Top 50 Favorite Horror Novels on Goodreads

Posted by Hayley on October 11, 2017
"Horror fiction has traditionally dealt in taboo… It makes monsters of household pets and begs our affection for psychos. It shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion."
-Clive Barker

Hear the scratching on the wall? Feel a chill run down your spine? The frightening thrills of our favorite horror novels have a way of reaching out from beyond the page—casting shadows, whispering in our ear, haunting us long after the story is done.

For Horror Week, Goodreads set out to reveal readers' favorite scary books. The titles were chosen based on overall shelvings (i.e., the number of times each book has been marked as "read" or "want to read"), plus reader reviews and ratings.

From literal monsters to purely psychological terrors, these are tales of madness and pandemonium, retribution and absolution. Long heralded as the "Master of Horror," Stephen King reigns supreme with five books on our list, but his son Joe Hill is not far behind, nabbing four spots. And along with classics from Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Kirkman's end-of-the-world comic, The Walking Dead, made the cut as well as an award-winning children's ghost story, The Graveyard Book, from Neil Gaiman.

And now, for those who dare, we present the top 50 horror books on Goodreads in alphabetical order. Proceed at your own risk—and then tell us how many you've read in the comments.


A Head Full of Ghosts
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Alice
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Anna Dressed in Blood
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Bird Box
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Carrie
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Coraline
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Dracula
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Feed
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Flowers in the Attic
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Frankenstein
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Heart-Shaped Box
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Horns
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House of Leaves
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I Am Legend
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It
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Interview with the Vampire
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Jaws
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Let the Right One In
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Locke & Key
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Lovecraft Country
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Misery
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NOS4A2
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Odd Thomas
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Rosemary's Baby
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Something Wicked This Way Comes
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The Amityville Horror
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The Ballad of Black Tom
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The Butterfly Garden
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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
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The Complete Stories and Poems
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The Exorcist
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The Girl from the Well
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The Girl with All the Gifts
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The Graveyard Book
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The Haunting of Hill House
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The Hellhound Heart
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The Historian
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The Last American Vampire
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The Passage
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The Shining
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The Silence of the Lambs
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The Stand
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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
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The Walking Dead
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The Witching Hour
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The Zombie Survival Guide
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Warm Bodies
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Watchers
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Wool
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World War Z
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What's your favorite horror novel? Share it with us in the comments!

See the complete coverage of Horror Week including:
The Campy, Bizarre World of Paperback Horror
16 Terror-Inducing Halloween Audiobooks
Gather Around for Terrifying Ghost Stories

Comments Showing 1-50 of 224 (224 new)


Lavoie Lianne (The Towering Pile) I've read 9 of these and have a few more on my to read shelf! One horror novel I read recently and loved was The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike, translated from the Japanese. Not gonna lie, I had trouble walking around my apartment after dark on the nights I read this book!


message 2: by Andy (new)

Andy Sad that Lovecraft ist missing :( (Lovecraft Country doesn't count).


message 3: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Draganov 9. The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror are the scariest IMO.


message 4: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Absolutely love Dean Koonz and Watchers is one of my favourite books ever!!


message 5: by Amanda (new)

Amanda 20/50


Jamie (The Kansan Reader) I've read four. Currently reading Frankenstein and Dracula for the first time right now.


message 7: by Chris (new)

Chris Hah! Warm Bodies ain't horror. It's Twilight with zombies!


message 8: by Kathie (new)

Kathie I'm not a huge horror fan, but I loved "It," maybe because one of the characters was a librarian. :-)


message 9: by Alan (new)

Alan Peralta Andy wrote: "Sad that Lovecraft ist missing :( (Lovecraft Country doesn't count)."

Yeah. I'm amazed by that too. How can Lovecraft not be here?


message 10: by Lori (new)

Lori Wow, I have actually read 14 and have several more to read. Cool!


message 11: by Rachel (last edited Oct 16, 2017 09:58AM) (new)

Rachel Bea Only read 18 of these. A few of them were just okay, but there are some solid ones here. However, this list is missing some of the best horror books out there. Where's Ghost Story?!


message 12: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Bea Lianne (The Towering Pile) wrote: "I've read 9 of these and have a few more on my to read shelf! One horror novel I read recently and loved was The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike, translated from the Japanese. N..."

