The 20 Best Lovecraftian Horror Books – Ultimate Guide

It’s always hard to believe that such prolific and influential writers died in relative obscurity during their time. The works of authors like Poe, Hemingway, and the focus of this list, HP Lovecraft all put out numerous works during their time on earth just to die penniless and unknown, with their stories only being read by niche fiction readers.

The 20 Best Lovecraftian Horror Books - Ultimate Guide

Those readers become writers though, and as always when writers become popular, they influence others and those that come after, leading to a newfound rediscovery by the mainstream eventually. That eventually has finally arrived for Lovecraft, with the author’s work seeing even more readers now than ever before thanks to the bones of what would become an extensive, collaborative mythos. These are the 20 Best Lovecraftian horror books to spring from his influence.

The 20 Best Lovecraftian Horror Books

Revival by Stephen King

Revival: A Novel

To be honest it feels like a spoiler to put Revival on this list. The cosmic horror of the book is a constant sense of dread throughout, but everything gets flipped into overdrive in the final act when the literal and figurative curtains are pulled back.

What starts as a man seeking out a miracle worker that helped him long ago through his use of lightning ends up as a terrifying realization about reality and existence beyond anything humans can comprehend. One hell of an escalation, and a terrifying one at that.

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The Croning by Laird Barron

The Croning

Barron has risen above as a torchbearer of sorts for Lovecraftian horror, even going so far as to inspire his own mythos around the Old Leech character. There’s an entire cosmic pantheon of terrifying beings revealed in The Croning that just scratch the surface of Barron’s horror.

Following one man who uncovers a vast conspiracy of old gods and monsters that have ruled the world for centuries, he has to set out and solve the mystery of just what he and his family have to do with everything, risking everything to find the secret.

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The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

The House on the Borderland

This actually predates most of Lovecraft, being published first in 1909. Hodgson was a little ahead of his time though, and this story of two fishermen finding a diary near a chasm in the ground is some of the most cosmic dread to ever hit the page.

The framing story isn’t anything special, but the diary entries are the real meat of the story. The entries start normal enough with a man moving his elderly sister into a strange home the locals avoided. Before long strange happenings and the discovery of a door to an otherworldly abyss in the cellar bring about even more terrors that would later inspire stories like Uzumaki by Junji Ito.

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John Dies at the End by Jason Pargin

John Dies at the End

This was one of my entry points to cosmic horror, and I still have my copy branded with Pargin’s former pen name. This book has everything but the kitchen sink thrown into a tale of cosmic horror and comedy. It’s Everything Everywhere All At Once meets Trainspotting to make the most accurate comparison possible.

Two regular guys try a new street drug called Soy Sauce. The drug actually causes them to see various parallel dimensions filled with terrible creatures beyond their imagination. This leads to a dash through dimensions fighting everything from monsters made from cuts of meat, to gods.

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The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umeda

The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition, Vol. 1 (1)

I recently got my hands on the collectors’ editions of this and they’re some of the nicest hardcovers of a manga I’ve ever seen. The art is basic when it comes to the characters and regular settings, but the space beyond the classroom is rendered in stark contrast to everything else which makes it even more terrifying.

The story and writing are what shine, showing a Japanese school in the mid-60s as it’s suddenly plucked from its usual spot and put in a seemingly foreign land, surrounded by deadly wastes and rolling dunes of darkness and sand. We see the story from the perspective of Sho, a sixth grader who goes to school after an emotional argument with his mother.

The horror takes a moment to start, instead introducing Sho and his situation, as well as a couple of other key characters. The mystery of what’s happened to them becomes secondary quickly as the adults of the school spiral into madness, and it becomes the sixth grader’s responsibility to keep the younger children safe.

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The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper

The Worm and His Kings

Hailey Piper has been making waves in the horror scene, bringing a blend of LGBT+ romances, cosmic horror on the most massive scale possible, and the deconstruction of what we know as Lovecraftian along with it. The Worm and His Kings is a short, fast-paced read that can be rushed through in an afternoon and leave you thinking about it for weeks.

