25 Scary Good Books :: #5 - #1

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#05. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is the only non-fiction book on this list. Capote researched six years before writing the true story of the savage murders of the Clutter family. This book disturbed me on an entire other level when I first read it many years ago. With the scariest, most horrific and gruesome books, you can always calm down and feel better by reminding yourself it's just a book. It's fiction. In Cold Blood is saddening, maddening, sickening and mournful. And there's no way out of those emotions as you read it.

In Cold Blood
$9.15
By Truman Capote

#04. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Making this list, I've realized I read a lot of explicit and inappropriate books at a very young age. The Exorcist is another one I really should have waited until I was much older to read. I saw the movie and then read the book. The movie certainly made me want the hall light left on, but the book had me afraid in the daylight. I remember having to parse out the pages of the book. "I'll read five pages tonight then if nothing really bad happens, I'll read five more." There are layers to the book which enhance the story more so than in the movie. Most critics of The Exorcist cite the blasphemy of religion, but the book I think builds a good case for the sanctity of religion in the fight against evil. It's not only until the priest in the story reaffirms his faith that Regan's evil is exorcised. The priest's internal struggle with his faith, one could argue, is as scary as the possession itself. There certainly are twisted and disparaging religion elements in both the book and movie, but that's the point of a terror project; and terrorize both reader and viewer Mr. Blatty certainly does better than most any other book ever written.

The Exorcist
$5.99
By William Peter Blatty

#03. Ghost Story by Peter Straub

There's nothing more haunting than regrets from our past. Ghost Story by Peter Straub is a cornerstone of the horror genre's foundation. Many other authors have written their stories from the blue print of Ghost Story, but not many have ever managed to duplicate the unnerving, masterwork of horror achieved by Peter Straub. Simply put, Ghost Story is just a damn, unsettling read. You feel like a dead hand is going to reach from under your chair and run a bony finger up your leg at any moment. The story takes place in the fictional town of Milburn, New York, and is told from the alternating points of view of five old men. They call themselves the "Chowder Society" and gather periodically to reminisce and share ghost stories. When one of them dies, the terror just mounts and mounts. Ghost Story is a book full of rich, haunting imagery that will settle like cement in your soul. 

Ghost Story
$10.81
By Peter Straub

#02. 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

Much like Ghost Story, Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot is full of horrible, unrelenting images I will never get out of my head for as long as live. 'Salem's Lot holds a special place in my heart because it was the first book to ever really petrify me, and it was the book that first sparked my love of reading. I knew Superfudge was awesome fun, but I didn't know spooky, heart attack inducing fear could be fun too until this book. The small town setting, an evil moving in to take over, the town banding together to fight evil vampires; all vintage King. The evil of the mind really runs wild in the spaces King leaves in the narrative. I read this under sheets with a flashlight. Heart racing. Sweating. Determined not to look at my window for fear of fanged family friends floating outside asking me to invite them in. It's not all blood and guts. It's more whispers in the dark, shadows in the periphery, thirsty lips grazing your neck. You know, fun.

'Salem's Lot
$6.60
By Stephen King


#01. By Reason of Insanity by Shane Stevens

The creepiest book I've ever read is Shane Steven's By Reason of Insanity. It's one of the best serial killer crime stories of our time. I read this book over twenty years ago. I still compare every other book in the genre to it. It's the gold standard for me. The main character, Thomas Bishop, is evil incarnate and yet Stevens sets up the readers inside his sick, twisted brain and somehow manages to evoke sympathy for him. The realization of the sympathy and empathy for someone/something so evil is one of the most horrific things about the book. You're not rooting for him to kill, but you understand why he's doing what he's doing. This isn't only the best horror book I've ever read, it's one of the best books I've ever read period. It's unrelenting, harrowing, captivating and genuinely frightening. You will not be able to put it down. But be prepared for an ending that will leave you shocked, satisfied and screaming "Oh, My God!" over and over again.

25 Scary Good Books :: #10 - #6

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#10. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

The scares in A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay are as unsettling as they are ambiguous at times. You never know when Tremblay will sneak an attack turn of phrase into the pages and make you catch your breath. The story is about a family dealing with the increasingly bizarre behavior of their fourteen-year-old daughter, Marjorie. It reads as a haunted house meets The Exorcist story. But what really sets it apart is Marjorie's eight-year-old sister, Merry. The book is told through her eyes both as a child and as an adult. It's her eight-year-old descriptions and the richness of her character that really sews deep the reader's investment in the story. When she cracks a joke, you laugh. When she worries about the sister she idolizes, you worry. And when she's terrified, you're both terrified and sick with worry for her welfare. 

