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    39 Books That Are Actually Scary

    Um... maybe don't read these if you're home alone.

    by ,

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    We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about their favourite books that have actually scared them. Here are the chilling results:

    1. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski will suck you in with a unique narrative flow told by three different "authors," footnotes, upside down text, and more. It has all the feel of a "found footage" film, but in novel form.

    Amazon / Via

    "I love horror, be it movies or literature, but not much actually scares me. The only book that doesn't apply to that is House of Leaves. It grows darker with every turn of the page and it slowly becomes a meta experience of following breadcrumbs through footnotes, swirling text (you physically have to pick up the book and spin it sometimes), and occasionally pages and pages of nothingness. The characters' madness kind of becomes your own as you physically and figuratively weave through the book and the time and space it creates and it crawls under your skin and stays there. It creates a very tangible experience (made all the more scary because it relies on your imagination) and it makes my hands shake talking about it!"—waitingwinterlong

    "Hands-down one of the best and scariest books I've ever read. I carried it with me everywhere while I was reading it because I literally could not stop. It consumed my life. I barely slept. It will seriously mess you up." —laurenmatkinj

    "Scared me so much I begin questioning reality itself. The multiple frames of the novel work in such a way that the core story of a house that does not obey the laws of physics and the family torn apart during their time there becomes more and more substantive and emotionally impacting. Reading this book, you won't know what's real and not real, and this uncertainty of reality can be one of the most frightening experiences you'll ever face."


    "It just unnerves you every chance it gets, at times by physically making you read upside down, in a mirror, or along the margins. The fact that its main villain is a house, the place where you're supposed to feel safest, made it terrifying for me to read in bed, second-guessing every sound and shadow." —veronical4e390d725

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $24.40 (paperback).

    2. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is a nonfiction book about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the serial killer who used it to find and kill more victims.

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    "It's about both the engineering of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the serial killer H.H. Holmes, who was murdering people in his Chicago 'hotel' at the same time. True stories like that freak me out. The book was fascinating, well-written, and terrifying AF!" —butthatsnoneofmybusiness

    "Just freaked me out! It's the true story of America's first documented serial killer. This dude had a FUCKING MURDER CASTLE where dozens of people disappeared. Lawson's writing is very haunting. But what really kept me up at night was the knowledge of how easy it was (and is) to convince people nothing is wrong while so many are missing. That it's nonfiction just makes it scarier." —Jessica Pilkington, Facebook

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $29.84 (hardcover), $22.86 (paperback), or $13.99 (Kindle).

    3. The Last Days Of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp tells the somehow both funny and frightening story of the titular Jack Sparks, who dies while writing a book on the occult... and the mysterious 4-second YouTube video posted to his account.

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    "Truly terrifying read. I couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks after!!" —tanyaev

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $26.85 (hardcover), $15.01 (paperback), or $14.99 (Kindle).

    4. In The Woods by Tana French is set in an Irish town where, in 1984, three children fail to come home from the woods one night. One is found holding a tree, with sneakers filled with blood and no memory of the day — the other two still missing. Twenty years later, that kid becomes a detective, investigating a case eerily similar to his own childhood mystery.

    "It's a murder mystery centred around two detectives who are working the case, one of whom grew up around the murder scene and has some pretty creepy memories of the woods where it happened. Tana French has a few great murder mystery books but this is by far the creepiest." —colleenannn

    Get it from Amazon for $15.99 (paperback) or $2.99 (Kindle).

    5. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill centres on a woman who escaped as a child from Charles Manx, a supernatural killer who takes children away in his Rolls-Royce (with the titular vanity plate) to a terrifying playground called "Christmasland" — and she must save her son from him, too.

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    "I constantly felt like it must be the climax of the novel and every time it just kept getting scarier." —lindseym496523e19

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $23.75 (paperback) or $11.99 (Kindle).

    6. Songs of a Dead Dreamer/Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti combines both Ligotti's first and second collections of horror stories. Rather than being super gory or graphic, Ligotti's fiction is more "existentially shocking."

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    "It's the only book I've ever had to put down because it was freaking me out. His stories are like the most terrifyingly vivid, surreal nightmares you've ever had." —Jeremy Kunkle, Facebook

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $16.22 (paperback) or $10.99 (Kindle).