On the surface a story of one woman trying to find her missing girlfriend, but as the book descends into the sewers it also falls quickly into a dark underground full of cults and creatures alike, all serving an ancient power beyond our knowing.

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Dead Sea by Tim Curran

Dead Sea

There’s nothing more Lovecraftian than unknowable terrors in the deep ocean, which is exactly what Tim Curran does hereafter flipping the premise on its head. There’s a palpable dread of whatever monstrosity could be thrown at the crew of an outdated freighter that gets suddenly transported to another ocean in reality.

The real terror of the book is the isolation of it all though. There’s a skeleton crew at best, with the old ship due for decommission at any time thanks to everything being out of date. Thanks to that it’s a very tight-knit and unknowing POV as they have to rely on a physicist who’s seen too much to get them back.

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The Fisherman by John Langan

The Fisherman

This book is simply beautiful in how it unfolds, and I love it more every time I pick it up. There’s an amazing amount of depth in both the framing story and historical account nestled within. That said, it does take a hot minute to get going, but when it does it brings along some of the creepiest Lovecraftian energy I’ve ever seen.

The historical record, which is set up as the second act of the book, is a deliciously great slow burn that leads the characters into a descent into literal and figurative madness, culminating in a confrontation with an ancient being of evil.

The framing story is a tragedy of love and loss, following two men going through their respective tragedies and bonding over a love of fishing before one learns of the events of long ago and attempts to change his tragic life.

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Move Under Ground by Nick Manatas

Move Under Ground

Cthulhu versus the Beat Generation isn’t something you would expect, but it works in the strangest of ways here in Manatas’ Lovecraftian tribute to the likes of Kerouac and Ginsberg. The story is more of a sendup of Kerouac’s On the Road, but instead, the road trip is set off by the unrelenting forces of Cthulhu causing the forbidden city of R’yleh to pop up on the American west coast.

The book is fun and has plenty of great easter eggs and little jokes about the very real people behind the characters in the novel, meanwhile, the cultists of Cthulhu they come up against are perfectly creepy.

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Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

Hammers on Bone (Persons Non Grata Book 1)

One private detective versus an abusive step-father that’s actually an eldritch horror. Seems pretty intimidating until we find out that the detective is also an ancient being that’s not new to this game. Khaw weaves a taut cat-and-mouse piece that can be read in a single sitting but amps up the Lovecraftian spooks and eerie underworld to the max.

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The Great White Space by Basil Copper

The Great White Space

All at once a thrilling adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones and an overwhelming Lovecraftian horror pervading the background, this novel got relatively foreshadowed in mainstream talk of the genre until recently, making a crawling, slithery comeback to the scene.

An expedition crew sets out to find the “Great White Space” which is supposedly a gateway to another dimension. Journeys through a forgotten underground city is only the beginning of the danger as the team remembers too late that doors open both ways.

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Ancient Images by Ramsey Campbell

Ancient Images

As a film buff, I love this book and think it deserves far more credit in the Lovecraftian fiction sphere, though Ramsey has made his mark over his long career. The story of a cursed film is one that’s lived on as long as cinema has existed, but this story takes it to another level by involving death, madness, and eldritch terrors beyond understanding.

One man goes on an ever-escalating quest to find the origins of the cursed films, tracking down cast and crew who are keeping secrets from the public about what happened during filmmaking.

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The Night Will Find Us by Matthew Lyons

The Night Will Find Us

A summer camping trip in the New Jersey Pine Barrens goes horribly wrong as the teens involved are picked off one by one, victims of each other and the surrounding forest. Tense and character-driven, the story doesn’t go quite where you expect as the forest becomes alive and the group begins to splinter even further.

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Remina by Junji Ito

Remina (Junji Ito Book 0)

I took a nice break the other night and gave Remina another read since it had been a while. It’s even more disturbingly gruesome than I remember, with Junji Ito’s art standing out as some of his creepiest ever made. 

