Is it just me, or do all nice books kinda feel the same? Two people meet, fall in love, something mildly sad happens, they get over it, and then they run off into the sunset together. Sometimes I even have a hard time remembering which ones I’ve read already because they all start to mush together in my memory. Which is why I’ve lately been in the mood to devour thrillers. I need a book so psychologically messed up that it’ll burn into my brain for the rest of eternity! I’m fine, I promise.
Truthfully, the best part about thrillers is that you get so zoned in to their deranged plotlines that hours and hours of reading will go by and feel like just a few minutes—which, TBH, is *exactly* what all of us need right now given how much free time we have on our hands. And fine, this is just a working theory, but I’m pretty sure that if you get your heart pumping from reading a truly terrifying book, that’s basically the same thing as doing a bit of high-intensity cardio? (Please, just let me have this one.)
Here are 30 of the best thriller books you won’t be able to put down until you’ve turned the last page, from the most classic suspense novels to the newest murder mysteries and even a few reads that have gotten the Hollywood treatment. You’ll definitely zip right through these, even if you do have to take a couple of breaks to turn on all the lights in your apartment and check to make sure no one is hiding in your closet.
I Am Watching You, by Teresa Driscoll
Why so many thrillers insist on taking place on trains, I’ll never know, but this book brings it in an entirely new way. Ella Longfield overhears two young men flirting with some teenage girls on a train, which seems totally normal until she realizes the men recently got out of prison. When one of the girls disappears, Ella becomes more involved than she ever could have imagined.
The Woman in the Window, by A. J. Finn
This book was recently made into a movie starring Amy Adams, so you’ll def want to read it ASAP so you can be one of those “the book was better than the movie” people. It follows the story of Anna Fox, an agoraphobic New York City resident who’s taken an interest in peeping on her neighbors. Everything’s fine until one night when she sees something particularly violent.
The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
What happens when a famous painter shoots her husband and then goes completely silent, refusing to say a single word? A criminal psychotherapist is left to try to get her to talk and figure out her motive, naturally.
What You Did, by Claire McGowan
If you’re already dreading your college reunion, read this book because it can’t get any worse than this. Twenty years after graduating, a group of friends reunites. But when Ali’s best friend stumbles in from the garden covered in blood and claiming that Ali’s college sweetheart/now-husband is behind the attack, Ali is forced to take a good hard look at her memories from college.
Lock Every Door, by Riley Sager
If you want a thriller that’s really gonna get your heart racing (and maybe make you hide the book under your bed out of fear), this is it. When Jules takes a job as an apartment sitter at an old, swanky Manhattan building, she quickly learns that something extremely dark is going on there.
The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel
This book has it all: Manhattan for the East Coast lovers, Vancouver for the West Coast aficionados, a crumbling Ponzi scheme, threatening messages on a hotel window, and a missing woman.
Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman
Reese Witherspoon said this book captivated her “from page one,” so you know it’s gonna be good. Set during a dream honeymoon in Bora Bora, it’ll make the perfect summer read.
The Last Time I Lied, by Riley Sager
Look, Riley Sager knows how to write a kick-ass thriller, and The Last Time I Lied is no different. He manages to take two truths and a lie and turn it into the premise for an ultra-creepy book.
If It Bleeds, by Stephen King
If your mind doesn’t immediately go to Stephen King when you think of picking up a thriller book, then I’m here to educate you. If It Bleeds is a good place to start since it’s a novella, so you’ll be able to get plenty of Stephen King scaries in your system in just a few pages.
Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell
As if having your 15-year-old daughter go missing isn’t scary enough, imagine it’s 10 years later, you’re finally getting your life back on track, and you meet a charming guy whose young daughter eerily reminds you of your own. That’s some freaky stuff!
The Outsider, by Stephen King
If you can make it through this book without getting totally freaked out, then I have some good news: It also exists as a miniseries on HBO, starring Jason Bateman and Cynthia Erivo, so you can experience it all over again. Lucky you!
