48 Horror Recommendations by Terrifying Tropes

Posted by Sharon on October 5, 2020


For as long as people have been telling stories, we’ve spun tales of the monsters and nightmares that lurk in the shadows of our imaginations. Whether it’s a serial killer, haunted house, or that thing that lives under the bed, the stuff of horror novels has the special ability to terrify just about anyone.

When you’re new to the genre—or even a longtime fan—sometimes figuring out what to read next can be the scariest prospect of all. To help you out, we’ve made a list organized around popular horror tropes, featuring a mix of classic and more recent examples of each category.

Don’t forget to add any titles that catch your eye to your Want to Read shelf, and be sure to tell us your favorite example of these tropes in the comments below!



Welp, Your House Wants to Kill You...

Characteristics of this trope: wallpaper that seems to move; mysterious sounds coming from behind locked doors; something awful once happened here; you really don’t want to shelter in these places.
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Gothic

Characteristics of this trope: lots of overlap with the haunted house trope; the weather is always terrible; scandalous ancestral secrets abound; “Am I having nightmares or are vaguely supernatural things happening to me at night?”
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating


Creature Features

Characteristics of this trope: vampires, zombies, and swamp things, oh my!; biological horrors; sometimes the things that lurk in the shadows have fangs and claws.
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating


Humans Are the Biggest Monsters of All

Characteristics of this trope: serial killers; cannibals; evil parents, evil spouses, or evil children; evil laboratories led by evil folks doing evil things; people are The Worst, amirite?!
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating


Ghosts? (Ghosts!)

Characteristics of this trope: also lots of overlap with the haunted house trope (the Venn diagram is almost a circle); “Am I going crazy or am I being haunted?”; mostly unfriendly spirits. 
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating

An Ancient Evil Is Stalking You

Characteristics of this trope: Oh no, you awakened something you shouldn’t have; Oh no, now you keep seeing that thing out of the corner of your eye; Oh no, it’s getting closer! RUN!!!
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating


 

What are your favorite horror tropes, and which books best exemplify them? Let’s talk scary stories in the comments below!
 

Comments Showing 1-50 of 61 (61 new)


La Loves a Little Tea and Books "Humans are the Real Monsters" is my favorite trope. I'm more willing to buy what can actually happen than ghosts and goblins.


message 2: by Obsidian (new)

Obsidian Welp Your House Wants to Kill You and The Gothic are my favorite tropes. Have to say though that The Ruins was disappointing.


message 3: by Ana Luiza (new)

Ana Luiza Guimarães "Humans are the Real Monsters" always. I love reading horror stories but get paranoid when it's about ghosts and haunted things because I'm very sensitive to that, let's just say there's a lot of family history.


message 4: by Berna (new)

Berna Labourdette It's INSANE that Richard Matheson's Hell House is not "Welp, Your House Wants to Kill You", one of my favorites. And Gothic too.


message 5: by Obsidian (new)

Obsidian Berna wrote: "It's INSANE that Richard Matheson's Hell House is not "Welp, Your House Wants to Kill You", one of my favorites. And Gothic too."

Agreed. Who did this list?


message 6: by Jaclyn (new)

Jaclyn would love to add Pet Semetary to the ancient evil category ;)


message 7: by MovieBookNerd (new)

MovieBookNerd What does Welp mean?


message 8: by Pen&Quill (new)

Pen&Quill  Read Welp, an alternative pronunciation of well, and is an interjection typically used at the beginning of a sentence to express resignation or disappointment.


message 9: by Arman (new)

Arman Waggoner Haunted Houses


message 10: by Marie (new)

Marie For "creature feature" I do not see any Hunter Shea on that list - we need to remedy that as I consider him the "master of creature feature" books. I will put a couple of his books on here:

The Montauk Monster and Loch Ness Revenge

For "ghosts/hauntings" I do not see any Darcy Coates either - so going to remedy that as well with a couple of her books:

Craven Manor and The Carrow Haunt


message 11: by Yuvi (new)

Yuvi Mine is "An ancient evil is stalking you". Sour Candy is AMAZING


message 12: by Laura (new)

Laura The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon arguably fits into ALL of these categories and is a great spooky read. Highly recommend it!

