I don’t know about you, but I love a seriously scary book. Calls coming from inside the house, hitchhikers that are secretly ghosts, books that make even the most seasoned of horror writers cringe — it’s my mission to read them all! It’s also even better if the inspiration for the stories is based in truth. What is it about being scared that’s so awesome? Well, fear can make us feel more confident, and it releases a waterfall of chemicals that inspire positive emotions in human brains. Some people are more addicted to those feelings than others. It’s why some people love roller-coasters and others can’t stand the sight of blood.
These books aren't all "horror novels," but they are all super creepy. Adult fears are just as legit (if not even more legit) than a fear of ghosts and goblins. Living a life of obscurity, never being truly understood, being trapped in an endless routine that will never change while the people around you are trapped in the same situation… it’s creepier than any dystopia, because it is so very, very real. It’s that mundane horror that’s truly the creepiest. Those stories that could easily be your life. To demonstrate what I mean, I’ve compiled a list of 11 books that are seriously creepier than you think. Take a look and feel the existential dread, just make sure to read these books with the lights on!
1. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
On the surface, this book just seems like a regular old tragedy about Lily Bart, a beautiful woman on the hunt for a suitable husband. But as the novel progresses, Lily begins to lose the most important thing a woman could possess in turn-of-the-century Manhattan: her reputation. Watching her reputation get stripped away from her slowly is incredibly disorienting on a psychological level.
2. Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
At first glance, this book about four suburban housewives appears to be a run-of-the-mill snapshot of suburban living. However, as the novel progresses, you realize this is a subtle commentary on the tedium of everyday, suburban life. These women can't connect with their husbands; they don't feel much for their children; they resent their families, sometimes. Soon, you are crushed under a title wave of despair. This book will terrify everyone who dreams of a husband, family, and white picket fence.
3. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
There is something very disturbing about Jude the Obscure. The book centers on Jude Fawley, a man who yearns to become a scholar at "Christminster" (a fictional version of Oxford). He never ends up there, instead embarking on a path of despair and dare I say it... obscurity. Imagine working your entire life for your dream, only to have to give it up over and over and over again.
4. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace's The Pale King reveals how the crushing indignity of routine is enough to invoke the most existential of crises.
5. The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Jessica, the main character, finds an abandoned kitten with no fur, no eyes, no meow. The kitten needs only to be fed every two hours, but it also needs help to get rid of his own waste. Jessica is disgusted by it, but for some reason, she can't stop herself from taking care of it. Soon she realizes that he's clearly a witch's cat... but who sent him?
6. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
While not all of the short stories in this collection are creepy, The Yellow Wallpaper definitely is. Forbidden from working, the woman in this tale descends into psychosis as she becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her bedroom.
7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy are all students at Hailsham, a boarding school with strange rules, and cliques. Now, years later, Kathy is working as a "carer," and Tommy and Ruth have re-entered her life. Turns out, the three of them (along with every child that attended Hailsham) are genetically engineered solely to donate their organs. This is creepy enough, but it's made even more unsettling by the fact that the final wave of donations (the ones that will kill the donors) are called "completing."
8. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Eva's son, Kevin, is a mass murderer who killed nine people at his high school. Two years after the tragedy, Eva begins writing a series of letters to her husband about Kevin. Seriously, is there anything more terrifying that giving birth to a child who is, quite possibly, evil?
9. And Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
This book follows the employees of a slowly deteriorating advertising agency. There are loads of mini dramas: Larry and Amber once had an affair, and now Amber's pregnant; the head boss, Lynn, has cancer and doesn't want everyone to know; and the unstable Tom is about to be laid off... and anyone could be next. It's a funny novel, but don't mistake it as a lighthearted one. This one will hit too close to home for those who know what it's like to endure a company "restructuring."
10. The Fever by Megan Abbott
The Nash family is picture-perfect: Tom is a teacher; Eli is a football star; Deenie is a dazzling, smart student. But everything changes when Deenie's best friend has a unexplained seizure in class. Rumors begin to fly about a secret disease outbreak, and hysteria overtakes the town. Amidst the drama, the Nash's family secrets threaten to unravel and destroy their perfect little lives.
11. The Lives They Left Behind by Darby Penny
There's something totally haunting about this one. More than 400 abandoned suitcases were found when Willard Psychiatric Hospital closed in 1995 after 125 years of operation. Creepy, right? It gets worse: they suitcases were filled with the belongings of the patients who lived there. The Lives They Left Behind examines these suitcases and studies the patients. It also paints a fascinating portrait of 20th century mental health care.