Five must read horror novels

These spooky tales will keep you up at night.

Marielle Descalsota
Marielle Descalsota

Published: 24 February 2022, 10:34 AM

As a literature major, I’ve probably read hundreds of books in the course of my four years in university — everything from epics like Beowulf to post-colonial classics like J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians

Among the dozens of critically acclaimed books, I often find myself gravitating towards a particular genre: horror.

Recently, I decided to revisit some of my favourite horror novels – the ones that keep me awake late at night and make me think twice about turning off the lights.

If you’re up for a horrifying challenge, here are five of the spookiest reads that will give you hair-raising chills:

1. The Amityville Horror (1977) by Jay Anson

This cult classic by James Anson is based on a true story, and follows George and Kathy Lutz’s experiences living in a suburban home in Amityville, New York.


Even the cover art is creepy. PHOTO CREDIT: AMAZON


Just a year before the Lutz family moved in, convicted murderer Ronald DeFeo Jr. had shot six of his family members dead. The Lutz family becomes so frightened by the ghosts that haunt the Amityville home that they leave less than a month later. 

Now this novel is not for the fainthearted. Prepare to be psychologically scarred by this story of a real-life haunted house, where occupants hear demonic voices and witness bloody stigmatas on their local priest’s hands.

2. Cirque du Freak (2000) by Darren Shan

The first of twelve novels in teen horror series The Saga of Darren Shan, Cirque du Freak is about a boy who becomes a half-vampire.


Bizzare, but that’s exactly why it’s hard to put this book down. PHOTO CREDIT: WIKIMEDIA


After meeting vampire Mr Crepsley and his giant spider Madam Octa, his life changes as he witnesses the death of his best friend and begins living as a vampire assistant.

Fun, twisted, and wonderfully weird, this carnivalesque tale is sure to captivate young readers who are looking to be hooked on a full-blown vampire saga that’s even more vintage than Twilight.

3. Beauty is a Wound (2015) by Eka Kurniawan

Have you ever heard of Indonesia horror? Eka Kurniawan’s fantasy-horror, magical-realism novel is arguably one of the nation’s best. It revolves around the life of prostitute Dewi Ayu, a woman who rises from the grave after being dead for 21 years.


Read this novel with an open mind. PHOTO CREDIT: BOOKSACTUALLY


Violent, visceral, and occasionally revolting, this tale also features Dewi’s four daughters, including her “ugly” baby aptly named Beauty. 

A fair warning to readers who are easily offended – this piece of work definitely needs you to be as open-minded as possible, tackling taboo topics like bestiality, sexual violence, and even incest. It’s a book that you’ll either love or hate.

4. More Horowitz Horror by (2000) by Anthony Horowitz

This isn’t really a novel, but a collection of short stories. Veteran novelist Anthony Horowitz terrorised horror lovers all around the world with these short but terrifying narratives, which includes two of my favourites: Howard’s End, where a teenager finds himself in purgatory, and Burnt, a story about a resentful wife on a mission to burn her husband (literally).


From sinister trips to the beach to funky elevator rides, Horowitz transforms them all into nightmares. PHOTO CREDIT: AMAZON


Horowitz takes life’s mundane experiences and turns them into horrifying ordeals, making readers paranoid about things they won’t usually think twice about. 

After reading this book, you’ll probably get the chills whenever you get on a flight or take the lift.

5. The Stranger (1993) by Caroline B. Cooney

Just one of the many novels Caroline B. Cooney has written for young adult horror series, Point Horror, The Stranger is a melodramatic monster story that will leave you broken-hearted.


If monster romances are your thing, this one’s for you. PHOTO CREDIT: POINT HORROR


Choir girl Nicoletta has a boyfriend but can’t help but notice the new boy in town, Jethro. She follows this strange boy into the forest, only to uncover a dark secret. Even then, she can’t help falling for him until it’s too late. 

I know the premise sounds cliché, but Cooney will take you on an adventure so powerful that you’ll feel like you can fall in love with a half-beast too. 

My idea of a perfect night entails a glass of wine on hand as I curl up in bed and bury my nose in one of these books. I’m convinced it’ll be one heck of a spooky night, and I just hope there won’t be any nightmares.

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