Are you looking for spooky books for adults? Search no longer as authors and bloggers come together to share the best scary stories, horror books, and ghost stories ever. These seriously spooky books include titles for both adults and teens set around the world.
Stinky farting unicorns, zombie teenagers, true-life crime mysteries, murderous obsessions, and folktales gone grim. From graphic novels to teen fantasy and adult nonfiction, these are just a few of the themes that await the daring and brave reader from this uncorked and terrifying seriously spooky books for adults book list.
Some of my favorite bloggers, bookstagrammers, and new authors have brainstormed to create their top spooky book recommendations filled with amazingly good horror novels to read.
I dare you to pick up one of these titles late at night, alone in the house with lights dimmed and not be terrified out of your mind. Heck, I need a glass of wine just thinking about the horrors in each book.
P.S. This eclectic spooky books list is perfect for Halloween, October or all fall, too, and is sure to have something for every type of reader.
This seriously scary reading list originally published in the fall of 2018 and has been updated for fall 2019.
Seriously Spooky Books For Adults
Spooky Books: Mysteries And Haunting Thrillers
Creepy Book Set In Japan
You may have seen the movie and have an idea that Ring starts off as a deadly murder mystery.
A cursed videotape lands at an unsuspecting viewer’s home. If a certain, unknown act is not performed, the viewers die from heart attacks. And die they do.
After his own niece dies, the journalist, Asakawa, decides to investigate. Finding hidden messages in the tape, Asakawa heads out across Japan for answers that appear related to a disappearing woman. Unless Asakawa figures out how to stop the curse, more will die. Is even he immune to the consequences of the tape?
This story is about to make me never turn on my tv again…
Book Set In Pikeville
Submission from a returning TUL contributor, Hayley of Backpacking Bookworm
Things Are Not As They Seem
Don’t be fooled by the title of one of the best horror stories to read. Though it may seem innocent, the story actually goes hand in hand with a Halloween binge. Think blood, gore, and murder. I’m talking internal body parts from a mother’s gruesome death splattering her children square in the face.
The author does not hold back on psychologically disturbing descriptions. The dark nature pushes the boundaries of typical thrillers, drawing out the horror and creating graphic images in the mind of the reader.
Part 1: A Gruesome Murder
This is a turbulent family drama that follows the Quinn family. The first part of the book reveals the harrowing murder of Gamma (the mother mentioned above – don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler) witnessed by her two daughters, Samantha and Charlotte. They are helpless in trying to save her.
The reason lies with their father – a successful defense lawyer with plenty of local enemies. This part is gritty and graphic, immediately hooking you in.
Part 2 – A Double School Shooting
The second part of the book is set 28 years later.
Charlotte, now a successful defense lawyer herself, is first on the scene of a school shooting. The culprit is a teenage girl who is quite clearly holding the gun that killed two people. Everyone can see the murder has no ambiguities – girl with gun; two people dead.
But, Charlotte knows there is always more – a motive, a reason, a trigger. With the help of her father and begrudging sister, they must work against the clock to help the vulnerable teen, whilst still facing the unspoken demons lingering from the events 28 years previous.
This story has a great pace, perfectly created with the right ratio of fast and slow. Mundane events are effortlessly incorporated with action to craft a narrative that is unputdownable. Beware – the content of this book is not for the faint-hearted. The Good Daughter is one of many spooky books for adults perfect for the Halloween season.
Book Set In The UK
Contribution by Eliza Stopps of Eliza Stopps.
When Your Prince Charming Turns Back Into A Frog
In the Darkest Corner is one of the best spooky books and thrillers about a woman whose dream man turns into a nightmare. Their relationship slowly transforms into something violent and controlling and when she finally figures out her ex-boyfriend’s motives, it’s almost too late.
Is It You Or Is Someone Messing With Your Life?
Haynes is a police intelligence analyst, which gives her a terrifying insight into abusive relationships and criminal behavior. I was shocked to discover Into the Darkest Corner was her first novel. I wasn’t familiar with this author before I picked up this book, but I believe she represents the best of what comes out of NaNoWriMo.
The story follows the main character, Catherine, through past and present experiences. Into The Darkest Corner follows a criminal trial, flashbacks, and her present method of coping with the madness.
Catherine managed to leave her ex, Lee, and was attempting to start a new life without him. Her own mental health is fragile as she tries to rely on counseling to manage her own PTSD and severe OCD as a result of the abuse.