    7. The Hot Zone by Richard Preston tells the true story of the first Ebola outbreak and how the disease shockingly appeared in the D.C. suburbs, killing 90% of people infected.

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    "I asked my mom to suggest one of her nonfiction books so that I could write a book report. She gave me this. 21 years later, I have not asked that woman for a book recommendation since." —keenam

    "It's about the origins of Ebola, its effects, and how it spreads — in graphic detail. I read it for a journalism course about ten years ago, and it scared the sleep away from me for weeks, only to come back to haunt me during the Ebola crisis." —cannicararara

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $8.99 (paperback) or $8.99 (Kindle).

    8. False Memory by Dean Koontz is a psychological thriller where fear of yourself — and your own mind — is the scariest thing of all.

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    "Terrified me because of how easily it could happen in real life." —brandileeh2

    "No ghosts, no monsters, nothing supernatural of any kind. Just a horrifying look at what someone with the right training can do to the human mind. If you go to a therapist, I would not recommend this book — you likely won't go back." —sforsgren1

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $38.95 (hardcover), $23.12 (paperback), or $10.99 (Kindle).

    9. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie centres on 10 strangers, who are lured to a remote mansion on an island.... on the first night, one dies. Then the rest keep getting picked off, one by one. But who among them is the killer?

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    "My favorite book of all time and I just want to reiterate how unsettling it is. You get this feeling of helplessness once you start whittling down everyone you assumed the killer is until there is no one else. Very well written and honestly no adaptations I've seen have done it service." —cumberbabe1395

    "For me, its sense of desperation and isolation felt by the remaining characters as each one is killed off is unsettling. Vera losing her grip on reality is also unsettling (also the seaweed scene has some great suspense). Really just the mounting atmosphere of dread and isolation that Christie creates is chilling." —Emily Bereiter, Facebook

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $16.03 (hardcover), $10.99 (paperback), or $9.99 (Kindle).

    10. Salem's Lot by Stephen King is a modern vampire story in which a small England town is being overrun by the demons — and it's up to a writer who has recently moved back to the town to try to stop them.

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    "Everyone is talking about It right now, but I actually think this is one of his scariest books. It's also one of his darker and more hopeless stories. Salem's Lot is one of the classic vampire stories for a reason. The undead children scratching at the window!" —tniendorff

    "Just seeing the vampires infiltrate a small town and becoming vampires in the woods of Maine were somehow terrifying to me. I also read it at my sleepaway camp in Maine in my bunk which was in the woods, which made it even scarier." —megm4a50c5921

    "Terrified me to the point that I slept with the lights on for a week. Coming from a diehard Stephen King fan, I think that says something. The vampires were bad enough, but the loss of faith that Father Callahan experiences and the ramifications that that brings were enough to chill me to the bone (I was Catholic when I read it, and though I no longer identify as Catholic, it still makes me want to pray for my immortal soul)." —kellyl4f8e4a2ac

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $8.90 (paperback) or $8.99 (Kindle).

    11. Coraline by Neil Gaiman follows a little girl who moves to a new home with her family and discovers another world on the other side of one of the doors — the food is better, the toys are better, and the other mother and father want her to stay. But not everything is as it seems.

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    "I couldn't finish it and threw it as high up in my closet as I could to get away from it." —laurenf40b35114f

    "Freakkked me out, circa junior year of high school, and I'm generally a horror movie fan. The idea of the mother figure wanting to sew black buttons on Coraline's eyeballs got in my head. It didn't help that I was reading it as I was babysitting alone in a fabulous but creaky old house. I would be interested in going back to reread it now. But I've read The Shining, and I took a whole class in college about gothic horror literature, and nothing landed in my psyche the way that Coraline did." —lizs4bb8f62b4

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $19.99 (hardcover), $9.89 (paperback), or $9.99 (Kindle).

    12. Penpal by Dathan Auerbach is about a man who tries to piece together the horrible and strange events that have popped up throughout this childhood and adult life — but what he discovers turns into a single, terrifying thread.

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    "The only book that's ever kept me awake at night. It's about a young boy who attempts to make a penpal via a school project. Soon after, strange and terrifying things begin happening to him." —caitlinm18

    "Definitely the only story that has ever unsettled me and I have been hunting for truly scary stories to read for my entire adult life (I'm 30). If you really wanna be scared/unsettled definitely go for it." —fartsarereal

    "I read it in maybe four hours and couldn't sleep for a week! I told my sister about it and she got mad at me for making her read it. It's not a ghost story, but it's the real life aspect of it that shook me." —rebekahtrippt

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $13.21 (paperback) or $4.99 (Kindle).