I never considered myself a horror reader, largely because I associated it only with my least favorite of these tropes, the creatures. But as with so many other things, 2020 surprised me in this respect. Once I realized that what readers describe as "horror" includes Gothic novels and ghost stories, I changed my tune! It's become a favorite genre. I'm kind of obsessed with "my house is trying to kill me" at the moment!


message 13: by Dennis (new)

Dennis Murphy Instead of eating your way through that Halloween candy dish awaiting the gobblins to visit your house.....check out "Ghost Stories From All 50 States" and see the one from your state of mind! Its on amazon by djv murphy.


message 14: by Christine (new)

Christine "welp your house wants to kill you" has to be my favorite trope and Salem's Lot is my favorite haunted house book :)


message 15: by Roxie (new)

Roxie Voorhees It's obvious I have a type when all the Ancient Evil suggestions have already been read.

Seriously though read Sour Candy and thank me later.


message 16: by Anna (new)

Anna I don't tend to like genlit stories about children, but for some reason, if it's shelved under horror and the child in question is creepy and/or murderous, I'm totally on board. There is just something about that combination of the evil being a child (and I'm not talking about possessed children, or demons in child form, but just... evil, creepy, cruel kids who are Out For Blood) that's terrifying to me.

My favorite of these types of books has to be Baby Teeth. Vulnerable mom, creepy daughter, oblivious father- it's such a classic trope, but it chilled me to my core.


message 17: by Hadia (new)

Hadia The Year of the Witching is my fav horror book

OOoooooHhhhhh creepy crolies!


message 18: by MBthebooknerd (new)

MBthebooknerd Latanya (Crafty Scribbles) wrote: ""Humans are the Real Monsters" is my favorite trope. I'm more willing to buy what can actually happen than ghosts and goblins."

I agree one hundred percent!


message 20: by Kellen (new)

Kellen Would recommend "The Elementals" by Michael McDowell for Gothic!


message 21: by Kris (new)

Kris Amityville Horror, ahh so faking a haunting to make money is a trope now?


message 22: by Erwin (new)

Erwin Wallpaper Thanks for the recommendations


message 23: by Nat (new)

Nat Human are the biggest monsters of all & an ancient evil is stalking you are my favorite of these tropes!


message 24: by Steve (new)


message 25: by Jodi (new)

Jodi Nenninger I would like to add House of Leaves to the "Welp, Your House Wants to Kill You trope. That book freaked me out!


message 26: by Jack (new)

Jack Creagh-Flynn Natalie wrote: "What does Welp mean?"

It's another way of casually saying "oh well."
Like "Oh well, it looks like I'll be late to the party.


message 27: by Jack (new)

Jack Creagh-Flynn I'll definitely look closely at these recommendations, especially the "ghosts" and "gothic" section. I absolutely loved The Woman in Black, so hopefully the other recommendations will recreate the enjoyable chills it gave me.


message 28: by Taiwo Kamilat (new)

Taiwo Kamilat I am really digging how this post introduces all the different tropes. I am all about the "gothic" and "humans are evil" tropes.


message 29: by Franco (new)

Franco Pasqualini Anyone have any recommendations for a period horror novel? Say 18th or 19th century setting? Thanks!


message 30: by Lori (new)

Lori Oxford dictionary says "welp: nonstandard spelling of well"

I'm not sure when/how this cropped up but I see it more and more lately. I guess it's coming along the same path as irregardless, and such.

WELL, that was fun. Enjoy your scary reading.


message 31: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Peynado Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones, by Micah Dean Hicks, should be on this list for ghosts! Seriously frightening, about a dying town and ghosts that take possession. The main character has to save her haunted family and escape the town. It’s as good as Stephen king and the haunting of hill house, for real.


message 33: by Randy (new)

Randy Money Jay wrote: "Still no Lovecraft, and you even have a subcategory of ancient horror.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1..."


Not directly but both The Croning and Mexican Gothic incorporate Lovecraftian themes in their work, and neither author is shy about admitting it.


message 34: by Randy (new)

Randy Money Franco wrote: "Anyone have any recommendations for a period horror novel? Say 18th or 19th century setting? Thanks!"

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill; 19th century
The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice by Wilkie Collins -- first published in 1878
The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore -- published in the 1930s, takes place around the French Revolution
The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers; early 19th century
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind; 18th century
The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes; 19th century
Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin; 19th century


message 35: by Margot (new)

Margot Hello


message 36: by Cat (new)

Cat Does anyone know where The Twenty Days of Turin or similar books would fall?

