We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson Best creepy sisters book ever! One of the many things Shirley Jackson does so well is to portray the way outsiders and people perceived as others are treated (sometimes horrifically) by folks in small New England towns.   Merricat Blackwood’s family has been ostracized and treated with great cruelty by the townspeople, for reasons that are slowly, perfectly revealed.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson Yeah, I know – two Shirley Jackson books, but I couldn’t resist because she’s one of my very favorite writers and a huge influence. This is the quintessential haunted house story. No one does creepy atmosphere quite like Shirley Jackson. I love the way Jackson gives us the wonderful, unbalanced character of Eleanor and leaves the reader wondering if the house is truly haunted or if Eleanor crazy, or, if it’s a little of both and Eleanor and the house are feeding off each other.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin There are two big reasons this book scares the hell out of me. First, there’s the whole Satan thing, which gets me every time. Then, there’s the brilliant way Levin weaves this horrible web of paranoia around Rosemary; the fact that everyone is in on this terrible thing that’s happening to her, that there is truly no one she can trust.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith I couldn’t resist adding this one from the undisputed Queen of Suspense. What I love about it is Ripley himself – the way Highsmith created a charming sociopath who does terrible things, but we can’t help but root for him and hope he doesn’t get caught.


Ghost Story by Peter Straub One of my favorite things to explore, both as a writer and a reader, is how the secrets we keep shape us, and come back to haunt us one way or another. This is terrifying tale of supernatural revenge; of the power the dead can wield over the living.

Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates A horrific backstage pass into the mind of a serial killer who wants to create a zombie of his very own. This book was almost too much for me (I’m actually pretty squeamish), but once I was absorbed in Quentin’s world, I couldn’t tear myself away.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn This is my favorite Gillian Flynn book that takes the twisted family to a whole new level. I love the beautifully flawed character of Camille and every horrifying discovery she makes when she returns to her hometown and her family to write a story on recent crimes there. And then there’s the teeth. The freaking teeth really got to me. Terrifying.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters   Another gothic haunted house tale, steeped in atmosphere: a crumbling estate in the English countryside; a family affected by tragedy; thumps, bumps and strange marks and messages left on the walls, an ambiguous yet perfect ending – what’s not to love?

Come Closer by Sara Gran A subtle, slowly building, deeply terrifying tale of demonic possession (I think I mentioned how much anything demon related terrifies me, right?) told from the point of view of the women becoming possessed. This book had me convinced demons were real and I’d better be on the lookout for signs of possession in myself and the people I love.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman There is nothing more terrifying than what you cannot see.   So many scary books and movies go awry when they finally reveal the “monster” – it’s so often a letdown relative to the horror you have imagined. This book takes that idea and magnifies it by a million, creating a nightmarish, post-apocalyptic world where not seeing the monster is the only way to survive.

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