The 20 horror books every fan should read

Horror fiction has been around as long as storytelling itself -- many of the earliest tales ever told were myths, populated by supernatural creatures and designed to frighten those who heard them. But the genre began to solidify in the 18th and 19th centuries, driven by authors like Horace Walpole, William Beckford, Matthew Lewis, Sheridan Le Fanu and, of course, Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe. It exploded in the 20th century, right alongside its cousins science fiction and fantasy, although to this day the horror genre -- with its darker, more disturbing themes, stories and imagery -- remains the red-headed stepchild of the wider world of literature.

Many powerful works, however, have been written in the horror genre, and with Halloween season rolling around, this is a good time for a quick primer on some of the books that every fan should either read or own. Some caveats: First, everything here is from the 20th century except for the first entry and the last two. Second, all but four are novels, but that quartet of entries -- three single-author collections and one anthology -- represent the huge importance of the horror short story.

Finally, this is by no means the last word on this subject. There are far more than 20 important works of horror fiction out there, and there's no way I could get to them all. That is where you come in: Add your favorites below and keep this list going. But don't forget to read or re-read the ones I've selected -- they're among the best of the best, which makes them not just great horror fiction, but simply great literature as well. Enjoy ...

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