The best spooky novels that will give you goosebumps

Who am I?

I’m an American horror and fantasy writer, addicted to reading dark fiction and Gothic literature. I’ve always loved the spookier things in life and wrote my first horror story when I was nine. When not writing books, I love breaking a sweat in Jiu-Jitsu class, baking desserts, and traveling. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have.

I wrote...

Summoner of Sleep

By Amie Irene Winters,

Book cover of Summoner of Sleep

What is my book about?

Ryder Ashling’s world is turning upside down. He’s lost his job, wife, home, and now he’s doubting his sanity. Behind his descent are horrific nightmares of clocks so vivid that they follow him into the waking world. When he discovers his neighbor has been documenting his nightmares with scientific precision and leaving him vials of a drug called Summoner of Sleep, things get weirder.

His neighbor disappears and Ryder follows his trail to Marble Woods, a town erased from all maps. Now it’s whispered to be the home of marble-skinned demons, as well as the birthplace of Summoner of Sleep. It's here in Marble Woods that Ryder will come face-to-face with the darkest of family secrets and be forced to make a decision that will change the fate of the world.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Carmilla

Amie Irene Winters Why did I love this book?

Many people haven’t heard of Carmilla even though it predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by more than 20 years. This masterful Gothic novella is a pioneer book in two subjects: Vampires and lesbian literature. Because it’s such a hidden gem and groundbreaking book, it’s definitely one of my favorites. 

What I especially love about this book, and his writing in general, is the juxtaposition of the light and darkness of the characters, his poetic descriptions, and the haunting atmosphere of mystery and growing anxiety of evidence of the supernatural.

By J. Sheridan Le Fanu,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In an isolated castle deep in the Austrian forest, Laura leads a solitary life with only her ailing father for company. Until one moonlit night, a horse-drawn carriage crashes into view, carrying an unexpected guest - the beautiful Carmilla.

So begins a feverish friendship between Laura and her mysterious, entrancing companion. But as Carmilla becomes increasingly strange and volatile, prone to eerie nocturnal wanderings, Laura finds herself tormented by nightmares and growing weaker by the day...

Pre-dating Dracula by twenty-six years, Carmilla is the original vampire story, steeped in sexual tension and gothic romance.

Book cover of The White People and Other Weird Stories

Amie Irene Winters Why did I love this book?

I’ve always been influenced by the writing of H.P. Lovecraft and he remains one of my favorite authors of all time. One of my hobbies is researching authors that inspired my favorite authors. Enter Arthur Machen, in which Lovecraft stated, “Few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen…in which the elements of hidden horror and brooding fright attain an almost incomparable substance and realistic acuteness.” 

Machen is considered an influential writer of weird fiction and his work is undoubtedly strange, artistic, and just plain bizarre. It’s hard to pick my favorite short story from this collection as all of them can be compared to a beautiful, confusing nightmare…yet somehow you keep wanting more.

By Arthur Machen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The White People and Other Weird Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Machen's weird tales of the creepy and fantastic finally come to Penguin Classics. With an introduction from S.T. Joshi, editor of American Supernatural Tales, The White People and Other Weird Stories is the perfect introduction to the father of weird fiction. The title story "The White People" is an exercise in the bizarre leaving the reader disoriented and on edge. From the first page, Machen turns even fundamental truths upside-down, as his character Ambrose explains, "there have been those who have sounded the very depths of sin, who all their lives have never done an 'ill deed'" setting the stage…

Book cover of Collected Ghost Stories

Amie Irene Winters Why did I love this book?

When I first set out to write a horror novel, I wanted to read as many “scary” books as possible to get in the mindset. My goal was to indeed be scared for the enjoyment of it, but there was another reason behind it – to discover what exactly scared me and why. My goal was to then apply this to my book. M.R. James was recommended to me by a friend, and it certainly gave me the heebie-jeebies almost immediately. I especially love the story, "Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” Talk about creepy!

