The best spooky novels that will give you goosebumps

A.I. Winters Author Of Summoner of Sleep
By A.I. Winters

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 A.I. 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.

The books I picked & why

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By J. Sheridan Le Fanu,

Book cover of Carmilla

Why 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.

The White People and Other Weird Stories

By Arthur Machen,

Book cover of The White People and Other Weird Stories

Why 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.

Collected Ghost Stories

By M.R. James,

Book cover of Collected Ghost Stories

Why 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.

The Lurker at the Threshold

By H.P. Lovecraft,

Book cover of The Lurker at the Threshold

Why 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.

The Phantom of the Opera

By Gaston LeRoux, Lowell Bair (translator),

Book cover of The Phantom of the Opera

Why 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?

5 book lists we think you will like!

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