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Horror Classics You Need to Read

In any genre there are always those seminal works that are pure must-reads. They’re the classics, the stories that are either the foundational underpinnings or pitch perfect examples of what the genre has to offer. People have been telling scary stories for as long as they’ve been, in fact, telling stories. There’s just something addictive about a bit of bone-chilling terror. But the sheer breadth of the horror catalog can be a little daunting particularly when you’re talking the must-reads.

  1. 1
    The Haunting of Hill House (Movie Tie-In) Book Cover Picture
    The Haunting of Hill House (Movie Tie-In) Book Cover Picture

    The Haunting of Hill House (Movie Tie-In)

    by Shirley Jackson

    With The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson crafted one of the most influential haunted house tales of all time. It’s a slow burn masterpiece that relies as much on its deeply drawn characters as its potentially haunted setting to methodically ratchet up the dread and terror.
    The Haunting of Hill House (Movie Tie-In) Book Cover Picture
    The Haunting of Hill House (Movie Tie-In) Book Cover Picture

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  2. 2
    Interview with the Vampire Book Cover Picture
    Interview with the Vampire Book Cover Picture

    Interview with the Vampire

    by Anne Rice

    Anne Rice essentially reinvented the popular mythology of the vampire with her Vampire Chronicles series, and it all began with Interview with the Vampire. Rice’s influence on the vampire genre in the latter twentieth century is difficult to overstate and Interview is still one of her best.
    Interview with the Vampire Book Cover Picture
    Interview with the Vampire Book Cover Picture

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  3. 3
    Dracula Book Cover Picture
    Dracula Book Cover Picture

    Dracula

    by Bram Stoker

    Dracula is the definitive vampire novel. It quite literally defined many of the tropes and conventions that are now staples of the of the vampire genre. Beyond underpinning an entire subgenre, Dracula is a tale of obsession, loss, and repressed sexuality.
    Dracula Book Cover Picture
    Dracula Book Cover Picture

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  4. 4
    Frankenstein: The 1818 Text Book Cover Picture
    Frankenstein: The 1818 Text Book Cover Picture

    Frankenstein: The 1818 Text

    by Mary Shelley

    Although it’s also widely considered one of the first science fiction novels, the macabre horror of Frankenstein is undeniable. Its influence has stretched through two centuries of horror and it remains a foundational piece of the genre.
    Frankenstein: The 1818 Text Book Cover Picture
    Frankenstein: The 1818 Text Book Cover Picture

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  5. 5
    Beloved Book Cover Picture
    Beloved Book Cover Picture

    Beloved

    by Toni Morrison

    At its base, Beloved is a ghost story and an incredibly well-told one, but the horrifying secret at its core, and the way Toni Morrison expertly peels away the layers of guilt, desperation, and trauma that define the tale, make this Pulitzer Prize-winner a singular and devastating appearance.
    Beloved Book Cover Picture
    Beloved Book Cover Picture

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  6. 6
    Gothic Tales Book Cover Picture
    Gothic Tales Book Cover Picture

    Gothic Tales

    by Elizabeth Gaskell

    Any discussion of Gothic horror and its genesis should include Elizabeth Gaskell. The dread-inducing collection of stories in Gothic Tales is a perfect example why. Her works are darkly surreal, blending local legends, fairy tales, and an incisive understanding of mankind’s darker inclinations into a deeply unsettling collection of eerie tales.
    Gothic Tales Book Cover Picture
    Gothic Tales Book Cover Picture

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  7. 7
    Rebecca Book Cover Picture
    Rebecca Book Cover Picture

    Rebecca

    by Daphne du Maurier

    Rebecca is a classic study in obsession and sustained suspense. Readers are inexorably carried along with the unnamed narrator’s increasingly intense fascination with the death of her husband’s first wife. What unfolds is intricately woven mystery as unnerving as it is shocking.
    Rebecca Book Cover Picture
    Rebecca Book Cover Picture

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  8. 8
    The Best of Richard Matheson Book Cover Picture
    The Best of Richard Matheson Book Cover Picture

    The Best of Richard Matheson

    by Richard Matheson

    Richard Matheson is arguably best known for I Am Legend, his seminal post-apocalyptic pseudo-vampire novel, but he’s also one of the finest short fiction writers of latter twentieth century. Matheson’s occasionally pulpy and always terrifying short stories influenced virtually every major horror writer to follow in his considerable wake, including the likes of Stephen King and Peter Straub. They also had a major impact on Victor LaValle, who both edited and wrote an introduction for this collection. LaValle is no slouch in the horror department himself and well worth a look.
    The Best of Richard Matheson Book Cover Picture
    The Best of Richard Matheson Book Cover Picture

