The Scariest Books You’ll NEVER Forget in 2021

The Scariest books you’ll Never Forget (Perfect Halloween Reading)

By: Preston Simmons | Written: 9 Oct 2021

the exorcist (1973) is one of the scariest books ever written, and a great movie as well
The Exorcist (1973)


It’s October, so you know what that means; cooler weather, pumpkin spiced lattes, and of course, scary stories. Most people love a good scary story. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush the book can give you, or possibly people just like to be scared. Whatever the case, horror tends to be one of the most popular genres in literature.

So, since October is the best month for perfectly frightening books, now is the perfect time to compile a list of the scariest books ever written.

The books in this list will make your spine tingle, heart race, and get your adrenaline pumping. These terrifying reads are some that you will never forget. These books will not only make you feel uncomfortable but will also cause you to question every sound you hear when you’re trying to go to sleep—plan on sleeping with the lights on for a few days after you start reading.

Do you want to read the scariest books that you’ll never forget, and maybe will never want to read again because of how scary the experience was?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Sit back, relax, and get ready to be scared.

#10 – Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Uzumaki by Junji Ito manga cover

Uzumaki by Junji Ito is the first story on the list. Initially published in 1998, this manga is considered by many to be a masterpiece in horror.

One of the biggest hurdles horror anime and manga face is actually being scary. Quite often, horror manga only manages to be disturbing but not nightmare-inducing. Somehow, not only is Uzumaki disturbing, but it is also genuinely terrifying.

Uzumaki‘s story is simple: a small town called Kurouzu-cho is cursed by an uzumaki, the spiral pattern. When two people begin to notice the pattern, so begins the slow descent into madness for the town’s citizens.

A straightforward premise executed superbly. This manga is guaranteed to be one you will never forget.


In the town of Kurouzu-cho, Kirie Goshima lives a fairly normal life with her family. As she walks to the train station one day to meet her boyfriend, Shuuichi Saito, she sees his father staring at a snail shell in an alley. Thinking nothing of it, she mentions the incident to Shuuichi, who says that his father has been acting weird lately. Shuuichi reveals his rising desire to leave the town with Kirie, saying that the town is infected with spirals.

But his father’s obsession with the shape soon proves deadly, beginning a chain of horrific and unexplainable events that causes the residents of Kurouzu-cho to spiral into madness.

Where to find: You can read Uzumaki free here or buy a physical hardcover copy from Bookshop here!

#9 – Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James book cover

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James was first published in 1904 yet remains one of the scariest books. What makes this collection of scary stories so frightening is that they don’t rely on blood or gore to bring in the scares. Instead, they use classic, bone-chilling imagery to set your imagination running wild.


A collection of short ghost stories including:

Where to find: You can buy Ghost Stories of an Antiquary on Bookshop here or read for free with Project Gutenberg here!

#8 – House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves is one of the scariest books on the market

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is one of the most psychologically disturbing books you will ever read that will make you question your reality. This book is an experience that differs from traditional book logic.

First, you must read this book in physical form. Audiobook or E-book will not work. It is a difficult book to read that will challenge you in many ways. It’s also not a stretch to call this book a puzzle rather than your typical literary novel.

This book isn’t for the faint of heart, and it’s genuinely one of the scariest books ever written.

Good luck.


Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth—musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies—the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story—of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

Where to find: You can purchase House of Leaves at Bookshop here!

#7 – The Terror by Dan Simmons

The Terror by Dan Simmons is a great historical fiction horror

The Terror by Dan Simmons is another one of the scariest books that’s a perfect read for a stormy October night. This story is a fictionalized retelling of the historical 1845 Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage. In real life, though the group set off on the journey, they were never seen again. This book tells the story of what happened.


The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of triumph. As part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage, they are as scientifically supported an enterprise as has ever set forth. As they enter a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, though, they are stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness.

Endlessly cold, with diminishing rations, 126 men fight to survive with poisonous food, a dwindling supply of coal, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is far more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror constantly clawing to get in.

When the expedition’s leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. With them travels an Inuit woman who cannot speak and may be the key to survival or the harbinger of their deaths. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear that there is no escape.

Where to Find: You can purchase the Terror from Bookshop here!

#6 – The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman may be one of the scariest books written in the 1800s

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is the oldest story on the list, first published in 1892. The Yellow Wallpaper is not necessarily a scary book in the sense of ghosts and paranormal activity. Instead, this is a chilling book that will give you feelings of despair, pain, and horror due to the emotional connection you will have with the narrator.

