Thoughtful Thursday: What’s your favorite scary book?

Coming up on Halloween, our thoughts turn to the scary, the creepy and the shivery. What’s your favorite scary book? I have about four, and for the most part they hit different notes.

One of the scariest books I’ve ever read was Stephen King’s The Shining. It was not only ghost-and-monster creepy, but the dissolution of a family was really terrifying. In a different way, because it unmoors us from reality one page at a time, Caitlin R. Keirnan’s book The Red Tree has got to be in my top five.

Then there are a couple of classics, courtesy of Shirley Jackson; We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Haunting of Hill House, where it’s the human soul and spirit that make things horrifying.

Tell us yours! One random commenter with a US address will choose a book from our Stacks.

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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  1. I don’t like scary books! This is despite the fact that I read a lot of urban fantasy full of dangerous and creepy creatures. But I don’t like to be scared at all. Nope. Noway nohow. I did read a book once that was so edge of the seat suspenseful that my heart rate picked up while reading it! Not the same thing but as close as I’ll ever come!

    • Oh and in case you are interested, that suspenseful book was The Laurentine Spy by Emily Gee.

      • Urban fantasy is more action than fear usually, isn’t it? Yes, outright horror, especially pyschological horror like THE RED TREE is a whole different animal.

        • Yep. UF gives you monsters, but also the ability to kill the monsters.

          • I think that’s the crucial difference.

          • I also think monsters are normalized in a lot of UF, both by being common in the story’s world and by kind of a snarky tone, so they’re more like bureaucratic annoyances a lot of the time. “Dammit, another hydra? This is gonna be so much paperwork.”

            And then yeah, the plot moves along quickly enough that you don’t spend a ton of time pondering the creepy parts.

            That said, sometimes UF books will dip into real horror for a while, especially with whatever the book’s Big Bad is.

    • Once again, I am in complete agreement with April.

      • I’m pretty much with April and Kat. I dabble in the milder sorts of horror books and stories occasionally, but I don’t have the stomach for the harder stuff. I still have psychic injuries from reading Pet Sematary and watching a few horror movies at parties, years ago!

  2. Oh, Haunting of Hill House is fantastic. I like to reread The Witching Hour by Anne Rice sometimes, but it’s more of a Christmastime read.

    This year, I might break Liz Hand’s Wylding Hall back out for a Halloween reread.

  3. sandy ferber /

    Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” is by far THE single scariest book, for me. Richard Matheson’s “Hell House” is a close second, largely because of all the truly horrible things that transpire in it. Parts of Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story,” especially that tape recording segment, sent a chill down my spine. And you know what…the book that I just read, Susan Hill’s “The Woman In Black,” turned out to be one of the most chilling books I have ever read, too, to my great surprise. Look for my review of it next week here on FanLit….

  4. The Exorcist still haunts me to this day.

  5. Von Berry /

    The scariest story I ever read was by H. P. Lovecraft. It was something like the Dunwich Horror.

  6. The two books that pops to my mind are both King’s:

    – It
    – Misery

    I read them both when I was in my teens, but I still remember I found “It” very scary at the time. “Misery” is not necessary the same type of horror, but it is the only book I had to close, take a few deep breaths and gather my courage before I could continue.

  7. Mine by Robert McCammon.

  8. RedEyedGhost /

    Adam Nevill really does a great job getting me in the spirit of the season. I’ve read, and loved, The Ritual and The Banquet for the Damned, and No One Gets Out Alive will be the next book I read (really looking forward to it).

    The Haunting of Hill House really disappointed me when I read it two years ago. It had a few good scenes, but overall it lacked any real punch.

    Pet Semetary and ‘Salem’s Lot had some really good scenes too, but as a whole I wouldn’t say either was too scary.

    • I love all of Adam Nevill’s books. He is an amazing horror writer.

      • RedEyedGhost /

        How many of his books have you read, and which is your favorite?

        Another great one that I read this year is Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts. In the past I’ve had a hard time reading Horror because the endings usually are a big letdown, but it seems like the genre has improved in that regard lately, and Tremblay just absolutely nailed the ending in this one. So good.

  9. Auden Johnson /

    Bentley Little’s books usually freak me out. I especially liked The Vanishing.

  10. Rachel A Hyde /

    Anything by Phil Rickman. Apart from the awful TV dramatization that is. If that is your sole experience of his work I can honestly tell you the books are nothing like it at all. The Merrily Watkins series starts with The Wine of Angels which is not actually scary oddly enough but which introduces everything. He has also written several standalone novels. Hugely recommended.

  11. Melita /

    I don’t read many scary books either. One of the early Anita Blake books where the bad guy emulated her mother I found creepy.

    A book I found horrifying in high school because I know how easily it could happen, was Main Street by Dreiser. Doctor’s wife ends up in a small upper midwestern town.

  12. Sandy Giden /

    I think I have to go with Flowers in the Attic. I read it when I was in high school and it was creepy.

  13. Shawn Mansouri, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks.
    Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!

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