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13 Terrifying Horror Books to Read This Halloween

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13 Terrifying Horror Books to Read This Halloween

13 Terrifying Horror Books to Read This Halloween

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Halloween! Time to turn out the lights, grab a horror book and a flashlight and scare yourself silly.

If you’d like to purchase any of these books, we’d highly recommend seeking out your local independent bookstore. Your business helps ensure the survival of these vital cultural institutions during this difficult time.

1. Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

Kill Creek
Kill Creek by Scott Thomas (Inkshares)

When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.

A psychological horror with a literary twist, Kill Creek delivers elevated prose, while evoking the unnerving, atmospheric terror essential to greats like Peter Straub and Stephen King—a haunting that lingers long after turning the last page.

2. Last Days by Brain Evenson

Last Days
Last Days by Brian Evenson (Coffee House Press)

Last Days follows Kline, a man forcibly recruited to solve the murder of the leader of an underground amputation cult.

When Kline is kidnapped by a dark sect that believes amputation brings you closer to God, he’s tasked with uncovering who murdered their leader. Will he uncover the truth in time to save himself, take on the mantle of prophet, or destroy all he sees with a rain of biblical violence?

3. Twilight by William Gay

Twilight
Twilight by William Gay (Dzanc Books)

With his poetic, haunting prose, William Gay rewrites the rules of the gothic fairytale while exploring the classic Southern themes of good and evil.

Suspecting that something is amiss with their father’s burial, teenager Kenneth Tyler and his sister Corrie venture to his gravesite and make a horrific discovery: their father, a whiskey bootlegger, was not actually buried in the casket they bought for him. Worse, they learn that the undertaker, Fenton Breece, has been grotesquely manipulating the dead.

Armed with incriminating photographs, Tyler becomes obsessed with bringing the perverse undertaker to justice. But first he must outrun Granville Sutter, a local strongman and convicted murderer hired by Fenton to destroy the evidence. What follows is an adventure through the Harrikin, an eerie backwoods filled with tangled roads, rusted machinery, and eccentric squatters—old men, witches, and families among them—who both shield and imperil Tyler as he runs for safety.

4. Monsterland by Nathan Ballingrud

Monsterland
Monsterland by Nathan Ballingrud (Small Beer Press)

Ballingrud’s Shirley Jackson Award-winning collection of gothic and uncanny stories investigates the loneliest and darkest corners of contemporary American life. Ballingrud’s stories are love stories. They’re also monster stories. Sometimes the monsters collected here are vampires or werewolves. Sometimes they wear the faces of parents, lovers, brothers, ex-wives—or the faces we see in our mirrors.

The people in these stories, ex-cons, single parents, unemployed laborers, kids seduced by extremism, are stranded by life, driven to desperate acts by love and a longing for connection. Sometimes they’re ruined; sometimes redeemed. They are always recognizably, wonderfully, terrifyingly human, even at their most monstrous.

Previously published as North American Lake Monsters. Monsterland is a new anthology TV series from Hulu based on Nathan Ballingrud’s striking, bleak, and luminous debut collection, starring Kaitlyn Dever, Kelly Marie Tran, Jonathan Tucker, and Taylor Schilling, and more.

5. Tiny Nightmares: Very Short Tales of Horror edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto

Tiny Nightmares
Tiny Nightmares: Very Short Tales of Horror edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto (Black Balloon Publishing)

A collection of horror-inspired flash fiction, featuring over 40 new stories from literary, horror, and emerging writers—edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto, the twisted minds behind Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder.

In this playful, inventive collection, leading literary and horror writers spin chilling tales in only a few pages. Each slim, fast-moving story brings to life the kind of monsters readers love to fear, from brokenhearted vampires to Uber-taking serial killers and mind-reading witches. But what also makes Tiny Nightmares so bloodcurdling—and unforgettable—are the real-world horrors that writers such as Samantha Hunt, Brian Evenson, Jac Jemc, Stephen Graham Jones, Lilliam Rivera, Kevin Brockmeier, and Rion Amilcar Scott weave into their fictions, exploring how global warming, racism, social media addiction, and homelessness are just as frightening as, say, a vampire’s fangs sinking into your neck. Our advice? Read with the hall light on and the bedroom door open just a crack.

6. Bluebeard’s First Wife by Ha Seong-Nan

Bluebeard's First Wife
Bluebeard’s First Wife by Ha Seong-Nan (Open Letter)

Ha looks closely at the sordid underbelly of suburbia in Bluebeard’s First Wife, the latest from one of Korea’s preeminent authors.

