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My Top Five Horror Novels

…that weren’t written by Stephen King.

A few months ago I posted my top ten Stephen King novels, many of them falling into the horror genre. This month I’ll take a moment to list my five favorite horror novels written by other authors. You’ll certainly recognize a few, but perhaps some will be more surprising.

I chose these five because they scared me most. The ones that made me lie awake, frozen in bed, because I heard a noise from the living room (almost certainly just one of the cats, at least that’s what I tell myself). I’ve read more interesting horror novels than these five, but didn’t feel the paralyzing fear in quite the same way.

5. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. I can’t think of much that is more disturbing than waking up in the morning to discover you’ve morphed into a large bug. Yuck. The imagery drips with the disgust and shame of our unfortunate narrator, who heroically tries to adjust to this… change.


4. Magic by William Goldman. I’m still not sure what happened at the end of this. And that makes it even scarier. This book was chilling from the beginning. A psychological thriller that was even more effective because of its kaleidoscopic telling of events.


3. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. After I read this I started paying a lot more attention to my own best friend’s moods and behaviors, terrified that I would see something out of the ordinary. She eventually told me to knock it off which, thankfully, was completely in character.


2. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. No guts, no gore, just horror. The pace and progression of this novel are brilliant. Also, the untrustworthiness of the narrator keeps you guessing throughout. When I think of malevolent ghosts, I think of Quince. No novel ghost has yet to replace him in my mind.


1. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. Someone please, please tell me why this is a children’s book. What are trying to teach them? If you’re a gluttonous school teacher a bully will try to cut off your head? And when he pulls his punch an ACTUAL headless horseman will chase you down anyways? Scarring.