A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel
$10.77
By Paul Tremblay


#09. Books of Blood by Clive Barker

There's nothing subtle about the horror of Clive Barker's Books of Blood. It's gore, guts, blood, depravity, cruelty and carnal aberrations. That's not to say Barker isn't a talented writer; he's one of the horror genre's very best. But this collection of sixteen short stories, bound together in one edition as the author originally preferred, are meant to churn your stomach. The grotesque imagery and unimaginable abominations forever play on a loop inside your head. Every time I see a farmer or a construction crew digging a hole in a field, I worry about whether or not they are digging up the next Rawhead Rex. Once you summon the courage to read these Books of Blood, you'll know what I mean.

Books of Blood, Vols. 1-3
$12.85
By Clive Barker

#08. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

While The Silence of the Lambs certainly invokes horror, I'd say it's also one of the best suspense thrillers ever written. While the movie is great, the book is even better. In the book, readers get to ride shotgun as Agent Starling methodically progresses a professional criminal investigation.  The movie follows the novel nearly footfall for footfall, but if you've only seen the movie and never read the book, you're doing yourself a disservice if you're a horror fan. The book's suspense elevates every time there' a break in the case. The characters are richer, yes even Lecter. The stakes seem higher and the horror even more memorable by the time you reach the end. You may know the story, but the book takes it to another level.


#07. The Ruins by Scott Smith

Never has an author been so cruel to a group of his characters. This book gave me nightmares and probably will again after I write about it. Generally, I don't have nightmares about movies or books. My nightmares are usually about things that make absolutely no sense like the gorilla monkey bank my older brother had in his room as a kid. But The Ruins by Scott Smith is unlike anything you've ever read before. To sum up the story in one line: A group of American tourists get trapped in the Mexican jungle and terrorized by...something. Just when you think it can't get worse, it always does. Smith is one sick puppy of a writer and should pay for part of my therapy because The Ruins ruined me. There's no mercy in this book.

The Ruins
$13.09
By Scott Smith

#06. It by Stephen King

You had me at "Child Killer Clown Hiding in Storm Drains". This book is a fright fest on every level. It manages to weave in every thing we've ever feared as a child. To label It as purely a horror novel though, is certainly a disservice to one of Stephen King's best books ever. King manages to terrorize us for sure, but he also perfectly weaves in underlying themes of good versus evil, the exhilaration and heartache of childhood friendships, racial diversity and unfulfilled dreams of adulthood. Reading It back in high school was one of the most rewarding reading experiences of my life. From teachers commenting on the sheer size of the book to getting a detention for screaming out loud at certain parts during study hall. By the end of It, you feel as though you deserve membership into the "Loser's Club". I looked so forward to making it through to the last page of that epic tome. It was the second longest book I'd ever read at that point. (Second only to The Executioner's Song; which by the way also garnered some very strange looks and questions from teachers in middle school.) However, once I did read the last sentence, closed the back cover...there was a sense of complete and utter loss. That's often the case when you read a truly great book. It's as if a group of my friends had up and moved away over night. In a sense, I guess they did.

It: A Novel
$12.27
By Stephen King

25 Scary Good Books :: #15 - #11

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#15. 20TH Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

It's rare a collection of short stories can simultaneously scare the living hell out of you and choke you up, but that's exactly what Joe Hill, son of one Mr. Stephen King, manages to do with the freshest collection of horror shorts in a long, long while. This book was originally published in 2005, and it won the British Fantasy Award, The International Horror Guild Award, and the Bram Stoker Award for best collection. Twentieth Century Ghosts contains 15 of the most severely bizarre and original stories ever conceived. And FYI, the stories that got me the most were "Pop Art" and "20th Century Ghosts". I'll let you decide which one gave me chills and which one tugged the heart strings.

20th Century Ghosts
$10.00
By Joe Hill

#14. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn is best known for her book Gone Girl, but her debut novel Sharp Objects is the one that sticks with me. It's the story of a troubled young reporter, Camille, assigned to return to her small hometown to cover a series of brutal murders. As you read on, you realize the murders are intertwined with the Camille's mental issues and her troubled past. Like most mysteries, you read on because you want to find out the "Who?", but Flynn manages to get readers to care even more about Camille and the "Why?". The depravity of her twisted characters add layers and layers to this psychological thriller.