Catherine starts to see another man and thinks that this might be her chance to move on from Lee and what he put her through. But just as she starts to get better, Catherine is forced to question her own sanity.
She notices strange things happening around her apartment. Her spoons are in the wrong spot in the drawer, a curtain pulled to the side when it shouldn’t have been, and the feeling that someone is always watching her.
Into The Darkest Corner is one of the best spooky books for adults around Halloween.
Book Set In New York
Submission by Jessica of We Who Walk Here, Walk Alone
Spooky Demonic Possession Perfect For A Stormy Night
Come Closer by Sara Gran is an incisive look at the dangers of ignoring your true nature and trying to mold yourself into the kind of person you think you should be. It’s also one of the best scary books about demonic possession.
The Picture-Perfect Life?
Come Closer follows Amanda, a woman with a steady job and the sensible marriage. She even owns the stylish loft that she thought she was supposed to have as an adult.
To achieve this life, however, Amanda has incrementally erased who she is at her core. She has rejected and hidden much of her personality so that she can fit in as a responsible, “normal” adult. When strange things start happening and she notices changes in her personality, Amanda chalks them up as signs that she is becoming herself again.
The demon who has claimed her has far more insidious goals, and Amanda’s behavior shifts from unusual to alarming and then downright terrifying.
What Are You Willing To Sacrifice To Get Ahead?
Come Closer is one of many perfectly spooky books for adults since it is so relatable, especially for women, who have subjugated their true selves to try to get ahead in life and conform to other people’s expectations.
However, for your sake, I hope that the more frightening parts of the book don’t feel familiar at all. Watching Amanda descend helplessly into the depths of possession is horrific.
The fact that the early parts of the book are so relatable makes you wonder if the same thing could happen to you. If, like Amanda, you hear mysterious scratching in your walls and start having nightmares about oceans of blood, find yourself an expert in demonology. Fast.
The Best Horror Books Ever (The Most Terrifying Spooky Books For Adults)
Book Set In Colorado
If you are looking for a plethora of seriously spooky books for adults or love books with a haunted house, you definitely want to check out author Stephen King. Find creepy clowns, pet cemeteries, and high school blood baths.
In The Shining, welcome to the Colorado Rockies, home to the resort, Overlook Hotel. Sounds pretty safe, right?!
An infamous horror novel, meet recovering alcoholic and writer, Jack Torrance. With the acceptance of an off-season position as a caretaker for the hotel, Jack and his family move onto the resort grounds.
Jack’s son, Danny, possesses ‘special’ abilities unbeknownst to his parents along with the Chef. Weird and deadly occurrences start happening at the hotel. You must grab a copy of this spooky book to see who survives.
Book Set In Washington, D.C.
Submission by Becca of Becca Leighanne
When Demons Take Over
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty tells the horrifying story of young Regan MacNeil as she literally battles her demons. Talk about one of the spookiest books for adults.
While Regan’s famous actress mother, Chris MacNeil, is working on her next big film, strange and poltergeist-esque activities begin wreaking havoc in the MacNeil household.
During this time, Regan is displaying very odd psychological and physical symptoms that send her to multiple psychiatric and medical treatments. These appointments serve to be of very little use, as Hell continues to break loose for the family. Finally, Chris MacNeil turns to local Jesuit priest, Father Damien Karras, for assistance.
Other readers may not have the same experience as I had with this book, but I strongly believe that just about everyone can find something to enjoy about The Exorcist; perhaps it’ll be the captivating writing, the characters, and relationships, or just the uneasiness that comes with reading about pure evil.
Spooky Books For Adults That Read Like Historical Fiction
Book Set In Paris
Submission by Jella of Asiana Circus
Not Your Average Thriller
Get ready because Perfume is not your everyday thriller story. One of the many good horror books to read, Perfume doesn’t have a lot of blood or a cruel and crazy serial killer. However, Perfume has a perfectly characterized, curious antihero, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille.
Jean-Baptiste is born into the slums of 18th-century Paris, where his mother leaves him to die in the middle of the fish market. Despite the low chances of survival, his loud crying saves his life.
Grenouille will have a rather tormented and emotionless life up to the point where he finally finds his passion: scents. He soon discovers he has the gift like no one else. He’s able to detect aromas that are impossible for a normal person and starts his journey as a perfume maker in Paris. He learns the ins and outs of the craft including how to extract and preserve scents.
