If you’re a fan of scary and supernatural tales, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to read some of the most thrilling and chilling ghost story books.
Ghost stories can take place in any setting and at any time, so there is usually some story out there that appeals to everyone. But with so many books to choose from, how are you supposed to find the best one for you?
By checking out this article of course! Below are our top picks for novels about ghosts that are appropriate for adults, teens, and tweens, including some new releases and some timeless classics.
Although the majority of these ghost stories are going to be classified as horror, suspense, or thrillers, some of them will feature ghosts that are very different from what you may expect. Have fun reading works of historical fiction, scary literature, short stories, and more.
26 Gripping Ghost Story Books
Check out this list of the top ghost and horror books for you to get spooked with. Let’s get started!
In this book, Richard, Clare’s husband, was a huge fan of scary movies; in fact, he went so far as to become an expert on the genre.
Clare, now a widow and in mourning, uses the tickets that Richard bought for her just before he passed to attend the yearly Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana.
As Clare is leaving the movie that Richard was most excited to see, she spots her deceased husband across the street, wearing a bright white suit he never owned while alive.
The Third Hotel is one of the most subtle and striking ghost books you’ll discover on the literary fiction shelf, and after reading it, you’ll be itching to book a flight to Cuba as soon as possible.
- A gripping tale that will have you on edge.
- Fast-paced and fun.
- Might contain themes too dark for some readers.
Themes: love, death, deceit, fear.
The stark realism of the American South collides with gothic elements in Jesmyn Ward’s third novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing, to create one of the most compelling works of ghost fiction published in recent times.
The events of the first chapter take place on Jojo’s thirteenth birthday when he decides to sacrifice a goat to demonstrate to his grandfather that he has matured into a man.
During the time that the goat is roasting, Pop will tell Jojo stories about his time spent in prison as a juvenile and the boys he met there.
One of the lads that Pop met when he was behind bars has passed away, but his tale isn’t finished yet, and who knows how it will end. This is a gut-wrenching way to start a story that will keep your stomach in knots the whole time you’re reading it.
- Full of suspense and twists.
- A sad tale that explores the relationship between friends and family.
- Uncomfortable scenes with animals.
Themes: family ties, friendship, coming-of-age, suspense.
You must read Lincoln in the Bardo if you’re searching for a unique take on the traditional ghost story.
The story that Saunders’ wife had heard about Abraham Lincoln visiting the crypt of his son, who had passed away at the age of 11 while his father was still in the White House, served as a source of inspiration for this book.
The narrative takes place in the “bardo,” a liminal realm between life and death, and contains over 150 ghosts, all of whom are people stuck in the in-between state and are unaware that they have passed away.
This is one of the eeriest and stunningly beautiful novels published in the 21st century, and it is also one of the most perplexing and frustrating at points.
Lincoln in the Bardo also makes for an extremely entertaining and interesting fantasy audiobook if you want to take a break from reading, because of the many ghosts and voices that are featured in the book.
- You won’t be bored with all of the plot twists here!
- Excellent writing that leaves you wanting to read all of the author’s works.
- Multiple points of view can be confusing.
Themes: Life and death, historical fiction, trust, relationships.
There’s more to ghost stories than just frights and scares; in fact, many horror books have important lessons hidden inside their pages.
Beloved, written by Toni Morrison, is an example of such a book. It tells the story of a former slave who is haunted by the child she was forced to kill.
The true story of Margaret Garner, an escaped slave who killed her children rather than have them captured and re-enslaved by their masters following the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, serves as the inspiration for this fictional account.
This kind of anguish is incomprehensible, yet Morrison’s talented hand brings it to life realistically and tragically.
This book also serves as a powerful metaphor for the inherited trauma that’s still experienced by the descendants of people who were exploited in Africa’s slave trade.
- Cleverly written to scare you on a deeper level.
- Teaches you about historical events.
- Contains dark themes that some readers won’t like.
Themes: Death, trauma, slavery, power, consciousness.
This horror story shows you the city of Edinburgh in a way that you’ve probably never seen before!
The paranormal investigator parents of Cassidy Blake star in a new television show that brings them to Edinburgh, which is known as the most haunted city in Scotland.
She moves with them, and in the new city she settles in, she encounters Lara, another In-Betweener who “advises” ghosts on how to cross the Veil into the afterlife.
