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20 Frightening and Terrifying Books That Are Not Categorized as Horror

20 Frightening and Terrifying Books That Are Not Categorized as Horror

Some may argue that nothing is scarier than a horror book compared to the movie. Words encapsulate emotions and carry a limitless world of expressions. Even though the author is feeding you the story via the words in the book, how you visualise the scenario is completely up to you and your imagination. The best horror stories share a wide range of emotions – anger, hatred, fear, love, surprise, terror, repulsion, empathy and more trapped between the pages. Alternatively, and with proper supervision of course, ghost stories can be entertaining, as they help ​​children experience courage and learn about different cultures. Sharing ghost stories can also help kids grow braver as they face their fears when reading a book or listening to a ghost story in a safe environment.

Below you’ll find 20 genuinely terrifying books that penetrates your soul in many unexpected directions. There’s a reason why they’re not commonly shelved as horror, perhaps to keep that element of surprise to catch you off guard and kick you off your chair. To make it even more interesting, we’ve included responses from real readers from the very active “Books” Sub-Reddit. If you love horror and are searching for new titles to read, this post will definitely help you. Happy reading!

“TIL Hot Zone is non-fiction. I read it in middle school and all I remember is that it was a gripping, terrifying read. I would have assumed it was fiction. Guess it’s time to re-read it. There’s a passage in The Road when the man and son reach the coast and he describes the blackness of the night sky. It’s simultaneously one of the bleakest and most beautiful things I’ve ever read.”

– thevoiceofzeke

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

“I still shudder years later thinking of that book. I can’t remember any details but no way am I going to read it again, even if there is a sequel in which things get better. That book still fucks me up. It starts out like contact and then turns into on of the most stressful, harrowing books I’ve read this side of The Road.”

– japaneseknotweed & I_Punch_Ghosts_AMA

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

“I guess a common theme shared between The Road and 1984 is, “don’t trust humans”, which scares me a lot because I was raised to trust humans despite my better judgement. My instinct says to never trust humans, and it’s taken a lifetime to behave in direct opposition to those instincts. Both books sent that message home stronger than I could have imagined, and since I read 1984 immediately after The Road, it was a one-two-punch of horror straight to my coping mechanisms.”

– HenkeTime

1984 by George Orwell

“Mesmerizing yet terrifying book. It freaked me out in its own way.”

– LouGabe

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

“Joe Bonham, a young American soldier serving in World War I, awakens in a hospital bed after being caught in the blast of an exploding artillery shell. He gradually realizes that he has lost his arms, legs, and all of his face (including his eyes, ears, teeth, and tongue), but that his mind functions perfectly, leaving him a prisoner in his own body.”

– YoreWelcome

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

“The Road is one of those great books that I never want to read again. I wouldn’t call it horror, just exhaustingly bleak and despairing. It’s bleak, but, for me, hopeful. Even in all the darkness and all that evil, the fire carried on. The Road is the most fucking depressing thing in the history of depressing things. There is literally no hope for anything but to die horribly. One of my all time favorite books. I become an emotional wreck every time I read it, but I find it hopeful, in the end. It’s not Cormac McCarthy’s best book (that’s Blood Meridian, without a doubt) but it’s my favorite. The raw emotion and the love between father and son is just beautiful.”

– Various people

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

“Life sucks and then you die, alone, confused and without ever having the slightest conception of the great big WHY.”

– Stephen

The Trial by Franz Kafka

“Billed as Science Fiction, also really creepy.”

– Zotfripper

Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons

“Whether you believe it or not, it’s extremely well-written and the only book that I ever really felt fear while reading. The movie was silly. The book isn’t. That book scared the everloving shit out of me as a young teen and sparked my lifelong fear of little grey men. Thanks Streiber.”

– hippydipster & izzidora

Communion by Whitley Streiber

“Hands down the most terrifying book I have, and most likely will, ever read. So far it was the only book I’ve read so terrifying I had to put it down multiple times while reading it as a result.”

– shinymaxx

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

“It really was a cool concept on storytelling and the afterlife. It was their final journey, for this is the city of the dead. A striking new novel about death, life, and the mysterious place in between.”

– septag0n

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

“I wouldn’t call it scary, but I’d call it horrifying. The casual acceptance and nonchalance towards something utterly reprehensible that still has twisted positive benefits is sick.”

– wyndh4m

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

“Emilio is kidnapped, drugged and put on the ship, Giordano Bruno, en-route back to Rakhat. They want him to continue his quest for the meaning, if any, of God’s plan; what he doesn’t know is what awaits him when he returns there.”

– PDCRead

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

“I’m not sure where I got the idea that this book was going to be funny, but I went into it with that expectation, and my expectation was wrong. It is darkly humorous, but more in a reflection of all the worst aspects of corporate culture with business speak crammed into motivational pamphlets, stupid dress codes, lectures about company loyalty and working hard, all mixed in with a background of elder gods influencing the background to make everything weirdly off.”

– Baal Of

Résumé with Monsters by William Browning Spencer

“Lolita always struck me as a horror, written from the monsters point of view. I still maintain that Humbert’s fucking with you. He says in the beginning that he used to troll psychiatrists by making up stories about things he’d done and thought to make himself seem heinous and diseased…and then he starts telling us about things he’s done and thought that make him seem heinous and diseased.”

– Anonymous

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

“Billed as Science Fiction, also really creepy.”

– Zotfripper

Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons

“It’s a chilling, terrifying, tragically wrenching story. I read it years ago as an older teenager and don’t think I quite made sense of the plot, but I still remember so many of its haunting details. it’s literally a ghost story and features bread-and-butter horror-story-haunting – and everything besides that (extremely central) plot point is absolutely terrifying and graphic.”

– bettasareamazing & grumpyt

Beloved by Toni Morrison

“Unwind was genuinely terrifying, especially for a YA book. The first-hand account of the guy getting harvested alive at the end was almost too much for me. Someone made a short film based on that scene and I couldn’t get more than 20 seconds into it before freaking out.”

– goshdangittoheck

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

“If they think The Road is horror, they need to read this book. The scary part is that although the story is fictional many of those things really happened in exactly that way.”

– Aman_Fasil

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

“The Terror (2007) (by Dan Simmons) crosses the bridge between horror and historical fiction. It is a fictionalized account of Captain John Franklin’s expedition to find the Northwest Passage. The two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, become icebound the first winter, and the captains and crew struggle to survive while being stalked across an Arctic landscape by a monster.”

– Suitmonster

The Terror by Dan Simmons

“It actually plays with the classical horror genre, mixing body and psychological horror. Fairly quick and easy read but packed full of emotion. I thought it was a children’s book before I picked it up. It was terrifying for me. Conclusion: Definitely NOT a children’s book.”

– TheWordShaker & supernoonafangirl

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman