Do you love being scared? You’re not alone! It turns out people all around the world love reading horror fiction and getting super scared. If you’re an English-speaking horror fanatic, you have probably read your fair share of scary books set in the United States, Canada, and the UK. But what about the rest of the world? There are so many other countries with other horror stories to share, and those stories are influenced by their different cultures, folk tales, lifestyles, traditions…you get the idea. As you start to travel the world with your horror literature, the scares are just gonna hit different. In the best way possible.
But where to start with horror fiction from around the world? There are so many great stories out there from so many different places, and of course, this list is not an exhaustive one. But here are 10 of the best horror novels from around the world. These scary stories will entertain you, make you think, and will truly terrify. What more could you ask for with a horror novel? Here are some of my absolute favorites, and I am hoping one of your new favorites is included on this list as well!
The Hole by Hye-young Pyun (South Korea)
This unsettling psychological horror novel begins with Ogi waking up from a coma following a car accident that killed his wife and left him paralyzed and disfigured. Now his mother-in-law is in charge of his care. But as she mourns the loss of her only child, she often neglects to care for Ogi and leaves him alone in his bed. The only thing Ogi has left to remember his wife is her garden in their front yard. So when Ogi sees his mother in law digging up the garden his wife had spent so much time cultivating, he is confused. And his mother-in-law, digging bigger and bigger holes in the garden, insists she’s simply finishing what her daughter started.
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Sweden)
Let the Right One In has already been adapted into two films and has recently been reimagined for a TV series. But if you haven’t read the book, you’re in for a treat. Let the Right One In is set in 1981 in a quiet suburb in Stockholm, Sweden called Blackeberg. Twelve-year-old Oskar is dealing with relentless bullying at his school. But when a new girl named Elie moves in next door, Oskar thinks he might have finally found a friend and an ally. There’s just a few things that seem off about Elie, though. Like she only comes out a night. And suddenly people in Blackeberg are being murdered…
Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (Argentina)
A lot of readers find Tender is the Flesh deeply disturbing. How so? You’ll have to read and find out. Marco’s marriage has fallen apart and his father is suffering from dementia. Meanwhile, the world around him is changing rapidly. An infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous, and so the government has sanctioned the consumption of human meat — or “special meat.” Personal contact with those who have been raised to be eaten is strictly forbidden. But when Marcos comes into contact with a live specimen, he feels drawn to her, and he can’t help but start treating her like a human being.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina)
Here’s another unforgettable psychological horror novel from Argentina that’s really going to get into your head. As a young woman named Amanda lies dying in a hospital clinic in the middle of nowhere, she’s joined by a boy named David. David is not Amanda’s child, and at first she’s not sure who he is or what she’s doing in the hospital. But together, she and David pull together a haunting story of eco horror and families torn apart.
The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike (Japan)
Why read a haunted house story when you can have a whole haunted apartment complex? The Graveyard Apartment tells the story of a young family who moves into a new apartment overlooking a graveyard. It probably comes as no surprise to you, dear horror novel reader, that an apartment surrounded by so many dead bodies is haunted. But if you think you know where this book is going to go from here, guess again. The evils that are unleashed on this unsuspecting family are anything but predictable.
The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke (China)
What would you do if you looked outside in the middle of the night to see all of your neighbors walking around in a dream state, carrying on as if it was day time? That’s what happens to 14-year-old Li Niannian in The Day the Sun Died. One night, Niannian witnesses everyone out in the streets and fields in the dead of night. In their dreamwalking states, Niannian’s neighbors are able to act out all of the whims and desires they suppress during waking hours. Niannian watches in horror as the community quickly devolves around him. Now it’s up to him and his family to save everyone from themselves.
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Netherlands)
Black Spring is a town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman who walks the streets and appears in people’s homes with her eyes and her mouth sewn shut. To keep the curse of the Black Rock Witch from spreading, the town has been put under quarantine. But when the teenagers in town start to grow tired of all the strict regulations, they decide to go viral with the haunting. Little do they know how their actions will affect the fate of their town.
Hadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre (Haiti)
The story of Hadriana in All My Dreams begins during Carnival in 1938 in the Haitian village of Jacmel. Hadriana, a beautiful young French woman, is preparing to marry a well-to-do Haitian boy from a prominent family. Everyone seems excited about the upcoming nuptials, but on the morning of the wedding, everything goes terribly wrong. Hadriana drinks a potion that makes her collapse at the altar, and she comes back to life as a zombie.
I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (Iceland)
If you love a good haunting, here’s one from Iceland you won’t want to miss. Set in a small village in the Icelandic Westfjords, I Remember You tells the story of three friends who are renovating an old, rundown house. But what starts off as an exciting home project gets dark fast. Something in that house does not want them there, and it’s not afraid to make its feelings known. Elsewhere, a young doctor investigates the disturbing death of an elderly woman. Eventually, their stories collide in horrifying ways.
Uzumaki by Junji Ito (Japan)
If you’re touring horror from around the world, you have to include at least one Junji Ito graphic novel. Try Uzumaki, set in Kurouzu-cho, a small town encased in fog that is totally haunted. But Kurouzu-cho isn’t haunted by a singular spirit. Rather, the town is haunted by a pattern: UZUMAKI, the spiral. Wherever the spiral is seen, strange, supernatural events occur.
Now that you’ve scared your way round the world, are you still looking for more frights this Halloween season and beyond? Have we got recommendations for you! Here are 8 horror novels about grief. Or check out these horror books about body possession and body sharing. Or, you can try these slasher books that will leave you begging for more. Stay scared, friends!