My best guess is ancient evil, but its effect is usually felt on more than one person, like a city or something. Haunted cities? Someone will have a more catchy category, I feel?


message 37: by Kris (new)

Kris M. R James ghost stories are creepy and atmospheric; They were written in the early 20th century.


message 38: by Sarina Soren (new)

Sarina Soren Mexican Gothic should be in the house that wants to kill you category


message 39: by Randy (new)

Randy Money Sarina wrote: "Mexican Gothic should be in the house that wants to kill you category"

It fits both categories since it has Lovecraftian underpinning.


message 40: by Eden (new)

Eden Jodi wrote: "I would like to add House of Leaves to the "Welp, Your House Wants to Kill You trope. That book freaked me out!"

Seconded, even though I've just started. Seems like a shoe-in


message 41: by Diana (new)

Diana I enjoy the Gothic. Interestingly, its location is not always a house (see, for example, Melmoth the Wanderer, which might also fall under "Creature Features" or "An Ancient Evil Is Stalking You").


message 42: by Monique (new)

Monique What’s haunting is waking up to find transparent images floating in your bedroom...read: “I Saw Some Angels Today” a true story!


message 43: by Joy (new)

Joy Obsidian wrote: "Berna wrote: "It's INSANE that Richard Matheson's Hell House is not "Welp, Your House Wants to Kill You", one of my favorites. And Gothic too."

Agreed. Who did this list?"


Someone who has never read Hell House.

And I agree with everyone that says Cosmic (Lovecraftian) Horror should have a category. No one is kicking out horror like Adam Nevill these days.

And thanks to those who made a point of saying that Mexican Gothic is Cosmic. That peaks my interest. I thought it was just a ghost story.


message 44: by IWB (last edited Oct 10, 2020 01:14PM) (new)

IWB Christa, your response is uncharitable.

Neither Berna nor Obsidian said the list was bad, as you imply; moreover, neither one of them suggested that the list should be exhaustive, as you imply.

Amazon owns Goodreads. Goodreads frequently "recommends" any number of books that are a marketable selling point for Amazon. It's likely this list includes a good number of books listed for reasons other than their related horror content because that's the way capitalism functions.


message 45: by IWB (new)

IWB It's not accidental that a Horror Trope list comes out in October.

So, another trope missing here, and one that arguably is the impetus for this entire list in the first place, is Halloween Themed Horror. Horror set in and during Halloween time. (I realize that Day of the Dead is gaining traction in America but as far as marketing goes, the money revolves around Halloween.)

Here's one gentle example:
The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury

Here's a less gentle example:
Haunted Nights, eds., Datlow and Morton.


message 46: by Caity (new)

Caity C Just a heads up, I really don't think The Patient should be in that troupe considering it has a supernatural element to it.


message 47: by Erin (new)

Erin Blythe Jodi wrote: "I would like to add House of Leaves to the "Welp, Your House Wants to Kill You trope. That book freaked me out!"

It's also what inspired many of the books on this list!


message 48: by Randy (new)

Randy Money IWB wrote: "IWB
It's not accidental that a Horror Trope list comes out in October.

So, another trope missing here, and one that arguably is the impetus for this entire list in the first place, is Halloween Themed Horror. Horror set in and during Halloween time. (I realize that Day of the Dead is gaining traction in America but as far as marketing goes, the money revolves around Halloween.)

Here's one gentle example:
The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury

Here's a less gentle example:
Haunted Nights, eds., Datlow and Morton."


Also,

October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween ed. Richard Chizmar

Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre ed. Paula Guran

The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories: Terrifying Tales Set on the Scariest Night of the Year! ed. Stephen Jones


message 49: by Mike (new)

Mike I've always been in search of a really good witch novel.

I enjoyed everything by Katherine Howe and the Practical Magic series by Alice Hoffman.

Other great books that I liked with witches were The Witchfinder's Sister by Underdown and The Bell Witch by Monahan.

The key for me is I like the traditional folklore versus the romantic paranormal.

Does anyone have any recommendations that I may have missed?


message 50: by Chris (new)

Chris I love a good Creature Feature. Ghosts and curses are a little too abstract for me to fear most of the time but something that can rip me apart with its bare hands and can't be stopped by conventional means is what gets me frightened, especially if they can blend in with respectable people.

While Frankenstein fits it quite well, I feel Dracula exemplifies it best. He can blend in with normal humans, he's respectable, but also is a great physical threat with a vast array of powers at his disposal. Frankenstein's monster is super strong, super intelligent, and surprisingly quick but he actually has a motivation for killing; Dracula just sees you as food. And sometimes, he's not content to just kill you; maybe he's interested in making you just like him.

Though, Dark Harvest comes close too.


« previous 1
back to top