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What Was The Scariest BOOK You've Ever Read and How Did It Affect Your Life And Reading Habit?

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Edited: May 2, 2014, 3:06am Top

The word, "scariest" as most of the book readers would linked to ghost stories,true or false. To me, it is more than ghosts and ghost stories, it can be something "unpleasant" and "disturbing" and in the first place, I should had not read the book at all.

Wars are ugly and bad to mankind. Innocents lives lost and individual's and country's assets damaged and lost forever.

I have read a book,The Knights of Bushido by Lord Russell of Liverpool , this book reflects the ugly visible results of war and tortures inflicted on POWs
and civilians giving no chances to defend themselves from afflictions and death.

Mankind have never learned at all from wars and their consequences and end results, indeed peace is hard to maintain in the world.

Do you have read any book to share your experience?

May 2, 2014, 8:57am Top

The Hillside Stranglers by O'Brian is the most disturbing book I ever read. I was told that Helter Skelter and In Cold Blood would be just as bad but I did not think so. Honestly Capote is just to good a writer for that book to be really disturbing.

I have read a lot of war history but None of it is, in my opinion as bad as true crime. The pair of sociopaths "playing" together in The Hillside Stranglers is the worst. Murder mysteries for the most part don't come close. Mark Billingham and Giles Blunt come closest to being as disturbing as true crime as does Raveling by Peter Moore Smith.

There is one other book, fiction, that I read because of the hyperbolic introduction that called it the best suspense story ever written. I would have ignored the hyperbole except it was Alfred Hitchcock that wrote it. Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household is worth the effort to hunt down.

May 2, 2014, 6:14pm Top

Christine by Stephen King. No idea why this one scared the bejeebers out of me...I read The Stand, Cujo, even The Shining with no side effects. Haven't read a King book since.

Edited: May 2, 2014, 10:21pm Top

Another good ghost fiction by Stephen King ,Carrie, there is a re-make of the movie version, release 2013?

Edited: May 2, 2014, 10:28pm Top

For me, the scariest book that I completed was Rosemary's Baby - I could not sleep that night! I never made it past chapter 3 of The Exorcist, so that was probably scarier. As a result, I rarely read the horror genre. I was a part-time Maine resident and admire Steven King as a person, but I've limited myself to one or two of his milder works.

Edited: May 3, 2014, 12:26pm Top

Ten Disturbing Novels:


Are you daring enough to read one of these books ? I have not read any of these books.

May 4, 2014, 6:49pm Top

6: I've read two of them:

Ellison's Invisible Man was pretty dark, though I don't remember much of it.

I didn't find Atwood's Handmaid's Tale convincing enough to be any more than an interesting allegory.

To answer your original question, probably

John Hersey's Hiroshima

Orwell's 1984

Itzhak Arad's Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka : the Operation Reinhard death camps

May 4, 2014, 8:56pm Top

I never read it, but I'd guess Going Rogue is pretty damn scary.

May 5, 2014, 7:32am Top

>3 theexiledlibrarian:, interesting! I got my scare from The Shining, none else by King before or since. I guess different things trigger different fears.

May 20, 2014, 4:31pm Top

The creepiest book I've read in a long time would be Coraline by Neil Gaiman. It's a kids book, but that doesn't make it less spooky.

May 20, 2014, 4:40pm Top

When I was a teenager, I found my grandmother dead at her house. She was always kind and loving, but I occasionally have nightmares that she has come back from the dead and is evil. So one Quarter when I was in college, my buddy, with whom I shared an apartment, got an internship out of state. So I decide to read Pet Sematary by Stephen King. Big mistake, as the nightmares came at me full force during that dark, cold winter, alone in my basement apartment!

May 20, 2014, 5:16pm Top

When I was in college I went back to school one day early and was the only person in the dorm. Wrong time to read The Shining, let me tell you!

The non-fiction book, The Hot Zone was another very scary read for me.

May 20, 2014, 6:03pm Top

Atlas Shrugged. I read the cliff notes, became a billionaire, and went on strike.

May 20, 2014, 8:02pm Top

Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen - dark, dark, dark. Another book that still chills me is The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski; and of course Dracula. Stella by Andrew Vachss, or any of his Burke series novels are disturbing also.

May 20, 2014, 8:03pm Top

The Shining by Stephen King did it for me. I read it the summer my parents moved to Texas and I stayed behind to finish a summer job. It used to freak me out so much to sit in a big, empty house by myself and read The Shining that I used to call friends and make them hang on the line while I finished reading the scariest parts.

