21 horror books to read with the lights on, from Stephen King classics to psychological thrillers

  • Horror fiction scares its readers, using anything from psychological thrills to creepy imagery.
  • The horror books in this list range from Stephen King classics to modern murder mysteries.
  • Some of our favorites include “It,” “Bird Box,” “The Exorcist,” “Dracula,” “The Shining,” and more.

Great literature can introduce us to so many amazing things: Passionate romances, unforgettable plot twists, or fantastical beasts that feel vibrantly real within our imaginations. But carefully crafted novels can also keep us up at night, chill us to the bone, and horrify us beyond our nightmares. While some of us may avoid scary stories, other readers live for horror, finding mini-adrenaline rushes and skin-crawling scenes irresistible. 

The horror genre began to gain popularity in the 1960s, thanks to a few extremely successful books, and soon morphed into the novels we see now. Horror is marked by unsettling, creepy, or menacing scenes that evoke a psychological reaction in the reader. Whether you’ve already blown through most of Stephen King’s books or just dipping your toe into the genre, the books on this list are sure to have you leaving the lights on until you’re done.

The 21 best horror books:

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