James has a delicate and masterful way of presenting the unknown in such a terrifying way that it cues your imagination to run rampant. Because he has a way with description and subtlety, every sound in your house becomes a ghost, every folded blanket, an ominous creature.

By M.R. James,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Collected Ghost Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

M.R. James is probably the finest ghost-story writer England has ever produced. These tales are not only classics of their genre, but are also superb examples of beautifully-paced understatement, convincing background and chilling terror.

As well as the preface, there is a fascinating tail-piece by M.R. James, 'Stories I Have Tried To Write', which accompanies these thirty tales. Among them are 'Casting the Runes', 'Oh, Whistle and I'll come to you, My Lad', 'The Tractate Middoth', 'The Ash Tree' and 'Canon Alberic's Scrapbook'.

'There are some authors one wishes one had never read in order to have the joy of…

Book cover of The Lurker at the Threshold

Amie Irene Winters Why did I love this book?

This list would not be complete if I did not include one of Lovecraft’s books, as he is a true icon of the macabre, having created his own pantheon of Gods. He inspired Anne Rice, Clive Barker, and Stephen King to name a few. His stories are unique, entrenching, groundbreaking, and stay embedded within you long after you’ve read them. Horror fans know him well, but to most people who aren’t familiar with his name, they actually inadvertently know about his work. John Carpenter’s The Thing is based on Lovecraft’s In the Mountains of Madness. The character Pennywise from It is based on Lovecraft’s ideas of “outer gods” and evil beings that exist in dimensions outside of normal human experience. 

The Lurker at the Threshold remains my favorite story because it encompasses everything Lovecraft wrote about – unspeakable revelations, fractured characters, and boundaries of space and time. To me, it is a true cornerstone of modern horror.

Book cover of The Phantom of the Opera

Amie Irene Winters Why did I love this book?

We all know the story, but not many people have read the book, which to me, was much spookier than the play. I absolutely adore the ambiance of this story. You feel ensconced in smoke and ghosts. You feel you’re standing right alongside the characters. It is undeniably spellbinding.

This classic, riveting story is a delight to read and has all the makings of a classic piece of literature - romance, obsession, suspense, and mystery. What more could you want?

By Gaston LeRoux, Lowell Bair (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Phantom of the Opera as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The novel from the early 20th century that inspired the Lon Chaney film and the hit musical. In the 1880s, in Paris, the Palais Garnier Opera House is believed haunted. One night, a young woman, Christine, is asked to sing in place of the Opera's leading soprano, who is ill; Christine's performance is a success, and she is recognized by the Vicomte Raoul, a childhood playmate and love. Raoul and the Phantom then battle for Christine's heart, as the Phantom demands more and more from her.

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The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

Book cover of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

Susan Rowland Author Of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Part-time celt Modern alchemist Myth hunter Jungian

Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A traditional mystery with a touch of cozy, The Alchemy Fire Murder is for those who like feisty women sleuths, Oxford Colleges, alchemy, strong characters, and real concerns like trafficking, wildfires, racism, and climate change. This book especially works for those fascinated by myth and witches in history. Read for a seventeenth-century alchemist in Connecticut, a lost alchemy scroll stuck in a California Museum, and a blizzard in Los Angeles.

Murder ensues when an intern is attacked after making a momentous discovery with Mary Wandwalker, an inexperienced detective commissioned to recover the treasure vital to the survival of her Oxford college, St Julian’s. When the young man’s brother is falsely accused, Mary has to step in.

The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

What is this book about?

Former Archivist Mary Wandwalker hates bringing bad news. Nevertheless, she confirms to her alma mater that their prized medieval alchemy scroll, is, in fact, a seventeenth century copy. She learns that the original vanished to colonial Connecticut with alchemist, Robert Le More. Later the genuine scroll surfaces in Los Angeles. Given that the authentic artifact is needed for her Oxford college to survive, retrieving it is essential.

Mary agrees to get the real scroll back as part of a commission for her three-person Enquiry Agency. However, tragedy strikes in Los Angeles. Before Mary can legally obtain the scroll, a young…

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