I’ve been asked many times for good horror fiction that is not written by Stephen King. Since I’ve had to figure this out for myself so many times, I started keeping track.
I bought the complete collection of H.P. Lovecraft for my Kindle (for a whopping $0.99) and eventually read the whole thing. It took a while, but I’m glad I did.
Phantoms is Dean Koontz’ scary book. Most of the rest of his stories would be better classified as thrillers, but many of them are dark and edgy and so may satisfy horror fans. I loved 77 Shadow Street as that one has a nice haunted house vibe.
Peter Straub can be a little cerebral for some, but I like almost everything he’s written. Some of my favorites include: Ghost Story (a classic horror story), the Blue Rose Trilogy (Koko, Mystery, The Throat), The Hellfire Club, In the Night Room, Lost Boy Lost Girl
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski triggered my anxiety, and I had to adjust my medication for a while. If you allow your imagination to fully contemplate the implications of the narrative, this book is deeply unsettling. You need to read the printed version, and I recommend following all of the weird, disjointed paths of the multiple narratives. It is physically uncomfortable to read.
The Konrath Horror Collective by J.A. Konrath is brutal and gory. It’s best to read these in order, but if you don’t want to commit, Trapped and Endurance are my favorites. Each book is a stand-alone story, but there is related content from book to book. The List, Origin, Afraid, Trapped, Endurance, Haunted House, Webcam, Disturb
Clive Barker has written some amazing fantasy books like Weaveworld, Imajica, and The Great and Secret Show. They have incredible world-building with a dark edge. For pure horror, check out The Books of Blood (6 volumes of short stories), The Hellbound Heart (which is where we get Pinhead and the other Cenobites from the Hellraiser movies) and Coldheart Canyon (which is not for the faint of heart).
Amy Cross’ style is like early Stephen King – all killer, no filler. She is incredibly prolific and has written many, many good horror books. I’ve only read about 20 of them, and here are some of my favorites: Asylum, The Farm, The Night Girl, At the Edge of the Forest, The Body at Auercliff, The Border, Haunted, Stephen. The only caveat I would include is that she has truly written an incredible number of books, and some of them just aren’t quite as awesome as the others. Still, the majority of what I’ve read have been satisfying.
Bentley Little is like Stephen King-lite. His horror is quick and fun and swaps the New England settings for the American Southwest. Some of my favorites include: The Store, The Town, The Resort, The Mailman, The House, The Influence, The Haunted
Adam Nevill writes uncomfortable, creepy stories. I really liked The Ritual, Apartment 16 and Last Days.
The Library at Mount Char is probably more supernatural thriller than horror, but I read it recently and absolutely loved it
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk is funny and gross and, I think, some sort of social commentary. It’s pretty great, but, as others have pointed out, the chapter called Guts is not easy to read.
Burt Offerings by Robert Marasco was a pleasant read about a haunted vacation rental.
Paul Tremblay is awesome. I really liked A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. Others rave about The Cabin at the End of the World, but I felt let down.
Josh Malerman comes up with really unique premises and then builds a great story around them. I loved Bird Box, Inspection, and Unbury Carol. Black Mad Wheel is good too, but not particularly scary.
Hell House by Richard Matheson is my favorite haunted house story
Kill Creek by Scott Thomas is another fun haunted house book that pokes a little fun at famous horror authors, including the Goosebumps guy.
14 by Peter Clines is about a haunted (?) apartment building and was lots of fun to read. It’s kind of like the TV show LOST, but . . . in an apartment building.
The Elements by Michael McDowell makes a summer home on the beach feel creepy
Carsten Stroud’s Niceville trilogy (Niceville, The Homecoming, The Reckoning) was a fun read. It might be more of a thriller, but there is definitely something supernatural going on.
Penpal by Dathan Auerbach is great. It’s creepy and unsettling and has several yucky implications. Bad Man is a slow burn that’s bleak and depressing. The ending kind of pays off for it.
Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix puts the monsters in an IKEA-like setting. It’s a good read.
Dan Simmons writes big, unsettling novels. If you really like to read, I suggest Carrion Comfort, The Terror (arctic historical fiction), and Drood (Victorian historical fiction). Summer of Night is similar to Stephen King’s IT.
Nick Cutter writes excellent stuff. His exciting stories are almost more thriller, but definitely horror. I liked: The Troop, The Deep and Little Heaven.
Justin Cronin’s Passage trilogy (The Passage, The Twelve and The City of Mirrors) is, for me, the absolute best post-apocalyptic horror/sci-fi story yet written. It is epic in scope and describes the events leading up to the apocalypse, what happened immediately after, how the world fell apart, and then the eventual society that emerged. In fact, most of the story could be described as post-post-apocalypse.
The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer might be a bit more sci-fi than horror, but it is dark and brooding, and there is a monster. These popular books fell a little flat with me. The first one, Annihilation, was awesome and left me wanting much more. I found the second book, Authority, to be a little tedious. The third book, Acceptance, was just okay. These are just my opinions, of course.
Of course, there’s Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son. I liked Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, 20th Century Ghosts, Twittering from the Circus of the Dead and Strange Weather. NOS4A2 is awesome, a classic. Unlike a lot of other people, I did not care for The Fireman.
I forget how far I made it into The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum, but it wasn’t very far. It was too disturbing for me (being the true story of an abused child), in a terrible way I did not like. I bailed on the book and wish I’d never heard of it. You can take this as a warning or recommendation.
- Dracula by Bram Stoker is the de facto vampire story that sets almost every president of modern vampires as we think of them. It is interesting in that there is no real narrative in the book; it’s all a collection of letters and newspaper articles and things like that.
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelly is, of course, the first Frankenstein story. It’s probably not what you’re expecting though. The monster is sensitive and philosophical and has no neck-bolts.
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a classic ghost story that many people cite as their favorite haunted house book. It may be considered blasphemy to some to think this way, but I thought the book was just okay.
And, here are my opinions of all of Stephen King’s books