They both must overcome the dangerous ghostly power known as the Red Raven, which puts up an epic struggle that leaves the pair fighting for their lives.
This is one of the best alternate-reality ghost books for young adults, and it will also be enjoyable for readers of a certain age who are looking for something creepy, sweet, and evocative.
- Emotional and meaningful without ruining the horror aspect.
- Incorporates the history of Edinburgh into the book.
- YA fiction might be too simple for some adults.
Themes: young adult, ghost stories, historical fiction.
You need to look no further than Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow if you’re searching for a classic American ghost story.
Although it’s technically a short story, the level of complexity and atmosphere it evokes is on par with that of the very best ghost novels.
This surprisingly intricate ghost story, which was first published in 1819 and gained widespread attention thanks to an adaptation by Disney in 1949, has had a significant and continuing impact on popular culture.
As proof of this, the New York community that was formerly known as North Tarrytown and that serves as the setting for a significant portion of Irving’s tale has since formally adopted the name, Sleepy Hollow.
Additionally, in homage to the myth, the names of the high school athletic teams in the area are the Horsemen.
- Short and sweet, most can finish it within a day.
- Excellent for Disney lovers.
- The story is quite unrealistic in parts.
Themes: myths, life and death, trust, and community.
Jack Miller is in his late 20s and is currently working a soul-destroying job while struggling to make ends meet. Not only that, but the state of the world isn’t in a good place either.
The year is 1937, which means that the threat of war is hanging over London. It’s hard to fault Jack for jumping at the chance to join an expedition to the Arctic, an adventure into the unknown with only four other men and eight Huskies for company.
He wants to see something new, have an adventure, and escape his dreary life in a gray city. Dark Matter is one of a kind when it comes to ghost stories because of its unconventional beginning.
Both the plummeting temperatures of the approaching arctic night and Jack’s rising worry that they are not alone in the darkness are contributing to the chills the characters are feeling.
Is there something out there? Or is the cold getting to Jack’s mind? You’ll have to read this book to find out.
- Historical fiction.
- Compelling characters that make you want to learn more.
- The ending feels slightly rushed.
Themes: historical fiction, mystery, suspense, life, and death.
If you’re looking for LGBTQ+ books for young adults and appreciate cultural “witchy” tales, Cemetery Boys is one of the greatest books about ghosts and spirits that you can read.
The ability to see ghosts was bestowed upon Yadriel by the goddess who was responsible for the afterlife. Women in his society can heal, while men are responsible for assisting souls in making their journey to the afterlife.
Yadriel, who identifies as a transgender male, is having trouble not only mastering his skills but also getting acceptance among the Brujx society. After the passing of his cousin, he has made up his mind to demonstrate that he is a genuine brujo.
However, when Yadriel summons the wrong spirit, his task becomes even more difficult, which is especially problematic given that he is beginning to develop feelings for this ghost.
The town he lives in is also plagued by serial killings, and no one seems to be able to find or catch the murderer. Who is responsible for the murders that have been taking place in Yadriel’s town, and what will Yadriel discover about himself as he investigates?
You’ll realize why everyone is raving about Cemetery Boys as soon as you start it since it’s so motivating and captivating. It also incorporates LGBTQ+ themes beautifully and tells the stories and the struggles of the characters insightfully and interestingly.
- Murder mystery.
- LGBTQ+ representation.
- Feels quite YA in some chapters.
Themes: death, spirituality, LGBTQ+, romance, a murder mystery.
Author Simon St. James is one of the most well-known horror writers out there, penning such works as Silence For The Dead, The Book Of Cold Cases, The Haunting Of Maddy Clare, and many more.
It’s in The Sun Down Motel where his writing talent shines through, however. Carly Kirk’s aunt Viv went missing in 1982 from The Sun Down Motel, where she was staying.
Many years later in 2017, Carly travels to upstate New York, after her mother passed away, in the hopes of finding answers and maybe even reconnecting with her aunt.
In a parallel timeline, you will read all about the ghosts of the hotel, finding out about their past, their secrets, and what they know about aunt Viv’s disappearance.
Can Carly solve the riddle of her aunt’s disappearance before she falls victim to the same ominous force that took her?
- Another excellent book by this renowned author.
- You can solve this mystery along with the protagonist.
- The parallel timeline can be a little confusing.
Themes: mystery, death, spirituality, family ties.
