We’ll take a good scare any day of the week– especially if it comes to us in the form of an excellent book. These are the creepy reads we’re reaching for this year.
Tried and True Horror
You can’t beat a classic. When it comes to scary stories, we can’t get enough of these tried and true scary stories that creep us out every time we reach for them.
Written by Bram Stoker and performed by Alan Cumming and Tim Curry.
Description: Because of the widespread awareness of the story of the evil Transylvanian count and the success of numerous film adaptations that have been created over the years, the modern audience hasn’t had a chance to truly appreciate the unknowing dread that readers would have felt when reading Bram Stoker’s original 1897 manuscript. Most modern productions employ campiness or sound effects to try to bring back that gothic tension, but we’ve tried something different. By returning to Stoker’s original storytelling structure – a series of letters and journal entries voiced by Jonathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing, and other characters – with an all-star cast of narrators, we’ve sought to recapture its originally intended horror and power.
This production of Dracula is presented by what is possibly the best assemblage of narrating talent ever for one audiobook: Emmy Award nominees Alan Cumming and Tim Curry plus an all-star cast of Audie award-winners Simon Vance (The Millenium Trilogy), Katherine Kellgren (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Susan Duerden (The Tiger’s Wife), John Lee (Supergods) and customer favorites Graeme Malcolm (Skippy Dies), Steven Crossley (The Oxford Time Travel series), Simon Prebble (The Baroque Cycle), James Adams (Letters to a Young Contrarian), Nicola Barber (The Rose Garden), Victor Villar-Hauser (Fun Inc.), and Marc Vietor (1Q84). These stellar narrators have been cast as follows:
Written by Mary Shelley and narrated by Dan Stevens.
Description: Narrator Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) presents an uncanny performance of Mary Shelley’s timeless gothic novel, an epic battle between man and monster at its greatest literary pitch. In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor to the very brink of madness. How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship, scientific hubris, and horror.
Written by Robert Louis Stevenson and performed by Richard Armitage.
Description: Robert Louis Stevenson presents the suspenseful, eerie and captivating story of a ruthless scientist who sets out to liberate his inner demon from the firm clutches of his conscience.
Upon bearing witness to the extent of Mr Hyde’s violent nature, Jekyll is horrified by his callous disregard for the welfare of others and greatly ashamed by the unstoppable nature of his ambition.
Eager to redeem himself, Jekyll sets out to capture and stop the bloodthirsty Mr Hyde, by any means necessary. However, in keeping with true gothic tradition, Dr Jekyll must now face a race against time as damning evidence is uncovered, and the investigating detectives and interested parties are brought right to his door.
Hailed by the Detective Club as ‘one of the most amazing crime stories ever written’, Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde was met with immediate critical approval, ensuring its success and popularity for years to come.
A highly accomplished Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson is also credited with stories of Treasure Island, A Child’s Garden of Verses and Kidnapped. Arguably, however, none have contributed to English literature quite like the unique tale of Dr Jekyll and his monster, Mr Hyde.
Modern Mysteries, Thrillers, Spooks, and Suspense
Don’t get too comfortable; these suspenseful stories will have you riding the edge of your seat from the first seconds to their final moments. Twists and turns abound, with hints of haunted characters and tantalizing mysteries.
Written by Stephen Chbosky and narrated by Christine Lakin.
Description: Christopher is seven years old. Christopher is the new kid in town. Christopher has an imaginary friend. We can swallow our fear or let our fear swallow us. Single mother Kate Reese is on the run. Determined to improve life for her and her son, Christopher, she flees an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with her child. Together, they find themselves drawn to the tight-knit community of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. It’s as far off the beaten track as they can get. Just one highway in, one highway out.
At first, it seems like the perfect place to finally settle down. Then Christopher vanishes. for six long days, no one can find him. Until Christopher emerges from the woods at the edge of town, unharmed but not unchanged. He returns with a voice in his head only he can hear, with a mission only he can complete: Build a treehouse in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again.
Twenty years ago, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower made readers everywhere feel infinite. Now, Chbosky has returned with an epic work of literary horror, years in the making, whose grand scale and rich emotion redefine the genre. Read it with the lights on.
Written by Alex North and narrated by Christopher Eccleston.
Description: In this psychological thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of suspense, as a father and son are caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.
After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son, Jake, heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank. But the town has a dark past.
Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man”, for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.
Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.
And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window….
Written by Rene Denfeld and narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan.
Description: The Butterfly Girl is a riveting novel that ripples with truth, exploring the depths of love and sacrifice in the face of a past that cannot be left dead and buried.
A year ago, Naomi, the investigator with an uncanny ability for finding missing children, made a promise that she would not take another case until she finds the younger sister who has been missing for years. Naomi has no picture, not even a name. All she has is a vague memory of a strawberry field at night, black dirt under her bare feet as she ran for her life.
