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16 Best Horror Authors: A Look at the Stories We Fear

I love a good scare, especially around Halloween. There’s something about the visceral nature of the Horror genre that really sets it apart from other genres.

Horror is one of the best genres to read (even though it’s only a fraction of what I do read), and there are so many talented horror authors out there. But who are the best?

It can be hard to find a list that includes all of your favorite authors, but I’ve attempted just that – here’s my best horror authors list! This article will include some well-known names like H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, but also lesser known independent writers like Michaelbrent Collings.

We hope this inspires you to pick up a copy or two!

I’ve listed these in no particular order (but getting the heavy hitters out of the way first), along with a few of their best books if you want to try them out.

1. Stephen King

if you know anything about horror, then you know who Stephen King is.

King has written dozens of best selling novels, including some that have been turned into movies like “Salem’s Lot” and “The Shining”. Some of his best known books are The Stand, Pet Sematary, IT, Carrie, and The Shining.

King has received the National Medal of Arts, as well as countless best selling titles and awards from The World Fantasy Awards to Bram Stoker’s Dracula Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2011. He is without a doubt one of the best horror authors out there today – if not THE best!

I like King because of his ability to draw you into the story and scare the living daylights out of you at times. He doesn’t rely on gore or buckets of blood, but rather a more subtle kind of horror that creeps up on his readers instead. I’ve read some Stephen King books in my time (my favorites being IT and The Stand), so if you’re looking for suggestions this Halloween season, pick one of these best selling novels!

Some of his best books include:

2. H. P. Lovecraft

H. P Lovecraft is best known for his short stories, with many of them written in collaboration with other authors (who often received the credit).

Lovecraft wrote mostly horror and fantasy fiction, and is best known for practically inventing the genre of cosmic horror. His best known stories include “The Call of Cthulhu”, “At The Mountains of Madness”, and many more.

While there are definitely some issues with Lovecraft’s racist background, I think we can all agree that the horror works that he produced were pure genius. And you can’t deny the impact it’s having now.

Curiously, many modern usages of Lovecraft’s mythos attempt to turn the racist aspect on its head, to really highlight the problems that we have in our society. One great example of this is the book and accompanying TV show, Lovecraft Country.

Some of his best short stories include:

  • Dagon
  • The Call of Cthulhu
  • The Rat in the Walls
  • The Mountains of Madness

I recommend picking up an anthology if you want to read his work.

3. Edgar Allan Poe

We’ve all probably heard of Edgar Allan Poe, the gothic horror writer of the 19th century.

Poe is best known for “The Raven” and his short stories, which are widely considered to be some of the best in American literature.

While Poe is best known for his short stories, he also wrote a number of poems that are often considered to be some of the best in American literature.

Poe’s work has influenced countless other writers and poets, including many prominent ones like H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King above..

His influence can still be felt today through neo-romanticism and even Gothic metal music!

Some of my favorite works by Edgar Allan Poe include:

Some of his best work includes:

  • The Black Cat
  • The Masque of the Red Death
  • The Tell-Tale Heart
  • The Pit and the Pendulum

As with Lovecraft, I recommend you pick up an anthology of Poe’s.

4. Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker is best known for his 1897 novel Dracula, one of the best selling and most influential horror novels ever written.

Stoker’s work has been adapted into countless movies, TV shows and even video games!

You can’t deny that vampires are everywhere in pop culture now (owing nothing to Twilight), with many people citing this book as their inspiration. It was also heavily inspired by folk legends from Eastern Europe. And if you know anything about these stories then it becomes clear just how much influence they’ve had on other media like Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Supernatural…

For my Bram Stoker recommendation, I primarily recommend Dracula.

5. Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz is best known for his work in the suspense, thriller and horror genres. But all of his genres, even his thriller books, have strong elements of horror in them.

Over the years, he’s had a ton of success, and is one of the more prolific writers out there, with over 105 novels published! Sixteen of those ended up on the bestseller list

Some of his best books include:

6. Michaelbrent Collings

In the self-publishing realm, Michaelbrent Collings is best known for his horror novels. He’s an award-winning writer, and one of the most successful indie horror writers in the world.

One of the impressive things about Michaelbrent Collings is the fact that he is the only author who has ever been a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award, a Dragon Award, and a RONE Award all together.

Some of his best books include:

7. Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson is another classic horror writer, and a kick-a** woman to boot! You’re probably most familiar with her novel, The Haunting of Hill House which was made into a uber-popular series on Netflix.

