At some point in your childhood, you’ve most likely come across an R.L. Stine book or read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. While it’s perfectly okay to come back to these books for nostalgia purposes, perhaps you’re looking to discover a new eerie story, one that involves suspense, mystery, revenge, maybe…all of the above? Sure, you can pick up any Stephen King novel and begin your spooky reading marathon from there, but wouldn’t it be fun to use one of your nine lives—I mean, explore stories that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat? Here are 10 books to satisfy your chilling thirst.
TW: Mentions of violence, abuse, and trauma. Suggestion of blood.
- Out by Natsuo Kirino
“‘You know,’ she murmured, ‘we’re all heading straight to hell.’”— Out, Natsuo Kirino
Set in the suburbs of Tokyo, Out is a Japanese crime story that tells the tale of four working-class women who earn a living working night shifts in a factory, assembling boxed lunches. They seem like average people, right? Their husbands on the other hand are trash. The men are emotionally and physically abusive, unfaithful to their wives by cheating on them and spending their savings on gambling. They’re better off dead, right? Right?!
2. The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
“‘You can only hope that by the time you come to your senses they haven’t done too much damage.’”— The Final Girl Support Group, Grady Hendrix
Picture this: You’ve just survived a massacre and are attending therapy with a group of girls who’ve also survived the same traumatic event. After many years, you’re all trying to cope with the aftereffects of the incident, finding a way to continue on with your lives. Suddenly, a woman within the therapy group goes missing. What happens then when your worst nightmare seems to come back to life?
3. Survive the Night by Riley Sager
“Staying isn’t an option.”— Survive the Night, Riley Sager
I’m sure we’ve all carpooled at some point in our lives with friends or family members, but what happens when you share a ride with a stranger? Meet Charlie Jordan, a college student who wants to go home after the heinous murder of her best friend. She takes a ride with Josh, who says he wants to go home to take care of his sick father…or so he says. Here’s the thing, there’s something odd about Josh, and with a killer on the loose, who can Charlie really trust?
4. The Return by Rachel Harrison
“You can’t erase your past when there are pieces of it scattered inside other people.”— The Return, Rachel Harrison
The Return follows a group of friends who have reunited after one of them returns from a strange two-year disappearance. When said friend reappears, with no memory of what happened to them during this time, you’d be supportive and try to help them out. But what if the said person who disappears isn’t the same person who came back? If it’s not them, then who—or what—are they?
5. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
“I’m not sure I’m the good girl I once thought I was.”— A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson
When the popular girl gets murdered, the first suspect is always the boyfriend. However, when he is also dead (but his body never being found), does the case end there? With the tragedy still haunting the town of Fairview, Pippa makes it her goal to figure out what actually happened to the fallen victims. As she’s digging for more information about the case, someone in the town doesn’t want her snooping around, putting Pippa’s life in danger.
6. The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman
“The dead do not always keep their secrets.”— The Corpse Queen, Heather M. Herrman
Set in Philadelphia during the 1850s, orphaned Molly Green is sent to live with her aunt Ava who makes a living robbing graves, selling corpses to medical students. Usually, I wouldn’t judge how a person makes their money, but if I were orphaned and told by my aunt to help her rob graves, I would simply perish. There’s no way in hell I would do that, but Molly has to make do with what she has. After all, it’s the 1850s. What can women do to earn a living during this time?
7. The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins
“For as long as I live, she vowed, I will never go camping again.”— The Woods Are Always Watching, Stephanie Perkins
I’ve heard so many haunting stories about hiking in the woods, you’d think I wouldn’t be fazed anymore. I was wrong. So. Very. Wrong. When I tell you that the details in this book play out like a horror movie in my head, you better believe it! There’s a tension that accumulates between the best friends that makes me not want to go hiking with just one person. If I’m hiking, I’ll need a whole group of friends who know what they’re doing and where they’re going. Pick this book up if you have any plans of camping in the woods in the near future.
8. Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis
“When you’re alone in the dark, impossible things grow bones and flesh.”— Harrow Lake, Kat Ellis
It’s one thing to be a fan of the horror genre, it’s another when it’s something you’re used to. The daughter of a horror filmmaker, Lola Nox is sent to live with her grandmother in a place called Harrow Lake after her father is attacked. Side note: If you’re sent away to live with a relative you’d never met before, chances are, it’s not a good idea. The town of Harrow Lake is where Lola’s father shot his famous horror film, however, it’s also a place where people are mysteriously disappearing. If you stepped foot in this town, you’d want to escape too.
9. We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin
“You always wonder if the tiny red spot on a shirt is really from a spaghetti dinner like they claim.”— We Are All the Same in the Dark, Julia Heaberlin
This psychological thriller is told from three points of view, all of which tell the nerve bending mystery about two girls. One of the girls has been missing for a decade. The other has been found but does not know their identity nor why they were found in the middle of the road. As with any mystery story, your trust issues will only get worse (and I take no blame for it) but at least your detective skills will improve. That’s a benefit, right?
10. Pearl by Josh Malerman
“As if, in that moment, his ill-defined apprehensions about the farm had been galvanized, and everything Jeff was afraid of was true.”— Pearl, Josh Malerman
Whether you eat pork or not, this story is sure to make your stomach churn. Imagine if the severed pig’s head from The Lord of the Flies started whispering dangerous thoughts into your head, telling you to commit murder. If you’re a pig-lover, I think you should reconsider whether you want to read this book. This is horror to the max; I haven’t been this afraid of pigs since Animal Farm.
Whether you enjoy the adrenaline rush of escalating tension or resolution from a neverending nightmare, these book selections are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat all through the night. At the stroke of the witching hour, remember to use your time wisely. Wouldn’t want you to lose your head or anything.