I love to read scary stories in the summer. Not only are the days longer (so I’m “safe” for longer), but also, I like to read outside, which means there will come a point when I look up from the page to realize that it’s dark, and buggy, and I’m in real danger of being eaten alive (by mosquitos!). What a great setting for reading a scary book!
Now, I’ll be honest–as I was compiling this list, I kept finding more and more and more books to add. So, to prevent this from being about 60 items long, we’re limiting it to what I would consider “true anthologies”– books that feature the writings of multiple authors, assembled by someone else. So, you won’t find a Stephen King collection here, although his titles will pop up periodically in some of these books. Basically, each book on this list features multiple authors, instead of just one. Which is great, because if you’re not digging a story, you can simply turn to the next chapter and try a different author!
Even with that limitation, I found the list is still indescribably long. So, I’ll be breaking it up into two or three separate lists, and will share those with you over the coming weeks. So, keep your eyes peeled for part two!
You’ve heard this a million times from me–I love to read the classics. So of course, a book featuring classic horror stories written by women would be at the top of this list! Featuring stories from 1852-1923, Weird Women is a delicious collection of tales. I was delighted to see that I only recognized two of the tales by name, and I had not read any of them before!
If you’re looking for old-school chills written by women, you might also enjoy Monster She Wrote, a sort of guide to classic horror written by women. We’re not officially including it on this list since it’s not really an anthology, more of a list of “must read” titles.
If you’re looking for a good collection of haunted house stories, then consider checking out this collection! From Bram Stoker and Lafcadio Hearn to my personal favorite: Algernon Blackwood, this collection features a carefully curated list of terrifying tales specifically chosen for their terrifying settings.
Now, I’ve never felt the need to hang out in a haunted house before, but I do love The House on Haunted Hill, so perhaps this book is just what the doctor ordered. Also, if you’re looking for a nonfiction title on haunted locations, consider Lore: Dreadful Places.
If you’re looking for something scary, but not too scary, I recommend checking out middle grade horror. These stories still know how to scare the pants off a reader, but they avoid the graphic gore and extreme violence that you sometimes find in adult horror stories. That being said, this collection still can get a little graphic, so it’s best handled by a more mature tween or even an teen.
This collection bills itself as a tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. So, we’re adding that title as an additional recommendation here, in case you’re interested in reading more! Schwartz’s collection has a more timeless feel, and touches more into the territory of folklore and urban legend than simply scary short stories, so the books provide a very different feel for the interested reader.
This collection, edited by Stephen King, contains tales of terror set in the air. Interested readers will find chilling tales by Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen King, Ambrose Bierce, Joe Hill, and Richard Matheson. Perhaps not the best book to check out while you’re booking for flight for a summer vacation, but a great read to get you good and scared.
If you’re shocked to see Arthur Conan Doyle’s name on this list (he wrote more than just Sherlock Holmes!) you’ll have to check out some of his other tales of terror! Consider Tales of Terror and Mystery as a starting place.
There’s nothing quite like a colonial horror story to really get under your skin. From the stern Puritans to witch hunts, undiscovered monsters of the New World, and more. I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with a sort of grim delight, tantalizing stories of ghostly ghouls and a headless Hessian keeping my eyes glued to the page.
If you’re looking for a fun way to experience Sleepy Hollow without losing sleep, consider checking out the classic Disney cartoon, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. It’s atmospheric and spooky without being too scary, and there’s an excellent song about the Headless Horseman that will get stuck in your head for weeks!
When Things Get Dark is a tribute to Shirley Jackson–the author who has scared (and perhaps mentally scarred) thousands of high school students with her short story, “The Lottery”. The stories in this collection, lovingly collected by Ellen Datlow, are all inspired by or in tribute to this great of horror fiction.