For this Halloween Season I wanted to create a list of the one hundred best horror novels ever written.

A word about how I settled on these particular books: Like my list last year of the best horror movies ever made, I looked up as many lists of the best horror novels that I could find on the internet. I compiled my list from the books on all of these lists, so I can say that each of the one hundred books on my list was on at least one of these lists I found on the internet, and some of these books on my list appeared many times on these lists, and ten or twenty of them appeared on most of these lists.

I could’ve made a list of the top ten or twenty books, but I felt that there were so many great books on these lists, so many books I personally wanted to read, that I had to make the list larger. I realized that I as a horror writer had never read many of the classics, and in researching them, decided to come up with a personal list of the best ever that I hoped to read one day. And the list below is the result.

As I was coming up with this list I wanted to give myself some rules.

First, I struggled with the amount of books that would be on this list. I started out with fifty, then a hundred, and even thought about meeting in the middle at seventy-five. But I decided that because I’d found so many books on so many lists, that I wanted to make it a comprehensive list and settled on one hundred books. It wasn’t easy. The list could’ve swelled to five hundred in no time at all. It was grueling passing up on personal favorites of mine and sticking to the results in my research. Which leads to my second rule …

No favorites. This is a list of what other people have considered the best horror fiction throughout the years, not what I thought was the best. For instance, two of my favorite Stephen King books are Christine and Bag of Bones … but most would agree that these two are not among his masterpieces like The Shining, It, and The Stand. So I wanted to pick books that other lists agreed on as the best, not my personal favorites.

And that led me to limiting the amount of books by an author. At first I wanted to have only one book represent each author as their very best work. For some authors it was easy to see what critics thought was their best work, for others it was two or three or five books. But I also didn’t want to let some authors represent too large a section of the list (there are only two authors with five books each on this list) so I settled on five books for each author—no author could have more than five books on this list.

The fourth rule was no anthologies or non-fiction (The Amityville Horror could be called an exception if one still believes that it was based on a true story—but I think that has been pretty well debunked over the years). There are some great non-fiction works and some great anthologies out there, but for this list I wanted it to be fiction only. An author could still have a collection of short stories on this list because some of the greats of horror were known for their short stories (Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allen Poe, Clive Barker).

So below is the list I came up with. I’m not saying this is the greatest list ever created, just the best I could create with the research I did. I’m sure many might disagree with some of these choices and feel that some of these books shouldn’t be on this list and others should be included. Some may argue that books like The War of the Worlds and 1984 should be labeled as sci-fi rather than horror (and of course I believe both of these books would easily make the list of the one hundred best sci-fi books), but the fact that they appeared on so many of the horror lists I looked up compelled me to include them here (I read 1984 years ago and it’s still one of the scariest books I’ve ever read).

I would love to hear your comments. How many of these books have you read? Are there some you plan on reading now? Are there some surprises on this list? Are there some authors or books you’ve never heard of before but now might be willing to discover?

At this writing I’ve only read twenty-four of these books so far (I know, that’s terrible—that’s why I made this list), and I’m finishing up Summer of Night by Dan Simmons (incredible book by the way), which will make twenty-five books now, and I’m starting on Ghost Story by Peter Straub. So even though I try to read a lot of newer works on my Kindle, and discover new authors, I’m going to be busy trying to read all of these books on this list over the next several years.

One last word about the order of this list. At first I thought of ranking the books by how many times they appeared on all of the lists I looked up (much like I did with my list of the best horror movies), but there were so many ties where several books would appear on the same amount of lists and there was no way to rank all ten or twenty of them, so I settled on listing them from the earliest to the most recent. The only exception is a newer printing of Edgar Allen Poe’s collection of short stories.



