-dead” people, the wicked and the bizarre take place.
Beyond the terror, in this masterpiece, you will also find the love between an unstable young man and a woman who would sacrifice everything to get him back.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
The Woman in Black is a horror novel, specifically of the gothic genre, written by the British author Susan Hill. It was published in 1983 and its first film adaptation was released in 2012.
The plot is simple, but catching: a mysterious ghost or specter threatens a modest and dark town in England.
Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer, is given the task of traveling to the gloomy town to attend the funeral services of an old woman.
However, although he sees a good possibility of growing professionally, strange events occur that take him away from his goal. All these events have to do with the appearance of the ghost of a woman who lost her son.
In this story, Hill’s real talent lies in imbuing her concept of the Gothic novel with modernity. The author manages to surprise the readers and make them feel fear as if it was their first time with a ghost book.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Bird Box is an apocalyptic science fiction horror novel written by American writer Josh Malerman. It is one of the most acclaimed novels by psychological horror critics due to the author’s inexperience, which implies an admirable talent for storytelling.
It tells the story of Malorie, a woman who has lived locked up in a house for 4 years without receiving a single ray of light. If she looks outside, she can lose her life in a second, since there are creatures outside that induce a state of extreme madness that ends in suicide.
Malorie lives with two young children, who have never seen light outside the home.
After lockdown, Malorie decides to run away to find a better place. The little ones have a strong sense of hearing thanks to Malorie’s advice. This aspect is crucial in the story since the journey must be made blindfolded, with their senses as the only guide.
The novel was successfully brought to the big screen in 2018. Sandra Bullock starred in the film.
Do you dare to read these chilling stories?
Horror books can nourish our intellect just as much as those of other genres. If you had any negative prejudice regarding this genre of literature, with this list of extraordinary titles you will no longer think the same.
They are the most widely read and famous horror books for a reason, so we invite you to read them and prepare to experience extreme emotions.