Caught, by Harlan Coben
If you loved watching The Stranger on Netflix, you’ll reaaally love this book by the same writer. Equally as twisted and mysterious, it’s about what happens when a well-intentioned person opens the wrong door.
The Shack, by WM. Paul Young
After Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter goes missing on a family vacay (and evidence surfaces that she may have been murdered at an abandoned shack), he’s shocked when, four years later, he gets a suspicious note inviting him back to the scene of the potential crime.
The 20th Victim, by James Patterson
This book asks a very important Dexter-like question: If a group of shooters are taking out seedy criminals, are they villains or heroes?
The Boy From the Woods, by Harlan Coben
If you’re fascinated by feral children (just me?), you’re gonna be really into this book. Thirty years after Wilde was found as a boy living by himself in the woods, he still has no idea where he comes from. So when a young girl goes missing, Wilde and his special skills are enlisted to help find her.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green
If you’ve ever had a tweet go viral, you know you’ll be haunted by the notifications for months to come. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing takes that idea but makes it a bajillion times more intense.
Cari Mora, by Thomas Harris
In case you didn’t know…Thomas Harris is the guy who wrote The Silence of the Lambs. In other words, he’s, like, the MOST qualified person to mess with your brain. Cari Mora is about a young woman named Cari who has to escape from a psychopath while she’s taking care of a mega-mansion in Miami.
Pretty Revenge, by Emily Liebert
Revenge? Wedding industry drama? Oodles and oodles of money? What could ever go wrong?! I mean, probably a million things, which is why you should read this book as soon as humanly possible.
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
Slide your way into the official “But the book was better than the movie!” club by picking up The Girl on the Train, the dark, twisted thriller that inspired the 2016 Emily Blunt major motion picture.
The Woman in the Dark, by Vanessa Savage
Uh…this psychological thriller is about a woman who moves into the house where her husband grew up and a family was brutally murdered. It’s literally about a murder house. I will never understand why people don’t just GTFO, but if they did…we wouldn’t have such thrilling novels.
In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware
Leonora is a writer who accepts an invitation for a trip to the English countryside. Surprise! It turns into a terrifying, creepy weekend. (Does anyone ever expect anything different from the literal woods? Why does anyone go to the woods anymore?)
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
I don’t mean to be a jerk, but you can’t consider yourself a thriller fan if you haven’t read Gone Girl. It’s basically the initiation for loving thrillers. If you can handle all the goose bumps you’ll get reading this twist-and-turn-y novel, you can handle anything.
Spin, by Lamar Giles
An up-and-coming DJ is killed during a performance and everyone (completely understandably) freaks TF out. Her case ends up going cold, so her friends and fans are left to figure out what happened all by themselves.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a classic for a reason. There’s murder, financial scandals, mad family drama, and even a little bit of love. It checks every box.
Out, by Natsuo Kirino
If you enjoy a side of insanely dark comedy with your thrillers, you’ve got to check out this book about a woman in Tokyo who strangles her husband and then enlists her coworkers to help hide the body.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
Let me guess…you were supposed to read this in high school but you opted to skim the SparkNotes version instead. Now that you don’t have to, like, study for the SATs and go to track practice, you should definitely actually read this one.
The Secrets You Keep, by Kate White
In The Secrets You Keep, a self-help writer’s life spins totally out of control when she realizes her husband is shady as hell. Yes, this might have you trying to guess your boo’s passcode, but it’s a good read.
Paper Ghosts, by Julia Heaberlin
Paper Ghosts is about a woman who goes on a road trip with a SERIAL KILLER who has dementia in hopes of finding her sister. Good luck ever taking an Uber again after this one.
Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
Before Big Little Lies was the show that gave you life, it was a book of a similar-but-not-entirely-identical plot. I hate to share spoilers, but…this book will also give you life.
The Lost Night, by Andrea Bartz
Ten years ago, Lindsay had a wild night she barely remembers. It resulted in her friend Edie’s body being found with a suicide note. Now, Lindsay is discovering that Edie may have been murdered…and that she might have had something to do with it.
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