Horror is a complex genre, definitions abound.
For some, horror is a genre based on metaphors and conventions: a list of ruined homes and brutal secrets, men in masks and women in white nightgowns. For others, it depends on the atmosphere and tone.
All this before trying to give it a historical context.
Scholars have traced the literary legacy of the horror genre to 18th century British Gothic fiction, when castles were haunted by monks, monks were evil, and everywhere outside of Protestant England it was evil. Dracula, Dorian Gray, Doctor Jekyll – These characters emerged from a culture in crisis, when fears of masculinity and modernity gave rise to urban nightmares. Modern readers can look no further than the horror “boom” of the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
If you’re a horror beginner and the only author you know is Stephen King, you might be wondering where to start.
Below, we have prepared 10 books that will definitely make you want to sleep with the light on.
Josh Mallerman’s Bird Box
Read if you like: A Quiet Place
The adaptation of Bird Box’s 2018 movie on Netflix was a surprising success, but it didn’t quite succeed in spreading the horror. On the other hand, the novel he’s based on will have you looking through your fingers as you run towards the end. There’s just something in there, and if you see it, you’ll go completely crazy. With society collapsing, a few survivors hide in a house with wooden windows, blindfolded when they need to venture for supplies. But how long can they last, and more importantly, where can they go when their paradise is no longer safe?
Wonderful Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite
Read if you like: Zodiac
In Bright’s dirty and disgusting novel – almost unpublished due to its extremist content – two serial killers (one based on Dennis Nielsen, the other on Jeffrey Dahmer) initially intending to kill each other, wake up and engage in a hot, violent dance. Both men view their crimes as art and together push each other toward terrible extremism, while focusing their efforts on a runaway teenager.
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Read if you like: The Conjuring
Black Rock looks like an ordinary American suburb, but most cities don’t have a witch with their eyes and mouth sewn up, and most cities don’t run under a curse that makes residents commit suicide if they leave for more than a few days, at least, I hope not. Katherine Van Wheeler is Black Rock’s personal troublemaker, a council of elders responsible for keeping her secret, but when a group of teens decide to tell the world about Katherine, they embark on a hell they never expected.
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chubiko
Read on if you liked: The Ring
It would be a mistake to think that if the book was just for young people, then it’s not scary, and Rin Chubiko is here to make that idea clear forever. In The Girl From the Well, Okiku, a restless spirit, hunts down and kills those who have murdered children, just as she was killed centuries ago. It is a lonely existence, one that one would expect to last indefinitely, until they meet a boy with a demon.
The Graveyard apartment by Mariko Koike
Read if you like: The Grudge
When Misao, Teppei and their daughter found an affordable apartment in Tokyo, they thought they’d hit the jackpot. What if the building is next to a cemetery? They are not superstitious and need a fresh start. But as their neighbors walk out of the building one by one, the family begins to realize that something is wrong. This is a classic horror based on haunted houses.
Fisted by Jack Gemick
Read if you like: The Others
This is a flawless example of a mystery haunted house story – when you’re not sure if ghosts are real or if the hero is integrated in thought, the horror is even stronger. When Julie and James move to a new house in the suburbs, they are sure their troubles are over. But instead of focusing on rebuilding their relationship, they suddenly find themselves exploring rooms that didn’t exist before and find stains on the walls multiplying on Julie’s body in the form of bruises. It’s a book that will make you want to read it outside on the balcony.
The Last Girl by Stephen Graham Jones
Read if you like: Scream
This engaging and clever novel, written in a pseudo-text format, turns the concept of horrific movies into something new. Jones writes with the obvious love and emotion of a horror movie, winking at the audience while giving thrill after thriller — if you’re a slasher fan, there’s plenty to love here.
Hide Laird Baron
Read if you like: The Ritual
Barron is one of the best cosmic horror writers active today, and the stories in this collection are unparalleled in their quality. Stories here include “Mysterium Tremendum,” a short story about a couple going on an unhappy and crazy walk, “Strappado,” in which visitors to a Banksy-style art installation discover they are themselves art, and “-30-,” where two scientists conduct their research in isolation Complete – or not. Barron uses his great talent to illustrate and propagate a legend that, although influenced by Lovecraft, belongs entirely to him.
Stephen King’s Pet Sematary
Read if you like it: It comes at night
The undisputed king of horror fiction has huge and terrifying work, but his most frightening writing can be found in 1983’s Pet Sematary, a profoundly nihilistic horror story of pain and guilt. It has a narrow field, and it only makes you uncomfortable how much you knew Louise and his family before things got relentlessly horrific and bad.
Twisted ones by T. Kingfisher
Read if you like: The Blair Witch Project
The last book on this list, The Twisted Ones, is a really scary mystery story. Responsible for cleaning up her late grandmother’s home in rural North Carolina, our brave hero Mouse and her lovable stupid dog Bongo find themselves hunted by something in the woods—something Mouse’s grandfather wrote in his secret diary, something dangerous and unnatural who desperately wants to get in. The Twisted Ones is also a contemporary interpretation of the horror classic – Arthur Machin’s 1904 haunting short story “White People”, so if you’re a fan of early horror, don’t miss it.