10 Horror Books WAY Scarier Than the Films

If you think Halloween movies are scary, think again. Read these at your own risk of nightmares!

Elizabeth Hoyt

October 05, 2015

10 Horror Books WAY Scarier Than the Films 10 Horror Books WAY Scarier Than the Films

If you think Halloween movies are scary, think again.

Take a moment to peruse the horror section of your local bookshop (okay, Amazon) and you’ll find that many of the genre’s best went on to become some of the scariest horror flicks around.

And, if you think the movie adaptations are scary, just imagine the intensity of your fears when your imagination is able to run wild after being led in a dark direction.

The following books (listed in no particular order) are sure to scare, terrify and thrill even the bravest of souls. Don’t come crying to us in the middle of the night – you’ve been warned.

1. Psycho

Book: Psycho (1959) by Robert Bloch

Film Adaptation(s): Psycho (1960); Psycho (1998)

Inspired by the true story of Ed Gein, a psychotic murderer that led a dual life, Bloch uses suspense and psychological thrills to scare the daylights out of readers. This short read consists of more internal dialogue than the film, giving us more of that glimpse into Norman Bates that the film makes us crave.

Everyone knows the story of Norman Bates, but do you know the story behind the story? It’s another story of Hollywood taking advantage of the little guy: Bloch received less than $10,000 for the screen rights to Psycho, unaware that Alfred Hitchcock was the person purchasing them. The author was not involved in making the film, either.

Do you think he thought about it – albeit ironically – in the shower?

2. Let the Right One In / Let Me In

Book: Let the Right One In/Let Me In (2004) by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Film Adaptation(s): Let the Right One In (2008); Let Me In (2010)

Swedish novelist, Lindqvist, creates a macabre tale that’s well-written and much darker than both of its film adaptations. The novel includes a few details that take the story from eerie to bone chilling – we won’t spoil them because you should read it (and because we’d like to forget).

3. The Silence of the Lambs

Book: The Silence of the Lambs (1988) by Thomas Harris

Film Adaptation(s): The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This is the story of Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee, embarking on a mission to gain information from an infamous psychiatrist-turned-psychopath. Here we meet Dr. Hannibal Lecter, dubbed “The Cannibal,” because he eats parts of his victims. As their relationship progress, Starling struggles to maintain professionalism, focus and drive but Lecter has more fun tormenting her than helping with the investigation. The intensity while reading is thrilling, to say the least.

4. Rosemary’s Baby

Book: Rosemary’s Baby (1967) by Ira Levin

Film Adaptation(s): Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

As the story goes, Rosemary becomes pregnant and it might be a demon’s baby. It sounds much cheesier than it is, as Levin creates terror by piling on tension and manipulates ordinary events into disturbing happenstances that will leave the bravest of the brave awake for days on end.

5. Dracula

Book: Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker

Film Adaptation(s): Nosferatu (1922); Dracula (1931); Dracula (Horror of Dracula) (1958); Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

It’s been more than a century and we’re still hooked on vampires. Stoker’s Dracula started it all and from page to screen to stage, it seems that we can’t get enough. Mesmerized by the supernatural and the appeal of the unknown, readers will find Stoker’s original tale both compelling and horrifying.

6. Ring / The Ring

Book: Ring (1991) by Koji Suzuki

Film Adaptation(s): The Ring (2002)

Not quite the same as the films, the book (series – two books follow) is actually considered far more horrifying. There were a lot of differences between The Ring, the popular American horror film and the Japanese horror novel, Ring it was inspired by. The main (or most noticeable) difference is that the book’s main character is male, while the film’s is female.

One of Suzuki’s strengths is simplicity in the horrific. Critics already credit him as a great writer of classic horror novels and are one of the most famed Japanese horror novelists today. For any horror fan, this should be necessary read.

7. Don’t Look Now / The Birds

Book: Don’t Look Now: Selected Stories of Daphne du Maurier (2008 Publisher’s Release) by Daphne du Maurier

Film Adaptation(s):The Birds (1963); Don’t Look Now (1973)

Described as “chilling” and “psychologically astute,” du Maurier’s career transformed the twentieth century her novels and stories. She’s known for taking the mundane and spinning it into the stuff of nightmares. Through her short stories aren’t as well known, they are just as (if not more) frightening than her novels. You’ll most likely recognize her stories from Hitchcock’s film adaptations – he was a fan of her work.

8. The Shining

Book: The Shining (1977) by Stephen King

Film Adaptation(s): The Shining (1980); The Shining (1997; Miniseries)

Stephen King really knows what he’s doing with this whole “horror” business. No, seriously. In The Shining, for example, he’s created the perfect spine-chilling scenario with all of the right elements: old hotel, harsh weather, main character with a whole lot of baggage. You’d think that would be enough, but then, King, genius-of-horror that he is, throws a five-year-old in the mix.

The movie is terrifying, yes. But the novel is able to go into back stories and details that the film is forced to skimp on due to time constraints. It’s definitely worth a read, if you’re into the whole wetting your pants thing.

9. The Exorcist

Book: The Exorcist (1971) by William Peter Blatty

Film Adaptation(s): The Exorcist (1973)

Both petrifying and controversial (especially at the time it was first published), The Exorcist has the unique distinction of holding the audience captive through a plot that causes a reader to examine faith, fear and religion. That, combined with relatable characters and an afflicted child cause readers (or viewers) to abandon sense all together because it just seems so real.

10. Frankenstein

Book: Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley

Film Adaptation(s)*: Frankenstein (1910; Short Film); Frankenstein (1931); The Curse of Frankenstein (1957); The Evil of Frankenstein (1964); Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969); Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994); Frankenstein’s Master (2013; Short Film)

It’s one of those stories you think you’ve known your entire life, yet you’ve probably heard the story inaccurately your entire life (like most of the world). Forget everything you think you know about the myth of “Frankenstein,” who – by the way – wasn’t even the monster and just read the book.

Shelley began the novel when she had just turned 18 years old. Centuries later, it is still one of the most read novels of our time. That, alone, warrants a read.

*Note: Frankenstein is featured in a wide variety of films, those listed above are a selection. Check out this full list of films featuring Frankenstein’s monster.



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