If there’s one thing I hold dear in this life, it’s scariness. Books, movies, and life in general—if it gets my heart pumping, I’m all in.
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Over the years, I have read more thriller books than perhaps anyone else in the Midwest. In fact, I’ve read so many thriller books that about 75% of them blend together. I’m at the point where I simply cannot differentiate between them. You’d think this means I’d venture into another genre (self-help, perhaps?), but alas, it has only made me read more, searching for the few that stand out from the others.
In 2022, I’ve read over 30 (yes, that’s three-zero) thriller books. That’s in addition to hundreds more in my lifetime. From The New York Times‘s #1 bestsellers to indie books nobody has heard of, I have read just about all of them. In preparation for this article, I also created a note on my phone and rated each one immediately after I finished it. (Spoiler: I only gave 3/30 five stars.)
‘Tis the season for scary reading (rejoice!), and I’ve done the heavy-lifting (read: reading of a lot of mediocre books) to bring you the best-of-the-best thrillers that you won’t be able to put down this fall. Sit down, cozy up, and get chilled to the bone with these winners:
Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had. But in the thick of motherhood's exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter—she doesn't behave like most children do. Or is it all in Blythe's head?
This is my favorite book I read in 2022, and I can't figure out why more people aren't talking about it. It's the kind of narrative that sucks you in through the beautifully written copy, but also wraps you up in the twisted tale until the very last page.
Local Woman Missing
11 years ago, Meredith Dickey went missing with her daughter, Delilah, shortly after another local woman went missing. Now, Delilah is suddenly back.
If you're looking for a book with an ending you really won't see coming, this is it. I thought I had the entire thing figured out. But then not one but several twists happened that absolutely blew my mind. I promise, this one won't disappoint even the most cunning of mystery solvers.
The Perfect Marriage
Sarah Morgan is the best criminal attorney money can buy, and she has her most difficult case yet: defending her husband, who may or may not have killed his mistress.
A classic chilling, domestic tale, this was one I simply couldn't put down. It kept me guessing until the very last page.
A Flicker in the Dark
When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, her own father had confessed to the crimes and was put away for life. Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in Baton Rouge when a local teenage girl goes missing in a context that's all too familiar to her.
After I finished this book, I closed it and confidently said "that's the best book I've read in a really, really long time." Not only is the story unique and captivating, but—you guessed it—you truly won't guess what the outcome is.
What We Forgot to Bury
Charlotte Coburn has a tragically dark past, but she’s safe now. She lives in a gated community, protected from danger. When teenager Elle knocks at her door looking for shelter during a particularly severe storm, the woman can’t help but think how lucky Elle’s been to have found someone as friendly as her—except Elle chose her door on purpose.
Throughout the whole novel, you'll be wondering who really is the villain—and how the twisted story will end. It's a quick, entertaining story that's perfect for a weekend read.
If you haven't heard of this book, you simply must be living under a rock. This book has defined the past two years as one of the most noteworthy, leave-you-guessing tales you can read. After I finished this book, I truly had to sit down with my jaw hanging open and regroup for a solid 30 minutes. Colleen Hoover is known for her romance novels, but not only is this book terrifying, the relationship at the center of it also sucks you right in from the first page.
In Cold Blood
I had to read this in college and was not excited. But then I read the first page and was instantly entranced, and loved it so much that I gave it a re-read earlier in the year. This is a true story that broke barriers when it was first published due to the way Capote melded true crime with novelistic storytelling. It’s a beautifully crafted narrative, shocking in its intensity and cruelty and made all the more horrific because it actually happened. It's a chilling read, perfect for a brisk October evening.
In kindergarten, as part of an assignment, Penpal's unnamed narrator and his classmates tied notes to a balloon and set them afloat. The notes were requests that the finder of the balloons would reply and become penpals for each child. All of the other kids, including the main protagonist's best friend, Josh, got replies. The storyteller did not. Then suddenly at the end of the school year, he begins receiving polaroids—and the boy is photographed in every single one.
I found this book in an obscure corner of TikTok that recommends only the scariest of scary books, and my God, is this scary. It truly reads with the cadence and suspense of a horror movie, and left me chilled to the bone throughout the entirety—which doesn't happen all that often. If you're looking for something to scare you, this is your best bet.
After a woman escapes a windowless shack in the woods, you would think her nightmare is ending, but it's only just beginning. She says her name is Lena—Lena, who disappeared without a trace 14 years ago. She fits the profile. She has the distinctive scar. But her family swears that she isn’t their Lena.
Many thrillers end up following a very similar structure, but this one is completely different from anything I've read. It's been described as Gone Girl meets Room, and I couldn't have put it better myself.
Survive the Night
Charlie is moving home from college after she can't move past her roommate's murder. She hitches a ride from a fellow student—who she realizes might be her roommate's murderer after she's already in the car with him.
Riley Sager is quickly making a name as one of the best thriller authors of our time, and his most recent release did not disappoint.
Lex Gracie doesn't want to think about her family, or growing up in her parents' House of Horrors. And she doesn't want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped, the eldest sister who freed her older brother and four younger siblings.
I've never heard anyone talk about this book, but to me, it stands out from the sea of popular thrillers for a reason. The story is one that keeps you captivated from the first page, but the character development is what keeps you absolutely hooked throughout. It's a long novel with far more depth than other books in the genre.
The Good Sister
Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be...dangerous. After Fern finds out Rose can't get pregnant, she decides she's going to give her the gift of a child, but what she finds out along the journey is the last thing she expected.
This book has the classic case of an unreliable narrator, but is somehow far more unexpected in its outcome than most books I've read.
Merritt Coletto and her husband, Luca, have the life they dreamed of: a coastal home, a promising future, and a growing family. That dream ends with a late-night knock on the door. Weak, broken, and emaciated, it’s Luca’s first wife, Lydia. Missing for 10 years, presumed dead, and very much alive, she has quite a story.
I've found that this book has an extremely dedicated fanbase, as it should. You'll find yourself changing your mind on what you think is actually going on constantly throughout reading it, leaving it impossible to put down.