Sharp Objects
$8.92
By Gillian Flynn

#13. A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons

You can't go wrong with this opening line:

"Forty-one years after I died, my friend Dale returned to the farm where I was murdered. It was a very bad winter."

What follows proves to be just as spooky as this opening. Dale Stewart travels back to his boyhood hometown in Illinois to spend his winter sabbatical in the now-empty home of his deceased friend. This is one of those "things that go bump in the night" stories that leave your nerves in tatters after every reading session. Is Dale going crazy or is there a someone or a some thing living upstairs in the farmhouse? Is there really a dog of increasing size stalking him? This one is spooky good fun you may not want to read alone..or at night...or especially in an old farmhouse at the far edge of town.

A Winter Haunting
$7.99
By Dan Simmons


#12. Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Ok, this one is forever in my nightmare lexicon. The story of a man burying his dead son in a haunted pet "sematary" with the hopes of bringing him back to life was hard enough to get through back in the 1980's when I read it the first time. But now, being a father of two, I really don't think I could bear a reread. I remember feeling that father's overwhelming anguish when his son is tragically killed in an accident and experiencing the horror of his "son" reanimated as something...else. That was before I was a father myself. Just writing about this book and feeling that sickness in my gut, makes me realize how great and powerful a horror show this book was and still is.

Pet Sematary
$6.74
By Stephen King

#11. Hell House by Richard Matheson

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson made this list earlier at #21. That's a scary, unnerving book. Hell House, as Stephen King said, is simply the scariest haunted house book ever written. I remember reading this in my room during college, someone knocked on my door and I screamed so loud, the visitor screamed too. It's unnerving, horrific and imaginative. But the thing I remember most wasn't the gore or the horror, it was how strong the apprehension of "what's going to happen next?" built inside me. Matheson is a master at letting the unease build and build until the readers are at his mercy begging for their mommies. 

Hell House
$13.11
By Richard Matheson

25 Scary Good Books :: #20 - #16

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#20. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

This book is SO disturbing. The monsters aren't supernatural but human. And your neighbors. And it was based on a true story. This was one of the first books I read that shattered a pre-conceived notion about human nature; and not in a good way. It is horrific and not recommended for anyone who can't easily forget entertainment that also truly terrorizes. 

The Girl Next Door
$8.79
By Jack Ketchum

#19. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

As the title suggests, this book is rich with secrets; though right from the first page you know you’re dealing with a murder and a cover up. Tartt's debut is so rich and layered, and a real pleasure to read her hypnotic writing. A group of Classics students at a prestigious college are charming and yet repulsive. This story is a downward spiral through beautiful landscapes into deadly, hypnotic territory. Highly recommended reading...and rereading.

The Secret History
$9.79
By Donna Tartt


#18. Still Life With Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Still Life With Crows is one of Preston & Child's best in the Agent Pendergast series. Boy, do I enjoy lurking around in dark, scary places with Agent Pendergast. One of the truly original main characters out there. These books are impossible to put down. Crows is set in a small Kansas town, but the writer's never opt for the cheap and easy stereotypical characters. I've enjoyed all of the Pendergast books, but this one is the most genuinely frightening of the bunch.

Still Life with Crows (Agent Pendergast series)
$6.49
By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

#17. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

The quote on the cover says it all, "This book will scare the hell out of you." It did me. On the plus side, for months after reading it, I was actually happy to share a bedroom with my younger brother. To this day, I would never buy a house or a house in a neighborhood that had windows even remotely resembling the iconic windows on the end of the Amity house. Many lawsuits have challenged whether or not this is actually a true story, but it doesn't matter. It's a haunting book either way.

The Amityville Horror
$5.82
By Jay Anson


#16. The Shining by Stephen King

King is at his masterful best here toying with his constant readers as he pulls out every scare tactic in the book. I remember my heart pounding as young Danny Torrence's visions get ever more out of control trapped inside the snowy, abandoned resort. No one is better than King at scaring the crap out of you in confined, remote places. The movie kind of sucked in my opinion, but the book still makes my heart do a tap dance in my chest. And the sequel Doctor Sleep is actually pretty great in its own right.

The Shining
$5.39
By Stephen King

25 Scary Good Books :: #25 - #21

It's odd we celebrate a holiday dedicated to remembering the dead. The word Halloween is literally a contraction of All Hallows' Evening; a time we dedicate each year to think about the deceased including martyrs, saints (hallows) and the rest of the faithful departed. Most of us don't celebrate the dead on Halloween. We dress up and get candy. It's 2016. We're a lazy lot.

