In the "30 books" routine, this is meant to be something like "Day 8" but I felt like mixing it up a bit. So which books scare me?
Gave you nightmares, did I? Sorrynotsorry!
Well, I'm quite partial to a bit of Stephen King. I vividly remember reading Misery and being physically unable to put it down; I also wished there was a way to close my eyes during the scary bits (it's quite a lot more graphic than the movie). Unfortunately closing your eyes while reading horrific descriptions doesn't really help you to move on to the next bit of the story, so you pretty much have to go with it.
I also like Stephen King's short stories, even if many of them start exactly the same way: a couple of guys are sitting around in a depressing bar, someone bursts in looking dishevelled and terrified, saying "You won't believe what just happened to me!" The story unfolds to reveal the details of gigantic rats living in basements / people turning into slugs / vampires roaming Salem's lot.
A particular favourite of mine is entitled "The Mangler" and involves an evil machine which eats people. The story includes the line: "I will tell you one thing, Hunton, since you seem to have taken this case to heart. If you mention it to anyone else, I'll deny I said it. But I didn't like that machine. It seemed almost to be... mocking us."
This kind of makes it sound as if I'm mocking Stephen King, but I'm not. At his best, his writing is full of imaginative scenarios as well as those especially abhorrent little details which make the story stick in your mind for years afterwards.
The movies made have had mixed results: Carrie is great, Christine is actually better than the novel (sorry Stephen) because it streamlines the story and makes it clear that the car is just bad (the book has some rather convoluted ideas: "maybe it's haunted by its old owner, or maybe he's possessing the car's new owner, or, ooh, I don't really know"). Misery is as spot-on as film censors could allow. Children of the Corn was a hideously incompetent movie of a truly frightening short story.
Runners up: I've talked before about how I find some Gothic horror to be oddly comforting bedtime reading – it has just enough creep to be perfect reading matter for a stormy night or a smoky October day, but it's not actually terrifying enough to give you nightmares. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Frankenstein, Dracula, and anything by H.P. Lovecraft fits into this category (also some Daphne du Maurier).
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was also surprisingly frightening, and I found myself mesmerised by People of the Lie, a book by Psychologist M.Scott Peck, about the "truly evil" people he has come across during his career.
Laughably, I also still get a bit scared reading certain thrillers from the Sweet Valley High series. The Evil Twin was awesome, although I'm pretty sure the sequel was a piece of fan-fiction they found on the internet and decided to publish anyway. If Francine Pascal needs any more ghost writers, I'm there!