Books That Raise Your HairsRachael Berkey

The last book to really scare me wasn’t horror or mystery or about a monster. I may be addicted to the bloodiest, grossest, most suspenseful procedural dramas on TV, but I’m not a huge fan of the genres in books. I do have a healthy love of adrenaline and the things that cause it to spike hard in my blood stream though.

That being said, the scariest book isn’t even in the horror, suspense, or mystery genre, and that fact got me thinking about all the books that scare the bejesus out of me. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you about the book that freaked me out so much that I’m still thinking about it two days after finishing it. But first, the books I’ve heard are the scariest. As I said, not a huge horror fan so I haven’t read them all.

Clowns freak you out? If you do, it’s probably because of Stephen King’s It. The story of a terrifying psychotic clown rampaging through your town is enough to put anyone off the circus for a good long time, am I right?

Afraid of dogs? If you weren’t bitten by one as a kid, like I was, and you still harbor a healthy fear of their teeth and general menacing presence, it’s probably because of another Stephen King book, Cujo. If you’re feeling like maybe you want to scare the bejesus out of yourself, check this one out of your local library.

I’m just now realizing that all three of the scariest books I’ve ever heard about are by Stephen King. Maybe I should just be recommending you check something out by him and see if it does the trick of raising your heart beat, giving you goosebumps or making you lock it in a freezer because it’s so creepy.

The third one is a book but you’re probably more familiar with its film adaptation, and that book is The Shining. With elements of psychosis, addiction and abuse running throughout the story, there is also the very real fear of someone you know and love turning on you. The turning on edge of the familiar is a popular theme in books that make your heart race.

Interestingly, the book that scared me this week was really, really good. Good enough that I’ve taken to recommending it left and right. And the thing that scared the crap out of me was one measly passage in the middle of the book that doesn’t even spoil anything.

Ok I’ll stop the teasing. The book is Ready Player One, and if you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably seen me tweeting about it a lot this week. It was so good. I inhaled it in one week of commutes and raved about it to everyone who would listen.

The book takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where the main form of life, entertainment and human interaction is an alternate reality called OASIS. There’s a massive game in process for control of the OASIS in the wake of its creator’s death. There are pop culture references from the 1980s peppered throughout the text that will give any film, television or book fan the opportunity to squee with joy on a pagely basis.

But the terrifying part is the description of what the real world looks like in this future time. It’s one specific character’s description of his surroundings and daily life – not everyone’s – but it’s still terrifying.

Blacked out windows because he doesn’t want to go outside or experience the real world at all while in the game.

A tonic that removes all of his body hair so that he can more accurately put on his immersion suit and be more accurately portrayed inside the game. All of his body hair. All of it. Eyebrows. Eyelashes. Everything.

Take a minute to think about that.

His apartment is basically a box that he has armed and upgraded so that he doesn’t have to interact with other human beings. Even takeout delivery companies bring him things that are put through a system of empty spaces to minimize contact with others. Kind of like those package-transfer boxes at the US Post Office if you live in a city.

It’s crazy and it’s sad, and it freaked me out so much that I thought about abandoning social media for a hot second before I remembered, wait, I really like the people I have met online.

So for me, the scariest book in creation is about a very real possible future rather than something magical, horrific, or monster-related.

I think I’m going to go and play outside in the sunshine now.

Maybe read a fluffy book.

Image via shutterstock

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  1. The Golden Egg by Tim Krabbé, amazing book but absolutely terrifying. Still freaks me out when I think about it now. Definitely recommend it though!

  2. Scariest book I’ve ever read? Hands down, House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. It’s a book w/in a book – great conspiracy theory. Plus it messes with your head, if you let it. dum dum dum.

  3. Pet Sematary by Stephen King terrified me. Made me feel sick and jumpy throughout, though I did enjoy it! Though pretty much anything Stephen King writes scares me. He is so damn talented!