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We do enjoy being scared though, don't we? And we do have an infatuation with death and fear. The most popular shows on TV right now? The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Shows where anyone can (and often do) take weapons with handles to the head and neck at any given time. Every weekend, another horror movie slithers its way into our theaters. Why so many scary movies? Because horror movies have made approximately $576 million in profits this year. Comedy still outgrosses horror, but it's a short connective tissue running between a laugh and a scream. And Hollywood knows it.

Which brings me to books. The best scares are cultivated from within our own minds and no other media is better suited for churning that rich, demented soil than the pages of a book. The monster on a movie screen has been summoned from another person's warped, damaged psyche. But that lurker in the pages of that book you're holding? Well, that boogeyman is all yours. Sure, an author can plug in some adjectives and verbs, but when you're immersed in a scary book, those hands reaching around the corner in slow motion are your own creation. The best writers intentionally leave room for your own interpretation of the horror they create; A slight turn of phrase with tangled intent or an abstract or incomplete descriptive. Those monsters grow stronger, grosser, twitchier in those gaps. That's when you know you are reading a book that's going to stick there inside you forever. Gumming up the works for infinity. I often forget scary movies, but the monsters from books like that are with me forever. The top 25 scary books on this list still make a me a little nauseous when I think about them. My left left eye twitches when I talk about how good they are. And that's how I ranked them...by the degree each of them grabbed me and pulled me kicking and crying right back into that dark, scary gut punch place all over again. Do yourself a damn favor and read these books.


#25. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Most so-callled "classics" force-fed by our high school teachers do not receive voluntary re-reads. But I revisit this disturbing story every five to ten years. Ventipop rails against the idea of human nature being inherently evil on a daily basis, so I'm not sure if I agree with that narrative of the book. But I do know it's thoroughly thought-provoking, sad and never leaves you. And for that reason alone, it made the list.

Lord of the Flies
$8.59
By William Golding

#24. The Store by Bentley Little

Part of the appeal of The Store is how simple and straight forward the story is written. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles. Little just knows how to tell a story like you're sitting around a campfire. If I told you I was going to write a novel about a store taking over a town, I wouldn't blame you for nodding and smiling at me like I was a simpleton. It doesn't sound like a gripping, white knuckler anyone would run out to read. But trust me, this simple little book has staying power and is a lot of fun. It's outrageous at times, but if you want to be entertained. Buy this book.

The Store
By Bentley Little


#23. Night Shift by Stephen King

This one will forever hold a special place in my heart because it was Stephen King's first collection of short stories. There are 20 short stories here, and so far 12 of them have been made into movies. Granted, most of them are really bad movies, but name me another short story collection where over half have been green lit. There are so many standouts in this collection that triggered my first book induced sleepless nights. Especially The Boogeyman, Trucks, Children of the Corn, The Mangler, The Lawnmower Man...see I was going to name three and I couldn't restrain myself. The closet door in my bedroom became my worst enemy for two years after reading this book.

Night Shift
$7.99
By Stephen King


#22. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Television rules and literature is on the verge of extinction. When I first read Fahrenheit 451, that seemed like a distant, unlikely future. Oh, how things have changed. I remember the unease I felt when reading this the first time. The idea of censorship running rampant in a society where minds are caged and books are burned was discomforting and surreal. I'm sure it would be even more upsetting if I were to read it today. If you haven't read this book, you should do yourself a favor and read it at least once.

Fahrenheit 451: A Novel
$8.29
By Ray Bradbury

#21. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House was one of the first outright "horror" books I ever read. The scares within this book sneak up on you. It's very subtle. At first, I was bored and thought I might not be able to finish the story. There aren't flashy special effects or gore, but there are breathing doors, shifting shadows and environments that shift at once to a negative black and white photograph juxtaposed to a happy family in full, vivid color. I was startled at how quickly Jackson could manipulate my emotions and remember not wanting to read on once the sun went down. To this day, I compare any haunted house story to this book.




25 Scary Good Books :: #5 - #1

If you missed it, we're counting down Ventipop's 25 Scary Good Books.

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#05. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is the only non-fiction book on this list. Capote researched six years before writing the true story of the savage murders of the Clutter family. This book disturbed me on an entire other level when I first read it many years ago. With the scariest, most horrific and gruesome books, you can always calm down and feel better by reminding yourself it's just a book. It's fiction. In Cold Blood is saddening, maddening, sickening and mournful. And there's no way out of those emotions as you read it.