May 20, 2014, 8:26pm Top

By far the scariest book I ever read was 1984, which I read in 1973. I was well aware it was a portrayal of communism, having already read Animal Farm earlier in high school. The brutality and mental oppressiveness of that totalitarian dictatorship was all the more chilling it existed in the USSR and still exists in North Korea today.

May 20, 2014, 8:47pm Top

The Shining by Stephen King was the scariest book I've ever read with Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box coming in second.

May 20, 2014, 8:51pm Top

Without a doubt Odd's End by Tim Wynne-Jones. Not a drop of blood is shed nor even a finger laid, yet if you don't finish it by bedtime, you'll be double-checking all the doors and windows.

Edited: May 20, 2014, 9:18pm Top

>12 mamzel:
The Hot Zone was a really good book. Scary, but a lot of bravery as well.

>13 nemoman:
LOL! 'scariest literary pablum, ever.

May 21, 2014, 12:26am Top

The Outlaw Sea (non-fiction) by William Langewiesche.

Edited: May 21, 2014, 12:45am Top

Scariest in the classic sense, Eyes of the Killer Robot. It's more creepy and claustrophobic than scary, I guess, and it's a children's novel but I don't reread it after dark.

Most disturbing... Rape of Nanking or Hungry Ghosts (about the famine after Mao's Great Leap Forward). Or Beyond Human Endurance (about Ravensbruck).

May 21, 2014, 2:40am Top

House of Leaves did it for me - the way the book is written physically ramps up the tension. When tension's building, the print on the page may be smaller taking time to get through and then as things get more frantic, just a few words are presented on a page so you're literally turning page after page quickly as something is happening to the characters.

May 21, 2014, 3:00am Top

The book that depressed me/affected me in that way the most was 1984 by George Orwell. It is just so bleak, and I had never read anything like it before.

The 'scariest' book I've ever read was The Killing Room by John Manning. Somehow, I managed to not realize it was a horror book until after I had bought it and begun reading. I don't think it would scare me now, but it really got me at the time.

When I was probably like, 14, and overly sheltered, I took out Elske by Cynthia Voight from my town library. I didn't get very far into it before I had to put it down and freak out.

May 21, 2014, 3:34am Top

I can't say a book has ever scared me, but I'll list three choices in reverse order.

Dark Angel, by Graham Masterson had a couple of scenes that made me feel uneasy, possibly because the opening involves a killer going after a family. Another book to involve children and I've always remembered is one I read many years ago -- Let's go Play at the Adam's by Mendal M.Johnson. It's about a group of children who torture their babysitter. I mentioned it to someone else who had read it who said the book never bothered her at all. I don't know if it would have the same affect on me now, but I read it around my late teens/early twenties -- that time when so many of use were earning money by...babysitting. I had a particular friend who, had she read it, would probably never have looked after children again.

The most disturbing book I've read is probably Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z Brite. It's about two serial killers, and although the gory details are bad enough, it works more on a psychological level. When first written the book was considered too extreme and her publishers turned it down. Maybe not the book to start with if you've never read this author.

May 21, 2014, 3:51am Top

Jack Ketchum, Jack Ketchum, Jack Ketchum - it doesn't really matter which one of his books you read; because while you're reading it, it's the most terrifying thing you've ever read.

Edited: May 21, 2014, 3:55am Top

And, in response to SharonMariaBidwell: I also find the final chapter of Exquisite Corpse very disturbing - the imagery is so stark in its finality!

May 21, 2014, 4:08am Top

Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" is part ghost story & part psychological thriller, blended so thoroughly even a careful reader may wonder what is reality & what is mental illness.
When I was in 6th grade, I plucked a volume of Reader's Digest Condensed Books from a living room shelf. Never steal from your parents. This could happen to you.
Just the first paragraph frightened me, It's also the last paragraph. "...whatever walks there walks alone."
But then there's the something knocking on bedroom doors with booms as loud as cannonballs. (never to be seen or described) The something that isn't there that held Eleanor's hand. (never to be seen or described) The something in the garden that makes Theo shriek, "Run!" (never to be seen or described)
Jackson knew the secret of creating elemental terror in her v/i/c/t/i/m/s readers. Less is more. Limit description & the reader's imagination will do the rest.
I didn't sleep for two nights. I pressed my back into one corner of my bedroom and spent the hours staring at the door, hoping that it didn't boom. Staring at each wall in turn, hoping that wallpaper wouldn't appear & then begin sobbing & gibbering to itself...
The Haunting of Hill House
p.s. After reading to book, you may wish to view the film. Be sure it's the 1950-60's(?) B&W version!

