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!
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.
Read it Forward
The Reading Lists
Barnes and Noble
Off the Shelf
Horror Novel Reviews
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.