Can You Take Your Passion Too Far?
While Jean-Baptiste gets lost in the world of scents, he also discovers that he has none on his own. This revelation helps him finally understand that this is what made it impossible for him to build relationships with others.
Jean-Baptiste decides to create a fragrance so perfect that will make him instantly lovable. His newfound passion quickly turns into an obsession that will lead him to commit murders along the way.
Perfume is one of the most unique and imaginative books I have read so far. Perfume is also a beautifully written, bizarre, and a grotesquely humorous tale about a strange boy whose only wish is to be loved.
Spooky Books For Adults and Teens If You Love Creepy Classics
Book Set In Switzerland
We all know about this wacky and grotesque science experiment gone wrong. Truly one of the best horror books of all time, watch as an effort to cheat death goes completely awry. When Victor creates a Creature that he can no longer handle or contain, he decides to abandon him.
The lonely Creature learns to take on true human capabilities but is consistently shunned from society. Ultimately, the Creature decides to take revenge on his maker and tormentors. Frankenstein is one of my favorite creepy books of all time.
Book Set In Transylvania (historic Romania) & England
Dracula is a seriously creepy book for adults and one of the best classic vampire books.
Going door to door for sales is always a risky business. Jonathan Harker lands in the best horror classic (ever) as he finds himself in Count Dracula’s castle. Inside, phantom women roam the dark halls, and he watches the Count transform from a human into a bat. Left with the female vampires, Harker barely escapes.
Soon after, horrific and mysterious ailments start happening in England where Dracula is rumored to have landed…
With vampires clearly lurking around, find romance, horror, and a whole lot of bloodsucking. Personally, Dracula has always been one of my favorite classics. Stoker’s version is not quite HBO True Blood, but it’s still just as sexy.
P.S. Bram Stoker is an Irish author. Read More→
Book Set In London
A novel all about hedonism and luxury, I loved The Picture of Dorian Gray, even in high school. The first room in the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom always makes me think of Dorian.
Artist Basil believes that Dorian is one handsome creature and thus paints a full-length portrait of him. Vain and sensual Dorian decides that he’d prefer if his portrait fades instead of his body. To Dorian, beauty is all that is worth pursuing. Forget being a gentleman.
With Dorian’s wish come true, the painting begins to not only soak in Dorian’s years but also his nastiness and crimes.
Selfishness only leads to self-demise. Readers watch as Dorian falls victim to his own narcissism. Eerie, but poignant, you’ll find murder, scorned love, and guys who are jerks in this seriously spooky book perfect for adults and teens.
Nonfiction Spooky Books For Adults
Book Set In Kansas
Submission from Rachael of Pingel Sisters
When Horror And Crime Become Real
Now a classic and one of the best horror books ever, Truman Capote was one of the first authors to write nonfiction to read like fiction.
In 1959, a typical all-American family is savagely murdered in their home. With no apparent motive, the murders at first seem to be completely random. Yet, the Clutter family was intentionally targeted. When a seemingly random act is not random at all, the question isn’t who did it, but why.
Why Kill An Average Family?
This spooky story opens on an ordinary day for the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas. Right off the bat, you’ll find yourself captivated by Capote’s exquisite writing. You’ll feel as if you know the Clutter family as they go about their usual Saturday activities.
As the day progresses, Capote expertly switches between the family’s normal routine and the progress of their killers as they prepare to carry out a horrific crime. You know the murder is coming. Still, the suspense Capote evokes surprises you. You can’t help wonder why. Why the Clutter family? What’s the connection?
A Must-Read Spooky Book For Adults
Truman Capote’s writing is so exquisite, you’ll be amazed this is nonfiction and not a novel. In the first days after the murder, Capote was already in Kansas interviewing everyone he could. Interestingly enough, his best friend Harper Lee, the future author of To Kill a Mockingbird, joined him to help with the interviews.
Capote followed the case through the agonizing weeks before the murderers were caught. Over the ensuing years, he covered the case from the trial all the way to the executions of the murderers. Through his extensive interviews with all the people involved, In Cold Blood provides a disturbing peek into the minds of two killers. What could be scarier than that? Read More→
Find more books like In Cold Blood on this chilling best summer beach books reading list.
Good Horror Books To Read If You Like YA
Stories Set Around The World
Submission by Christine of The Uncorked Librarian
Are You Team Zombie Or Team Unicorn?
