Who doesn’t love a good scary story, something to send a chill across your skin in the middle of summer’s heat — or really, any other time? And this year, we’re celebrating the 200th birthday of one of the most famous scary stories of all time: Frankenstein.
A few months ago, we asked you to nominate your favorite horror novels and stories, and then we assembled an expert panel of judges to take your 7000 nominations and turn them into a final, curated list of 100 spine-tingling favorites for all kinds of readers. Want to scar your children for life? We can help. Want to dig into the dark, slimy roots of horror? We’ve got you covered.
As with our other reader polls, this isn’t meant to be a ranked or comprehensive list — there are a few horror books you won’t see on it, despite their popularity — some didn’t stand the test of time, some just didn’t catch our readers’ interest, and in some cases our judges would prefer you see the movie instead. (So no Jaws, sorry.) And there are a few titles that aren’t strictly horror, but at least have a toe in the dark water, or are commenting about horrific things, so our judges felt they deserved a place on the list.
One thing you won’t see on the list is any work from this year’s judges, Stephen Graham Jones, Ruthanna Emrys, Tananarive Due and Grady Hendrix. Readers did nominate them, but the judges felt uncomfortable debating the inclusion of their own work — so it’s up to me to tell you to find and read their excellent books! I personally, as a gigantic horror wuss, owe a debt of gratitude to this year’s judges, particularly Hendrix, for their help writing summaries for all the list entries. I’d be hiding under the bed shuddering without their help.
And a word about Stephen King: Out of almost 7000 nominations you sent in, 1023 of them were for the modern master of horror. That’s a lot of Stephen King! In past years, we’ve resisted giving authors more than one slot on the list (though we made an exception for Nora Roberts during the 2015 romance poll — and she’s basically the Stephen King of romance.) In the end, we decided that since so much classic horror is in short story format, we would allow authors one novel and one short story if necessary.
So screw your courage to the sticking point, and dive into this year’s list! Here are some quick links to make it easier for you to navigate:
Blood Roots, Zombies And Vampires And Werewolves, The Fear In Our Stars, Horrible Homes, Final Girls, Horribly Ever After, Hell Is Other People, Short And Sharp, Scar Your Children, The Kids Aren’t All Right.