ith a resurgence of attention the psychological thriller novel genre, I have concocted a list of the most binge-worthy thriller novels that will leave you spooked and guessing. From 20th century Stephen King classics, to coming-of-age thriller writers, The content that these authors produce is truly enthralling.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  1. The best psychological thriller books
  2. The best audiobook thrillers
  3. The best mystery-thriller books

Best Psychological Thriller Books

Targeting our own fears and horrors, the psychological thriller genre is like an escape from reality where the unpredictable guides the storyline. Here are some of the most notable psychological thriller novels that every thriller-lover should read.

an image from The Shining shows Wendy cowering in the corner while an ax is pushed through part of the door beside her. 
Like Stephen King said, "Good books don't give up all their secrets all at once." Image Courtesy of The Guardian.

The Shining by Stephen King (1977)

Psychological warfare between the hotel and Jack causes a psychotic breakout to happen and Danny must channel his “shining” to help him and his frantic mother combat his psychotic father. This classic inspired Director Stanley Kubrick to turn the beloved Stephen King novel into a major motion picture. With a 4.3 Goodreads rating, this is a perfect read–or watch–huddled next to a fire covered in blankets upon blankets.

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The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons (1978)

Taking place in the late 1900s, a typical suburban couple, Colquitt and Walter Kennedy live a quiet life surrounded by their banal, domestic neighbors and friends. A vacant lot nearby is pursued by a young, ambitious architect, Kim and Colquitt and Walter aren’t pleased that their privacy is compromised. After construction starts on the house next door, Colquitt notices strange things happening to the beings that cross the house’s path. Relationships are challenged by this somehow haunted modern house, until the entire neighborhood is unbalanced.

With a Goodreads rating of 3.9, this novel is consuming and you will not be able to put it down. Intrigue, confusion, and a touch of suburban ignorance, this is a wonderful new thriller classic for an escape from your own neighbors.

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (2019)

After a confusing altercation ending in a dead husband and a silent wife, criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber is determined to uncover the true reason for the wife, Alicia’s actions. With a seemingly perfect life before this catastrophe, Theo becomes obsessed with Alicia’s breaking point. He works to reveal who else might have been involved…and why doesn’t Alicia want to talk… or can she?

With a jaw-dropping twist toward the end of the novel, this is a great psychological thriller to read before bed to dwell on the everlasting questions you may have after reading chapter to chapter. With a 4.2 Goodreads rating, this novel will keep you guessing…what actually happened?

Buy The Silent Patient at Barnes & Noble >>

Best Audiobook Thrillers

Some books are best read aloud. The element of surprise with audiobooks enacts tension and mystery so that you as a reader can’t skip ahead and read the best parts– you’ll just have to listen for them.

A scene from Jaws the Movie shows hundreds of beach-goers frantically running out of the water
You'll never guess what's hidden between these pages. Image courtesy of Vox.

Jaws by Peter Benchley (1974)

Classic horror novel and major motion picture, Jaws, captures the “relentless terror” that the town of Amity must face as a man-eating monster in the depths of the great blue sea captures the attention of the community after killing multiple community members. Police Chief Brody is put under immense pressure by Amity’s mayor, Larry Vaughn and must make the ultimate decision to either keep the beaches open for the Fourth of July weekend or close them until the carnivore is captured. Chief Brody, hits his breaking point as he, shark hunter Quint, and marine biologist Hooper embark on a journey to find and kill this beast on a small boat in the middle of the ocean.

I listened to this book in the summer on the sand of the Outer Banks as the ocean water blanketed my bare feet. With a 4.0 Goodreads rating, this is a wonderful novel to immerse yourself in on your next beach vacation.

Verity by Colleen Hoover (2022)

Verity Crawford, a bedridden writer of vastly successful novels, hires Lowden, a small writer on the brink of financial ruin, to finish her remaining novels. A devastated husband welcomes Lowden into their home as she reads Verity’s notes and completes the novels. Throughout the days, Verity notices odd occurrences happening inside the house. Curtains close abruptly from vacated rooms and Verity’s son tells Lowden of his incapacitated mother as though she has been conversing with her son (although she is physically unable to). 