Zombie, unicorns, and ZOMBIE UNICORNS!!! Gosh, Holly Black never fails to disappoint me. This compilation is like a fairy tale gone bad.
Just a fair warning since I do not typically read short stories: Zombies vs. Unicorns is an anthology edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. Authors include a few of my YA favs like Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, and Maureen Johnson. These are mildly scary stories.
And yes, guys, this is me so you know I am going to recommend young adult titles for this spooky books for adults book list. You will convert to the dark side.
Get ready for serious comedic banter as Black tries to convert you to Team Unicorn and Larbalestier to Team Zombie. Which team are you? Maybe you should read on to find out:
Babysitting Monsters, Demon-Possessed Ponies, Zombie Weddings, and Lots Of Gore
I learned that sometimes it is harder to find a virgin than a unicorn in NYC. You should always follow instructions—no matter how odd—when babysitting. Cute and fluffy animals are not always cute and fluffy animals, and it is best not to dig up someone unless you plan on marrying them.
Think you personally despise short stories, zombies, or unicorns? Me too. Said no one, ever.
I loved Zombies vs. Unicorns and fantasy-loving adults and teens will too. Zombies vs. Unicorns ultimately brings together childhood unicorns and matures them with Walking Dead worthy zombie drama and gore.
A few of these stories completely grossed me out. P.S. Maureen Johnson’s “The Children of the Revolution” could possibly be a witty and brilliant spoof on Angelina Jolie and her lifestyle.
P.P.S. I am both Team Zombie and Team Unicorn, which I never thought possible. To me, Zombies vs. Unicorns is one of the best horror books ever for wimps like me. Spooky fantasy books are way more my speed.
Book Set In The U.S. & Japan
Submission from returning book list contributor and bookstagrammer Jennia
A Hauntingly Unique Perspective
Most of us are familiar with the classic J-Horror remakes and their uniquely haunting imagery. Rin Chupeco plays with and blends these well-known stories to craft an original and wistful retelling in The Girl from the Well, a lyrical narrative told from the point of view of legendary Japanese specter Okiku.
As the story opens, Okiku is departing from her casual drifting through the world to focus upon one of her well-deserved victims. Instead of idly tormenting inhabitants in her original place of death, this version of Okiku descends upon those who thrive from misusing and slaughtering children.
Chupeco employs a unique narrative style with Okiku’s somewhat detached point of view which is peppered with her idiosyncrasies. Despite being dead, she retains the essence of humanity and a connection to the mortal world.
A Peculiar Friendship Is Born
When Okiku departs from her first victim’s home, she finds herself drawn to a mysterious boy named Tarquin who is covered in striking and unsettling tattoos.
A malevolent spirit is attached to Tarquin. He has coped with self-deprecating humor and by avoiding close relationships, for fear that friends may come to harm. Okiku becomes committed to protecting Tarquin, coming to his aid numerous times. As their unusual friendship progresses, mysteries surrounding Tark’s life and bad fortune are gradually sprinkled throughout the storyline.
The scares and intensity increase as the story moves from the States to Japan. Many of the common Japanese horror tropes are represented as both Okiku and the evil entity surrounding Tark fight for him. From a mother in an asylum, ghostly faces hidden by lank, dripping hair, and mirrors that are better left not looked into, Chupeco ensures that none of her readers will be sleeping easily after the book’s conclusion.
Folklore Meets Young Adult Horror In This Spooky Book
Unlike the cheap scare tactics used in many thriller movies, Chupeco’s descriptions slowly fester over time, continuing to lurk in the reader’s mind long after the book is finished. The storyline is paced in such a way that it is akin to building a tower of blocks, with each chapter smoothly blending into and contributing to the next.
Chupeco has flawlessly blended folklore with the young adult horror genre, ultimately giving us an intriguing take on the classic ghost story and representing one of the best horror books ever.
Book Set In Shakespearean Time
Submission by the author, Amber, of Amber Elby
The Makings Of The Perfect Spooky Halloween Read
Candy? Well, it’s BYO, so check your cupboards.
What more could you want for spooky books for YA loving adults? How about a dash of Shakespeare, too?
Cauldron’s Bubble is a fast-paced adventure novel that integrates stories from Bard’s plays with original characters in a new, fantastical world.