100 Must-read horror books of all time


1818                Frankenstein           Mary Shelly

1839                The Fall of the House of Usher         Edgar Allen Poe

1886                The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde         Robert Louis Stevenson

1890                The Great God Pan        Arthur Machen

1890                The Picture of Dorian Gray           Oscar Wilde

1897                Dracula           Bram Stoker

1898                The Turn of the Screw             Henry James

1898                The War of the Worlds             H.G. Wells

1904                Ghost Stories of an Antiquary            M.R. James

1928                The Call of Cthulhu                  H.P. Lovecraft

1936                At the Mouth of Madness            H.P. Lovecraft

1948                1984            George Orwell

1949                The Lottery and other Short Stories           Shirley Jackson

1954                I Am Legend            Richard Matheson

1954                The Lord of the Flies            William Golding

1955                Invasion of the Body Snatchers          Jack Finney

1955                The October Country             Ray Bradbury

1959                Psycho                Robert Bloch

1959                The Haunting of Hill House           Shirley Jackson

1962                Something Wicked This Way Comes           Ray Bradbury

1962                We Have Always Lived in the Castle           Shirley Jackson

1963                The Collector                John Fowles

1967                I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream           Harlan Ellison

1967                Rosemary’s Baby            Ira Levin

1970                Deliverance                  James Dickey

1971                The Exorcist        William Peter Blatty

1971                Hell House           Richard Matheson

1971                The Other            Thomas Tryon

1972                The Stepford Wives           Ira Levin

1973                Burnt Offerings              Robert Marasco

1973                Harvest Home               Thomas Tryon

1973                Worse Things Waiting            Manly Wade Wellman

1974                Jaws              Peter Benchley

1974                The Rats           James Herbert

1975                ‘Salem’s Lot              Stephen King

1975                The Testament          David Morrell

1975                The Fog             James Herbert

1976                Interview With A Vampire            Anne Rice

1977                The Amityville Horror            Jay Anson

1977                The Shining               Stephen King

1978                The Stand                  Stephen King

1978                The Wolfen            Whitley Strieber

1979                Ghost Story             Peter Straub

1979                The Totem               David Morell

1980                Off-Season              Jack Ketchum

1980                The Cellar              Richard Laymon

1980                The Dark              James Herbert

1981                Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark         Alvin Schwartz

1981                The Keep             F. Paul Wilson

1981                The Red Dragon            Thomas Harris

1981                They Thirst               Robert McCammon

1982                Floating Dragon           Peter Straub

1983                Incarnate           Ramsey Campbell

1983                Pet Semetary             Stephen King

1983                Phantoms                Dean Koontz

1983                The Woman in Black           Susan Hill

1984                Nathanial             John Saul

1984                The Wasp Factory           Ian Banks

1984                The Books of Blood            Clive Barker

1985                Blood Meridian            Cormac McCarthy

1985                The Damnation Game         Clive Barker

1985                The Handmaid’s Tale           Margret Atwood

1985                The Song of Kali           Dan Simmons

1986                It       Stephen King

1986                Strangers          Dean Koontz

1986                The Hell-bound Heart         Clive Barker

1986                The Pet           Charles N. Grant

1987                Swan Song            Robert McCammon

1987                Watchers            Dean Koontz

1988                Koko           Peter Straub

1988                The Silence of the Lambs         Thomas Harris

1989                Carrion Comfort           Dan Simmons

1989                Midnight          Dean Koontz

1989                The Girl Next Door        Jack Ketchum

1990                The Bad Place            Dean Koontz

1991                American Psycho            Brett Easton Ellis

1991                Boy’s Life            Robert McCammon

1991                Summer of Night           Dan Simmons

1991                The Cipher           Kathe Koju

1992                Lost Souls            Poppy Z. Brite

1996                The Store            Bentley Little

1997                The Presence           John Saul

2000                House of Leaves         Mark Z. Danielewski

2000                The Walking           Bentley Little

2001                American Gods          Neil Gaiman

2003                The Choir of Ill Children            Tom Picarelli

2003                The Rising           Brian Keene

2003                We Need To Talk About Kevin         Lionel Shriver

2004                Let The Right One In           John Ajvide Lindqvist

2005                Haunted           Chuck Palahniuk

2006                The Ruins             Scott Smith

2006                World War Z            Max Brooks

2007                Heart-Shaped Box           Joe Hill

2007                John Dies at the End           David Wong

2007                The Ghoul             Brian Keene

2007                The Terror             Dan Simmons

2008                The Complete Tales of Edgar Allen Poe         Edgar Allen Poe

2009                Dark Places            Gillian Flynn

2009                White is for Witching           Helen Oyeyemi

2012                Pen Pal            Dathon Auerbach



Well, there’s the list. I would love to hear all comments and reactions.

Like the list from last Halloween, I wanted to end with a few statistics.

Books by the decade: The 80’s won by a landslide, with the 70’s and the 2000’s coming in second and third.

Authors who have 5 books on the list are Stephen King and Dean Koontz—probably the two most well-known horror authors of modern times. Dan Simmons came in at four. And the authors with three books on the list were: Robert McCammom, James Herbert, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Shirley Jackson.

At least half of these books have been made into films … some of them many versions.

It was tough to choose only a hundred books so I wanted to include some Runner-Up books that almost made the list. Here are the next twenty-five:


Ritual by Adam Nevill

Carrie by Stephen King

The Troop by Nick Cutter

Misery by Stephen King

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

NOS482 by Joe Hill

Stinger by Robert McCammon

Shadowland by Peter Straub

Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

Suffer the Children by John Saul

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson

The Association by Bentley Little

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

The Doll Who Ate his Mother by Ramsey Campbell

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Naomi’s Room by Jonathon Aycliffe

Horns by Joe Hill

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti

The Stake by Richard Laymon

The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker

Night Shift by Stephen King




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