The best ghost story books

43 authors have picked their favorite books about ghost story and why they recommend each book.

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The Little Stranger

By Sarah Waters,

Book cover of The Little Stranger

I love this story of a country house and its family in decline, haunted by the creepy presence of the little stranger. The doctor whose mother once worked as a maid at Hundreds Hall does his best to support the eccentric family as the disturbances threaten to overwhelm them. In doing so, he becomes an increasingly intimate part of the mystery. 

Who am I?

I’ve loved horror books and films since I was a boy, staying up late at the weekend to watch all those Hammer classics. Ghost stories are a favourite and many of the best – except those where the ghosts are pure evil – are all about the mystery. What horror was visited on this spirit to make it return and haunt the living? The process of finding out must be elusive, suggestive, mysterious – and leave you that little bit less certain all is well when you go through the house switching off the lights last thing at night. All these books surely do that.

I wrote...

The Boy in the Burgundy Hood: A Ghost Story

By Steve Griffin,

Book cover of The Boy in the Burgundy Hood: A Ghost Story

What is my book about?

Alice Deaton can’t believe her luck when she lands a new post at a medieval English manor house. Mired in debt, the elderly owners have transferred their beloved Bramley to a heritage trust. Alice must prepare it for opening to the public in the spring, with the former owners relegated to a private wing. But when the ghosts start appearing - the woman with the wounded hand and the boy in the burgundy hood - Alice realises why her predecessor might have left the isolated house so soon.

As she peels back the layers of the mystery, the secrets Alice uncovers haunting Bramley’s heart will be dark - darker than she could ever have imagined...

20th Century Ghosts

By Joe Hill,

Book cover of 20th Century Ghosts

Besides the fact that Joe Hill is one of my favorite writers at the moment, this collection is 100% solid writing. Also, one of my favorite stories, “Pop Art,” is included in the book. To me, the sense of ambiguity, of using one otherworldly concept to stand for something so plain and simple, addressing current issues through your fiction are all present in that story.

Who am I?

I grew up reading short stories in the annual Reader’s Digest books my parents collected, so I’ve always liked the short form. Perhaps that is why I pursued it in college, wanting to know what made them work. So I took a lot of classes in college to do just that, to dissect stories to see what made them resonate with readers. And although I’ve been trying to push myself to write longer fiction, I’ll never be able to fully abandon the short fiction. I love a story you can read in a day and think about all night.

I wrote...

Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction

By Kenneth W. Cain,

Book cover of Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction

What is my book about?

In his youth, Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the same dark overtones in his writing. There's a little something for every reader.

These 25 short speculative stories represent the smoldering remains of a blaze, the fiery bits meant to ignite the mind with slow-burning imagery and smoky twists and turns. These are the very embers of Cain's soul. In this collection, Cain features stories of troubled men and women, both living and dead. Themes of loss and the afterlife take on many forms, as he explores the unknown.

The Grownup

By Gillian Flynn,

Book cover of The Grownup: A Story by the Author of Gone Girl

This is actually a short story rather than a novel, but there’s enough plot and character for a full novel. The story opens with this announcement: ‘I didn’t stop giving hand jobs because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it. For three years, I gave the best hand job in the tristate area.’ How can you not read on? The unnamed narrator is damaged, cynical, funny, and extremely unreliable. 

Who am I?

I’m a writer, and an enthusiastic reader, of crime fiction. And although I love dark fiction, I’ve realised that subtle humour is the spice that takes a book to the next level for me. Whether it’s a turn of phrase that makes me guiltily cheer along or an interaction with a partner or colleague that makes me wince with recognition, I love dark books that make me smile! These are some of my favourites – I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

I wrote...

The Devil's Dice

By Roz Watkins,

Book cover of The Devil's Dice

What is my book about?

Detective Inspector Meg Dalton is on a mission to reinvent herself in her new job in Derbyshire. When she's assigned a suspicious death, it's her chance to prove she's fully sane and functional again. But it's a sinister case – a poisoned corpse has been found in a cave under a centuries-old carving that seems to predict the man's death.