May 21, 2014, 4:49am Top

Despite reading horror stories all throughout my childhood, only this one really freaked me out.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner (https://www.librarything.com/work/22790)- even the cover, (in popular covers, bottom right of the 6 - with the 2 children standing in front of the wizard with the 2 goblins creatures looking over them) disturbed me quite a bit.

The book was also set near my childhood home, and I found it very claustrophic in places - children lost in abandoned mine workings with the creatures (from the cover) looking for them, and also Adults trying to abduct them in places IIRC.

May 21, 2014, 4:59am Top

I'm going for old-fashioned "Don't want to turn out the light" stuff rather than the horrors of modern life or future totalitarian regimes, so, yup - "The Haunting of Hill House" is a jolly scarey read*, as are several of Mr King's books (not the recent ones, tooo much fat with the meat). I'm surprised that nobody's mentioned H.P. Lovecraft's stories - okay, they're ridiculous...and yet...disquieting.

For me, the Emperor of Terror (can't say 'King') is still M.R. James. His stories are fusty, his style sometimes ponderous but this almost adds to the believability of the stories. You really don't want to blow out the candle after reading 'Lost Hearts' or 'The Tractate Middoth'...then something else does!

*and the b & W film is vastly scarier than the remake. Gory is not the same as scary.

May 21, 2014, 6:20am Top

There seems to be a few King references here... me too. 'It' disturbed and scared me more than anything else I have ever read. It was years before I could pick up another Stephen King book. Well done, big fella!

May 21, 2014, 7:01am Top

Surprised not to see A Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, mentioned yet. For a frightening short story, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is awesome. Both are filled with the chilling question, "insanity or evil?"

May 21, 2014, 7:40am Top

The Shining by Stephen King is still the scariest book I've ever read. I would have to shut the book occasionally because I was scared to read further, but would eventually open it and start reading again because I needed to finishing it and see what happened.

Edited: May 21, 2014, 8:00am Top

I'd forgotten about a fantasy series I read in school where something completely incidental happens (so it isn't a spoiler) but was awfully creepy. In the first book The Dark Tide a character is imprisoned in a completely dark cell and has the sense that a *something* is outside the cell, reaching silently towards her with its long arms. But whenever the guards come with their torches there's nothing there. In a later book the dungeon is searched thoroughly for this thing that was sensed, but nothing is ever found. So you never find out if it was real. As a young teen, I found that a very hard thing to shake out of my brain.

Edited: May 21, 2014, 8:19am Top

Several of the scariest books I've read have already been mentioned. The Haunting of Hill House, The Shining, and Heart-Shaped Box definitely make my list of scariest books for the way they work relentlessly on your brain, building the fear gradually to a fever pitch. I would also add Rosemary's Baby to that list, which really captures a sense of growing paranoia and helplessness.

Some books have scenes so frightening I'll never forget them. Larry leaving New York via the Lincoln Tunnel in The Stand ranks as the single scariest moment in fiction for me. Mike going into the chimney at the ruins of the Kitchener Ironworks in It. Kondo Tatsumi escaping from his apartment high-rise in World War Z. I was reading that part in bed and actually thought I heard zombies coming up the stairs!

And a book that I just found terrifying from beginning to end was The War of the Worlds. Having seen the various movie versions, I wasn't prepared for how harrowing the book actually was. The most frightening aspect of this novel is that it lays bare how truly powerless we are. Modern horror has to work hard to be this terrifying.

May 21, 2014, 9:08am Top

When I was in high school, I read Bram Stoker's Dracula. I couldn't sleep at night after that. To this day, I remember it as the scariest book I've read.

May 21, 2014, 9:39am Top

Joseph Sheridan LeFanu's Carmilla scared me, as did Stephen King's Salem's Lot.

May 21, 2014, 9:42am Top

I think the scariest book I read was The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. I read it right after it came out. While reading the book I kept thinking, this is fiction...no wait, it's non-fiction...no it can't be.

I also was particularly terrified after reading Ice Bound by Dean Koontz. It was the first thing I ever read of his. I'm not sure what scared me so much; but I couldn't sleep after reading it!

May 21, 2014, 9:57am Top

Probably my scariest/most disturbing book was Orson Scott Card's "Lost Boys". Not the zombie one! Intriguing characters and plot development. Was pretty surprised at the ending, but sucked in from the very beginning. Then of course, "Flowers in the Attic," is a classic!

May 21, 2014, 12:31pm Top

Yes! Coraline WAS scary. I'd say it is one of the top 3 scariest books I've ever read.