In Cold Blood
$9.15
By Truman Capote


#04. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Making this list, I've realized I read a lot of explicit and inappropriate books at a very young age. The Exorcist is another one I really should have waited until I was much older to read. I saw the movie and then read the book. The movie certainly made me want the hall light left on, but the book had me afraid in the daylight. I remember having to parse out the pages of the book. "I'll read five pages tonight then if nothing really bad happens, I'll read five more." There are layers to the book which enhance the story more so than in the movie. Most critics of The Exorcist cite the blasphemy of religion, but the book I think builds a good case for the sanctity of religion in the fight against evil. It's not only until the priest in the story reaffirms his faith that Regan's evil is exorcised. The priest's internal struggle with his faith, one could argue, is as scary as the possession itself. There certainly are twisted and disparaging religion elements in both the book and movie, but that's the point of a terror project; and terrorize both reader and viewer Mr. Blatty certainly does better than most any other book ever written.

The Exorcist
$5.99
By William Peter Blatty


#03. Ghost Story by Peter Straub

There's nothing more haunting than regrets from our past. Ghost Story by Peter Straub is a cornerstone of the horror genre's foundation. Many other authors have written their stories from the blue print of Ghost Story, but not many have ever managed to duplicate the unnerving, masterwork of horror achieved by Peter Straub. Simply put, Ghost Story is just a damn, unsettling read. You feel like a dead hand is going to reach from under your chair and run a bony finger up your leg at any moment. The story takes place in the fictional town of Milburn, New York, and is told from the alternating points of view of five old men. They call themselves the "Chowder Society" and gather periodically to reminisce and share ghost stories. When one of them dies, the terror just mounts and mounts. Ghost Story is a book full of rich, haunting imagery that will settle like cement in your soul. 

Ghost Story
$10.81
By Peter Straub

#02. 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

Much like Ghost Story, Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot is full of horrible, unrelenting images I will never get out of my head for as long as live. 'Salem's Lot holds a special place in my heart because it was the first book to ever really petrify me, and it was the book that first sparked my love of reading. I knew Superfudge was awesome fun, but I didn't know spooky, heart attack inducing fear could be fun too until this book. The small town setting, an evil moving in to take over, the town banding together to fight evil vampires; all vintage King. The evil of the mind really runs wild in the spaces King leaves in the narrative. I read this under sheets with a flashlight. Heart racing. Sweating. Determined not to look at my window for fear of fanged family friends floating outside asking me to invite them in. It's not all blood and guts. It's more whispers in the dark, shadows in the periphery, thirsty lips grazing your neck. You know, fun.

'Salem's Lot
$6.60
By Stephen King


#01. By Reason of Insanity by Shane Stevens

The creepiest book I've ever read is Shane Steven's By Reason of Insanity. It's one of the best serial killer crime stories of our time. I read this book over twenty years ago. I still compare every other book in the genre to it. It's the gold standard for me. The main character, Thomas Bishop, is evil incarnate and yet Stevens sets up the readers inside his sick, twisted brain and somehow manages to evoke sympathy for him. The realization of the sympathy and empathy for someone/something so evil is one of the most horrific things about the book. You're not rooting for him to kill, but you understand why he's doing what he's doing. This isn't only the best horror book I've ever read, it's one of the best books I've ever read period. It's unrelenting, harrowing, captivating and genuinely frightening. You will not be able to put it down. But be prepared for an ending that will leave you shocked, satisfied and screaming "Oh, My God!" over and over again.



25 Scary Good Books :: #10 - #6

If you missed it, we're counting down Ventipop's 25 Scary Good Books.

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#10. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

The scares in A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay are as unsettling as they are ambiguous at times. You never know when Tremblay will sneak an attack turn of phrase into the pages and make you catch your breath. The story is about a family dealing with the increasingly bizarre behavior of their fourteen-year-old daughter, Marjorie. It reads as a haunted house meets The Exorcist story. But what really sets it apart is Marjorie's eight-year-old sister, Merry. The book is told through her eyes both as a child and as an adult. It's her eight-year-old descriptions and the richness of her character that really sews deep the reader's investment in the story. When she cracks a joke, you laugh. When she worries about the sister she idolizes, you worry. And when she's terrified, you're both terrified and sick with worry for her welfare. 