She was one of several authors who wrote notable short stories in The New Yorker during the 1950s and early 1960s, some of which are now considered classics!

Some of my favorite Shirley Jackson books include:

8. Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson is best known as the author of I Am Legend (which was adapted into a film starring Will Smith) and Hell House.

His work has been turned into countless movies over the years, including The Shrinking Man which became two films, called The Incredible Shrinking Man in 1957 and The Incredible Shrinking Woman in 1981!

He’s best known for his novels and short stories that synergize sci-fi and horror elements flawlessly together to create thought-provoking narratives.

Some of my favorite Richard Matheson books include:

9. Neil Gaiman

While he’s known for far more than Horror, Neil Gaiman is best known for his dark fantasy novels like American Gods, Coraline and The Graveyard Book.

Gaiman’s best works are usually classified as dark fantasy rather than horror… But all of them have enough elements in common with the genre that they’re worth mentioning here! The Graveyard Book is particularly good as a spooky book for kids that won’t have them scared out of their britches.

Some of my favorite Neil Gaiman books include:

10. Anne Rice

Anne Rice is best known for her series of Vampire Chronicles books, and while I’m not a huge fan of that genre myself (I don’t think there’s anything inherently scary about vampires), it doesn’t change the fact that she’s one of the best horror authors ever.

She also wrote some other very good books like The Wolf Gift and The Mayfair Witches trilogy, Interview with the Vampire, and Queen of the Damned, the latter two of which went on to be adapted into huge feature films.

Some of my favorite Anne Rice books include:

11. Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry is best known for his work in the thriller, science fiction and horror genres, with work in comic books and magazines as well.

He’s published tons of books over the years, but keeps churning them out at a ridiculously fast pace – he has over 100 titles to his name! Additionally, he has mentioned on social media that he can write over 5,000 words in a day, which is insane!

Some of Jonathan Maberry best books include:

12. Samanta Schweblin

Samanta Schweblin is best known for her novel, Fever Dream. While I haven’t read it yet myself, the reviews are fantastic and say that she’s one of the best horror authors writing today.

Samanta is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She moved to Germany in 2007 and has lived there ever since with her husband and son. All of her work was originally written in Spanish but have been translated into many languages, including English!

Some of the best Samanta Schweblin books include:

13. Mary Shelley

Few people deserve as much credit for practically creating the horror genre (not to mention the science fiction genre) as Mary Shelley. Mary is kind of a personal heroine for me.

She was best known for her novel Frankenstein. She was born and died in London, but spent much of her adult life in Italy. She died at the age of 53 in 1851 of what is suspected to be a brain tumor.

When it comes to Shelley, the main book everyone must read is Frankenstein.

14. Peter Straub

Peter Straub is best known for his novel, Ghost Story. He’s had a long and successful career as one of the best horror authors around.

In addition to that book, he also co-authored two additional novels with Stephen King: The Talisman and Black House which take place in the same universe as each other! I haven’t read those yet either but they’re on my list…

Straub was born in Milwaukee, WI, where he lived until college when he moved across country to attend Reed College in Portland OR. His books have been translated into over 25 languages since first being published back in 1974.

Some of Peter Straub best works include:

15. Clive Barker

Clive Barker is best known for his short story collections and novels like Books of Blood and Hellraiser. His books have been translated into 30 languages worldwide!

Not only is Barker a novelist, but he is also a filmmaker, a playright, and an artist. The guy can apparently do it all.

Chances are, you’ve at least heard of Hellraiser, which is a book about a puzzle box that opens a gateway to another dimension where sadistic demons gather human souls for torture. It was made into a movie by…you guessed it, Clive Barker, it’s original author.

Some of Clive Barkers best works include:

16. Mylo Carbia

Mylo Carbia is a relative newcomer to the Horror scene, but she’s got the writing chopes to prove her worth. She was originally a script doctor and screenwriter, who made the transition to horror writing.

She has been described as “The Queen Of Horror” by some people online which sounds interesting enough all on its own.

She would eventually outsell even Stephen King on some of her debut books, and her book “Violets Are Red” was praised as the best story of 2019 by PopHorror.com.

In short, she’s worth a read.

Her two bestselling books are:

The Bottom Line

So there you have it, the best horror authors in the business. This information is based on my own personal opinion and tastes, as well as a ton of research, but I think that these are some great books for people to check out who want a good scare!

I hope you found this list of the top 16 best horror authors of all time to be informative and helpful. If not, let me know which author is your favorite, or if there are any that have been left off my list. Comment below with your feedback!

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