Join Alda, a teenage orphan who just learned that she may or may not be a witch, as she is whisked into a magical realm of sorcery, spirits, and nymphs. On the other side of the world, a cabin boy called Dreng helps a mysterious Danish prince escape from pirates before being shipwrecked on an enchanted island. The two come together to combat an evil sorcerer and save their realities, and themselves.
Classic Literature Paired With Modern-Day Tastes
Although Cauldron’s Bubble can be read and enjoyed by young adults and teenagers, it is edgy and nuanced enough to satisfy more mature tastes looking for good horror books to read that are much lighter. Along the way, readers will meet characters from Macbeth, Hamlet, and The Tempest, so new and established Shakespeare fans will have something to enjoy.
Set During The Zombie Apocalypse
Submission from the author, Melissa Woods, of Melissa Woods
Walking Dead Nightmares
A creak of floorboards.
Violet opened her eyes just in time to see a woman lunge. She was wearing a white lace nightie, offset slightly by the gaping wound in her stomach. Violet held out her arms, pushing back with all her strength. She barely had any left, but it was just enough to keep the zombie at bay.
The woman’s eyes were almost white, and her teeth snapped in Violet’s face. Though she had no idea what caused this or why it was happening, she knew this thing wanted to kill her.
Her arms were hurting, but she continued to fight. The zombie moved her head suddenly, sinking her teeth into Violet’s left arm, just below the elbow. She screamed as teeth tore through her skin.
It was worse than any pain she’d ever experienced—sharp and brutal. She kicked out, catching the woman in the stomach and pushing her back. Violet ran, clutching her bleeding arm against her chest. She had no idea where the back door was, so she ran up the stairs. When she saw the bathroom up ahead, she threw herself inside.
The door slammed shut, and Violet saw a man click the lock into place as she dropped onto the floor by the sink. He was normal, not dead like the others. There was a hammering at the wood, rattling the frame. The man grabbed a towel, hurriedly wrapping Violet’s arm. She wanted to thank him, but her eyes felt heavy. Within seconds, everything was black.
Adolescence Is Already Hard Enough Without A Killer Secret
Alive? is the story of Violet, a seventeen-year-old girl who has the misfortune of getting bitten on day one of the zombie apocalypse. Luckily for Violet, she doesn’t die. Unluckily, she’s picked up a few little quirks along the way. Like the inability to get a decent tan, and a somewhat troubling hunger for human flesh.
Alive? is about more than just zombies (though there are plenty of those!), it’s about friendship, survival, and different ways to hide the corpse of the guy you just accidentally ate. Violet, known to everyone she meets as clumsy, unfit, and constantly unlucky, must navigate her way through a world that’s slowly falling to pieces around her, while attempting to hide her terrible secret from her closest friends.
The debut YA novel from Melissa Woods blends zombie horror, post-apocalyptic survival, and a dash of humor, in a story that will leave you wondering; “How long would I last in the zompocalypse?”
Spooky Graphic Novels To Read
Book Set In Victorian London
Submission by Jella of Asiana Circus
A Lesser-Known Moore Work
You probably know or heard Moore’s name because of his acclaimed and highly successful Watchmen series that he did for DC Comics. While From Hell is a lesser-known work of his, it’s still widely acclaimed and has quickly become one of the most beloved horror comics of all time.
From Hell tells a fictionalized version of the Jack the Ripper story in a gripping and daunting style. It takes place in a slum of Victorian London. If you love the legend of the Jack the Ripper, you are probably going to fall in love with this comic’s beautiful design and dark and deep thoughts.
Victorian England Meets Jack the Ripper
You will find yourself wandering up and down the cobbled stoned streets of London while getting to know the various social classes of Victorian England.
The story also delivers some intriguing answers that we all always wondered about the Jack the Ripper murders. One of the most important is perhaps “Why did he do it?”.
This work also gets a tad bit political and makes you think about the worth of all our fellow humans and how we choose who is worthy. Moore truly creates a classic that has messages that are more relevant and important than they were back in the Victorian era.
Which Of These Spooky Books For Adults Will You Read Next?
Quite frankly, I scared myself by just compiling this list. Note that I wrote about unicorns and zombies. I cannot handle anything more terrifying than a nasty rainbow pony. I would never be able to fall asleep at night.
Which of these do you consider to be the best horror books ever? Which will you add to your spooky book TBR pile?
I also hope that you find new authors, bloggers, and friends to follow online. Thank you to all those who contributed.
Happy horror book reading!