A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel
$10.77
By Paul Tremblay


#09. Books of Blood by Clive Barker

There's nothing subtle about the horror of Clive Barker's Books of Blood. It's gore, guts, blood, depravity, cruelty and carnal aberrations. That's not to say Barker isn't a talented writer; he's one of the horror genre's very best. But this collection of sixteen short stories, bound together in one edition as the author originally preferred, are meant to churn your stomach. The grotesque imagery and unimaginable abominations forever play on a loop inside your head. Every time I see a farmer or a construction crew digging a hole in a field, I worry about whether or not they are digging up the next Rawhead Rex. Once you summon the courage to read these Books of Blood, you'll know what I mean.

Books of Blood, Vols. 1-3
$12.85
By Clive Barker


#08. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

While The Silence of the Lambs certainly invokes horror, I'd say it's also one of the best suspense thrillers ever written. While the movie is great, the book is even better. In the book, readers get to ride shotgun as Agent Starling methodically progresses a professional criminal investigation.  The movie follows the novel nearly footfall for footfall, but if you've only seen the movie and never read the book, you're doing yourself a disservice if you're a horror fan. The book's suspense elevates every time there' a break in the case. The characters are richer, yes even Lecter. The stakes seem higher and the horror even more memorable by the time you reach the end. You may know the story, but the book takes it to another level.


#07. The Ruins by Scott Smith

Never has an author been so cruel to a group of his characters. This book gave me nightmares and probably will again after I write about it. Generally, I don't have nightmares about movies or books. My nightmares are usually about things that make absolutely no sense like the gorilla monkey bank my older brother had in his room as a kid. But The Ruins by Scott Smith is unlike anything you've ever read before. To sum up the story in one line: A group of American tourists get trapped in the Mexican jungle and terrorized by...something. Just when you think it can't get worse, it always does. Smith is one sick puppy of a writer and should pay for part of my therapy because The Ruins ruined me. There's no mercy in this book.

The Ruins
$13.09
By Scott Smith


#06. It by Stephen King

You had me at "Child Killer Clown Hiding in Storm Drains". This book is a fright fest on every level. It manages to weave in every thing we've ever feared as a child. To label It as purely a horror novel though, is certainly a disservice to one of Stephen King's best books ever. King manages to terrorize us for sure, but he also perfectly weaves in underlying themes of good versus evil, the exhilaration and heartache of childhood friendships, racial diversity and unfulfilled dreams of adulthood. Reading It back in high school was one of the most rewarding reading experiences of my life. From teachers commenting on the sheer size of the book to getting a detention for screaming out loud at certain parts during study hall. By the end of It, you feel as though you deserve membership into the "Loser's Club". I looked so forward to making it through to the last page of that epic tome. It was the second longest book I'd ever read at that point. (Second only to The Executioner's Song; which by the way also garnered some very strange looks and questions from teachers in middle school.) However, once I did read the last sentence, closed the back cover...there was a sense of complete and utter loss. That's often the case when you read a truly great book. It's as if a group of my friends had up and moved away over night. In a sense, I guess they did.

It: A Novel
$12.27
By Stephen King

25 Scary Good Books :: #15 - #11

If you missed it, we're counting down Ventipop's 25 Scary Good Books.

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#15. 20TH Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

It's rare a collection of short stories can simultaneously scare the living hell out of you and choke you up, but that's exactly what Joe Hill, son of one Mr. Stephen King, manages to do with the freshest collection of horror shorts in a long, long while. This book was originally published in 2005, and it won the British Fantasy Award, The International Horror Guild Award, and the Bram Stoker Award for best collection. Twentieth Century Ghosts contains 15 of the most severely bizarre and original stories ever conceived. And FYI, the stories that got me the most were "Pop Art" and "20th Century Ghosts". I'll let you decide which one gave me chills and which one tugged the heart strings.

20th Century Ghosts
$10.00
By Joe Hill

#14. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn is best known for her book Gone Girl, but her debut novel Sharp Objects is the one that sticks with me. It's the story of a troubled young reporter, Camille, assigned to return to her small hometown to cover a series of brutal murders. As you read on, you realize the murders are intertwined with the Camille's mental issues and her troubled past. Like most mysteries, you read on because you want to find out the "Who?", but Flynn manages to get readers to care even more about Camille and the "Why?". The depravity of her twisted characters add layers and layers to this psychological thriller.

Sharp Objects
$8.92
By Gillian Flynn


#13. A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons

You can't go wrong with this opening line:

"Forty-one years after I died, my friend Dale returned to the farm where I was murdered. It was a very bad winter."

