Horror Novels Not by Stephen King

Once upon a time I was an English major going for a BFA in Creative Writing. In all of my classes, I had the same interaction with different people at least once.

They’d ask me what I like to write, I’d say horror, and they’d ask “Oh, big Stephen King fan, eh?” or “Like Stephen King?”

My answer was always, “No, actually. Not at all.”

I don’t dislike the King, I just think he’s...horror for basic bitches?

No, but seriously, I just think there are so many incredible writers out there that are going completely unnoticed in his shadow. Occasionally I’d get a “Dean Koontz, then?” “No.” Once in awhile - “Lovecraft?”, “Yeah, you’re getting somewhere now.”

I no longer write fiction. College and illness crushed my soul, and now I’m really into dogs, Overwatch, and consuming extreme horror of all kinds. (Films are an entirely separate issue that, I believe will be addressed by Nova and I in an upcoming Horror Movie podcast.)

Without further ado, here’s a list of horror novels for those looking for something a bit different.

Penpal by Dathan Auerbach


This book was originally a creepypasta posted in /r/nosleep. I’m not cool enough to have read it then, but Nova is. It’s a story about a young boy with a mysterious Penpal. It’s gripping and incredibly disturbing. Hard to put down, and even harder to forget.

“Scariest book I’ve ever read.” - Nova

Seed by Ania Ahlborn


Looking for a great demonic possession story that doesn’t end in a successful Catholic exorcism? Look no further. While not a super original concept, it’s extremely well executed. Her writing is top notch and there’s plenty of scares to go around.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski


This is the scariest book I have ever read. It’s hard to even describe it. Multiple narrators, a bizarre format, and a framing story around the core narrative.

The basic premise - an award winning photo journalist thinks it’s time to settle down with his family. He begins to document their time together. Things start getting strange. Not typical horror genre strange - truly terrifyingly strange. You see, there’s something wrong with their house. An unexpected closet leads to parts of the house that are larger on the inside than the outside. Sometimes so large and dimensionally ever-changing that people go missing within it.

Also, just check out these pages:



If you’re looking for something harrowing, truly original, and just a touch romantic, this is your book.

Extra for experts - Already read this one? Looking for less of a commitment? Check out The Fifty Year Sword. A great one for Halloween, and easy to knock out in one sitting.

Audition by Ryu Murakami


No, not that Murakami. The other one. Many people already know this story. Its film adaptation is on countless horror film recommendation lists. It is a good film. I like it. It’s got nothin’ on the novel, though.

A scumbag movie maker holds auditions to find pretty girls to bang. This time he chose the wrong girl. A gripping mystery combined with some torture porn. There truly is nothing like a good piano wire amputation.

Goth by Otsuichi


(This is about the novel, not the manga.) A new favorite for me, and I really could gush over it for hours. It had me disturbed, grossed out, and at one point SOBBING in my bathtub.

It’s a series of vignettes surrounding two main characters. One is a sociopathic boy, and the other is a delightfully disturbed babe of a girl who is described as devastatingly beautiful and having the aura of Lydia Deetz. They’re obsessed with the macabre, which is the only thing tying them together. Each story is a gut punch in one way or another. Reminded me of Black Mirror or Channel Zero. Great stuff.

Come Closer by Sara Gran


Amanda dreams of a beautiful woman with sharp teeth on the beach of an ocean of blood. She’s hearing strange noises in her home, and doing things she cannot remember doing. These gaps in time and minor indiscretions (cussing at her boss, burning her husband with a cigarette) escalate until they are completely out of her control. Unique and page turning.

Ring by Koji Suzuki


Lastly, I'm not totally finished with this one, but I love it so far (I'm planning to be Sadako for Halloween) and Miramay recommended it to me. I think based on that, it deserves a spot on this list.

Everyone's seen The Ring, right? Horror purists might prefer Ringu. Either way, the book is quite different and, according to both Miramay and I, much better. If cursed video tapes, mysterious deaths, and scary Japanese ghost ladies are your thing, give this a go.