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  9. 9
    The Woman in Black Book Cover Picture
    The Woman in Black Book Cover Picture

    The Woman in Black

    by Susan Hill

    The Woman in Black feels like a throwback to a much earlier period. It’s a bit shocking to realize this Victorian chiller was published in 1983. That’s a very good thing. The Woman in Black is a pitch perfect ghost story, one that takes its time and lets the fear slowly creep in and envelope the reader.
    The Woman in Black Book Cover Picture
    The Woman in Black Book Cover Picture

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  10. 10
    Phantoms Book Cover Picture
    Phantoms Book Cover Picture

    Phantoms

    by Dean Koontz

    Dean Koontz has leaned a bit more into sci-fi and pure thrillers for most of his prodigious career, but on the occasion that he embraces full-on horror it’s invariably worth a look, and Phantoms is one of his best. It builds on classic urban legend with more than a small debt to Lovecraft, and is precisely the sort of page-turner that made Koontz a perennial bestseller.
    Phantoms Book Cover Picture
    Phantoms Book Cover Picture

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  11. 11
    The Damnation Game Book Cover Picture
    The Damnation Game Book Cover Picture

    The Damnation Game

    by Clive Barker

    The Damnation Game proved without a doubt that Barker could sustain his particular brand of unrelenting terror over the course of an entire novel. Following Books of Blood, The Damnation Game delves into the darkest recesses of Barker’s imagination for a particularly depraved tale tinged with cannibalism, incest, and all manner of macabre.
    The Damnation Game Book Cover Picture
    The Damnation Game Book Cover Picture

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  12. 12
    The Bloody Chamber Book Cover Picture
    The Bloody Chamber Book Cover Picture

    The Bloody Chamber

    by Angela Carter

    The Bloody Chamber is, at base, a series of fairy tale retellings. What lifts the whole package and sets it apart is Carter’s understanding of the dark undertones of virtually every fairy tale ever conceived. She pulls those darker elements to the forefront, deftly inverting every classic trope.
    The Bloody Chamber Book Cover Picture
    The Bloody Chamber Book Cover Picture

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  13. 13
    The Bad Seed Book Cover Picture
    The Bad Seed Book Cover Picture

    The Bad Seed

    by William March

    The idea of a seemingly innocent child committing heinous acts has become a fairly common trope in horror, but when The Bad Seed was published in 1954, it proved a tremendous shock for its readers. March’s matter-of-fact prose style lends an air of both authority and plausibility to this story of a mother slowly realizing the true evil of her young, murderous daughter.
    The Bad Seed Book Cover Picture
    The Bad Seed Book Cover Picture

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  14. 14
    Geek Love Book Cover Picture
    Geek Love Book Cover Picture

    Geek Love

    by Katherine Dunn

    Odds are you’ve never read a novel quite a like Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. Geek Love, centering around a family of circus “freaks,” is bizarre, mesmerizing, and perverse. It’s a shocking lamentation on the human condition, of torment and trauma. Ultimately, it turns a sort of fun house mirror on societal ideals, presenting a delirious and disturbing vision in return.
    Geek Love Book Cover Picture
    Geek Love Book Cover Picture

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  15. 15
    The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories Book Cover Picture
    The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories Book Cover Picture

    The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories

    by Henry James

    Henry James seminal ghost tale is one of those foundational texts for the horror genre. There are still very few authors who have done the traditional ghost story better. James keeps the scares and narrative subtle, but no less dread-inducing. The fact that even after the final page it’s not precisely clear what’s happening — that very uncertainty is the genius of “The Turn of the Screw.”
    The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories Book Cover Picture
    The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories Book Cover Picture

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  16. 16
    American Psycho Book Cover Picture
    American Psycho Book Cover Picture

    American Psycho

    by Bret Easton Ellis

    American Psycho is a gleefully over-the-top slasher flick in prose form that also happens to be an absurdly biting, post-modern cultural dissection. It’s dark, for sure. There’s cannibalism, necrophilia, all manner of torture. But it’s also a wholly unreliable descent into pure madness but also maybe not. This one is as thought-provoking as it is unsettling.
    American Psycho Book Cover Picture
    American Psycho Book Cover Picture

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