In this story, Nobody “Bod” Owens’s parents were killed when he was young, and the ghoulish residents of the graveyard helped raise him after their deaths.
Bod makes friends with those who live outside of the graveyard as well as the deceased who are buried there, including a witch, and they have fun adventures together as he grows up. However, not everyone is as welcoming as they appear to be.
As Bod grows older, he begins to crave a normal life, he wants to go through the motions of growing up, including going to school and making friends.
However, the person who murdered his parents is still at large and is intent on achieving the fulfillment of a mysterious prophecy, putting Bod’s life in grave danger.
Is it possible for Bod to join the living at last, and if so, what will happen to his spectral friends and relatives?
- Amazingly written, believable characters.
- Offers a deeper meaning into how the reader should live life.
- Some people might find Gailman’s writing to be too long-winded.
Themes: family, friendship, life and death, mortality.
If you want an easier read to get you into the swing of things, then starting with a graphic novel is an excellent way to begin. In this spooky and gothic novel, ghosts and murderers run rampant, and even bad dreams have the power to kill you.
While this story is excellent by itself, the book shines in the dark and scary images used throughout. The eyes are either obscured by gray or completely absent, indicating the gloom that lies under the surface.
The pages are torn apart by hands that look like claws. There is a smearing of red ink across the pages. This is one very spooky book, but one that you may find yourself coming back to again and again.
- Short and sweet, most can finish it within a day.
- Excellent for Disney lovers.
- The story is quite unrealistic in parts.
Themes: myths, life and death, trust, and community.
Sager’s Home Before Dark is a very popular tale about ghosts that has an incredible twist. The book follows Maggie, who moves back into the house she spent her youth in, known as Baneberry Hall, after the passing of her father.
Previously, her father’s best-selling story about the property had a profound impact on all of their lives, and not always in a positive way. Is it possible that her father made up the spooky stories about Baneberry Hall to make some extra cash?
Or was Maggie’s father trying to hide something that was much more serious and dark? It’s impossible to find a supernatural thriller that’s scarier and more unsettling than this one. You might even believe in ghosts afterward.
- Lots of twists and turns to keep you engaged.
- Plenty of moments that will scare you.
- Some people found the story slow in parts.
Themes: family bonds, secrets, lies, love, and mystery.
Though this book admittedly gets off to a slow start, once it gets going you won’t be able to put it down. In Other Birds, Zoey is preparing to begin her college career on Mallow Island, which is located in South Carolina.
Her father and his new wife don’t want much to do with her since her mother has passed away.
Though Zoey tries to make friends with people in the local area, when one of them passes away, everyone’s secrets and the ghosts of their past begin to unravel and reveal themselves to one another.
Other Birds is one of those ghost story books that builds tension slowly and could leave you in tears. There is also some mouthwatering fiction about food included here, so maybe read it with some snacks beside you.
- Beautifully written throughout the entire novel.
- Perfect for lovers of fairy tales.
- The different POVs can be confusing at times.
Themes: grief, secrets, lost souls finding their way home, and loneliness.
If you are interested in reading ghost stories, you should begin your journey with Shirley Jackson, who is often regarded as one of the genre’s best authors.
You will have chills up and down your spine like never before after reading her legendary gothic horror books and short stories.
There is a good reason why The Haunting of Hill House, which was released for the first time in 1959, continues to captivate and terrify readers.
The plot centers on Dr. Montague, a psychic researcher, who spends the summer in the supposedly haunted home Hill House.
He asks many acquaintances, all of whom claim to have had encounters with the supernatural, to stay at the house to prove once and for all that there’s no such thing as a ghost. But is he right?
If you like reading about haunted houses, you’re going to adore The Haunting of Hill House as well. The book has also been turned into an extra scary series on Netflix, and though set in the modern era, is just as creepy as the original.
- The characters are written well.
- The book takes you on a journey.
- Not as scary as other books on the list.
Themes: family, sacrifice, freedom and confinement, women and femininity, and fear.
It’s generally agreed upon that the famed Belasco House, located in Maine, is the most haunted house in the whole world.
In this book, which is based on a true story, millionaire William Reinhardt Deutsch hires a physicist, a spiritualist, and a medium to research the possibilities of life after death, beginning in the home where a mysterious presence works against them at every step of the way.
Matheson’s book from 1971 includes all of the best elements that can be found in horror books, including a haunted house, malicious spirits, a burning mystery, and a ticking clock.