May 21, 2014, 12:33pm Top

For me, Helter Skelter was the scariest book I've ever read. I read it just after I'd moved to LA and I was living by myself in the SF Valley. I kept checking the locks and I slept with the lights on. Not sure I will ever read The Hillside Stranglers, if it is even more scary than Helter Skelter!

May 21, 2014, 12:47pm Top

I read Stephen Kings IT in middle school I think that was a little to early. Also around the same time in the 80's I read this "true" story about an alien space ship crash (sorry do not remember the name) about a man who found pieces of a "real" spaceship. I did not sleep after the sun went down for awhile.

Edited: May 21, 2014, 1:43pm Top

>41 THCForPain:, maybe Communion: A True Story? We might be about the same age, I remember just reading the jacket as a kid and thinking I didn't dare.

May 21, 2014, 1:58pm Top

I haven't found Stephen King and his ilk to be all that "scary". Too far from the real world. The scariest book I ever read was a police procedural by Dorothy Uhnak. I'm sorry I can't remember which title it was. The story felt real to me, the crime quite horrible and the ending ambiguous. It left me feeling that this awful criminal might be wandering the streets right now.

May 21, 2014, 3:24pm Top

Alex Kimmell's Chorus of Wolves. I dread the family camping trip. (How the heck am I going to be able to go to the bathroom alone in the woods?!) Or just about anything outside at night now. Deliciously scary.

May 21, 2014, 3:25pm Top

The Four o'clock Murders was one of the most disturbing books I've read in a long time. It was a true story and the ending is just creepy.

May 21, 2014, 5:15pm Top

The Shining by Stephen King. I didn't believe that I could get scared by a book, but that did it. Really didn't like reading it when I was alone in the house.

Edited: May 21, 2014, 8:47pm Top

Lost Boys (Card) I didn't find scary, but it did make me cry. Pet Semetary I found disturbing and it's the one King book I have never read a second time. I think The Stand was the scariest. The first time I read it (the original release) I did it in one 17 hour sitting cause I had to finish it before I could sleep.

May 21, 2014, 9:16pm Top

>21 mabith:

Great suggestions

May 22, 2014, 12:40am Top

For me A cry in the night by marry Higgins clarke is very disturbing.

May 22, 2014, 9:33am Top

I've read many a true crime book, but nothing scared me like Ann Rule's The Stranger Beside Me. Ted Bundy was so evil and walked around everyday in plain sight, and nobody recognized him for who he really was. I've never really gotten over this book!!

May 22, 2014, 9:49am Top

24, 25, 26...
Yes, Jack Ketchum is the probably the most disturbing author. Exquisite Corpse is also towards the top of my list. Others I find disturbing: Mo Hayder's first two books Birdman and The Treatment (after those I think she went down hill). Greg F. Gifune's Children of Chaos. And yes, I think disturbing is the scariest kind of scary.

May 22, 2014, 10:35am Top

#27 mentioned Shirley Jackson and I thought of her story The Lottery. I read it as a kid in middle school and it did not bother me at all. I knew grown up would never behave that way. If I read it for the first time today, having seen what grown ups can do it might scare the life out of me.

May 22, 2014, 1:20pm Top

I have read a great amount of scary book but nothing scared me as Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier. It was my first year college and I remember reading during a cold and stormy Night. it was so disturbing to a point of having trouble to sleep......

May 22, 2014, 10:12pm Top

Carrie by Stephen King, one of the best horror novels by King besides Christine ; The

Shining; Firestarter , all being made into movies.

May 23, 2014, 4:54pm Top

For me the most disturbing was Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek". I had found the book left on an airplane I was on and started reading it during the flight. I found the shifting from description of idyllic encounters with nature to gruesome events so unsettling that I stopped reading the book -- in fact, I could barely bring myself to even touch the book, that's how "creeped out" I was. I left the book in the ladies room of the airport when I arrived.

May 24, 2014, 12:38am Top

The Price of Inequality, by Joseph Stiglitz.

May 24, 2014, 11:29am Top

>55 Harriet8: Is that the one where the school children kept a cocoon in a jar? I don't remember which Annie Dillard book contained that, but the story has stayed with me for years.

May 24, 2014, 11:58am Top

>55 Harriet8:

Wow. I'd never thought I'd see that lyrical, sometimes boring, The Pilgrim of Tinker Creek mentioned on this thread!

