The 10 Scariest Books You’ve Read

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Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Chief of Staff

Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

The hot weather has had us in the mood for chilling thrills, so in our latest reader poll, we asked about the scariest books you’ve ever read. We know it’s tough to choose, so we allowed each reader to choose up to three books. 931 intrepid souls took the survey, sharing 507 unique titles (see the full data set here). One thing’s for sure: y’all sure do love Stephen King.

Without further ado, the top 10 books that will make you sleep with all the lights on.

  1. The Shining by Stephen King (199 votes)
  2. It by Stephen King (176)
  • Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (102)
  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (99)
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King (94)
  • House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski (78)
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (74)
  • The Stand by Stephen King (41)
  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (39)
  • Bird Box by Joshua Malerman (36)

    Coupla thoughts on the results: Stephen King is a powerhouse prolific writer with several decades under his belt, a proven track record, and oodles of marketing dollars behind him. That he dominates here is no surprise. Bird Box is a relatively new release, but it’s a house favorite that we crowed about (see what I did there) over and over last year, so it’s fun to see that readers were listening and getting super creeped out with us. If there was going to be just one woman on this list, it was bound to be Shirley Jackson, but ohhhhh how I wish she weren’t alone.

    If the results of this poll are any indication, those of us who love scary stories would do well to diversify the authors we choose. Know of great horror stories by women, people of color, or queer writers? Share your recs in the comments!


    Check out other Riot polls:

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    20 Books You Pretend to Have Read

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    20 Books You Love to Give as Gifts

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    The Book Riot 2013 Reading Habits Survey

    The Great TBR Poll: Results

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    The Great Book Budget Poll

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    The Great 2014 Reading Habits Survey Results

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