5 Actually Terrifying Books if You’re Sick of Holiday Spirit

It’s probably just nostalgia fumes leftover from childhood. Still, it seems like a little extra brightness imbues the world with cheer every December. Which – hear me out – makes it the perfect time to dig into horror that you’re usually too scaredy-cat to watch or read. It’s easier to shake off the unsettling feeling that comes from scary stuff if you’re listening to Christmas carols. Even the most seasonally ambitious Who in Whoville can get burned out on holiday spirit once in a while. If you’re feeling a little strung out on good cheer, curl up with one of these actually scary novels.

5 Actually Terrifying Books

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House of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski

Remember Poe? The alt-girl poster child who released two albums and then disappeared? Mark is her brother. Her second album, Haunted, is a soundtrack for his novel, including snippets of dialogue from the book. The book is terrifying and immersive, about a family who moves into a house that’s bigger on the inside than the outside.


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The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson

This classic horror story is a perennial favorite. You’re compelled to keep reading but are also terrified of what will happen on the next page. Four experts in the occult enter Hill House to investigate mysterious hauntings, and then, you know, hauntings happen.


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The Only Good Indians

Stephen Graham Jones

If there’s one thing I love, it’s adults who are literally haunted by the mistakes they made as teenagers. It seems to justify my own extreme anxiety about the past. The events of a hunting trip in their youth bind four friends together, and it’s a wild ride from there.


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The Ruins

Scott Smith

Travel horror really affects me, and I don’t think I’m alone. There’s something about ~bad stuff~ happening while you’re in a foreign place that makes it that much scarier. Two couples go on vacation in Mexico. When one of their relatives disappears, they go searching for him in the jungle.

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Gerald’s Game

Stephen King

You know there just had to be a Stephen King book on the list, but Gerald’s Game doesn’t get a lot of airtime (at least until Netflix adapted it for streaming), and it’s one of his scariest. A romantic weekend goes awry for a woman with the sudden death of her husband. King does what he does best, weaving together supernatural terrors with genuine fear until you can’t put the book down.


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