    13. I Remember You: A Ghost Story by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir won the Icelandic Crime Fiction Award and is partly based on a true story: the intertwining lives of three friends who are renovating an isolated house (where *something* wants them to leave) and a doctor who's investigating the suicide of an elderly woman obsessed with the doctor's son.

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    "Sooooo good! Kept me awake for days after!" —christinap4fa9d6b8b

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $13.12 (paperback) or $4.99 (Kindle).

    14. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh begins as a mysterious and tragic hit and run... but has a chilling twist that will set you reeling. (P.S. It was one of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Crime Novels of 2016.)

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    "So terrifying but has absolutely the best plot twist I have ever read, so it is definitely worth reading!" —amylouisev

    Get it from Amazon for $18.65 (hardcover), $20.70 (paperback), or $9.99 (Kindle).

    15. You by Caroline Kepnes is told from the point of view of a stalker, who insinuates himself into the life of his victim — a terrifying tale easily imaginable in the age of social media.

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    "Seriously creepy. I know I've put it on a list before but it's the book I recommend to everyone. A guy becomes obsessed with and stalks a girl he meets. It's written in his perspective — I couldn't stop reading it. At certain points I had to put it down and think about what the author just convinced me to agree/sympathize with. It creeps me out so much because it's 100% in the realm of possibility and drags you into this obsessive world." —jennyaz

    "So damn terrifying! Not a book you want to read before going to bed." —leaht47565d8e9

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $19.79 (hardcover), $13.23 (paperback), or $12.99 (Kindle).

    16. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule describes her astonishing relationship with her coworker...TED BUNDY...and her slow realization of his true, murderous nature.

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    "My scariest books have been ones by Ann Rule, a true crime writer. In particular, her book about serial killer Ted Bundy is bone chilling, due in part to her closeness with him beforehand." —rosem4a48c8565

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $46.75 (hardcover), $22 (paperback), or $7.94 (Kindle).

    17. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty is better known as the fan-favourite 1973 film, but you might be *even* more scared by the original novel.

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    "It's scarier than the movie!" —marissam4eccf7355

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $30.51 (hardcover), $10.99 (paperback), or $1.99 (Kindle).

    18. Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix reimagines a traditional haunted house story... but places it in Ikea. But don't let that confuse you — the result is terrifying.

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    "I thought it would be a funny parody of an Ikea employee's job, but it turned out to be creepy and scary. It was a great book!" —soniaf4a76b08db

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $14.95 (paperback) or $11.99 (Kindle).

    19. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon is set in West Hall, Vermont, a town known for many mysterious and supernatural disappearances. So when 19-year-old Ruthie's mother goes missing (in the very same house Sara Harrison was found dead behind in 1908), Ruthie discovers Sara's diary... and a loaded gun.

    Amazon / Via

    "It's so chilling and eerie. A zombie-like story disguised as chick lit. Very well-written. For the full effect, read at night while it's snowing outside with lots of wind. I had to sleep with the light on the night I finished it. It creeped me out so much." —victoriah478e6e7e0

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $24.90 (hardcover), $19.75 (paperback), or $3.99 (Kindle).

    20. The Diviners by Libba Bray takes place in 1920s New York, where Evie O'Neill has just moved in with her occult-obsessed uncle... and finds herself trying to catch a serial killer.

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    "Creepy serial killer back from the dead who ritually mutilates his victims? And with his own creepy nursery rhyme to boot? I'll be sleeping with the lights on." —leonoracandyrox

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $41.13 (hardcover), $14.03 (paperback), or $12.99 (Kindle).

    21. Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt centres on a town where the residents are cursed and haunted by a 17th-century witch, whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut so she can't harm anyone. But when a generation of teens decides they don't want to be trapped in the town, the witch might not stay harmless for long.