With talk of a curse extending to the times of the witch trials and a labyrinth where teenagers go to hang themselves, Meg's struggling to tell what's real or right. Is death always bad or can it be a gift, as her mother claims? Meg finds her own life at risk as she's torn between solving the case and keeping her family's darkest secrets.

The Turn of the Screw

By Henry James,

Book cover of The Turn of the Screw

This classic ghost story follows a young governess who takes up a position at a mysterious country house. She is soon plagued by the appearance of two figures she believes to be ghosts, and slowly, as past events are revealed, she understands that the threat to her and the children in her care is real. I loved the sense of growing threat and panic that is weaved into everyday events, even as our narrator becomes increasingly unreliable. I think this uncertainty adds to the fear factor – if we can’t trust our own perceptions, what can we trust? What might we do? That’s a terrifying thought. 

Who am I?

I’m a historical novelist and love gothic ghost stories that send a shiver down my spine and have me sleeping with the lights on. (I love the nightmares less!) As a history lover I’m drawn to historical settings and when I decided to write my own ghost story, it was natural to set it in the past. I revisited many of my favourite ghost stories while writing The Coffin Path and explored classics of the genre too. This list represents the best. Not only are they great scary stories, but they do what all brilliant historical novels should do and bring the past to life, even while raising the dead.

I wrote...

The Coffin Path

By Katherine Clements,

Book cover of The Coffin Path

What is my book about?

An eerie and compelling ghost story set in the dark wilds of the Yorkshire moors. For fans of The Witchfinder's Sister and The Silent Companions, this gothic tale will weave its way into your imagination and chill you to the bone.

Maybe you've heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there's something up here, something evil. Mercy Booth isn't afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can't see it yet.

Legend of the Storm Sneezer

By Kristiana Sfirlea,

Book cover of Legend of the Storm Sneezer

Storm Sneezer is targeted at a slightly younger demographic, perhaps more of an upper MG or lower YA read, but the world is so magical, the friendships so beautiful, and the voice so hilarious that I can’t imagine any fantasy-loving teen not laughing out loud and rooting for spunky protagonist Rose.

Thirteen-year-old Rose Skylar sneezed a magical storm cloud at birth, and it’s followed her around ever since. As a result, Rose is sent to Heartstone, an asylum for unstable magic located in a haunted forest whose trees have mysteriously turned to stone. Ghosts roaming the woods and a graveyard filled with empty graves hint at something darker. Guided by her future selves via time-traveling letters, Rose and her best friend Marek must solve the mystery of the specters and the stone trees before the ghosts unleash a legendary enemy that will destroy Heartstone Asylum.

Who am I?

Do you love YA fantasy, but want some titles you feel confident sharing with your grandmother, younger sibling, mom, teacher? As an avid YA fantasy reader, I know the struggle of finding book recs that are exciting, magical, and wouldn’t make my mother blush. Upon entering the publishing industry, I made this my focus as an agent and now as an editor. As an author, I write YA and NA titles that don’t pull any punches but can be enjoyed by anyone. All 10 of my published books and upcoming releases can be enjoyed by teens, adults, and yes, your grandmother—and here are five more books I think achieve that as well.

I wrote...


By Alyssa Roat,

Book cover of Wraithwood

What is my book about?

Brynna “Brinnie” Lane has always lived a quiet life under the watchful eye of her hovering mother—until she’s sent off for the summer to live with an uncle she didn’t know she had. While her parents get to travel across the globe, she'll be spending three months in the middle of nowhere: upstate New York. She soon finds that Wraithwood Estate, her uncle’s creepy old mansion, holds as many secrets as the man himself. When Brinnie is warned not to explore any of it, her curiosity only grows. As unnatural events take place and Brinnie hears whispers of a hidden war, she must unravel the truth about her family’s mysterious past. Something terrible happened at Wraithwood thirty years ago, and Brinnie is determined to find out what.

The Uninvited

By Dorothy Macardle,

Book cover of The Uninvited

This old-fashioned thriller from 1942 is a classic ghost story with an undercurrent theme of the feminism of the time. It’s available now through Tramp Press’ Recovered Voices, one of the programs that are making available old works of literature. I love the trend of bringing old books back for new readers.

