1. It by Stephen King
I have heard so many good and absolutely terrifying things about this book. Seven children are terrorised by an eponymous being, who exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. Are you feeling slightly terrified right now? Because I am. With the whole clown craze seeping through the US and the UK right now, IT seems like a very relevant choice.
2. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Four seekers arrive at Hill House and begin to cope with horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers – and soon it will choose one of them to make its own. Considered one of the best ghost stories written in the 20th century, why would I not want to pick this up? Having previously read one of Jackson’s short stories, I can already tell you now that she knows how to send a chill down your spine in just a matter of pages.
3. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
This has been on my list for a long, long time. Patrick Bateman: a serial killer and Manhattan businessman. American Psycho follows his descent into madness, his graphic retelling of the gory murders he seems to revel in and his glorification of vapid consumerist culture. It may not be the most scariest book on the list but it would definitely rack up the points for being the most disturbing.
4. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Another Shirley Jackson novel because she is the queen of Gothic horror. Influencing the likes of Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, she really isn’t an author you should miss or disregard. So if you haven’t read anything by Jackson then I highly recommend you do. Described as “her greatest book … at once whimsical and harrowing, a miniaturist’s charmingly detailed fantasy sketched inside a mausoleum … Through depths and depths and bloodwarm depths we fall, until the surface is only an eerie gleam high above, nearly forgotten; and the deeper we sink, the deeper we want to go”. A master of the macabre, I am itching to pick this book up and read is asap.
5. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Already earning its place in the America lexicon, The Stepford Wives tells the tale of a town where behind its idyllic facade lies a terrible secret — a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.A psychological suspense, satire, horror and science fiction genre bending read all rolled into one that embarks on the dark side of the American Male.
6. The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
I love love love love love Edgar Allan Poe. I loved his writing so much I ended up doing my dissertation on his work, and ever since then I have been steadily making my way through everything he has ever written. The Murders in the Rue Morgue is the next short story on the list. Recognised as the first modern detective story, The Murders in Rue Morgue was written at a time when crime was at the forefront in people’s minds and explores the brutal murder of two women but at the crime scene a hair is found that does not appear to be human.
7. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
The book that launched the Gothic genre. Inspired by Walpole’s fascination with medieval history and artefacts, The Castle of Otranto follows Manfred, the lord of the castle, as he seeks to avert an ancient prophecy by marrying his dead son’s betrothed, Isabella, to produce another male heir. As the novel progresses and Manfred’s machinations become more vile and duplicitous, the castle seemingly becomes haunted. This is a must read for one of my favourite literary periods.
8. The Mysteries of Udulpho by Ann Radcliffe
I’ve previously read and loved Radcliffe’s A Sicilian Romance and I’ve been itching to get the time to read another of her novels ever since my degree. The Mysteries of Udolpho follows the fortunes of Emily St. Aubert, who suffers, among other misadventures, the death of her father, supernatural terrors in a gloomy castle and the machinations of an Italian brigand.
9. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
One of the first mystery novels ever written, widely regarded as the first in the genre of “sensation novels” and often included in the top 100 greatest novels of all time, my old lecturer could do nothing but rave about how excellent and important this book is to the Gothic genre and its time period. The Woman in White pursues questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, Walter Hartright becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco.
10. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
My other main man that I ended up doing my dissertation on. Hawthorne had a penchant for writing about death, sin, faith and the eternal life so The House of the Seven Gables is going to be no different. Exciting! Built over an unquiet grave, the House of the Seven Gables carries a dying man’s curse that blights the lives of its residents for over two centuries. Hawthorned is said to have crafted this family drama of evil, revenge, and resolution as a microcosm of Salem’s own history as in idealistic society corrupted by greed and pride.