After a romance between Verity’s husband and Lowden begins, Lowden has a feeling that Verity is not happy. She can-almost- see Verity watching them from atop the stairs, behind the curtains. After Lowden discovers a ghastly manuscript written by Verity herself, Lowden is taken aback by its appalling contents. Lowden learns of Verity’s life before her accident, and she is left wondering if it is true and how much Verity’s accident actually hindered her.

Jealousy, intrigue, and tension combine to form a hypnotizing novel that you will be unable to put down. With a 4.4 Goodreads rating, this thriller and its everlasting plot twist is best listened to aloud for its jump scares and mystery.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)

Divorced movie star, Chris, lives with her daughter in a large home. After Chris hears strange noises in the house and her daughter starts to exhibit odd behavior, she is on the search for someone to help her. Doctors and psychiatrists cannot help and Chris becomes desperate for an explanation. Within the same novel, a second story takes place involving a priest privately questioning his faith. He seems to be the only person who can help Chris’ daughter and his last hope is to perform an exorcism on the young girl. Both separate stories intersect and Chris is convinced that the priest will save her daughter. Will his faith help him or harm a young girl and her mother?

With a 4.2 Goodreads rating, this horror is gripping, alluring, and haunting. Best listened to for its intrigue, this novel enacts memories and visuals to create a movie inside your head.

Best Mystery-Thriller Books

Do you love books that keep you guessing, wondering about what could possibly happen next? The mystery-thriller genre keeps readers on their toes with twists and turns, and like an art form, forces readers to interpret the novel in their own eye as the author forms it themselves like puzzle pieces fitting for a perfect ending.

An image from the movie Psycho shows the Bates Motel sign in black and the lettering in glowing yellow
Dare to be scared with these top three

Psycho by Robert Bloch (1959)

Mary Crane’s bad decision to steal $40,000 from her place of work are on her tail as she flees her home and finds solace in a small hotel off of a deserted freeway. Crane needs a room and Norman Bates is pleased to give her one of his own at the Bates Motel. Little does Crane know that Bates lives with his indisposed mother in a large house above the motel, and their relationship is troubled.

Bates seems to have been deprived of any social interaction because of his resentful mother. His mother seems to dislike Crane and her son’s sinister fantasies about the woman, and she visits Crane’s room with a knife while she is showering. As a detective becomes involved with her sudden disappearance, Crane’s friends and family are on the search for her and become suspicious of the forlorn Bates Motel and its owners.

Still on the hunt for her missing sister, a shocking twist finds Crane’s sister in the Bates Motel facing a skeleton and a melodramatic Bates. With a 4.1 Goodreads review, this novel is enthralling, mysterious, and shocking.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939)

Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine… A curious variety of strangers are invited to a solitary house on a hill surrounded by water. 10 little wooden soldier boys sit atop a center table and slowly, each member seems to disappear relative to the little wooden soldier boys. As the members attempt to uncover this mystery, more confusion seems to set in.

Earning a 4.3 Goodreads rating, this Agatha Christie mystery classic is a great mystery classic to curl up with on a rainy day.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley (2020)

Wedding guests expect to spend a weekend on an island for a friend’s wedding. The wedding planners take on a mysterious and detached relationship with the rest of the wedding crew. Some of the guests have a troubled relationship with the wedding party and a preppy past boils up to create a difficult and confusing course of events. Five characters hold mysterious backgrounds that cause mayhap and drama throughout this slow-burning novel.

Murder and psychological confusion combine to create a dramatic rendition of a classic mystery like those of Agatha Christie. With a 3.8 Goodreads rating, this novel is difficult to put down with its many twists and turns. You will never guess what happens next!

No Turning Back!

Thriller novels provide us with an escape from reality with captivating characters, enthralling plots, and mysterious endings. These mysterious thrillers are sure to bring tension, paradox, and secrecy to light. Take a break and enjoy these classics–hopefully they inspire you to keep reading!

Jul 5, 2023