The best horror books to make you reconsider having kids

Kealan Patrick Burke Author Of Sour Candy
By Kealan Patrick Burke

The Books I Picked & Why

We Need to Talk about Kevin

By Lionel Shriver

Book cover of We Need to Talk about Kevin

Why this book?

Shriver’s novel is an astonishingly well-written and devastating book about every parent’s worst nightmare: the realization that your child is a killer. Topical and controversial, We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of the best books ever written about the gulf that can develop between a mother and child and how childhood discontent and teenage angst can foster catastrophic consequences. This one knocked the breath from my lungs, because there are no shambling monsters or undead nightmares here, just a very real horror that could happen to anyone.

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Baby Teeth

By Zoje Stage

Book cover of Baby Teeth

Why this book?

Stage’s wonderfully sinister novel documents the early years of a child who seems to have been born bad. The thrill in this one is the ever-escalating war between a precocious and seemingly sweet child and her anguished mother, who knows she’s being manipulated by her daughter, while the father remains oblivious to the horror. It’s unusual, and fun, to read a book in which we get to see things from the child’s perspective as she tries to drive her mother insane.

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The Midwich Cuckoos

By John Wyndham

Book cover of The Midwich Cuckoos

Why this book?

What’s worse than an evil child? Try a whole gang of alien telekinetic children who insinuate themselves into ordinary women’s wombs while they’re stricken unconscious. Wyndham’s sci-fi/horror book is a seminal classic and has been filmed several times, and it’s easy to see why. The destruction of a quiet (and rather uptight) British village at the hands of the coldly clinical children is terrifying fun, and the ending, in which the villagers attempt to defy their new overlords, is perfection.

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The Other

By Thomas Tryon

Book cover of The Other

Why this book?

Hugely influential since its publication in the 1970s, Tryon’s deliciously twisted book about a pair of identical twins who happen to have different birthdays and are left to their own (unusual) devices after their father dies, has often been imitated, but never equaled. Shocking upon its initial release, jaded readers may see the ending coming now, but that doesn’t detract from the sheer ingenuity of the horror leading up to it. A masterpiece of psychological terror.

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The Turn of the Screw

By Henry James

Book cover of The Turn of the Screw

Why this book?

Perhaps my favorite of the bunch, this Gothic horror tale sees a governess tormented by the children in her care, but are the children themselves evil or operating under the influence of something much darker? You’re likely very familiar with this wonderfully chilling tale, but it’s one that rewards rereading for its claustrophobic mood and skin-crawling reveals. And while it’s been adapted for the screen a number of times (most recently The Turning, and Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor), the best of them is still The Innocents (1961), which all these years later is still beautifully done and genuinely unsettling. But the book is where it all began, and that’s where I recommend starting.

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