Why We Read Books That Scare Us

While I’m not the biggest horror or suspense novel buff out there, I do enjoy reading both genres quite a bit. I’ve enjoyed reading horror and suspense novels since I was a little kid and first discovered R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books through a school book fair. I have noticed over the years that scary books tend to be a bit polarizing–people either love them or can’t stand to read them. When I meet people who are not fans, they often question why I (or anyone) would want to read something that we know is scary? Why would anyone want to intentionally scare themselves? Of course, there’s no concrete or “right” answer to these questions, but I personally believe that scary books are worthwhile and just as important as any other genre you may enjoy.

We read for various reasons. For entertainment, to learn new things, to understand the world around us. While we may not consider anything more than the entertainment quality of a book like Gone Girl or Misery, they teach us things about the world around us and about the people in it. This isn’t to say that I think all people are psychopaths in waiting or that you should live your life in fear of all the “what ifs”. You shouldn’t. But through understanding these darker characters, we understand more about ourselves. Even the most optimistic and kind person has frustrations and things that they struggle with. No one is void of anger, resentment or fear. It’s how you deal with it that’s important.

In a Writer’s Digest post titled 13 Stephen King quotes on Writing, King was quoted as saying “The battle between good and evil is endlessly fascinating because we are participants every day.” This I believe is what is at the heart of all good stories. Horror and suspense novels just look at this so-called battle in a different light.

Why do you like to read (or write) suspense or horror novels? If you aren’t a fan, what holds you back from reading it?


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