RPL Recommends: The Scariest Books We’ve Ever Read

Posted about 2 years ago by Jennifer Deuell

This Halloween, we’ve set out to bring you the scariest books we’ve ever read…and you know we read a lot of books!  The following is a list of books which are guaranteed to send shivers down your spine, give you goosebumps, keep you up late, and have you jumping at every little bump in the night.  Proceed if you dare!

Our director, Scott Firestine, recommends ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.  King is arguably the horror master of literature and ‘Salem’s Lot is one of his first works.  Scott read this one in his youth and it still remains one of his favorite scary reads.  

Louis from our Ginter Park Branch recommends another Stephen King classic, Pet Sematary. For a more recent horror story, he suggests The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones.  This one’s described as “A violent tale of vengeance, justice, and generational trauma from a prolific horror tinkerer” and is not for the faint of heart.

Jonah from Main and Nicole from East End Branch both recommend the House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski. Nicole describes the book as being “told in two different styles and POVs, one of them by an extremely unreliable narrator who slowly starts to unravel as the novel progresses–and it’s done so well that it makes you feel like you’re unraveling right along with him.”  If two library staff pick this as the scariest, then it’s a must read!

Our Technology Coordinator Nan is a fan of The Omen by David Seltzer.  This book tells the tale of a young boy who bears the mark of the beast and causes terror and carnage all around him.  Nan says “the horror is very understated but it is spine chilling.”

Heather Montgomery, the Branch Manager at Broad Rock, also remembers a creepy read from her childhood. She read Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence as a kid. She says “We were still in the Cold War and what happened when children survived a nuclear war terrified me!”

Stephen King makes his appearance on this list with his novel It. Kerry, the Branch Manager at Ginter Park says that as a child she had an irrational fear of clowns. Later, when she read It, she developed a fear of storm drains too! Perhaps, they should start a Stephen King fan club over at Ginter Park…

Adam, the Branch Manager at East End, recommends a non-traditional scary read. He writes, “Jack London’s To Build A Fire was definitely terrifying to kid growing up in the long winters of northern MN.” This short story collection will have you ready to learn ALL the survival skills.

Beth at the Main Library says this short but powerful book is one of her scariest reads. The Bad Room by Christopher Cook Gilmore is the story of a father-son trip through the NJ Pine Barrens. When the little boy chases his puppy into the woods, a psychotic doctor captures him and, well, you can guess the rest. Beth also says she loves the ’80’s pop culture referenced throughout the book.

Meg from the Main Library says Ira Levin is her favorite horror writer. She couldn’t pick just one and recommends you read all of his books, but she says “This Perfect Day is the one that had the most impact on me.  It’s not scary, but chilling.  It came out in 1970.  Computers rule everything – what you wear, eat, do for fun – even your career and mate are chosen by computer.  Everyone looks pretty much the same and dies at 62.  What was scary is that at first this way of life seemed kind of … good.” But computers taking over our lives can get real scary, real fast.

Mary C. at the Main Library has timely, eerily realistic suggestion. The End of October by Lawrence Wright was researched and written in 2017 but bares shocking resemblance to today’s circumstances. The story centers around a pandemic and Mary says it is truly disturbing!

We have another Stephen Graham Jones recommendation! Robyn at our Hull Street Branch says Mapping the Interior “packs quite the punch in a short novella. Both ghosts and gore. The dread of a place and horrifying legacy.” Horror + Indigenous Culture = 100% must read!

Joe and Deanna at the Main Library both recommend the classic The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This is not your typical haunted house story. And, if you love the book, you can watch the series on Netflix too!

Wow, that was a long list! I hope you gotten to this point in the post and added at least one book to your TBR list. Before I wrap this up, I wanted to add just one more recommendation…my own. But, instead of writing about it, I’d like to tell you about it (especially if you’re a teen). Check out our brand new podcast, “BeTWEEN the Lines: A Podcast for Middle Schoolers” in which myself, school librarian Barbara Haas, and a special teen guest talk all about our favorite spooky reads just for middle schoolers.


Jennifer Deuell

Jenn Deuell is a Librarian with Richmond Public Library. She is a native of Fredericksburg, VA but has lived in Richmond for long enough that she now considers it home. She loves all things YA and can usually be found curled up at home with a good book (rainy day or not). Her other hobbies include traveling and spending time with family, including her husband, daughter Hannah, and two rescued pit bulls. For YA reading recommendations from Jenn, visit Bookologist.

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