THE BOOKTOPIA TOP TENS: Top Ten Scariest Books

by |December 11, 2013


There is nothing better than a good scary book. A book which makes you look over your shoulder, jump at your phone ringing and give you the heebie jeebies late at night.

This list has something for every phobia. Clowns, zombies, ghosts, murderers and unbelievably creepy children… Pick your poison. And when you can’t sleep without double-checking the closet and double-locking the doors, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

it1) It

by Stephen King

Literally the embodiment of everything that terrifies us. I will never, ever, fetch anything from a stormwater drain ever again.

It began for the Losers on a day in June of 1958, the day school let out for the summer. That was the day Henry Bowers carved the first letter of his name on Ben Hanscom’s belly and chased him into the Barrens, the day Henry and his Neanderthal friends beat up on Stuttering Bill Denbrough and Eddie Kaspbrak, the day Stuttering Bill had to save Eddie from his worst asthma attack ever by riding his bike to beat the devil. It ended in August, with seven desperate children in search of a creature of unspeakable evil in the drains beneath Derry. In search of It. And somehow it ended.

Or so they thought. Then.

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a-shore-thing2) A Shore Thing

by Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi

Read this book and ask yourself, how can this person be a millionaire author. The horror…. The horror…

Giovanna “Gia” Spumanti and her cousin Isabella “Bella” Rizzoli are going to have the sexiest summer ever. While they couldn’t be more different—pint-size Gia is a carefree, outspoken party girl and Bella is a tall, slender athlete who always holds her tongue—for the next month they’re ready to pouf up their hair, put on their stilettos, and soak up all that Seaside Heights, New Jersey, has to offer: hot guidos, cool clubs, fried Oreos, and lots of tequila.

So far, Gia’s summer is on fire. Between nearly burning down their rented bungalow, inventing the popular “tan-tags” at the Tantastic Salon where she works, and rescuing a shark on the beach, she becomes a local celebrity overnight. Luckily, she meets the perfect guy to help her keep the flames under control. Firefighter Frank Rossi is exactly her type: big, tan, and Italian. But is he tough enough to handle Gia when things really heat up?

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3) The Turn of the Screwthe-turn-of-the-screw

by Henry James

Not into Henry James? Read this. You’ll thank/curse me later.

When an inexperienced governess goes to work at Bly, a country house in Essex to look after a young boy Miles and his sister Flora, all manner of strange events begin to occur. The governess begins to spot a ghostly man and woman around the grounds and is told by the housekeeper that they are the ghosts of the valet and the previous governess.

It soon becomes clear that the children are inexplicably connected to these ghosts in some way and the young governess struggles to protect the children, although from exactly what, she is not sure.

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let-the-right-one-in4) Let the Right One In

by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Sure, the film adaptation may be one of the few vampires films I’ve ever enjoyed, but the book is much darker, scarier and better.

Oskar lives with his mum in a high rise building in the western suburbs of Stockholm. It’s the early eighties and he likes listening to Kiss on his Walkman, solving puzzles-including the Rubik’s cube-and pasting grisly murder stories from the newspaper into his scrapbook. A victim of bullying, Oskar doesn’t have many school friends, but is interested in the strange new neighbour next door. Eli introduces herself but she’s a little strange-she smells bad, doesn’t feel the cold at all, even in November, and from time to time her hair has a lot of grey.

Soon after Eli’s move to Blackeberg a child’s body is found hanging from a tree. The media think a serial killer is wreaking havoc in the town and affecting everyone’s lives, but they’re wrong – it’s a vampire. This extraordinary and powerful novel is part horror, part comedy and mostly love story. A moving, affectionate and, at times, grisly portrait of the agony of growing up and finding love, Let the Right One In may be the most satisfying novel of the year.

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5) The Woman in Blackthe-woman-in-black

by Susan Hill

I read this when I was young. I lost a lot of sleep. It’s ridiculously scary, and brilliant.

Proud and solitary, Eel Marsh House surveys the windswept reaches of the salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway.

Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral Mrs Alice Drablow, the house’s sole inhabitant, unaware of the tragic secrets which lie hidden behind the shuttered windows.

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the-wasp-factory6) The Wasp Factory

by Iain Banks

Not shock scary, but… unsettling scary. The late Iain Banks was an incredible writer, and this is the place to start for Banks beginners.

‘Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons than I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim. That’s my score to date. Three. I haven’t killed anybody for years, and don’t intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through.”

Enter – if you can bear it – the extraordinary private world of Frank, just sixteen, and unconventional, to say the least.

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7) The Penguin Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poethe-penguin-complete-tales-and-poems-of-edgar-allan-poe

by Edgar Allen Poe

The father of all things eery, his use of imagery in giving you the creeps still remains unsurpassed.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote some of the first as well as the finest stories of dark and macabre mystery ever to blacken a page with ink. His tales of terror and suspense continue to leave readers the world over wide-eyed and shivering with fright, unable to put down a book their clenched fingers so tightly grasp.

This is the ultimate Poe collection, featuring every story and poem he wrote. It probes the depths of the human psyche. It will chill and enthrall. But above all it is story after story that you will never be able to forget.

No matter how hard you try.

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8) I Am Legendi-am-legend

by Richard Matheson

The Whitlams were wrong. Loneliness is not an aphrodisiac, particularly when your only company is are a nest of vampires.

Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth…but he is not alone. Every other man, woman and child on the planet has become a vampire and they are hungry for Neville’s blood.

By day he is the hunter, stalking the undead through the ruins of civilisation. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn.

How long can one man survive like this?

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the-haunting-of-hill-house9) The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson

Ah Shirley, you like scaring people don’t you? Read this on a bus, so so. Read it alone at night, spine chilling.

Alone in the world, Eleanor is delighted to take up Dr Montague’s invitation to spend a summer in the mysterious Hill House. Joining them are Theodora, an artistic ‘sensitive’, and Luke, heir to the house. But what begins as a light-hearted experiment is swiftly proven to be a trip into their darkest nightmares, and an investigation that one of their number may not survive.

The best-known of Shirley Jackson’s novels and filmed twice as The Haunting, this is an immaculate examination of how fear can make us our own worst enemy.

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10) The Exorcistthe-exorcist

by William Peter Blatty

Better than the movie. The movie is amazing. You do the math.

The terror begins unobtrusively. Noises in the attic. In the child’s room, an odd smell, the displacement of furniture, an icy chill. At first, easy explanations are offered. Then frightening changes begin to appear in eleven-year-old Regan. Medical tests fail to shed any light on her symptoms, but it is as if a different personality has invaded her body.

Father Damien Karras, a Jesuit priest, is called in. Is it possible that a demonic presence has possessed the child? Exorcism seems to be the only answer…

First published in 1971, The Exorcist became a literary phenomenon and inspired one of the most shocking films ever made. Freshly polished and expanded by the author, including new dialogue, a new character and a chilling new extended scene, this unique fortieth anniversary edition provides an unforgettable reading experience that has lost none of its power to shock – and is poised to terrify a new generation of readers.

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About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

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    December 11, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Watchers by Dean Koontz.

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