Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future weeks’ topics can be found here. This week’s topic is…
Scary and spooky books (because it’s almost Halloween!)
I’m usually too much of a wimp to read horror novels, but I love stuff that’s horror-adjacent, like thrillers and dark fantasy. This list contains books that I found genuinely unsettling, as well as books with a deliciously spooky atmosphere.
Reader beware! This post contains minor spoilers and mentions some nasty stuff.
- The Witches by Roald Dahl
Childhood is the perfect time to be scared shitless by a book, and this one freaked me out so much that I couldn’t finish it. I went to bed with mental images of witches climbing up the sides of the house with their horrible, clawed hands.
2. Bone Chillers by Betsy Haynes
I’m sticking with nostalgic scares here. Like every 90s child, I grew up reading the Goosebumps series. But I always found the Bone Chillers series scarier, particularly the story about an evil lunch lady who feeds kids caterpillars to turn them into living cocoons!
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The first book in the Millennium trilogy contains some very disturbing content, and Larsson’s matter-of-fact writing style doesn’t make it any less horrifying.
4. I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill
I read this at school and was thoroughly creeped out. Edmund Hooper is the ultimate bully, and the novel is full of incidents guaranteed to evoke primal childhood fears. Moths! Taxidermy! A forest called “Hang Wood”! Punch and Judy shows! Creepy, creepy stuff.
5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood
I read this one for AS level English Lit. at college (I feel like most of the books I had to read for school and college were very disturbing) long before it was adapted into a TV series. The particicution scene is burned into my brain. If you’re not sure what particicution is, try smushing together the words “participate” and “execution”.
6. Dracula by Bram Stoker
When it comes to classic horror, you’re either Team Frankenstein or Team Dracula, and I’m Team Dracula. I found the style easier to get to grips with, and I can’t resist a crumbling, gothic castle.
7. Girls Out Late by Jacqueline Wilson
Don’t be fooled by the cheery cover. This was the first book I ever read that introduced a harsh reality of growing up female – the threat of sexual assault.
8. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Not being able to trust your own memory is inherently scary, which makes Rachel Watson – an alcoholic and a victim of gaslighting – the perfect unreliable narrator for this creepy psychological thriller.
9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
For gentler scares, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is ideal. Ursula Monkton is a very scary antagonist – not so much because of what she is, but because she’s so good at hiding it.
10. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Scary, but not in the way you’d expect.
Have you been similarly freaked out by any of these books? And which books give you the heebie-jeebies?