Will the detectives that he has recruited solve the case before Deutsch crosses over to the land of the dead?
- Lots of mystery in the storyline.
- The supernatural and science are combined well.
- It follows the same premise as other haunted house stories, making it predictable in parts.
Themes: good vs. evil, supernatural, science, mystery, and uncovering of secrets.
If you started reading ghost stories when you were young, chances are you’re familiar with the book Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
It’s worth reading again as an adult, even if it is just to wonder what on earth the adults were thinking when they allowed you to read it after lights out!
When crafting his terrifying tales, Alvin Schwartz drew inspiration from well-known urban legends and time-honored folklore.
Illustrator Stephen Gammell’s nightmare-inducing pictures only amp up the creepiness of the tales, further increasing their potential to give readers nightmares.
- A good one for younger children to read.
- The illustrations are beautiful.
- Some of the stories are confusing in parts.
Themes: forgiveness, healing, anti-racism, reconciliation, dark revenge, supernatural, and humor.
Check out The Woman in Black if you’re looking for ghost stories that are comforting but still a little bit scary.
This gothic novel was published in 1983 and takes place in the English countryside, which may sound like the perfect place to get away from it all… if it weren’t for the enigmatic specter that torments the locals.
The narrator, Arthur Kipps, was only a junior solicitor when he was called to a little town to settle the estate of a widow who had passed away only a short while before.
But something he witnesses during her funeral gives him pause, and he soon realizes that there was more to the life (and death) of the elderly woman than he had initially imagined.
Even now, many years later, when he is thriving in London, the memories of what he went through continue to torment him.
This is another horror classic that has been adapted for the screen although the movie does stray from the book slightly. Read the original then check out the movie to see which you like best.
- Plenty of build-up that allows you to learn more about the characters.
- The story is very well crafted.
- The book concludes quite quickly.
Themes: fear, isolation, the influence of the past, gothic horror, trauma, madness, betrayal, and revenge.
It’s possible that the famous novel Wuthering Heights won’t be the first book that comes to mind when you’re looking for ghost stories to read, but if you want to experience a truly chilling tale of love that lasts even when one crosses over, you should give this one a try.
Unstable and brooding Heathcliff was brought up in a world of privilege through adoption, yet he never felt as though he truly belonged there.
His heart is shattered when Catherine, his adopted sister, and former love interest, makes the decision to marry the man next door, and it’s shattered once more when she passes away at an early age due to a horrific accident.
But can her spirit ever depart from the moors that Heathcliff continues to refer to as home?
- Perfect for those that enjoy a love story with a twist.
- Lots of wonderful descriptions throughout.
- Some people found parts of the book difficult to read.
Themes: family, love, the past, revenge, suffering, betrayal, forgiveness, and the Other.
This story follows the Chowder Society, whose members have been getting together to swap tales for the past 50 years. This circle of pals now consists of just four members, however, there were formerly five of them.
The remaining companions of Edward Wanderley, who died under suspicious circumstances during a party, have been plagued by nightmares ever since, and the tales that they tell one another have taken on a sinister tone.
The author known as the King of Horror, Stephen King, referred to Ghost Story as “one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century.” Ghost Story is without a doubt one of the best ghost tales that will keep you up at night.
- The timelines and characters all come together at the end.
- It picks up pace in the second half.
- The prologue doesn’t hugely relate to the plot.
Themes: myth, evil, revenge, and guilt.
Hotel World is the book for you if you want to read award-winning imaginative tales about ghosts. Hotel World has won the Scottish Arts Council Book Award (in 2001) as well as the Encore Award (in 2002).
The narrative is broken up into five parts, starting with the past and moving forward in time to many possible futures until coming full circle to the present.
Sara Wilby, a young hotel chambermaid, perished in a tragic accident when she fell down a dumbwaiter at the hotel where she worked. Her ghost haunts the property to this day.
This is a profound and emotionally stirring book that focuses on loss and coming to terms with it.
- The characters are extremely vivid.
- There is a good level of depth to the ‘villains’ in the book.
- The writing style takes a little while to get used to.
Themes: love, death, isolation, sorrow, and capitalism.
Read Rin Chupeco’s “The Girl From the Well” if you’re interested in reading a series of young adult book that are centered around ghost stories. Okiku’s ghost is unable to move on from her murder, so she wanders all over the world.
