The Five Scariest Books Ever Written

October 31, 2016 | 9 books mentioned 6 3 min read


With Halloween upon us, now is the perfect time to curl up with a good, scary book. But if you’ve already read such standbys as Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Shining, you might be in need of a suggestion. With that in mind, here are five absolute chillers that will have you turning pages deep into the night — and are guaranteed to have your teeth a-chattering as you pray for the sun to rise!

coverTuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
The elderly, disease-wracked Morrie is dying — immobile and helpless in what is soon to be his deathbed. Outside his New England home, the pained echoes of atrocities past — witch burnings, the slaughter of native peoples — can still be faintly heard. Once each week, as regular as the doomsday clock, he is visited by a much younger man — a man known, terrifyingly, as “Mitch” — who has arrived from the murder-pocked wastelands of Detroit. Mitch hovers above Morrie’s bed, extracting stories, memories, and anecdotes from the elder as if withdrawing his very blood. Morrie, unsurprisingly, withers as Mitch’s visits mount. Is Morrie’s terminal illness sapping his will to live? Or is he a victim of Mitch’s vampiric need for enough material to fill an easily giftable book?

coverIt’s All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow
In It’s All Good, a pallid wraith of a woman named Gwyneth, all eerie eyes and jutting bones, drags us into the depths of her madness — a state in which simple, good-hearted folk might gobble down such witchy horrors as preserved lemons and quail eggs. Early on, we learn that Gwenyth shuns red meat — it is, perhaps, too close to the taste of human flesh — and any poultry raised inorganically. Her goal, she proclaims, is to “cleanse” her “system.” This obsession with scouring her bowels of the merest impurity raises a troubling question: what is so vile within her that it must be so harshly scrubbed away? And if we read her book, are we just as poisoned as she?

coverCrippled America by Donald Trump
In Crippled America, a glaring, angry madman called Donald guides us through a harrowing realm of poverty, violence, and ruin — a shattered deathscape that, if viewed through a certain prism, can begin to look like our own. As in other works of dystopian horror, Crippled America is vague on what has brought such pestilence, and at times Donald’s prose, as H.P. Lovecraft’s, becomes difficult to follow (“If you have laws that you don’t enforce, then you don’t have laws,” he writes. “This leads to lawlessness.”). At other times, however, he is as convincingly menacing as the Cryptkeeper himself — as when he declares his lunatic intentions to rule this ravaged land. It’s a far-fetched bit of plotting, to be sure — but just plausible enough to send a shiver down your spine.

coverChicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
Like Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Chicken Soup for the Soul is a collection of stories that, taken as a whole, form a mosaic of punishing psychological horror. Taking place in an eerie world in which humanity’s quirks and edges have been worn away — shades of Ira Levin’s The Stepford WivesChicken Soup for the Soul pounds the reader with sun-dappled tales of love, flowers, and workplace hugging. Chicken Soup for the Soul succeeds in terrifying by relentlessly piling false “goodness” upon false “goodness” — and for the quivering, goose-pimpled reader, the effect is that of being forced to eat an entire sheet cake at riflepoint.

coverThe Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
A modern classic of terror, The Carrie Diaries tells the story of Carrie White, a fragile teenager who is born with telekinetic powers — powers that, as she matures, will allow her to avenge the high-school abusers who torment her endlessly. Bushnell controls the action with a firm and expert grip, allowing the horror of The Carrie Diaries to slowly build, a sense of dread permeating each page, until a catastrophic climax that stands as one of the…wait a minute — what? Oh. Really? Oh. Okay. So then..what’s The Carrie Diaries? Oh. Like a Sex and the City prequel? For fuck’s sake. That’s even scarier than whatever the hell it was I was originally talking about.

Image Credit: Pixabay.

is a staff writer for The Millions and an associate editor at MAD magazine. Find links to more of his work and follow him @Jacob_Lambert.


  1. Very humorous! A wonderful spoof on the Hollywood tradition. Delightful. Thanks! (Especially Gwyneth Paltrow who sort of exudes purity and natural saintliness!)

  2. “Morrie, unsurprisingly, withers as Mitch’s visits mount.”/”

    “…an eerie world in which humanity’s quirks and edges have been worn away

    Oh, man, those verbs. Now I’ve got laundry to do.

    And I am not clicking on that Trump book. I doesn’t exist. It can’t.

    Much needed guffaws. Well done.

  3. When I see any volume of Chicken Soup for the Soul on someone’s bookshelf I cringe. Really cringe, not like young people say they “cringe.” The other ubiquitous cringe-worthy books are Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. I admit I lose some degree of respect for the owner.

  4. Well, Trumps bid to rule this country doesn’t look lunatic anymore now, does it?
    Mr. LAMBERT finds it hard to follow – intellectually – the writing by Donnald Trump and cites the following sentences as a shiny example for Trump’s too complicated stuff: “If you have laws that you don’t enforce, then you don’t have laws,” he writes. “This leads to lawlessness.” May I ask, what part of these very simple sentences you cannot comprehend? And frankly, it is an absolutely correct characterization of today’s state of affairs in the USA as well as in most “western” democracies. laws that only get enforced half-heartedly. especially when enforcement gets into conflict with “political correctness” . Such as : if a christoian or an ethesist rapesa woman, he is evil and bad and needs to be prosecuted harshly (I think everybody can and will agree that this is justified). But if a muslim immigrant does, matters change. because he isb traumatized, he comes from a different culture , he didn’t know that this was wrong, he needs top be protected from islamophobists etc. etc. Which means , he gets no sentenceor a much lighter sentence. this is NOT fiction, folks. It has happpened lots of times over the past 2-3 years in Europe. And it means, a basically worse than lawless country. because laws are only applied now and then and rather at will.

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