The search takes her to Portland, Oregon, where scores of homeless children wander the streets like ghosts, searching for money, food, and companionship. The sharp-eyed investigator soon discovers that young girls have been going missing for months, many later found in the dirty waters of the river. Though she does not want to get involved, Naomi is unable to resist the pull of children in need—and the fear she sees in the eyes of a twelve-year old girl named Celia. Running from an abusive stepfather and an addict mother, Celia has nothing but hope in the butterflies—her guides and guardians on the dangerous streets. She sees them all around her, tiny iridescent wisps of hope that soften the edges of this hard world and illuminate a cherished memory from her childhood—the Butterfly Museum, a place where everything is safe and nothing can hurt her.
As danger creeps closer, Naomi and Celia find echoes of themselves in one another, forcing them each to consider the question: Can you still be lost even when you’ve been found? But will they find the answer too late?
Scary Science Fiction
Science fiction is the smart, sexy cousin to the classic horror genre. The scares come from the plausibility that science offers the themes and plots explored. These audiobooks gave us the right kind of sci-fi chill.
Written by Max Brooks and narrated by Alan Alda, John Turturro, Rob Reiner, Mark Hamill, Simon Pegg, Henry Rollins, and Martin Scorsese.
Description: We survived the zombie apocalypse, but how many of us are still haunted by that terrible time? We have (temporarily?) defeated the living dead, but at what cost? Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand, World War Z is the only record of the apocalyptic years.
The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.
Written by Stephen King and Narrated by Sissy Spacek.
Description: An unpopular teenage girl whose mother is a religious fanatic is tormented and teased to the breaking point by her more popular schoolmates and uses her hidden telekinetic powers to inflict a terrifying revenge.
Written and narrated by Neil Gaiman.
Description: Sussex, England: A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet sitting by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean), the unremembered past comes flooding back. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie – magical, comforting, wise beyond her years – promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. A stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.
Is there anything scarier than a horrifying story being absolutely true? These true crime audiobooks kept us up at night in a way fiction never could.
Written by Michelle McNamara and narrated by Gabra Zackmanm Gillian Flynn (introduction) and Patton Oswalt (afterword).
Description: For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true-crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.
Written and narrated by Mary Pilon and Carla Correa
Description: America’s top gymnasts have been showstoppers at the Summer Olympics for decades—the women’s artistic team won nine medals in 2016 alone. But beneath the athleticism, smiles, sponsorship deals, and haul of gold medals was a dark secret: a story of sexual abuse and trauma that, when revealed, became one of the biggest scandals in the history of American sports.
In early 2018, Larry Nassar, the former doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, was sentenced to serve out the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty to a variety of sex crimes. In a show of unparalleled force, more than 150 young women—from gold medalists to former Michigan State University athletes to old family friends—confronted the once beloved Nassar in court, sharing their pain and resolve. Many of them took legal, financial, and career risks to speak out.
But these women’s stories also reveal a disturbing, more far-reaching truth: that the institutions responsible for protecting them—from the United States Olympic Committee to local police departments—had known in some form about the abuse for years and had not put an end to it. Twisted tells the harrowing story of these crimes and how Larry Nassar got away with them for as long as he did.
New York Times best-selling author Mary Pilon and reporter Carla Correa chronicle the scandal from its inception, tracking the institutions that Nassar hid behind, the athletic culture that he benefited from, and the women who eventually brought him to justice. In this Audible Original, you’ll hear directly from these people—including the voices of coaches, parents, industry leaders, and the survivors themselves—as they grapple with the truth about Nassar and describe what it took to bring him down.
As mentioned in Twisted, here are some resources for yourself or a loved one who may need information or confidential support.
• Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453.
• Darkness to Light: 1-866-FOR-LIGHT or text “LIGHT” to 741741. The organization works to empower adults to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse. The website includes a guide to grooming and red flag behaviors.
• RAINN and the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673. Its website also has a chat feature.
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
• Army of Survivors: The organization led by the survivor Grace French includes a guide to the basics of trauma.
Written by John Carreyrou and narrated by Will Damron.
Description: The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the one-time multibillion-dollar biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes—now the subject of the HBO documentary The Inventor—by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end.
In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.
A riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.
Written by John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker, narrated by Richard M. Davidson.
Description: Discover the classic, behind-the-scenes chronicle of John E. Douglas’ twenty-five-year career in the FBI Investigative Support Unit, where he used psychological profiling to delve into the minds of the country’s most notorious serial killers and criminals.
In chilling detail, the legendary Mindhunter takes us behind the scenes of some of his most gruesome, fascinating, and challenging cases—and into the darkest recesses of our worst nightmares.
During his twenty-five year career with the Investigative Support Unit, Special Agent John Douglas became a legendary figure in law enforcement, pursuing some of the most notorious and sadistic serial killers of our time: the man who hunted prostitutes for sport in the woods of Alaska, the Atlanta child murderer, and Seattle’s Green River killer, the case that nearly cost Douglas his life.
As the model for Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs, Douglas has confronted, interviewed, and studied scores of serial killers and assassins, including Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and Ed Gein, who dressed himself in his victims’ peeled skin. Using his uncanny ability to become both predator and prey, Douglas examines each crime scene, reliving both the killer’s and the victim’s actions in his mind, creating their profiles, describing their habits, and predicting their next moves.