    Amazon / Via

    "One of the creepiest books I've ever read and I LOVED IT! It's about this town that is haunted by a witch and once you move there, you can't leave. The witch's eyes and mouth are sewn shut, but in the '60s some people in town decided to try and undo her lips and they got one corner undone and she was whispering and made everyone who heard her kill themselves. It's set in modern day times (but of course the town doesn't always feel so modern being haunted) and some teens try and mess with her and all hell breaks lose. 10/10 would recommend and bonus: the one I bought in the US has a different ending to the original that was published in Belgium and the Netherlands so there's twice as much to enjoy!!!" —marycatherinew2

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $14.29 (hardcover), $22.28 (paperback), or $10.99 (Kindle).

    22. Afraid by Jack Kilborn is set in a small Wisconin town called Safe Haven, where a helicopter crashes carrying a special weapon programmed to terrorize, torture, and kill anything that gets in its way.

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    "Also anything by Jack Kilborn. Afraid was the first one I read and stayed up all night with the lights on!" —marinalightfoot

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $8.38 (hardcover), $18.45 (paperback), or $6.31 (Kindle).

    23. The Troop by Nick Cutter tells the story of a boy scout troop that goes camping on a deserted Canadian island, but when a starving man shows up at their campsite, the boys are *exposed* to a bioengineered horror they didn't expect.

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    "Terrifying. It's about a troop of boys who go camping on this island infested with man-made carnivorous creatures and they're pretty much just trying to survive and make it back home. Didn't sleep for nights." —sarahm45e9f7c66

    "I've read every horror novel I could get my hands on, and I've had a few decently give me the willies, but The Troop genuinely terrified me." —kimberelenaa

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $49.66 (hardcover), $22.68 (paperback), or $1.99 (Kindle).

    24. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill follows an aging rock star who collects morbid and dark objects. But when he buys a dead man's suit (with the ghost attached), it turns out the spirit is out to kill him.

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    "I didn't even finish it!" —kbiz

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $25.19 (hardcover), $18.50 (paperback), or $11.99 (Kindle).

    25. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson is set in a remote mansion with a beautiful garden overseen by the Gardener, a disturbed man who captures young woman and tattoos them to make them look like butterflies.

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    "I didn't think it had scared me until it invaded my nightmares a week after I finished reading it..." —emilyl4027d4244

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $12.12 (paperback) or $1.99 (Kindle).

    26. Pet Sematary by Stephen King centres on a family who moves from Chicago to rural Ludlow, Maine, and whose new house sits near a pet cemetery and an old Indian burial ground — where some things just might not stay buried.

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    "That was piss-your-pants scary." —tatianamk

    "Every time I read it I avoid small children for about a week." —bradleyd4d40430ed

    "Hands down the scariest book ever. I like to read it close to Halloween so it's more spooky. I swear it gets scarier every time I read it!" —t404f2ac1c

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $27.47 (hardcover), $15.78 (paperback), or $13.99 (Kindle).

    27. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling's pseudonym) is the third in the crime fiction series that follows private detective Comoran Strike and his assistant Ribin Ellacott — this time, the events that unfurl after Ellacott receives a package containing a woman's severed leg.

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    "I started it when it came out almost two years ago, and I had to put it down I was so terrified. The sick, twisted ways in which the killer thinks just give me the heeby-jeebies. I still haven't finished it." —hallichere

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $27 (hardcover), $22.52 (paperback), or $10.99 (Kindle).

    28. Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman follows Frank Nichols, who arrives in Whitbrow, Georgia to write the history of his family's old plantation and the terrible things that happened there. But the townspeople are afraid of the woods across the river, where the ruins of the plantation are located.

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    "Absolutely terrifying. I read it several years ago and every once in a while I'll just remember that story and it'll scare the crap out of me all over again. The author really sets up the story in a beautiful rural town and it slowly turns into an absolute nightmare filled with creepy townspeople." —caitlinsimonseb

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $35.12 (hardcover), $11.87 (paperback), or $10.99 (Kindle).

    29. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay details the struggles of a family when their 14-year-old daughter, Marjorie displays signs of mental illness, and the family members become the stars of a reality show called The Possession. It's told by Marjorie's 8-year-old sister looking back at the tragic and horrific events that have since become an urban legend.

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    "So well done with the creepiness. The story is mostly told from the perspective of an 8-year-old, which makes it even creepier. Also, the ending was unexpected!" —aliciah22

    "I read it when I was stuck in the country with no power after Hurricane Hermine hit. Probably not the best time as it was pitch black and I could hear animals roaming around outside. Totally freaked myself out!" —Lorgan Dorsey, Facebook

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $11 (hardcover), $18.94 (paperback), or $1.99 (Kindle).