A star appears from a black hole sixteen lightyears from the Earth, and shares both a name and birthday with the daughter of its discoverer, Remina. Unfortunately, the star begins moving toward Earth at an alarming rate and devours everything in its path as humanity decides to sacrifice Remina herself as the only way to stop the impending doom.

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That Which Should Not Be by Brett J Talley

That Which Should Not Be

Taking from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos directly, Talley forms a story of one man venturing against terrifying cults and untold ancient evil to prevent the end of the world. His mission is undercut by four tales he hears from sailors, all of whom have had some encounter with the unknown he’s looking for.

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Reanimatrix by Peter Rawlik


Lovecraftian horror meets pulpy detective novel as one man tries to solve the murder of a girl, uncovering supernatural truths beyond a gruesome underworld. There is a ton of fun in the pulp rush of it while also having great scares littered throughout.

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Ring Shout by P Dieli Clark

Ring Shout

A book set in historic Georgia a small group has to band together to fight the Ku Klux Klan and the cosmic horrors they’re attempting to summon. Clark plays with the conventions in much the same way as Lovecraft Country, turning the tropes and racism of Lovecraft on its head while delivering a terrifying story about overcoming hate and racism.

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The Cipher by Kathe Koja

The Cipher

Sometimes when you move into a new place you find something you don’t quite expect. It’s not usual that said thing is a trapdoor leading down into an unknowing abyss though. The new homeowners have fun with the newfound toy at first before discovering that although things can go in, others can come out.

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One Last Gasp by Andrew C. Piazza

One Last Gasp: A WWII Horror Thriller (The Cosmic Horror Cycle)

World War II is already horrifying enough, involving some of the worst atrocities man has ever committed, and One Last Gasp only enhances that with tales of a mansion that defies reason surrounded by dozens of Axis soldiers. The Allied troops within have to think quickly and move even quicker to survive the onslaught outside and the monster within the mansion hunting them.

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The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

The Ballad of Black Tom

Another entry that flips the racism and prejudice of Lovecraft on its head, The Ballad of Black Tom takes the author’s Horror at Red Hook and sets it from the POV of a young black man going through town at the time, witnessing the events of Lovecraft’s classic story unfold.

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These twenty Lovecraftian books should keep you thinking about the terrifying knowledge beyond human comprehension, or at least considering it. Taking that terrifying fear of the unknown that Lovecraft established all those years ago, these books will occupy that fine space in your bookshelf that you just might find growing mysteriously over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Lovecraftian Horror?

Lovecraftian horror can also be filed under cosmic horror, mostly relating to anything that can’t be explained or known by human perception. Lovecraftian is of course named after the famous author whose works eventually popularized the idea of ancient gods, maddening tears in reality, and humans worshiping things beyond existence.

Who are some Lovecraftian horror authors?

Most authors these days attribute at least a little influence to Lovecraft, and it’s hard not to when the author’s works are nearing a century old. Laird Barron, John Langan, and Hailey Piper are just a few of the big names making waves in the scene.

What defines a Lovecraftian horror?

The strongest indicator that you’re dealing with a Lovecraftian horror is some fear of an unknown factor. The characters won’t know it’s there, but the audience will know that there’s something just beyond their knowledge influencing and crafting whatever may befall the characters.

What is Lovecraft’s best work?

You’re going to find pretty popular (and well-earned) sentiment toward The Call of Cthulhu, and for good reason considering the proliferation the character has gotten throughout the years. At the Mountains of Madness, though, is my personal favorite for getting that true sense of Lovecraft’s signature dread and unknowing fear.

What’s with all the tentacles and fish?

Your guess is as good as mine, but many attribute the appearance of tentacles and fascination with the sea in multiple Lovecraft stories to the author’s fear of the ocean and upbringing on the New England coast. Lovecraft was noted as being an extremely fearful and anxious man, terrified of everything from other races to air conditioners. There’s also the acknowledgment that despite the influence, much of Lovecraft’s writing has strong tones of the author’s racism, unfortunately.

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Ross Tyson