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Making a list of the most frightening books you've ever read is, in a way, a very revealing act. We are essentially letting everyone see what our boggart will become when it leaps out of the closet.

That said, it's amazing how some books are just so plain freaky they linger in the minds (and nightmares) of petrified readers sleeping with the light on everywhere. This list includes some of those shiver-inducing golden oldies, as well as a few from my own personal chamber of horrors.

  1. The Shining By Stephen King

    Book Cover: The Shining By Stephen King
    (literature and fiction, horror, mystery and thrillers)

    "No list of fright tomes is complete without this macabre tale of the Torrance family's stay at what must be the most uninviting literary hotel ever, the Overlook in Colorado. If your only experience of The Shining is from Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film adaptation, I'd strongly recommend reading the original. It has a slightly different emphasis than the movie, focusing more on the disintegration of the Torrance family as the evil present in the Overlook takes over the father, Jack, but it is no less frightening."

  2. Rosemarys Baby By Ira Levin

    Book Cover: Rosemarys Baby By Ira Levin
    (literature and fiction, horror, mystery and thrillers)

    "Ladies, if you read this while you're pregnant, you may spend the rest of the time until the baby arrives eyeballing your neighbors, your doctor, and even your husband with suspicion. Innocent little Rosemary finds out the hard way when she begins to suspect that everyone around her is planning on sacrificing her baby to Satan, only to find out that the truth is much, much worse."

  3. Staring At The Light By Frances Fyfield

    Book Cover: Staring At The Light By Frances Fyfield
    (mystery and thrillers)

    "Frances Fyfield is an English criminal lawyer and crime writer who deserves much more recognition for her psychologically sophisticated thrillers: imagine a post-modern Stephen King who's darker, more twisted, and with a British accent and you've got Ms. Fyfield.

    Staring at the Light is a complex and suspenseful story of obsession and includes a climactic scene that is one of the most terrifying I've ever read. Let me just say that if you have any--and I mean ANY--aversion to visiting the dentist, this book will turn that mild distaste into a full-blown phobia. I was never hesitant about dental appointments; now, 3 years after reading it, I still think about Staring at the Light EVERY TIME I sit down in a dentist's chair."

  4. The Exorcist By William Peter Blatty

    Book Cover: The Exorcist By William Peter Blatty
    (literature and fiction)

    "Fright meister Stephen King called this tome one of the most frightening things ever written, and I completely agree. While the movie is freaky enough on its own, the book lends a whole new perspective on the story, especially with regards to the two priests conducting the exorcism, Father Merrin and Father Kerras. "

  5. Pet Sematary By Stephen King

    Book Cover: Pet Sematary By Stephen King
    (literature and fiction, horror, mystery and thrillers)

    "Before I'd even begun this book, I knew it was going to scare me silly just from reading the Bible verses talking about the resurrection of Lazarus at the beginning of each chapter. Don't ask me why, but that part of the Bible always gave me the shivers.

    Pet Sematary certainly did, particularly since I was at a ridiculously young age when I snuck it from my dad's shelf and read it in terrifying bits over a period of weeks. Even though I was hardly skilled at literary analysis (not that I am now, incidentally), I could tell that Pet Sematary wasn't just scary because dead animals and people were coming back to life, but that the raw pain and guilt the father, Louis Creed, feels over his son's tragic death were enough to drive him to do something he knew was highly unwise. What won't humans do when driven by grief and despair? That question alone is enough to keep you up at night. "

  6. Mindhunter: Inside The Fbis Elite Serial Crime Unit By John Douglas And Mark Olshaker

    Book Cover: Mindhunter: Inside The Fbis Elite Serial Crime Unit By John Douglas And Mark Olshaker
    (business books, children books, IT books, food and cooking, health, history, literature and fiction, mystery and thrillers, nonfiction, parenting, religion and spirituality, romance, science, teens)

    "Special Agent John Douglas (the model for the character of Jack Douglas in The Silence of the Lambs) saw one hell of a lot of tragedy, murder, and horror in his 25 year career as a pioneering criminal profiler. Mindhunter details aspects of many of the serial murder cases Douglas took part in, including the Atlanta child murders and the Green River killings. I found Mindhunter as chilling and disturbing as any fictional horror story; in a way, more so since I knew the victims had all been real people who endured unimaginable terror before their deaths. The pictures included--especially one of a note left by a young female victim shortly before she was strangled by her captor--are especially sobering."

  7. The Fifth Child By Doris Lessing

    Book Cover: The Fifth Child By Doris Lessing
    (literature and fiction, horror, sci-fi)

    "Harriet and David Lovatt have the ideal life--they have a great marriage, a lovely home, and four model children. All that changes dramatically, however, with the birth of their strangely evil fifth child Ben. The horror of this brief, exquisitely written novel lies not only in Ben's evil "otherness," but in his vicious destruction of the Lovatt's life and the questions that Ben raises in the reader's mind: Is evil inherent? And to what extent can the love of a parent be pushed?"

  8. It By Stephen King

    Book Cover: It By Stephen King
    (literature and fiction, horror)

    "What?! Another Stephen King book? you shriek. Absolutely. I think Mr. King deserves multiple mentions on any all-time scary book lists (and I'm not even including Carrie or Christine in this one). And It especially deserves a slot since it single-handedly fanned the flame of clown-phobia in thousands of young readers (one of my younger sisters included, who fears clowns to this day)."

  9. The Girl Next Door By Jack Ketchum

    Book Cover: The Girl Next Door By Jack Ketchum
    (literature and fiction, horror, mystery and thrillers)

    "Stephen King once described The Girl Next Door as "hell, suburban style"; he never spoke a truer word. The book is a fictionalized account of the horrific 1965 torture and murder of 16 year old Sylvia Likens.

    The Girl Next Door is told through the eyes of David, a young man who gets to know Meg and Susan, two girls who have come to live with Ruth, the single mother living next door to him. The story quickly accelerates into horror as Ruth begins to abuse Meg and to encourage the children of the neighborhood to do the same. The story's terrifying quality lies not only in Meg's suffering, but the evil that lies submerged in the quaint"

  10. The Amityville Horror By Jay Anson

    Book Cover: The Amityville Horror By Jay Anson
    (literature and fiction, horror, mystery and thrillers, nonfiction, religion and spirituality)

    "When I was about 12, this was THE horror book to read. My friends and I got our hands on a copy and read bits of it out at a slumber party: you never saw a group of girls so terrified. Even now, there are still two parts of the story that give me the creeps: the little girl, Missy's, "imaginary" friend Jodie, and the flies! My God, those swarms of flies!"

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