Written By Hayden Claborn, Entertainment Reviewer
My obsession with horror fiction began when I read Stephen King’s Carrie in middle school. I was terrified while also being thrilled. Something about it felt taboo and adult for a 12 year old boy. Nearly a decade later horror is still a huge part of my personality and October is when my obsession is justified. This isn’t so much the list of the best or scariest horror novels but more just ranked recommendations. A place to start, if you will.
5. My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
Blackfeet Tribe author Stephen Graham Jones delivers something truly original in My Heart is a Chainsaw. Jade Daniels is an obsessive half Native American horror fan who is convinced her home of Indian Lake will be the site of a slasher. Along with a plethora of horror movie references, Jones is able to take a look at how fandom can define someone and become detrimental. Jade isn’t the most likable protagonist, but she’s one of the best when it comes to complexity; she’s annoying but incredibly drawn, freakishly relatable in her smart ass attitude. There is also a neat storyline about marginalized people and Americans taking over land that isn’t theirs to take. Keep an eye out for the sequel Don’t Fear The Reaper next year.
4. Revival by Stephen King
You can’t have a list about horror novels without mentioning Stephen King. Instead of featuring one of the classics, I decided to include one of his unsung works. Revival reads more as an autobiography than anything else, told entirely in first person something that’s unusual for King. We follow Jamie Morton and his decades long relationship with minister Charles Jacobs. Throughout the novel, King showcases his talents for writing both real world terrors and metaphysical ones, finding ways to tackle themes of addiction and religion that feel fresh. And the best part? It’s scary as hell.
3. I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
If you’re looking for something a little bit more unconventional, Iain Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a great book to pick up. I’d compare the experience of reading it to the feeling you’d get upon finding everything in your room slightly moved to the right. Reid is able to get into your head as we explore a deeply dysfunctional relationship from the perspective of an unnamed narrator. It slowly reveals itself to be about misogyny, perspective, and mental illness. I was shook, reeling from the mindtrip ending hours later.
2. The Ruins by Scott Smith
Despite not being #1 on the list, The Ruins by Scott Smith is probably the scariest book here. The methodically written novel about four American tourists who adventure into a Mexican jungle to only get stuck on top of a vine covered hill is absolutely unforgiving. This is a story with no happy endings or painless deaths, a thrilling survival tale that mesmerizes you with the vivid imagery. A few passages from the book still echo in my mind as I write this. While a bit slow, you’ll find it hard to keep the book down for too long. Fair warning: it’ll probably ruin your day.
1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is about the psychology of fear and how the overwhelming presence of it can activate one’s sexuality, frustration, and true meaning. It is worthy of thousands upon thousands of words. What makes it so amazing is how Jackson takes an analytical approach to the storytelling. We are just as much with the characters as examining them. You get the sense she has a deeper understanding of her creation than any other author before or after her. You might be able to find a scarier book than Hill House, but I doubt you’ll find one this in control of the reader. In my opinion, it is simply the greatest horror novel ever written.
Honorable mentions: Rosemary Baby by Ira Levin, Rebecca by Daphne du Maruer, The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, Mine by Robert McCammon, The Exorcist by William Petter Blatty, Bellefour by Joyce Carol Oates, and Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danworth