’tis the season to be scary! With a horror book or two, of course!
Welcome, mere mortal, as we edge closer to the frightful day known as Halloween. And what better way to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve than with a horror novel? One that curdles your nervous system and splatters terrible thoughts and imagery within your mind.
They are much scarier than horror movies because of how evil they are on our imagination. Not just for the ghastly imagery floating up from the page, but also for the shocking revelations – the awful thoughts that stir tension and make your heart race. Where you look up from the book in exasperation, wondering if you really did just read that. Ha! Try doing that when watching a film!
With all that being said, we’re thrilled to bring you the 10 best horror novels for your Halloween 2023 fix. These are best read on howling, stormy nights with a few candles flickering nearby – that is provided you have a heart of steel!
Read at your own risk…
Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Reading Douglas Preston’s novel Relic is a surefire way to generate a fear of museums – primarily those housing stuffed animals. The story starts just days before the launch of a massive exhibition at New York Museum of Natural History. Recent visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum’s dark hallways and secret rooms. And autopsies reveal that the murder isn’t human. Of course, capitalism wins and the museum directors want the exhibit to go ahead. Can researcher Margo Green uncover the truth in time?
Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
Nursing a baby in the womb is one thing, doing so with crazy neighbours is horrifying to say the least. Rosemary Woodhouse and her struggling actor-husband move into an old New York City apartment with an ominous reputation and only elderly residents. Two neighbours soon come nosing around to welcome them, but Rosemary has reservations about their eccentricity. And when her husband lands a Broadway role, Rosemary falls pregnant, with her neighbours taking a keen interest in her welfare. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin is true horror and a must-read this Halloween 2023.
IT by Stephen King
Even if you watched the movie, Stephen King’s horror novel IT is more than the films. In the small town of Derry, Maine, an evil creature lurks in the shadows, and only the children can sense its presence. Pennywise, that’s its name. In the storm drains, in the sewers, under bridges, this evil creature preys, morphing into the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest fear. Sometimes IT reaches up, seizing, tearing, killing. Can the Losers Club, a tight group of outcast children-turned-adults, face their deepest fears? Can they take a stand against the evil creature and survive?
Blindness by José Saramago
Blindness is quite possibly the best but at the same time worst horror novel to read during the COVID-19 pandemic. In it, a city is ravaged by an epidemic of “white blindness”. Authorities confine the blind in an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive – stealing food rations and assaulting women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who becomes the guide of these people, taking them through the barren streets. Blindness brings a plague of evocative proportions, showcasing the terrific nature of humanity, and what it takes to be human.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Here is another form of blindness, but of the self-inflicted variety. In this dystopian novel by Josh Malerman, the world is overrun by… something. Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. Five years after the downfall of man, there are few survivors, including Mallorie and her two children. She longs for a place where they can live freely. And now that her two children are aged four, she decides to row 20 miles downriver in a rowboat – blindfolded. Scary as it is compelling, this is a must-read this Halloween 2023!
Locke & Key by Joe Hill
This is a series of six novels, uncovering the sprawling tale of magic, family, legacy, grief and the swinging pendulum between good and evil. Locke & Key tells the chilling story of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them. Home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all. You’ll be at your wits end. And, even after 984 pages, it’ll keep you thrilled for the entire Halloween weekend!
The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
Do you think butterflies are not scary? Well, the butterflies in this garden will send shivers down your spine. In The Butterfly Garden you’ll find luscious flowers, shady trees and a collection of previous ‘butterflies’ – young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens. But the garden is discovered and the FBI investigates, starting with one butterfly called Maya. And she herself is just as much of a puzzle needing to be solved.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
One cannot write a list of the best horror novels without mentioning Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It is the epitome of horror, having been rated over a million times on Goodreads with an average 4-star rating. It is, essentially, where vampires began. The story begins when Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house. There he makes horrifying discoveries about his client and the castle this man dwells in. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents begin to unfold in England. Could you survive this bloodthirsty demon?
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
Here’s a question: how can a strong sense of smell lead to murder? Patrick’s horror novel Perfume has the answer. In the slums of 18th century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the aromas of Paris. But Grenouille’s genius can never be satisfied as he dives into more peculiar smells. One day he catches a scent that will drive him on a terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume”—the scent of a beautiful young virgin.
The Shining by Stephen King
Yes, we’ve already got a Stephen King book on this list, but he’s not called the master of horror for nothing. Compared to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Shining has 1.2 million reviews with an average 4.24 star rating. It’s a story of madness and macabre, starting with Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel in the remote Rocky Mountains. As the off-season caretaker, he should have plenty of time to spend with his family. But the harsh winter sets in, and so does the horror within the halls of the Overlook Hotel.
Needing something more terrifying this Halloween 2023? Scare yourself silly with the 10 Best Horror Movies to Stream Now on Netflix. Or for something easy to flick through, these 10 Best Short Story Collections are a must read in 2023.