Reminds me of when, last weekend, I noted some minor commotion in the garden leaf litter. A small garter snake had grabbed the leg of an enormous toad. The toad was easily 4X the diameter of the snake's head, but slowly but surely, over the course of 10 minutes, that enormous frog was swallowed alive. I found it amazing, and was grateful that garter snake would survive well-fed, for a few more days. My wife was totally grossed out by my sequence of 5 cell phone photos.

Stay indoors, Harriet.

My idea of nature horror stories, include Six Degrees, Hubbert's Peak, Red Sky at Morning and The Long Emergency.

May 25, 2014, 6:53am Top

The summer of 1963 I read Stoker's Dracula finishing it at about 2:00 am. I had just turned eleven years old and there was nothing between our house and a pre Civil War cemetery but an access road and an easement. It totaled less than 30 yards of open ground. My mantra "There's no such thing as vampires." turned into "There haven't been any invited in." before I could sleep. The house was only 2 months old, so I found that much more comforting than logic. I have found other things more disgusting, but nothing actually frightened me like that did.

Edited: May 27, 2014, 10:02pm Top

I was afraid to view the movie version acted by Christopher Lee, a leading role.

Released in 1958, British production.

May 26, 2014, 1:43pm Top

My immediately most scary book was Helter Skelter. However, some of the environmental books I've read are more scary over the long-term.

May 27, 2014, 8:26pm Top

>60 kvk:

"I had just turned eleven years old.."

You have my vote for scariest. It's all about context.

May 28, 2014, 7:57am Top

The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

May 28, 2014, 8:39am Top

I read a book on Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer dubbed as Milwaukee Cannibal.

The incidents described in the book were really "disturbing".

I could not remember the book title, it was so bad to read it again and I threw it away.

May 28, 2014, 12:47pm Top

One of Stephen King's more recent books which I read avidly whilst creeped out, but in the long run helped me see alot more about the harsh reality of today -remains of the past (racism in this case) was Bag of bones.
("Desperation" being one of his more gruesome books in my opinion.)
I've read alot of his books and all of them left strong impressions.
Skilfully horrendous Clive Barker with his short stories "the Books of blood" stuck with me in a good way, I will look out for his books,
but the most horrifically detailed in all the wrong, disturbing places was James Herbert's "Domain". Dark, post-apocalyptic, stomache-wrenchingly nasty & I don't even have a phobia of rats. I saw reliance on describing the raw brutalities with detail in order to invoke stress within his cliché filled world.

May 28, 2014, 1:08pm Top

Bret Easton Ellis gave me that feeling when I was reading "American psycho". The slow process of Bateman getting more brutal whilst showing his capitalistic, fashion & money dependant society all together was scary. The fact that anyone could be a criminal was a daunting thought.

May 28, 2014, 2:53pm Top

May 28, 2014, 3:20pm Top

>68 jnwelch: I read the first few (very few) pages of Red Dragon before I quit. It was more than I could handle.

May 28, 2014, 3:57pm Top

>69 TooBusyReading: You were wise, TBR. It only got scarier from there.

May 28, 2014, 10:08pm Top

>68 jnwelch: +1 for Red Dragon!!

Edited: May 28, 2014, 10:27pm Top

Who do think make into the list of greatest horror story writers ?


Top 10 Horror Stories:


Have you came across and read any of the horror stories mentioned in the list?

Edited: Jun 2, 2014, 6:27pm Top

The absolutely scariest book I ever read was The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It came out in 1959, and I was only 5 years old then. So I'm not sure when I read it, but I had to have been around 12. And I had an active imagination. And a sheltered life! The book was kept with my parents' books in an alcove off my bedroom. I used to sneak out with a flashlight and read it sitting beside all the books. I'd become terrified and creep back to bed until I could work up my courage to read some more. I read it several times - trying to get it under control, I suppose. I wouldn't read it now on a bet. Would probably be too tame. But THEN...

Jun 3, 2014, 6:37am Top

The Pit and the Pendulumby Edgar Allan Poe. The imagery was so vivid I can still see it. Nothing King has written could match that.

Edited: Jun 3, 2014, 9:24am Top

Will you consider Edgar Allan Poe as a grandmaster of British's horror stories writer ?

The best of his horror stories are found in Tales of Mystery and Imagination .

Jun 3, 2014, 11:11am Top

This description actually looks quite interesting. Not the typical "someone broke into my house" or "a ghost is coming to get me". I've been looking for a slightly disturbing or creepy, possibly high anticipation book. Thanks for the suggestion.

Jun 3, 2014, 11:54am Top

>75 razzamajazz:, Edgar Allan Poe was American, not British.

Jun 3, 2014, 12:40pm Top


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