If you’ve been following the site the past few months, you know that I have been on an audiobook kick. Due to my extended drive to and from work, I am able to finish a lot of books I would otherwise never get to. Because of this, last October, in honor of Halloween, I decided I wanted to try to put together a list of some of the books that are widely regarded as the scariest novels ever written. So I did what I do best, and started a list.

This list is a bit different than what I normally do, though, as my goal was to find as true a “consensus” pick as possible. Obviously there is no definitive way to go about this as every list is jaded by one, or some, people’s opinions only, and what is scary to one person might make another laugh. In my mind, there was really only one way to go about it to get the results I was looking for: scour the internet for as many lists as I could find, create a spreadsheet to tally everything up, and then rank them from there. And that is exactly what I did. Yes, it was tedious, and as time consuming (and, ultimately, as pointless) as it sounds.

At the end of the day, I tallied up different 28 lists that laid out the author’s opinion on the “scariest novels ever written”, or similar language. In fact, I Googled that search term exactly, and then went through all 15 pages of the results to find the 28 different sources. Of course there were some difficulties with this. First, I didn’t want any lists of the “best horror novels”, which many of the results contained, so those were dismissed. Second, some lists were ranked, and others were just ordered alphabetically, or by age, for example. Some listed as few as six, while others called out as many as 50. In order to make up for these differences, I simplified as much as possible. If a book was mentioned, it made my master list, and got one tally. Once all 28 lists were processed, I added up all the mentions on the spreadsheet, and ordered the list from the most amount of mentions to the least. This is how I concluded that these are the top 25 scariest novels ever written.

Something else to note before we get to the actual list is that I completely understand that this utterly unscientific way of measuring this statistic is ridiculous, and flawed in many ways I haven’t even fathomed, but please remember this is just for fun. It’s not meant to prove anyone or anything right or wrong, or be my personal statement on the subject. I just wanted to get a good list of 25 scary books to read over the next year (probably more), and this is how my small brain decided it would be best to do that. I’m sure others have better, more substantial ideas, but this is just my way of approaching it.

Finally, due to the relatively low number of stats that I combed through, many of the rankings ended up in ties. That is why you will see the 25th book on the list marked at “20-T”, with “T” denoting it ended up with same number of mentions as one or more books on the master list (it’s also worth nothing that any novels that ended up in a tie are listed alphabetically by title). At the end of the day, though, there are 25 total books listed here, which was my ultimate goal.

If you’d like an easy-to-follow Google Sheets version, you can find that right here.

Ok, enough talk, here are the (Not So) Definitive 25 Scariest Novels Ever Written!

20-T. Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
Number of Mentions: 5
Published: 1989
Goodreads Rating: 3.89 Stars
amazongoodreadsaudible

20-T. Dawn by Octavia Butler
Number of Mentions: 5
Published: 1987
Goodreads Rating: 4.11 Stars
amazongoodreadsaudible

20-T. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Number of Mentions: 5
Published: 1985
Goodreads Rating: 4.09
amazongoodreadsaudible

20-T. The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
Number of Mentions: 5
Published: 1994
Goodreads Rating: 4.11 Stars
amazongoodreadsaudible

20-T. Penpal by Dathan Auerbach
Number of Mentions: 5
Published: 2012
Goodreads Rating: 3.88 Stars
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20-T. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Number of Mentions: 5
Published: 2003
Goodreads Rating: 4.08 Stars
amazongoodreadsaudible

16-T. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Number of Mentions: 6
Published: 1991
Goodreads Rating: 3.82 Stars
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16-T. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Number of Mentions: 6
Published: 2002
Goodreads Rating: 4.05 Stars
amazongoodreadsaudible

16-T. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Number of Mentions: 6
Published: 1954
Goodreads Rating: 4.06 Stars
amazongoodreadsaudible

16-T. The Ruins by Scott Smith
Num

ber of Mentions: 6

Published: 2006
Goodreads Rating: 3.53 Stars
amazongoodreadsaudible

11-T. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
Number of Mentions: 7
Published: 1989
Goodreads Rating: 3.96 Stars
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11-T. Hell House by Richard Matheson
Number of Mentions: 7
Published: 1971
Goodreads Rating: 3.79 Stars
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11-T. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Number of Mentions: 7
Published: 1954
Goodreads Rating: 3.66 Stars
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11-T. The Shining by Stephen King
Number of Mentions: 7
Published: 1977
Goodreads Rating: 4.20 Stars
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11-T. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Number of Mentions: 7
Published: 1962
Goodreads Rating: 3.95 Stars
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09-T. Ghost Story by Peter Straub
Number of Mentions: 8
Published: 1979
Goodreads Rating: 3.95 Stars
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09-T. ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Number of Mentions: 8
Published: 1975
Goodreads Rating: 4.00 Stars
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07-T. Dracula by Bram Stoker
Number of Mentions: 9
Published: 1897
Goodreads Rating: 3.98 Stars
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07-T. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Number of Mentions: 9
Published: 1967
Goodreads Rating: 3.98 Stars
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06. It by Stephen King
Number of Mentions: 11
Published: 1986
Goodreads Rating: 4.22 Stars
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04-T. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Number of Mentions: 12
Published: 2000
Goodreads Rating: 4.12 Stars
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04-T. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Number of Mentions: 12
Published: 1988
Goodreads Rating: 4.17 Stars
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03. Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Number of Mentions: 13
Published: 1983
Goodreads Rating: 3.94 Stars
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02. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Number of Mentions: 16
Published: 1971
Goodreads Rating: 4.16 Stars
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01. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Number of Mentions: 20
Published: 1959
Goodreads Rating: 3.87 Stars
amazongoodreadsaudible


Whew! That was exhausting. I plan to use this list to read some of the scariest the literary world has to offer. Please chime in with any of your thoughts. What’s missing? What shouldn’t be here? How dumb am I for wasting my time putting this together? Anything you’d like to add to the conversation would be invited.


And now for the credits. Here are all 28 lists I used to put this list together. And remember that a Google Sheets version of this list is available as well.

Reddit/HorrorLit
Thrillist
Bustle
Horror Media
Shortlist
Flavorwire
Stand Mag
Read it Forward
Buzzfeed
The Reading Lists
Refinery 29
Barnes and Noble
Lit Reactor
GQ
Bookish
RD
Literary Man
Off the Shelf
Readers
Ernie Lindsey
Philly Mag
Spencer Baum
Dan Padavona
Gizmodo
RP Translations
Horror Novel Reviews
Legaia Books
Top Teny