Who cares if it’s not Halloween anymore? The shortening days and chilly weather is a recipe for the perfect spooky novel, and these are the books to start with if you want to hide under your duvet from now until Spring...

Photo credit: Unsplash

Photo credit: Unsplash

It by Stephen King (1986)

While Stephen King is probably the most famous horror writer in history, his work does tend to be a little divisive. His 17th novel (under his own name) It, however, is largely agreed to be his most terrifying book - if a little on the long side.

A group of children are stalked by a shape-shifting entity which predominantly manifests as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. It’s not the first time It has preyed on the children of the town, but these kids want to make sure it’s the last.

The novel was, of course, adapted into an iconic two-part miniseries starring Tim Curry in 1990, before returning again in Andy Muschietti’s 2017 feature film (and its 2019 follow-up).

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (2007)

Real name Joe King, this author is actually that son of Stephen King, so it’s unsurprising that a talent for the macabre runs in the family.

In his debut novel, a rock ‘n’ roll star’s fascination for spooky memorabilia finds him purchasing a haunted funeral suit which is hellbent on killing him. But there’s more to this haunting than first meets the eye. 

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)

So terrifying that audiences were reported to have fainted and vomited in the movie theatre upon the film’s release in 1973, it’s literary counterpart two years earlier is equally as chilling - if not more so

The premise is that of an 11-year-old girl named Regan MacNeil becoming possessed by a demon, after which two Jesuit priests are brought in to exorcise her. Parts of the story were inspired by documented exorcisms, which is what makes it all the more frightening.

Intensity by Dean Koontz (1995)

This home invasion thriller follows a young woman who is kidnapped by a brutal killer with a torture obsession. She discovers he has another victim locked away, and it soon becomes apparent that she could be the only one to stop him and save his hostage.

It’s difficult to pick just one Dean Koontz novel among the scariest books we’ve ever read, but this high tension story is so nail-bitingly thrilling from start to finish, and few things are scarier in real life than someone bursting into your home, killing everyone there and abducting you.

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (1986)

The novel on which the Hellraiser film series is based, it follows the exploits of a group of sadomasochistic extradimensional beings called the Cenobites, who subject whoever summons them (via a mysterious puzzle box) to a brutal torturous experience. 

It’s every bit as gory as Barker’s horror anthologies The Books of Blood, and one of the reasons the movie is so good is because it was written and directed by the author himself.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

A classic gothic horror which is largely responsible for lending us the 20th century idea of a haunted house. In this tale of a paranormal investigator who rents a spooky house with a number of guests, Jackson slowly sows the seeds of terror with ghosts, poltergeists and possessions of all kinds. If you’re into a slow-burning classic horror, this is the ultimate ghost story.

MORE: The Haunting of Hill House: What are the main differences between the book and series?

The critically acclaimed 2018 Netflix series of the same is loosely based on the story, with two film adaptations entitled The Haunting being released in 1963 and 1999 respectively. 

The Rats by James Herbert (1974)

Under no circumstances is this book to be read by anyone with a deathly phobia of our rodent friends, unless of course they’re a glutton for punishment. The debut novel of award-winning British horror writer James Herbert, The Rats is one of the more grisly books you’ll ever read.

As you could probably guess, it’s about oversized rats terrorising a city and feasting on its occupants. Naturally, the world wasn’t quite ready for such graphic mutilation and death at the time of publication, and critics attacked the book for being, well, too scary.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk