The restrictions would apply to books with elements of mystery, fantasy, the occult and superstition that were "calculated to entertain by frightening" the reader, Deputy Home Minister Chor Chee Heung was quoted as saying Thursday in The Star newspaper.
"These materials will create an unhealthy picture on the minds of the readers, and influence them by such far-fetched ghostly stories," Chor was quoted as saying.
It was not immediately clear how the restrictions would work, or whether mainstream authors such as Stephen King would be subject to the controls. Chor said J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series about a schoolboy magician was "benign" and therefore acceptable.
He said book importers and publishers should contact the Home Ministry if they are uncertain if a particular book falls within the restrictions.
Officials at the Home Ministry confirmed the new restrictions to The Associated Press but refused to explain them further, or give examples of banned books.
Censorship is widely practiced in mostly-Muslim Malaysia, in movies, on television and in print. Violence and references to sex, including kissing, are cut from films and television shows; nudity and other images in magazines are blacked out.
Uncensored films and pornography are widely sold on pirated DVDs, despite police crackdowns.