11 Of The Scariest Books Of All Time

Once in a while, everyone needs a good fright, particularly around this time of year. And, while, yes, a genuinely scary movie can do the trick — see: The Shining, Seven, Silence of the Lambs — there's something about knowing it's all going to be over in 90 minutes that seems to assuage our fears. But, a terrifying book? Now, that can cause some real horror. The ominous, lingering pages that have yet to be read; the slow, dramatic build — it's hard to get that intensity from a movie. Even if your fear makes you go so far as to stash a book in the freezer when you're only halfway through, it's impossible to forget that it's there... and it's waiting for you.
Okay, before we start scaring ourselves, we'll cut to the chase. In search of some truly scary tales that are brilliantly written and a bit under-the-radar, we turned to the most well-read individuals we know — the men and women behind our favorite Los Angeles independent bookstores. Ahead, find the 11 best thrillers to curl up in bed with. These terrifying reads may keep you up all night, but it will be very, very worth it.
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Photo: Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
"Imagine living your adult life being tormented by your sister, all because you turned out to become a bigger movie star than her. You're paralyzed because she ran you down with her car, locked in your room day and night with no contact with the outside world, and are psychologically beat down as your sister slowly slips into insanity. Hang on to your seat belt... this book is one hell of a ride." — Melissa Reekers, Book Soup

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, by Henry Farrell, $15, available at Book Soup.

Book Soup, 8818 West Sunset Boulevard (near Norma Triangle); 310-659-3110.
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Photo: Courtesy of Random House.
Geek Love
"It was written about a family of carnival freaks who start a cult. It's about what it means to be special or unique, but it's also a very bizarre, twisted, and frightening world you're dragged into." — Tommy Flemming, Chevalier Books

Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn, $12.23, available at Chevalier Books.

Chevalier Books, 126 North Larchmont Boulevard (near West First Street); 323-465-1334.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated.
The Penguin Book of Witches
"This book is perfect for anyone interested in witchcraft and the Salem witch trials. It's compact and offers an interesting view of this time in American history." — Sherri Gallentine, Vroman's Bookstore

The Penguin Book of Witches, edited by Katherine Howe, $17, available at Vroman's Bookstore.

Vroman's Bookstore, 695 East Colorado Boulevard (near North El Molino Avenue); 626-449-5320.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
The Hot Zone
"Sometimes the best thrillers are the ones that feel like they are ripped from today's headlines; that's why I'm suggesting that everyone read The Hot Zone." — Sean Moor, Gatsby Books

The Hot Zone, by Richard Preston, $7.99, available at Barnes & Noble.

Gatsby Books, 5535 East Spring Street (near Chatwin Avenue); 562-208-5862.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated.
In Cold Blood
"Not the first true-crime book, but certainly one of the most famous, In Cold Blood is the (mostly) true account of the Clutter family murders in Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959. Equal parts terrifying and thrilling, salacious and profound, it's one of only a few books that ever gave me nightmares." — David Gonzalez, Skylight Books

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, $15, available at Skylight Books.

Skylight Books, 1818 North Vermont Avenue (at Russell Avenue); 323-660-1175.
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Photo: Courtesy of NYRB Classics.
Don't Look Now
"I love du Maurier's novels and stories, and this collection contains some of her best short stories, including 'The Birds,' the source material for Hitchcock's movie of the same name. I find the story much darker and creepier — as the birds descend upon England and terrorize the family in the story — and very much worth a read as Halloween approaches and autumn progresses." — Katie Orphan, The Last Bookstore

Don't Look Now, by Daphne du Maurier, $10.68, available at Barnes & Noble.

The Last Bookstore, 453 South Spring Street (at West Fifth Street); 213-488-0599.
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Photo: Courtesy of Viking Adult.
Dear Daughter
"I normally read literary fiction, and when I read this book, it was so much fun. It took me on a ride that was interesting and un-put-downable. It is light and very entertaining." — Margot Farris, Pages: A Bookstore

Dear Daughter, by Elizabeth Little, $26.95, available at Pages: A Bookstore.

Pages: A Bookstore, 904 Manhattan Avenue (near Ninth Street); 310-318-0900.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
The Way Some People Die
"I went on a kick and read a bunch of [Ross Macdonald's] books. This was the first one I read. It has a tautness to it, and it feels like a platonic ideal of a '40s L.A. mystery noir thriller. It has all the ingredients." — Nat Green, Alias Books

The Way Some People Die, by Ross Macdonald, $11.47, available at Barnes & Noble.

Alias Books, 1650 South Sawtelle Boulevard (near Idaho Avenue); 310-473-4442.
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Photo: Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf.
Lady
"One of my favorite horror books is Lady by Thomas Tryon. It isn't in-your-face horror. But, so much in the flavor of great Southern gothics, with that lingering feel of rotting human soul just under the surface. It's quiet and unsettling." — Del Howison, Dark Delicacies

Lady, by Thomas Tryon, $8.43, available at Amazon.

Dark Delicacies, 3512 West Magnolia Boulevard; 818-556-6660.
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Photo: Courtesy of Ballantine Books.
The Doom That Came to Sarnath
"I like it because it's mystical and different in a scary kind of way. It's full of vivid imagery and takes you to a different world." — Mark Grosso, Angel City Books & Records

The Doom That Came to Sarnath, by H. P. Lovecraft, $9.88, available at Amazon.

Angel City Books & Records, 218 Pier Avenue (at Second Street); 310-399-8767.
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Courtesy of Pantheon Books.
House of Leaves
"The first time I read House of Leaves I was afraid of dark rooms for a week. The second time I read it, it changed the way I thought about books. A narrative nesting-doll of creepiness and revelation, a twisting maze of words and ideas with a monster living in its heart, House of Leaves has to be read to be believed." — Will Kaufman, Diesel, A Bookstore

House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, $21, available at Diesel, A Bookstore.

Diesel, A Bookstore, 225 26th Street (near San Vicente Boulevard); 310-576-9960.
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