For the realistic depictions of postpartum depression and psychological turmoil, this is one of the scariest stories written even to this day.


A woman and her husband rent a summer house, but what should be a restful getaway turns into a suffocating psychological battle. This chilling account of postpartum depression and a husband’s controlling behavior in the guise of treatment will leave you breathless.

Where to Find: You can read the Yellow Wallpaper for free with Project Gutenberg here!

#5 – Last Days by Adam Nevill

Last Days by Adam Nevill book cover

Last Days by Adam Nevill is one of the best modern-day horror novels in recent years. This is one of the scariest books perfect for a dark October night, read with all the lights off.

Similar in style to the Blair Witch Project, this book focuses on cults, ghosts, and other paranormal situations that will make you want to sleep with a night light. It’s hard for a book to achieve a sense of dread for a reader and genuinely make you feel uncomfortable while reading, but this one manages to do just that wonderfully.


When guerrilla documentary maker, Kyle Freeman, is asked to shoot a film on the notorious cult known as the Temple of the Last Days, it appears his prayers have been answered. The cult became a worldwide phenomenon in 1975 when there was a massacre including the death of its infamous leader, Sister Katherine. Kyle’s brief is to explore the paranormal myths surrounding an organization that became a testament to paranoia, murderous rage, and occult rituals.

The shoot’s locations take him to the cult’s first temple in London, an abandoned farm in France, and a derelict copper mine in the Arizonan desert where The Temple of the Last Days met its bloody end. But when he interviews those involved in the case, those who haven’t broken silence in decades, a series of uncanny events plague the shoots. Troubling out-of-body experiences, nocturnal visitations, the sudden demise of their interviewees, and the discovery of ghastly artifacts in their room make Kyle question what exactly it is the cult managed to awaken – and what is its interest in him?

Where to Find: You can find Last Days by Adam Nevill on Bookshop here!

#4 – The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining by Stephen King book cover

The Shining by Stephen King is perhaps one of the most famous horror stories on the list and still one of the scariest books ever written. Stephen King is known as the ‘master of horror’ for a good reason; they are generally regarded as the best the genre offers. He has written over 50 books over his long career and has sold over 350 million copies of his novels worldwide.

Even today, he still releases books that instantly make it to the NYT Best Sellers List.

All of that said, The Shining is Stephan King at his best.


Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

Where to Find: You can find the Shining on Bookshop here!

#3 – Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Pet Sematary Book Cover

Pet Sematary by Stephen King is the story King himself calls the “scariest book he’s ever written“, so of course, it belongs on the list. What makes this book so compelling is King’s deconstruction of the family unit and his ability to make even kids and pets utterly creepy.

This is a book that will stick with you well past the time you finish it. If you want a book that is dark, mind-blowing, sad, and shocking, all while being terrifying, you’ve found the right one.


When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son-and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly car. But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth-more terrifying than death itself-and hideously more powerful. The Creeds are going to learn that sometimes dead is better.

Where to Find: You can find Pet Sematary at Bookshop here!

#2 – The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House book cover depicts Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson was first published in 1959 and is the blueprint for all modern-day haunted house stories. This is psychological horror at its finest, and Jackson masterfully puts you into the story without letting you go for an instant. This book is terrifying more than horrifying.

There isn’t blood or gore, but that’s expected from a book written in 1959. Instead, this is a book about mentally vulnerable characters and their inevitable decline throughout the story. It’s a slow book that will stay in the back of your mind well after the last page.


It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Where to Find: You can find the Haunting of Hill House at Bookshop here!

#1 – The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty is the scariest book ever written

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty is the scariest book you’ll never forget. More than likely, even if you have never watched a scary movie in your life and never read a horror book, you have probably heard of The Exorcist. This is the book the famous 1973 movie of the same name is based on. The screenplay for the movie was written by Blatty as well, so it is pretty faithful to the source material.

The movie is considered a masterpiece in horror, and the book expands upon the story through its characters and descriptions. The beauty of the book over the film is that your imagination makes it so terrifying. This book will keep you up at night with images embedded in your head. The Exorcist sets the bar for all others and deservedly takes the number one spot on the list.


A desperate mother and two priests fight to free the soul of a little girl from a supernatural entity of pure malevolence.

Where to Find: You can find the Exorcist on Bookshop here!

These are the scariest books that you will never forget after you read them. With these books as reading material this October, you are sure to have a frightfully terrifying month!

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