The best books with themes of theological horror

Who am I?

I was a fraternal twin, and my brother died about two hours after birth from a bilateral pulmonary hemorrhage. Knowing this as a child, I became fascinated with death, thinking of it as annihilation. Later, I feared my religion (Christianity) might be false and I would be annihilated at death. Thus I became fascinated by all things philosophical and theological, including theological horror. The works I like most center on themes of the truth of religion and life after death while avoiding preachiness and the trap of telling rather than showing.


I wrote...

Unpardonable Sin

By Michael Potts,

Book cover of Unpardonable Sin

What is my book about?

A teenage boy is terrorized by a being pretending to be a demon, but who is really a being of cosmic horror from outer space who came to earth millions of years ago. This entity seeks to torment the boy using the boy’s own dark desires to drive him into despair and suicide. The entity has succeeded in the past, but this boy tries to fight back.

With the help of his friends, an old man, and a mysterious manuscript, the boy must find a way to stop the entity from tormenting him before it is too late.

The books I picked & why

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The Taking

By Dean Koontz,

Book cover of The Taking

Why this book?

I highly recommend The Taking because it continues to haunt me with existential terror—I have never been as frightened by a horror novel in my life. The struggles of a young couple in the face of an apparent alien invasion are frightening enough, but the imagery is overwhelmingly frightening and powerful. When the reveal comes at the end, the surprise was almost too scary to bear, since it concerns entities in which I truly believe. This book lingers with me… and lingers…. and lingers….

The Taking

By Dean Koontz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Taking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

On the morning that marks the end of the world they have known, Molly and Neil Sloan awaken to the drumbeat of rain on their roof. A luminous silvery downpour is drenching their small California mountain town. It has haunted their sleep, invaded their dreams, and now, in the moody purple dawn, the young couple cannot shake the sense of something terribly wrong.

    As the hours pass, Molly and Neil listen to disturbing news of extreme weather phenomena across the globe. By nightfall, their little town loses all contact with the outside world. A thick…


Legion

By William Peter Blatty,

Book cover of Legion

Why this book?

I prefer this book to Blatty’s The Exorcist. The story of the return of a character from the original story who happened to be thoroughly dead, of demons more powerful than Pazuzu of The Exorcist, of the seemingly magical ability of the possessed to escape detection after murdering people lend a sense of creepy mystery to the book. Blatty is obsessed with the possibility of death being annihilation, and this is also my greatest fear. The level of sophistication in the discourse is exceptionally high for a horror novel, but this does not detract from the terror or the powerful climax of the book.

Legion

By William Peter Blatty,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Legion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of The Exorcist -- Legion, a classic tale of horror, is back in print!

A young boy is found horribly murdered in a mock crucifixion. Is the murderer the elderly woman who witnessed the crime? A neurologist who can no longer bear the pain life inflicts on its victims? A psychiatrist with a macabre sense of humor and a guilty secret? A mysterious mental patient, locked in silent isolation?

Lieutenant Kinderman follows a bewildering trail that links all these people, confronting a new enigma at every turn even as more murders surface. Why does each victim suffer…


Imaginary Friend

By Stephen Chbosky,

Book cover of Imaginary Friend

Why this book?

This is one of the books that made me wonder at the world. What begins as a conventional story of a boy haunted by an “imaginary friend” turns into something far more complex and frightening. For most of the novel I had no idea of a theological element in the book, so when that element hit it was a surprise, at least to me. The effect reminded me of Rudolf Otto’s description of meeting a supernatural being as “mysterious, tremendous, and fascinating”—I was pulled in even as I was drawn away.

Imaginary Friend

By Stephen Chbosky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Imaginary Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Astonishing ... Genius ... A masterpiece'
EMMA WATSON

'Haunting and thrilling'
JOHN GREEN, author of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

* * * * *

IMAGINE...
Leaving your house in the middle of the night.
Knowing your mother is doing her best, but she's just as scared as you.

IMAGINE...
Starting a new school, making friends.
Seeing how happy it makes your mother.
Hearing a voice, calling out to you.

IMAGINE...
Following the signs, into the woods.
Going missing for six days.
Remembering nothing about what happened.

IMAGINE...
Something that will change everything...
And having to save everyone you love.…


Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales

By Russell Kirk,

Book cover of Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales

Why this book?

As I read this collection of ghost stories, a sense of awe, wonder, and even joy, came into my mind and heart. These stories are better than those of M. R. James—the twist at the end of each story made me literally chill. Kirk’s world is a Christian world, but he is never preachy, focusing on the storyline. Like Poe, the single effect in the stories is stunning, surprising the reader with marvels and an expanded view of the world. 

Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales

By Russell Kirk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ancestral Shadows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Foreword by Vigen Guroian

Widely regarded as the founder of the modern conservative movement, Russell Kirk was a noted man of letters whose prodigious literary career included a syndicated newspaper column and a regular page in National Review. This volume demonstrates another compelling side of Kirk — the imaginative author who could communicate his powerful vision through the dramatic genre of the ghost story.

Ancestral Shadows collects nineteen of Kirk's best ghostly tales from periodicals and anthologies published throughout his life. In the tradition of Defoe, Stevenson, Hawthorne, Coleridge, Poe, and other master writers, these frightful stories conjure the creaks…


Revival

By Stephen King,

Book cover of Revival

Why this book?

As someone seeking proof of an afterlife to strengthen my faith, I have an affinity for the ex-preacher in this novel who uses electricity to contact the realm of the dead. Hating God and heartbroken over the death of his wife, he wants to find her in the afterlife, should there be one. The main character journeys from childhood to adulthood, meeting the preacher as a child and then, as an adult, he runs into the former preacher. He witnesses the final experiment that reveals a conclusion that is a complete surprise.

Revival

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Revival as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A spectacularly dark and electrifying novel about addiction, religion, music and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Charles Jacobs. Soon they forge a deep bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.

Decades later, Jamie is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Now an addict, he sees Jacobs again - a showman on stage, creating dazzling 'portraits in…


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