Her goal in the afterlife is to exact revenge on anyone responsible for the death of a child, and she combines this act of retribution with the task of assisting the other spirits she meets in crossing over.
She had resigned herself to the fact that this will be her life until the day she meets Tark, a teenager covered in tattoos who alters her perspective on everything.
- Tension builds well throughout the opening chapters.
- The characters are very engaging.
- Some people found the second half dragged on compared to the first half of the book.
Themes: sacrifice, regret, ancient evils.
The Hacienda is a newer book that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Rebecca and other great ghost stories. This book is set just after the Mexican War of Independence is over.
Because Beatriz’s father passed away, she has no choice but to wed for the sake of convenience and financial security. It’s the only option to save her family in this situation.
Beatriz arrives at Don Rodolfo Solórzano’s beautiful mansion, but there is a persistent urban legend that his previous wife met a horrible end in these same rooms.
Not only does the haunted Hacienda San Isidro call for an exorcism performed by a priest, but it also requires a few witches’ spells. Discover a dash of passion within the pages of this ghostly gothic historical fiction novel.
- Perfect for those that love a well-rounded female character with lots of bite!
- Ideal for lovers of Gothic horrors.
- Some readers found the middle section of the book dragged.
Themes: suspense, romance, supernatural gothic, and madness.
Although it’s not considered one of the best “ghost books,” Before the Coffee Gets Cold is nevertheless an essential read in the genre, especially for someone who loves Japanese fantasy and horror works.
In this story, you will visit a cafe on a side street in Tokyo, Japan, that has been there for decades. After arriving at this location, you should get a cup of coffee, wait for the ghost to rise from her chair, and then go through time.
There are currently four customers at this establishment who are here for that specific purpose, which is the hope of seeing someone for the first or last time. Every one of them has some business left undone.
Visitors are only allowed to stay until their coffee get’s cold. If they don’t leave in time, they are doomed to become the new ghost in the chair.
Before The Coffee Goes Cold is the ideal quick read for those who are interested in traveling through time. You won’t be able to stop thinking about this one, long after you put it down.
- The storylines of all the characters come together in the end.
- Perfect for those that don’t want to read a scary ghost story.
- Some readers found the ending a little abrupt and disappointing.
Themes: time travel, family, loss, regret, romance, death, and freedom.
There’s nothing quite like a nice narrative about friendship, especially if one of the pals is a ghost. Anya, who came to the United States from Russia, is having a hard time adjusting to her new environment.
At the bottom of a well, she makes friends with a ghost named Emily, and Emily assists Anya in getting the attention of the boy she has a crush on as well as the “cool” students.
Anya begins to wonder what happened to Emily, just as she also begins to realize that being popular isn’t quite as glamorous as it seems to be.
This graphic novel adaptation of a young adult ghost story is an excellent choice for individuals who want to dip their toe into the horror genre, as well as those wanting to read about a relatable high school experience.
- The dialogue is well-written and realistic.
- Hooks you from the first page.
- Some readers found the story a little predictable.
Themes: family, safety, isolation, and uncovering of the truth.
Travel to the Mexican countryside in the 1950s in Moreno- Garcia’s Mexican Gothic novel. If you love strong independent women in literature, this is the book for you.
Noem Taboada travels to High Place to assist her cousin Catalina, who is having a hard time. One of the issues is that the walls of the manor house are crawling with demons and other forms of death.
Noem is aware that something isn’t quite right, and with so many secrets, it makes you wonder whether or not the two ladies will survive their ordeal in High Place.
- You can picture everything clearly thanks to detailed descriptions.
- The main character is very engaging.
- Some readers found the ending disappointing.
Themes: plague, haunted house, mayhem, and family.
Published in 1843 who could have predicted that a well-known Christmas tale would also become one of the most popular books in the horror genre?
The protagonist of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable old man who has lost not just his way, but also his heart, compassion, and understanding.
Scrooge has visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. During these visits, Scrooge learns what his now grim future holds, both from Marley, his co-worker who passed away, and from the ghosts themselves. Will Scrooge have a change of heart before it’s too late?
- The shifts in time are handled well.
- Dickens’ wit adds some humor to the dark tale.
- The large paragraphs and long sentences can be confusing at times.
Themes: redemption, relationships, time, and memory.
These are the very best and most gripping ghost story books we think you should try out. From older works published by classic authors to new horror graphic novels, the ghost and horror genre has something for everyone to enjoy.