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  • Abdur Rehman Khan

5 Horror/Thriller Books to Read

Updated: May 23, 2021

Life can be all over the place, with stress, work, or just a mundane schedule that’s eating away at you. But hey, if you want to redirect your attention and spice things up a little, why not read up on a few horror and thriller books? You may or may not know these titles, but if you’re looking to get a good scare or thrill, these are the books for you.

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmad Saadawi

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a widely known classic, which was one of the earlier examples of horror novels becoming popular. But Ahmad Saadawi’s modern twist on the original sets the story in a post-Iraq War Baghdad, where a junk-dealer named Hadi creates a corpse out of the body parts of bomb victims and wants the government to give it a proper burial. But soon enough, the corpse comes to life and goes on a murder spree for more body parts--first from the guilty, then from anyone unlucky enough to cross its path. It’s a really unusual and refreshing take on the original, and raises questions regarding morality and justice at all costs, all the while taking place in a very relevant time period. Not to mention, there are lots of very gruesome scenes, sprinkled with a dash of suspense and dark humour. If you’re looking for a nice blend of gruesome scenes, suspense, and dark humour, then I highly recommend this book to you.

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

This book is more of a thriller than anything else, and as the title suggests, it does deal with end-of-the-world consequences. Though, this one involves a home (or rather, cabin) invasion, a death cult, and resting humanity’s fate on a family of three. Andrew, Eric, and their adoptive seven-year-old daughter Wen are vacationing in their quiet and secluded cabin in New Hampshire, where they don’t have neighbours for miles. But one day, Wen meets a friendly stranger in the front yard who tells her, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. As more people arrive with deadly weapons in hand, Wen and her parents have to bear the inevitable danger, brutality, and sacrifice that comes with the supposed fate of the world on their shoulders. I’ll admit, this one was a shaky read and there was some unmotivated violence in my opinion. But it was brutal nonetheless, making you concerned that it happens in front of a seven-year-old. What really sets this novel apart from other apocalyptic novels, however, is how well it convinces us of the characters’ closeness. It makes the ensuing chaos that Wen and her family face more suspenseful and lends them some sympathy. Overall, The Cabin at the End of the World is a daring feat of a novel that will make you recoil in shock.

It by Stephen King

Most people have at least heard of It, maybe from a friend, seeing the movie, or just seeing it on the shelves. While it can look like an intimidating book (over 1000 pages!), it is a very bewitching novel if you have the time. Taking place in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, a group of friends reunite after they swore to destroy a demonic entity, known as ‘It’, who has scarred them for life as children. As ‘It’ famously taking form as Pennywise the Dancing Clown and torments them, the friends each have to face their traumatic pasts in truly disturbing ways. The dual narrative from multiple characters in both the “past” and “present” give It a great set-up where the momentum pays off. It’s really well-paced, thanks to its big page count, and there’s a lot of eerie events that it foreshadows wonderfully. The way it twists the idea of scary clowns to the max really adds to the story and makes you concerned for the protagonists. Not to mention several scenes are downright horrific, which are only limited by the reader’s imagination. If you can’t stand the nightmares that this book may give you, then stay away from it. But if you genuinely want a fulfilling scare from horror veteran Stephen King, then It is the book for you.

Coraline by Neal Gaiman

A lot of people may have been given an inaccurate impression of Coraline. Maybe it’s because the movie adaptation was animated, or maybe because the book was too “simple”, and seems like it was meant for children. Rereading the book with a different mindset, Coraline is actually much more creepy than people may have remembered it. It follows a girl named Coraline, who moves into a dull house with nothing fun to do, but after meeting her weird neighbours and exploring her house, she discovers a door to a parallel world, almost exactly like hers. Everything seems perfect in this ‘Other World’, but when Coraline realizes how offputting everything is and meeting an unnerving figure, she needs to save herself and her family from the evil creature that threatens her. Coraline is a really unexpected read, with chilling narration and an intriguing concept. The best parts of the book are the subtle hints that give an impression of how unsettling this book really is. I strongly suggest you read this book for a good fright.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

One thing before I recommend Bird Box: don’t see the Netflix adaptation. It doesn’t do justice to the novel’s ominous and chilling tone, which fits nicely into the novel’s mix of thriller and horror. The book takes place after an ominous entity quickly kills off most of the population, with only a handful of survivors remaining. One of these survivors named Malorie, a young woman with two children, must flee to a place where they can find safety and peace from the entity. However, every time they go outside, they have to wear blindfolds, because if you look at the entity, then you’ll be driven to madness and, soon after, death. This novel is a remarkable survival story that highlights how driven Malorie is by showing the lengths she goes to in order to protect her children. The novel also benefits from limiting its perspective to Malorie’s point of view because many times, she can’t see anything beyond the comfort of her blindfolds. This makes it even more intense because instead of describing what she can see, it describes everything but. The lingering sense of dread that follows Malorie throughout the novel improves the novel since she never knows what is waiting for her in the outside world. Bird Box is truly a scary book that kept me on edge all the time I read it, and I suggest you read it too. If you’re into that kind of thing.

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