The best ‘something is out to get you’ books

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved reading (and writing) books where the theme is ‘something wicked this way comes.’ Maybe it’s something supernatural. Maybe the mistakes of your past are coming back to bite you. Maybe it’s just you on your own against powerful, bad people and seemingly overwhelming odds. You’re not being paranoid... they really are out to get you. It’s a fight to the death... and you can’t rule out that it won’t be yours! I love the immersive fear that these books generate. Every book should have mystery and a sense of menace (maybe not ‘self-help’ books). Here are my five best ‘something is out to get you’ stories.


I wrote...

A Class Apart

By Stephen Henning,

Book cover of A Class Apart

What is my book about?

The first book in the Class Heroes series. Teenage twins Samantha and James Blake are on their way home from a school trip when their bus explodes. They wake up in a hospital, inexplicably possessing unusual abilities — but they aren’t the only ones. Trapped in the hospital, someone or something is out to get them. Patients and hospital staff start disappearing. Can Samantha and James get out alive?

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of And Then There Were None

Stephen Henning Why did I love this book?

You did something bad... didn’t you? You’ve never talked about it. The past is another country. You thought you’d got away with it. And then, one day, you get invited to a big party on an exclusive island, only to be told on arrival by your unseen host that you, and all the other guests, are going to pay for your respective crimes with your lives. For me, this is Christie’s best book. Written with an economy of words and an overwhelming amount of tension.  From another writer, ten characters getting bumped off one by one could get tedious. From Christie, each death adds to the mystery. It keeps you guessing until the last page.

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked And Then There Were None as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Agatha Christie's world-famous mystery thriller, reissued with a striking new cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers.

Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. Over dinner, a record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. That evening, former reckless driver Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide.

The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but…


Book cover of The Day of the Triffids

Stephen Henning Why did I love this book?

The creeping dread. The sense of loneliness. This book immerses you in a fight for survival. After something so devastating as 99% of the population going blind and the release of a deadly disease, how cruel then that the survivors must also cope with being hunted by the ‘fruits’ of humanity’s own creation, namely the Triffids (GM crops on steroids).

The triffids are a brilliant ‘monster.’ The ubiquitous plants were largely ignored and taken for granted, like weeds on the roadside. But once humanity is defenceless, their true menace becomes apparent. The global catastrophe provides the perfect conditions for these strange things to flourish. 

This is an amazing, still relevant book about the fragility of society and how ‘progress’ can come back to bite you on the bottom.

By John Wyndham,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Day of the Triffids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Bill Masen wakes up in his hospital bed, he has reason to be grateful for the bandages that covered his eyes the night before. For he finds a population rendered blind and helpless by the spectacular meteor shower that filled the night sky, the evening before. But his relief is short-lived as he realises that a newly-blinded population is now at the mercy of the Triffids.

Once, the Triffids were farmed for their oil, their uncanny ability to move and their carnivorous habits well controlled by their human keepers. But now, with humans so vulnerable, they are a potent…


Book cover of Don’t Look Now and Other Stories

Stephen Henning Why did I love this book?

Don’t read on your own, late at night, in a darkened room, and definitely not while listening to opera. Your own demons, your past fears, your anguish, your needs... you see what you think you see, what you want to see, but be careful what you wish for. 

This is a supremely chilling short story. For me, a lot of supernatural tales don’t have dramatically satisfying endings, but this one delivers a proper punch. Everything about the setup, the unfolding of the plot (a couple is in Venice, trying to get over the death of their daughter) and the resolution is a masterpiece of storytelling. Could John, our protagonist, have changed the outcome? Or was it all predestined? I’m shivering at the thought...

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Don’t Look Now and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

John and Laura have come to Venice to try and escape the pain of their young daughter's death. But when they encounter two old women who claim to have second sight, they find that instead of laying their ghosts to rest they become caught up in a train of increasingly strange and violent events. The four other haunting, evocative stories in this volume also explore deep fears and longings, secrets and desires: a lonely teacher who investigates a mysterious American couple, a young woman confronting her father's past, a party of pilgrims who meet disaster in Jerusalem and a scientist…


Book cover of Frankenstein

Stephen Henning Why did I love this book?

It’s out to get you... but it is kind of your fault because after all, you created it, and you turned your back on your most precious responsibility.

Once again, it's the theme of being the architect of your own downfall that makes this book so interesting. Victor Frankenstein creates a monster, first in a literal sense and then figuratively by abandoning his ‘child.’

What unfolds is a series of the cleverest, most plausible plot twists in literary history, with the monster and Victor in turn being both hunter and hunted — by each other and society. Rather than being a book about heroes, this is a story where everyone — and by implication, us — are the villains.

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'That rare story to pass from literature into myth' The New York Times

Mary Shelley's chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley on Lake Geneva. The story of Victor Frankenstein who, obsessed with creating life itself, plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, but whose botched creature sets out to destroy his maker, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity. Based on the third…


Book cover of The Hunger Games

Stephen Henning Why did I love this book?

Yes, the duel to the death has been done many times before in science fiction (I’m thinking of Kirk facing the Gorn in the Star Trek episode Arena, and Blake fighting Travis in the woods in Blake’s 7 episode Duel) but there is something immersive in reading Katniss’s first-hand account of how she takes on all comers in a battle ground where everyone is out to get you! I love these ‘how would you fare in the same situation’ books. Would I have survived? Probably not if I was up against Katniss — although I definitely wouldn’t have gone near a super-hornets’ nest. That’s, like, a cartoon way to die.

By Suzanne Collins,

Why should I read it?

43 authors picked The Hunger Games as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before - and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever...


You might also like...

Conditions are Different After Dark

By Owen W. Knight,

Book cover of Conditions are Different After Dark

Owen W. Knight Author Of The Visitors

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Visionary Compassionate Imaginative Conspiracist Apophenia (or apophenic)

Owen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In 1662, a man is wrongly executed for signing the death warrant of Charles I. Awaiting execution, he asks to speak with a priest, to whom he declares a curse on the village that betrayed him. The priest responds with a counter-curse, leaving just one option to nullify it.

Over four centuries later, Faith and James move to the country to start a new life and a family. They discover their village lives under the curse uttered by the hanged man. Could their arrival be connected? They fear their choice of new home is no coincidence. Unexplained events hint at threats or warnings to leave. They become convinced the village remains cursed despite their friends’ denials. Who can they trust, and who are potential enemies?

Conditions are Different After Dark

By Owen W. Knight,

What is this book about?

In 1660, a man is wrongly executed for signing the death warrant of Charles I. While awaiting execution, he asks to speak with a priest, to whom he declares a curse on the village that betrayed him. The priest responds with a counter-curse, leaving just one option to nullify it.
Over four centuries later, Faith and James move to the country to start a new life and a family. They learn that their village lives under the curse uttered by the hanged man. Could their arrival be connected?
Faith and James fear that their choice of a new home is…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, millionaires, and monsters?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about survival, millionaires, and monsters.

Survival Explore 190 books about survival
Millionaires Explore 9 books about millionaires
Monsters Explore 153 books about monsters