What follows proves to be just as spooky as this opening. Dale Stewart travels back to his boyhood hometown in Illinois to spend his winter sabbatical in the now-empty home of his deceased friend. This is one of those "things that go bump in the night" stories that leave your nerves in tatters after every reading session. Is Dale going crazy or is there a someone or a some thing living upstairs in the farmhouse? Is there really a dog of increasing size stalking him? This one is spooky good fun you may not want to read alone..or at night...or especially in an old farmhouse at the far edge of town.

A Winter Haunting
$7.99
By Dan Simmons


#12. Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Ok, this one is forever in my nightmare lexicon. The story of a man burying his dead son in a haunted pet "sematary" with the hopes of bringing him back to life was hard enough to get through back in the 1980's when I read it the first time. But now, being a father of two, I really don't think I could bear a reread. I remember feeling that father's overwhelming anguish when his son is tragically killed in an accident and experiencing the horror of his "son" reanimated as something...else. That was before I was a father myself. Just writing about this book and feeling that sickness in my gut, makes me realize how great and powerful a horror show this book was and still is.

Pet Sematary
$6.74
By Stephen King


#11. Hell House by Richard Matheson

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson made this list earlier at #21. That's a scary, unnerving book. Hell House, as Stephen King said, is simply the scariest haunted house book ever written. I remember reading this in my room during college, someone knocked on my door and I screamed so loud, the visitor screamed too. It's unnerving, horrific and imaginative. But the thing I remember most wasn't the gore or the horror, it was how strong the apprehension of "what's going to happen next?" built inside me. Matheson is a master at letting the unease build and build until the readers are at his mercy begging for their mommies. 

Hell House
$13.11
By Richard Matheson

25 SCARY GOOD BOOKS :: TOP 10 - COMING HALLOWEEN

MORE VENTIPOP BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS



25 Scary Good Books :: #20 - #16

If you missed it, we're counting down Ventipop's 25 Scary Good Books. Click the link for #25-21:

SEE 25 SCARY GOOD BOOKS :: #25 - #21

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#20. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

This book is SO disturbing. The monsters aren't supernatural but human. And your neighbors. And it was based on a true story. This was one of the first books I read that shattered a pre-conceived notion about human nature; and not in a good way. It is horrific and not recommended for anyone who can't easily forget entertainment that also truly terrorizes. 

The Girl Next Door
$8.79
By Jack Ketchum

#19. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

As the title suggests, this book is rich with secrets; though right from the first page you know you’re dealing with a murder and a cover up. Tartt's debut is so rich and layered, and a real pleasure to read her hypnotic writing. A group of Classics students at a prestigious college are charming and yet repulsive. This story is a downward spiral through beautiful landscapes into deadly, hypnotic territory. Highly recommended reading...and rereading.

The Secret History
$9.79
By Donna Tartt


#18. Still Life With Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Still Life With Crows is one of Preston & Child's best in the Agent Pendergast series. Boy, do I enjoy lurking around in dark, scary places with Agent Pendergast. One of the truly original main characters out there. These books are impossible to put down. Crows is set in a small Kansas town, but the writer's never opt for the cheap and easy stereotypical characters. I've enjoyed all of the Pendergast books, but this one is the most genuinely frightening of the bunch.

Still Life with Crows (Agent Pendergast series)
$6.49
By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

#17. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

The quote on the cover says it all, "This book will scare the hell out of you." It did me. On the plus side, for months after reading it, I was actually happy to share a bedroom with my younger brother. To this day, I would never buy a house or a house in a neighborhood that had windows even remotely resembling the iconic windows on the end of the Amity house. Many lawsuits have challenged whether or not this is actually a true story, but it doesn't matter. It's a haunting book either way.

The Amityville Horror
$5.82
By Jay Anson


#16. The Shining by Stephen King

King is at his masterful best here toying with his constant readers as he pulls out every scare tactic in the book. I remember my heart pounding as young Danny Torrence's visions get ever more out of control trapped inside the snowy, abandoned resort. No one is better than King at scaring the crap out of you in confined, remote places. The movie kind of sucked in my opinion, but the book still makes my heart do a tap dance in my chest. And the sequel Doctor Sleep is actually pretty great in its own right.