Brother and sister Roderick and Pamela buy a suspiciously-cheap house in Devon in the UK, the previous home of a dead and misogynistic artist whose daughter sold Roddy and Pamela the house. The siblings soon decide the house is haunted by revenants of the artist’s love triangle with his wife and his model/lover. When the artist’s daughter starts coming to visit, things get worse fast, but by the end of the book, every mystery is solved, discussed, and tied up with no loose ends, after a satisfying twist you might see coming.

The first half of the 20th…

Who am I?

I think of reading horror stories as perfect armchair adrenalin-thrill-seeking. I prefer horror on the quiet side, dark and thematic, with any depiction of blood and gore in measured quantities. My favorite is historical horror with a moral edge, or underlying theme that explores who we are—good, bad, or in-between—as human beings, and how societal norms have changed from one era to another. The monsters of our imaginations are scary, but for true terror, there's nothing more frightening than the things we've done to each other throughout history. Dress society’s ills or expectations in monster clothes and write a story about them, and I’ll want to read it.

I wrote...


By K.D. Burrows,

Book cover of Bittersharp

What is my book about?

In 2018, Rachel Shepherd finds her father dead in the haunted mansion he had been renovating into a B&B. Something is wrong at Hollister House. Rachel has dreams and nightmares of a dark-haired man. After she sees the apparition of a woman who has haunted her memory for years, Rachel becomes convinced that exposing the truth about a death in 1927 holds the key to freeing Hollister House of its past. She enlists the help of her first love from a decade ago, and together they discover a mysterious mosaic mural, an album of disturbing photos, and Eve Boland’s diary.

As secrets are revealed, Rachel is about to learn that the worst horror of all may be living with the ghosts of the past.

The Screaming Staircase

By Jonathan Stroud,

Book cover of The Screaming Staircase

Imagination + adventure! This series is for older readers, as it can be quite scary, but I just love it. You might think you’ve read every possible twist on the ghost story, but then he comes up with a totally fresh concept. Stroud develops wonderfully unique characters in his books, too. I also loved the Bartimaeus series, and I just finished (and loved) his latest, The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne.

Who am I?

I am an author of five books for children. I am also an avid reader of middle grade fiction, especially speculative fiction. I love exploring other people’s imaginations. It’s not only entertaining, but incredibly inspiring. Like most people, when I discover a book that I love, I can’t wait to share it with my friends. I hope you love these selections as much as I do! It was really hard to limit myself to just five. 

I wrote...

The Boy with 17 Senses

By Sheila Grau,

Book cover of The Boy with 17 Senses

What is my book about?

It’s a Jack and the Beanstalk retelling that takes place on a planet where everyone has synesthesia. On this planet, people don’t just hear sounds; they see and taste them, too. On this unusual planet, poor Jaq Rollop must save his family’s farm. To do so, he is forced to sell his beloved pet and only friend. Unfortunately, he gets swindled into trading it for a seemingly worthless key. But then something very strange happens. The key leads Jaq through a wormhole to a terrifying and magical land full of riches, overwhelming sensations, and giants. The name of this frightening land? Earth. 

School Library Journal described it as, “Cleverly told, this original take on a classic tale uses an unconventional setting to explore universal emotions.”  

The Bookman's Tale

By Charlie Lovett,

Book cover of The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession

Antiquarian Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale is informed by his expertise. TBT is a paean to books, their production, archival, transmission, forgery. This book should appeal to readers who love books. The story of Peter, a present-day apprentice rare books dealer, alternates with that of Bartholomew Harbottle, a crooked Elizabethan book dealer, a friend of William Shakespeare. 

The book follows a Shakespearean document as it passes from hand to hand over time. At first, the document appears real. Then forged. Then partially forged. Then perhaps real. Then a perfect copy shows up. Which one is real? Which one is fake? Are both fake? Therein lies a tale.

Who am I?

I have a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University, and I have taught English for 30 years. I have studied and taught Shakespeare, Tudor drama, English linguistics, the Reformation, and various other aspects in the literary and cultural history of the 16th century. The 16th century is a time of great upheaval and the more I study it, the more I am fascinated by how pivotal this epoch is in the creation of the modern world, for better and for worse. I seek out books that chart, from grandest to most intimate, this momentous time’s transformations.

I wrote...