That's a good one.


message 13: by JoAnn (new)

JoAnn I've read 20 of these. I've always been a fan of Stephen King's books and EAP is spooky, but of these, Rosemary's Baby is chilling. One that's not on the list is Truman Capote's Hand-carved Coffins.


message 14: by Carol (last edited Oct 16, 2017 10:53AM) (new)

Carol Yikes! Have only read 25 of the above. Many are favorites, but IT is an oldie and BIRDBOX a newbie! AND...Pet Semetary is missing...... 🕷😸🕷


message 15: by Keisha (new)

Keisha Frantom Night Film by Marisha Pessl was pretty creepy too.


message 16: by Mary (new)

Mary Rugg Courtney Dark Matter by Michelle Paver was psychologically creepy, which is exactly the kind of book I love! I recommend it to everyone.


message 17: by Megan (new)

Megan I've only read 12 of them! Shame on me. Out of those Bird Box was definitely the most toe curlingly creepy.
Although many more of these are on my "want to read" shelf so they will get read eventually!


message 18: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia Hmm...I've only read four but I have 7 on my TBR list. Great list BTW!


message 19: by Carol (new)

Carol Mary wrote: "Dark Matter by Michelle Paver was psychologically creepy, which is exactly the kind of book I love! I recommend it to everyone."

So agree Mary!


message 20: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Thirty-two read, with seven on my to-read list!


message 21: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Rachel wrote: "Only read 18 of these. A few of them were just okay, but there are some solid ones here. However, this list is missing some of the best horror books out there. Where's Ghost Story?!"

I agree. One of the best ghost stories of all time.


message 22: by Toby (new)

Toby Keymer Alan wrote: "Andy wrote: "Sad that Lovecraft ist missing :( (Lovecraft Country doesn't count)."

Yeah. I'm amazed by that too. How can Lovecraft not be here?"


Because Lovecraft never wrote a horror novel.


message 23: by AGMaynard (new)

AGMaynard Or listen to Neil Gaiman read it, as I did. Excellent!


message 24: by Lorraine (new)

Lorraine The Haunting of Hill House - scary parts even outdoors.


message 25: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Just finished IT last week and it's definitely a favorite! I'd add I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. I stayed up way too late with this one, dying to figure out what was going on.


message 26: by Dracula (new)

Dracula Raupe I love all books. I have Flower in the attic and vampire in the interview and other books.


message 27: by Stuart (new)

Stuart Yellop My favourite novel is 'The Haunting of Hill House' by Shirley Jackson. I tell people that it's a ghost story in which the ghost never appears.

Other contenders for the highest prize would include 'Pet Sematery', probably the scariest novel that I've read, and 'Meat' by Joseph D'Lacey.

Can anyone think of other high fliers?


message 28: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne Bufkin Lianne (The Towering Pile) wrote: "I've read 9 of these and have a few more on my to read shelf! One horror novel I read recently and loved was The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike, translated from the Japanese. N..."

I had trouble being alone after I read that one too!! So awesome!


message 29: by Hannah (new)

Hannah I've only read five of these.


message 30: by Lee (new)

Lee I've read 21 and have 3 on my to read shelf


message 31: by Sam (new)

Sam Look forward to reading some of these


message 32: by Sylri (new)

Sylri Andy wrote: "Sad that Lovecraft ist missing :( (Lovecraft Country doesn't count)."

It is a shame, and a weird absence considering how many Cthulhu Mythos anthologies are coming out these days. Heck, at least 2 of the books on this list are based off his stories.


message 33: by Murray (new)

Murray Moore I've read four. I've started Dracula and the last American vampire but didn't finish either one. Although I liked Abraham Lincoln vampire killer.


message 34: by Marilou (new)

Marilou K. The Stand is a good book (I rated it with 4*) but not a horror one..!!


message 35: by Kristina (new)

Kristina Carol wrote: "Yikes! Have only read 25 of the above. Many are favorites, but IT is an oldie and BIRDBOX a newbie! AND...Pet Semetary is missing...... 🕷😸🕷"

I absolutely LOVED Birdbox! I was so stressed out while reading it. I think it's being made into a film?


message 36: by Char (new)

Char 38 for me! With several more already on my Kindle to check out.