The Shining
$5.39
By Stephen King

25 SCARY GOOD BOOKS :: #15 - #11 - COMING 10/30/16




25 Scary Good Books :: #25 - #21

It's odd we celebrate a holiday dedicated to remembering the dead. The word Halloween is literally a contraction of All Hallows' Evening; a time we dedicate each year to think about the deceased including martyrs, saints (hallows) and the rest of the faithful departed. Most of us don't celebrate the dead on Halloween. We dress up and get candy. It's 2016. We're a lazy lot.

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We do enjoy being scared though, don't we? And we do have an infatuation with death and fear. The most popular shows on TV right now? The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Shows where anyone can (and often do) take weapons with handles to the head and neck at any given time. Every weekend, another horror movie slithers its way into our theaters. Why so many scary movies? Because horror movies have made approximately $576 million in profits this year. Comedy still outgrosses horror, but it's a short connective tissue running between a laugh and a scream. And Hollywood knows it.

Which brings me to books. The best scares are cultivated from within our own minds and no other media is better suited for churning that rich, demented soil than the pages of a book. The monster on a movie screen has been summoned from another person's warped, damaged psyche. But that lurker in the pages of that book you're holding? Well, that boogeyman is all yours. Sure, an author can plug in some adjectives and verbs, but when you're immersed in a scary book, those hands reaching around the corner in slow motion are your own creation. The best writers intentionally leave room for your own interpretation of the horror they create; A slight turn of phrase with tangled intent or an abstract or incomplete descriptive. Those monsters grow stronger, grosser, twitchier in those gaps. That's when you know you are reading a book that's going to stick there inside you forever. Gumming up the works for infinity. I often forget scary movies, but the monsters from books like that are with me forever. The top 25 scary books on this list still make a me a little nauseous when I think about them. My left left eye twitches when I talk about how good they are. And that's how I ranked them...by the degree each of them grabbed me and pulled me kicking and crying right back into that dark, scary gut punch place all over again. Do yourself a damn favor and read these books.


#25. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Most so-callled "classics" force-fed by our high school teachers do not receive voluntary re-reads. But I revisit this disturbing story every five to ten years. Ventipop rails against the idea of human nature being inherently evil on a daily basis, so I'm not sure if I agree with that narrative of the book. But I do know it's thoroughly thought-provoking, sad and never leaves you. And for that reason alone, it made the list.

Lord of the Flies
$8.59
By William Golding

#24. The Store by Bentley Little

Part of the appeal of The Store is how simple and straight forward the story is written. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles. Little just knows how to tell a story like you're sitting around a campfire. If I told you I was going to write a novel about a store taking over a town, I wouldn't blame you for nodding and smiling at me like I was a simpleton. It doesn't sound like a gripping, white knuckler anyone would run out to read. But trust me, this simple little book has staying power and is a lot of fun. It's outrageous at times, but if you want to be entertained. Buy this book.

The Store
By Bentley Little


#23. Night Shift by Stephen King

This one will forever hold a special place in my heart because it was Stephen King's first collection of short stories. There are 20 short stories here, and so far 12 of them have been made into movies. Granted, most of them are really bad movies, but name me another short story collection where over half have been green lit. There are so many standouts in this collection that triggered my first book induced sleepless nights. Especially The Boogeyman, Trucks, Children of the Corn, The Mangler, The Lawnmower Man...see I was going to name three and I couldn't restrain myself. The closet door in my bedroom became my worst enemy for two years after reading this book.

Night Shift
$7.99
By Stephen King


#22. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Television rules and literature is on the verge of extinction. When I first read Fahrenheit 451, that seemed like a distant, unlikely future. Oh, how things have changed. I remember the unease I felt when reading this the first time. The idea of censorship running rampant in a society where minds are caged and books are burned was discomforting and surreal. I'm sure it would be even more upsetting if I were to read it today. If you haven't read this book, you should do yourself a favor and read it at least once.

Fahrenheit 451: A Novel
$8.29
By Ray Bradbury

#21. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House was one of the first outright "horror" books I ever read. The scares within this book sneak up on you. It's very subtle. At first, I was bored and thought I might not be able to finish the story. There aren't flashy special effects or gore, but there are breathing doors, shifting shadows and environments that shift at once to a negative black and white photograph juxtaposed to a happy family in full, vivid color. I was startled at how quickly Jackson could manipulate my emotions and remember not wanting to read on once the sun went down. To this day, I compare any haunted house story to this book.


25 SCARY GOOD BOOKS :: #20 - #16

25 SCARY GOOD BOOKS :: #15 - #11

25 SCARY GOOD BOOKS :: #10 - #06

25 SCARY GOOD BOOKS :: #05 - #01