Lady Grace's Revels: A Tale of Elizabethan England

By Theodore Irvin Silar,

Book cover of Lady Grace's Revels: A Tale of Elizabethan England

What is my book about?

It is Michaelmas in rural Renaissance England, and Thomas Smith and William Philpott, scriveners, cannot believe their luck. They have been invited to revels at the manor house of Lady Grace Atwater, Countess of Burnham. There will be food, drink, dancing, and gracious company culled from a diverse assortment of county societies. Thomas has even written a poem for the occasion. All goes well until a certain Sir John, a master swordsman out to better himself by whatever means, makes an entrance. Soon, all is not well, and a cascade of revelations lays open the decadent underside of the glamourous aristocratic life. 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

By Alvin Schwartz, Brett Helquist (illustrator),

Book cover of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

What horror list would be complete without this infamous selection? Is there a more accessible horror collection? The Treasury collects all three Scary Stories books, preventing anyone from missing out on any of Schwarz’s memorable retellings of classic folklore and urban legend. These are the stories told around the campfires and slumber parties of youth. The stories still traded by adults when conversation turns to ghost stories. Though simply worded and easy to read, these are the stories that come to mind late at night when you’re all alone. Every horror enthusiast knows a creepy story or two, and at least one of them is from this collection. It’s a perfect anthology for anyone who wants a 5-minute chiller, or a good turn-of-the-century ghost story.

Who am I?

I’ve been ensconced in horror since childhood—from the Monster Double Feature to Creepy and Tomb of Dracula. I’m part of the Monster Squad; I’m what goes bump in the night. I live for the scare. My love for all things spooky started young, growing up with Bradbury and Matheson, before graduating to King, Koontz, and Straub. I continued to absorb horror wherever I could: books, films, and comics, drinking it in as quickly as it came out. Eventually, I found that I’d absorbed so many stories, I had one or two of my own to contributeso I began writing short stories and novels to terrorize the genre myself!

I wrote...


By Andy Lockwood, Brian Ritson (illustrator),

Book cover of Threshold

What is my book about?

After the death of her grandmother, Cate inherits an antique mirror. The frame is detailed, ageless. The glass unmarred. Impeccable. Cate can't put her finger on it, but there's something wrong with the way her reflection looks back at her.

Cate assumes the mirror has a storied history, but it doesn't seem to have any history at all. Previous owners have all disappeared, leaving Cate to piece together its mysterious origin. At first, this didn't seem like a problem, but Cate's life is twisting in unusual ways since taking ownership of the artifact. Plagued by nightmares and haunted by her own reflection, she can hardly close her eyes. Perhaps it is exhaustion. Perhaps it is something else entirely.

A Fine & Private Place

By Peter S. Beagle,

Book cover of A Fine & Private Place

Beagle is best known for his novel The Last Unicorn, but A Fine and Private Place, written when he was just nineteen, is even better, I think. It takes place in a Brooklyn cemetery, where two recently disembodied spirits meet, fall in love, and resolve not to sink into oblivion. Recommended if you like your ghosts wistful, lyrical, and romantic.

Who am I?

I’ve written and published one hundred very short ghost stories, plus a handful of longer ones, and have spent a lifetime reading and watching and thinking about stories of ghosts and the afterlife. My expertise, such as it is, involves ghosts as beings of narrative and metaphor. I’ve encountered great numbers of them on the page and on the screen—nowhere else—but I confess that I would love someday (though don’t expect) to encounter them in the flesh. My flesh, that is to say; their fleshlessness.

I wrote...

The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories

By Kevin Brockmeier,

Book cover of The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories

What is my book about?

A spirit who is fated to spend eternity reliving the exact moment she lost her chance at love, ghostly trees that haunt the occupant of a wooden house, specters that snatch anyone who steps into the shadows, and parakeets that serve as mouthpieces for the dead—these are just a few of the characters in this extraordinary compendium of one hundred ghost stories. Kevin Brockmeier’s fiction has always explored the space between the fantastical and everyday with profundity and poignancy. Like his previous books, The Ghost Variations discovers new ways of looking at who we are and what matters to us, exploring how mysterious, sad, strange, and comical it is to be alive—or, as it happens, not to be.

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