I do have some problems with this list, though.
No Ghost Story by Peter Straub (one of the most literary and scary novels), but you include Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1) by Kendare Blake ?
Now that doesn't seem right. Just saying.
It's nice to see horror getting some love, even if it's only because of Halloween.


message 37: by Andy (new)

Andy Toby wrote: "Alan wrote: "Andy wrote: "Sad that Lovecraft ist missing :( (Lovecraft Country doesn't count)."

Yeah. I'm amazed by that too. How can Lovecraft not be here?"

Because Lovecraft never wrote a horro..."


Poes collected stories and poems are also not a novel and still on this list


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Have read 23 of these, set to read 2 of these this month, and have several others on wishlist


Linda Abhors the New GR Design It was so nice to see the hover for the full plot synopsis again, without clicking away to another page! Wish you could bring that back. I don't bother looking into book plots any longer, because clicking away and returning take sup to omuch time.


message 40: by Alexandra (last edited Oct 16, 2017 02:12PM) (new)

Alexandra Char wrote: "38 for me! With several more already on my Kindle to check out.

I do have some problems with this list, though.
No Ghost Story by Peter Straub (one of the most literary and scary novels), but ..."


18 for me. And I have some quibbles with the list too. Some here I wouldn't classify as "horror".

As far as some obvious books not being listed - I think that might be due to general GR readers, in general older books seem to get less reads and attention that more recent publications.


Bookishnymph *needs hea* Ok, I love the Goodreads logo all covered in bats! :D


message 42: by Monical (new)

Monical I agree with folks who don't think this is exclusively a horror story book list. For example, I don't think "Misery" is a horror story at heart, although horrible things happen. Not at all in the same class as "Salem's Lot," which I think is one of Stephan King's most horrible! I also think "Haunting of Hill House" is a better horror story than "We have Always Lived in the Castle."


message 43: by Puck (new)

Puck 10 books out of 50, so not too bad I might say! :) Funny to see "Birdbox" on the list: I see many of you liked it, but to me the book was a letdown.

And if we're talking about 'new' horror books, I think Hex would be a good addition to the list!


message 44: by Carol (new)

Carol Kristina wrote: "Carol wrote: "Yikes! Have only read 25 of the above. Many are favorites, but IT is an oldie and BIRDBOX a newbie! AND...Pet Semetary is missing...... 🕷😸🕷"

I absolutely LOVED Birdbox! I was so stre..."


I heard that too Kristina.....hope it's true! 😸


message 45: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Bea Carol wrote: "Kristina wrote: "Carol wrote: "Yikes! Have only read 25 of the above. Many are favorites, but IT is an oldie and BIRDBOX a newbie! AND...Pet Semetary is missing...... 🕷😸🕷"

I absolutely LOVED Birdb..."


It is :) netflix is making it, and sandra bullock is playing the main character.


message 46: by Puck (new)

Puck Monical wrote: "I agree with folks who don't think this is exclusively a horror story book list. For example, I don't think "Misery" is a horror story at heart, although horrible things happen. Not at all in the s..."

I agree with you Monical: I also think "Hill House" is much scarier than "The Castle." The latter is more unsettling and mysterious, the first book however really gets under your skin. (which is precisely what the house wants).

And I was thinking of reading "Salem's Lot" during next year's Halloween, so I'm happy to hear that it's good.


message 47: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Bea ^ flagged and blocked


message 48: by Sally (new)

Sally The Shining is one of the scariest books I have ever read. The movie was awful but the book was great.


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition I've read 16 of the books listed and my all time favorite is The Shining with The Witching Hour as a close 2nd.


message 50: by Karen (last edited Oct 16, 2017 03:35PM) (new)

Karen I've read 15 of them. I prefer dystopian to horror so not many of the others are not on my "to read" list. I did like Charlie Higson's YA zombie series, beginning with The Enemy. I also enjoyed Dean Koontz' 5 book Frankenstein series, though it was so funny in places that it wasn't all that scary. The Frankenstein Series 4-Book Bundle: Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, City of Night, Dead and Alive, Lost Souls. I agree that Lovecraft should be on the list.


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