Television is our escape mechanism du jour, but that doesn’t mean we don’t miss the old days, when we used to bury ourselves in books. Somehow, nothing—not even the best of TV shows—can pull us into another world like a well-written novel. It’s true, then, that horror tomes can be far more disturbing than horror films, if you’re choosing the right ones. Here, 11 scary reads that will put you in the Halloween spirit stat—devour at your own risk!
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
If you like true-crime TV—think Making a Murderer—you have to read In Cold Blood, which basically launched the entire genre. It centers around the savage killings of the Clutter family in 1959 as well as the subsequent investigation that led to the murderers' capture and execution. If you end up liking this one, you may also want to look into The Girl Next Door, though it's definitely not for the faint of heart.
In Cold Blood, $10
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, by Alvin Schwartz
If you're an older millennial, you likely remember this book. The copies in our childhood homes were dog-eared to death (pun intended). Reading it now, it's easy to see why parents hated it—it's an incredibly macabre collection of stories that are, frankly, inappropriate for children. When the book was re-released for its 30th anniversary, the original illustrations were replaced by less intense versions, causing widespread outrage from potentially disturbed '80s and '90s babies everywhere.
The Haunting Of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
Considered one of the best ghost stories ever written, it's definitely an OG in the haunted-house genre. Shirley Jackson's award-winning book centers around Hill House, a doctor who hopes to find evidence of the supernatural within it and the terrifying experiences that result from his efforts.
It, by Stephen King
As Carrie Bradshaw—and the children of South Carolina—would say, "Nothing's scarier than a clown." The recent hysteria over clown attacks proves we are not, and may never be, over our fear of these makeup-laden monsters, and for that we can thank Stephen King's It. Apparently, a Clown Lives Matter movement has recently launched in reaction to all this bad press, which makes us feel sad. The only thing worse than a scary clown is a dejected, underemployed clown. Maybe.
In this classic category, we'd also recommend Rosemary's Baby, The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, The Silence of the Lambs and The Shining.
American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
We never finished this book, because it began to give us nightmares that we were murderers. Normal. The most frightening thing about American Psycho is that it doesn't involve the supernatural, an overtly crazy person, someone seeking revenge or anything of the like. Instead, it involves a seemingly normal person. This friend, colleague or acquaintance seems like everyone else for the most part, but something is missing. A soul, for example. Here's how to identify the Patrick Batemans among us, just in case you're worried about someone specific.
American Psycho, $10
White Is For Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi
Perhaps the most unconventional entry on this list, it deals with a lot of issues most horror books don't touch, including eating disorders, xenophobia and historical atrocities. It's a haunting, esoteric story with roots in a reality that's often stranger—and scarier—than fiction.
Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes
Lauren is a masterful suspense writer, and Broken Monsters will have you turning pages with a (non-Netflix-enabled) compulsion you haven't experienced in quite some time. It begins with the discovery of a body in modern-day Detroit, one that appears to be half-boy and half-deer. Everyone is freaked out by this, and the lead detective (a woman!) becomes obsessed with solving the unusual case as her teenage daughter becomes obsessed with baiting pedophiles online. Yikes.
Broken Monsters, $8
Naomi's Room, by Jonathan Aycliffe
Imagine if JonBenet Ramsey's mother and father were haunted by their little girl, and if those involved in the investigation suddenly found themselves likewise murdered. That is the basic premise of Naomi's Room, and it's a particularly haunting read for parents.
Naomi's Room, $8
The Witches Of Worm, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
This young-adult novel involves a psychotic, controlling cat, so it's basically the worst nightmare of every woman who lives alone with a cat (this editor included!). When re-reading the book as an adult, however, it becomes clear that the truly disturbed creature in this scenario is the kitty's owner. (Same.)
Witches Of Worm, $8
Anna Dressed In Blood, by Kendare Blake
If you're a bit of a wuss when it comes to horror—you're more of a Twilight gal than someone who loves Saw, for example—this is the book for you. It revolves around a young ghost-killer who meets his match in a vengeful spirit called Anna Dressed In Blood. It's currently being made into a film and—spoiler alert—there's a love story involved.
Great Again: How To Fix Our Crippled America, by Donald J. Trump
Just kidding. Kinda.
Great Again, $9
The Easiest Seasonal Style Transition
Score over $350 of the best fashion, beauty and lifestyle finds for only $100.