    30. The Call by Peadar O'Guilin is a YA read that combines folklore and horror, set in an alternate Ireland where at any moment, a teen can be called to the "Grey Land," among the fairies, having to run for their life.

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    "Evil fairy-types steal human children for an hour into their realm. If you can hide or run, you live. If they catch you, you die or worse: come back as some twisted being of their sick creation." —charlotteemmah

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $17.66 (hardcover), $12.17 (paperback), or $9.99 (Kindle).

    31. Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón has been a cult classic in Spain and follows 15-year-old Oscar, who suddenly vanishes from his Barcelona boarding school and encounters the titular Marina, who leads him to a ritual in a cemetery.

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    "Creepiest, most melancholic book I've ever read." —vicalmaviva92

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $17 (hardcover), $16.78 (paperback), or $16.99 (Kindle).

    32. Helter Skelter tells the true and horrifying story of the Manson murders — and is the bestselling true crime book of all time.

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    "In college, for some unknown reason, I decided to read Helter Skelter. Literally every night until I finished it, I had nightmares — but I couldn't put it down. That book is like a terrible car crash that you can't tear your eyes away from. True horror stories like that affect me far more than any scary flick. Some people are truly disturbed." —sarahkh

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $39.95 (hardcover), $25.43 (paperback), or $9.99 (Kindle).

    33. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is a classic novel and was one of the first true mystery novels — it features all the classics of the genre like mistaken identities, asylums, amnesia, and family secrets.

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    "Scared me the first time I read it. The idea of women being controlled by the men in their lives because of the time period was really pushed by this book. Who do you turn to for help if your 'protectors' are the ones terrorizing you?" —laurad4c4ee19ef

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $15.47 (hardcover), $8.86 (paperback), or $0 — yes, zero dollars (Kindle).

    34. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson tells the controversial story of the paranormal events experienced by the Lutz family at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York — the Lutz family having moved in a year after Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shot and killed six of his family members there.

    Amazon / Via

    "Scarred me for LIFE. NEVER AGAIN." —mandygrishamp

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $12.92 (paperback).

    35. Everything's Eventual by Stephen King is a collection of short stories that will keep you up all night... and not just because you want to read "just one more."

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    "It's a collection of short stories and nearly every one is terrifying. The most terrifying is 'The Man in the Black Suit.'"—s49ce4756c

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $55.39 (hardcover), $17.08 (paperback), or $10.99 (Kindle).

    36. Bird Box by Josh Malerman is set in apocalyptic world, where something is out there that, if you look at it, will make you violent. It centres on a woman who must guide herself and her children to safety, even if that means being blindfolded.

    Amazon / Via

    "One of the most frightening books I've ever read. I've never been more tempted to put blankets over my windows." —susiemeine

    "Truly scary. Don't start it at night." —stevis2

    "Some of the best atmosphere I've ever read." —goddesstio

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $36.15 (hardcover), $12.31 (paperback), or $11.99 (Kindle).

    37. The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren by Gerald Brittle reveals the stories of the Warrens who claim to be experts on demonology and exorcism (and were featured in The Conjuring).

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    "I actually started having nightmares halfway through and waking up at 3 am, so I stopped with about a quarter of the book left to go. I regularly watch horror movies, and I love true crime podcasts, so I'm no wimp. But when this started to mess with my psyche, I had to stop." —tracis496a4d84c

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $22.22 (paperback) or $9.99 (Kindle).

    38. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist details the friendship between a bullied boy and his mysterious new neighbour, who has a connection to a series of recent and bloody local murders.

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    "Only book that has ever given me nightmares." —susiemeine

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $22.85 (hardcover), $17.95 (paperback), or $10.99 (Kindle).

    39. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood might cause some existential political anxiety, set in a near-future dystopia where women have no reproductive autonomy, cannot have jobs, have money, or read, and women who *are* able to have children are given to upper-class couples who cannot.

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    "It should terrify anyone, especially if you're a woman." —sanctuaryxiii

    Get it from Amazon Canada for $20.54 (hardcover), $10.99 (paperback), or $11.99 (Kindle).

    Fair warning: you might just need a new nightlight before digging in to any of these.


    Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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