The best horror novels of all time

(No—I will not be putting any of my own books on this list.)

Horror movies can terrify; but there is nothing like a horror movie that takes place in your own head. That’s what happens when you read a horror novel.

In this article, I consider the best horror novels of all time, in roughly chronological order.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley  

Mary Shelley

Originally published in 1818 as Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, this might be the first horror novel in the modern Western canon.

Purists have long debated whether Frankenstein is rightly classified as a horror novel, or a work of science fiction horror.

Let’s face it: Frankenstein contains aspects of both. Whichever one you choose, though, this is a great book– which is still an entertaining read more than two hundred years after its original publication.

Written at the height of the Scientific Revolution, Frankenstein conveys ambiguity and anxiety about the tradeoffs that inevitably come with scientific progress: Science can save lives; but science can also provide more efficient ways of taking them.

A hundred years after Frankenstein, Europe was torn by World War I. There were no reanimated corpses in that conflict; but this first truly modern war displayed the killing power of tanks, machine guns, aerial bombardment, and poison gas.

We can only wonder what Mary Shelley, who died in 1851, would have thought.

View Frankenstein by Mary Shelley on Amazon

To be continued…