Halloween Open Thread: What Is The Scariest Book You’ve Ever Read?

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As someone who has a distinct childhood memory of sprinting home from my neighbor’s house in terror after watching Hocus Pocus, I am not the person to ask about the scariest anything. Everything keeps me up at night—from that unnecessarily creepy PlayStation Vue commercial (why??) to psychological suspense novels to 99% of all news to my every past and potential failure as a human being and the fact that everyone I love will die someday. Oh…is that…no? Never mind.

(Related: Here’s What Book You Should Read Based On Your Favorite Stranger Things Character)

The point is, when it comes to scary book recommendations this Halloween, I’m not your gal. Sure, plenty of books have scared the pants off me recently—from Girl on the Train to, most recently, The River at Night by Erica Ferenick (which was fabulous by the way—definitely add it to your shelf). But as detailed above, I am a big baby when it comes to scary stuff.

So I’m asking you guys: what is the scariest book you’ve ever read? The one book that actually kept you up at night, bloodshot eyes darting around the room. (Okay I’m creeping myself out now.)

So get to it—leave your comment below!

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  1. Lindsey Brown

    BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman is the scariest book I have ever read. Hands-down, no questions asked.

    As a person who enjoys a good scare (and isn’t scared easily!) to say that I felt like I had to hold this book at an arms-length for safety the entire time, is a generous descriptor — I picked this book up on a Monday, read a few chapters at the bar that evening, and laid in bed for about 45 minutes, staring at the ceiling, before I got back up to read it till morning — I was that alarmed. I HAD to know how it ended, if only to tell myself that there could be an end.

    The main plot is that “something”, that first started in distant places and small towns, and moved to larger and larger populaces, is making people kill themselves (but trust me, this is not a “The Happening” situation because it involves actual creatures). No one can see this beast until it is right in front of them, however, which means people resort to more and more drastic measures to keep safe from their own eyesight… I won’t go further for risk of ruining anything, but the story itself centers on a small group of people who band together in the immediate throes of this chaos.

  2. Jean-Luc Bouchard

    The scariest book I ever read was David B’s “Epileptic.” It’s a graphic novel chronicling the author’s childhood growing up with an overactive imagination, a tumultuous home life, and an epileptic brother. B’s art style is heavy on black backgrounds and grotesquely-detailed dreamlike sequences, and the novel excels at taking emotions common to most children–fear, loneliness, confusion, guilt–and pulling them out to their uttermost limit. It scared the crap out of me.

  3. Lucille Bluth

    Any of the Nancy Drew books!! They may not be your typical “scary” stories, but as a young reader I always thought whichever bad guy Nancy was tracking down would jump out and “get” me.

  4. Amar

    In no particular order…

    Tales for the Midnight Hour by J.B. Stamper
    The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis
    Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah Howe
    Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

  5. Kaitlin

    Andrew Pyper’s The Damned and The Demonologist terrified me. But that scene at the end of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects with the dollhouse? That still gives me chills years later.

  6. Elizabeth

    The scariest book I’ve ever read was LAST DAYS by Brian Evenson, master of literary horror. It’s about a man kidnapped and forced to investigate a horrific cult that believes that amputation brings you closer to god (and the more amputations, the closer you are). It’s totally sickening but so well written, you have to stick with it to find out what happens and who is behind it all. SO GROSS AND GOOD. I definitely had nightmares after this one.

  7. David Falk

    CRIPPLED AMERICA by Donald Trump … dystopian horror thriller where a spoiled child in a 70-year-old madman’s body threatens to rule the planet. … Absolutely terrorizing!

    Sorry, I’m gonna go with William Peter Blatty’s THE EXORCIST … I was raised very Catholic.

  8. Elizabeth Breeden

    REVIVAL by Stephen King was a compelling, eerie read for the most part but not scary at all until the last fifty pages came out of nowhere and scared the bejeezuz out of me. Nightmares for days.

  9. Lake

    Less scary than unsettling is Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, the first installation in a trilogy that is equal parts harrowing and horrifying.

  10. Leah Morse

    The Witches by Ronald Dahl scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. I still shudder when I think about the little girl in the painting.

    Also I second the ending of Sharp Objects. I was shocked and seriously disturbed.

  11. Dawn

    The first time I read “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova, I was afraid to move from the couch and go upstairs to bed. (Particularly the first third of the book. Crikeys!)


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