Disasters, accidents, and deaths abound in Bluebeard’s First Wife. A woman spends a night with her fiancé and his friends, and overhears a terrible secret that has bound them together since high school. A man grows increasingly agitated by the apartment noise made by a young family living upstairs and arouses the suspicion of his own wife when the neighbors meet a string of unlucky incidents. A couple moves into a picture-perfect country house, but when their new dog is stolen, they become obsessed with finding the thief, and in the process, neglect their child. Ha’s paranoia-inducing, heart-quickening stories will have you reconsidering your own neighbors.

7. The Night Will Find Us by Matthew Lyons

The Night Will Find Us
The Night Will Find Us by Matthew Lyons (Keylight Books)

They say never go into the woods at night…

School’s out for summer and that means one thing to Parker, Chloe, and their four friends: a well-deserved camping trip in the Pine Barrens, a million-acre forest deep in the heart of New Jersey. But when old grudges erupt, an argument escalates into the unthinkable, leaving one of them dead and the killer missing. As darkness descends and those left alive try to determine a course of action, the forest around them begins to change…

In the morning, more of the group has vanished and the path that led them into the woods is gone—as if consumed by the forest itself. Lost and hungry, the remaining friends set out to find help, only to realize that the forest seems to have other plans—a darker, ancient horror lies dead and dreaming in a lake in the center of the woods. And it’s calling to them.

Meanwhile, deep in the trees, the killer is still at large, and one of the group’s own has started to transform and warp into something other. Something inhuman. Something that wants to feast.

Banding together to survive, the friends soon begin to understand the true nature of the horror waiting for them in the Pine Barrens—and that not all of them will make it out alive.

8. Violet by Scott Thomas

Violet Cover Art
Violet by Scott Thomas (Inkshares)

For many children, the summer of 1988 was filled with sunshine and laughter. But for ten-year-old Kris Barlow, it was her chance to say goodbye to her dying mother.

Three decades later, loss returns—her husband killed in a car accident. And so, Kris goes home to the place where she first knew pain—to that summer house overlooking the crystal waters of Lost Lake. It’s there that Kris and her eight-year-old daughter will make a stand against grief.

But a shadow has fallen over the quiet lake town of Pacington, Kansas. Beneath its surface, an evil has grown—and inside that home where Kris Barlow last saw her mother, an old friend awaits her return.

9. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Woman in Black Cover Art
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (David R. Godine, Publisher)

Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor, has come north from London to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The townspeople are reluctant to share any information about Mrs. Drablow but Kipps soon realizes that there is more to Alice Drablow than he originally thought. At the funeral, he sees a woman dressed in black, with a pale face and dark eyes, whom a group of children are silently watching.

While sorting through Mrs. Drablow’s papers at Eel Marsh House over the course of several days, the routine formalities Kipps anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and most dreadfully and most tragically for Kipps, the woman in black herself.

First published in 1983, and written in the style of a traditional Gothic novel, The Woman in Black has become a classic novel of supernatural horror.

10. Twelve Nights at Rotter House by J.W. Ocker

Twelve Nights at Rotter House Cover Art
Twelve Nights at Rotter House by J.W. Ocker (Turner)

Felix Allsey is a travel writer with a keen eye for the paranormal, and he’s carved out a unique, if only slightly lucrative, niche for himself in nonfiction; he writes travelogues of the country’s most haunted places, after haunting them himself.

When he convinces the owner of the infamous Rotterdam Mansion to let him stay on the premises for 13 nights, he believes he’s finally found the location that will bring him a bestseller. As with his other gigs, he sets rules for himself: no leaving the house for any reason, refrain from outside contact, and sleep during the day.

When Thomas Ruth, Felix’s oldest friend and fellow horror film obsessive, joins him on the project, the two dance around a recent and unspeakably painful rough-patch in their friendship, but eventually fall into their old rhythms of dark humor and movie trivia. That’s when things start going wrong: screams from upstairs, figures in the thresholds, and more than what should be in any basement. Felix realizes the book he’s writing, and his very state of mind, is tilting from nonfiction into all out horror, and the shocking climax answers a question that’s been staring these men in the face all along: In Rotter House, who’s haunting who?

11. A God in the Shed by J.F. Dubeau

A God in the Shed Cover Art
A God in the Shed by J.F. Dubeau (Inkshares)

The village of Saint-Ferdinand has all the trappings of a quiet life: farmhouses stretching from one main street, a small police precinct, a few diners and cafés, and a grocery store. Though if an out-of-towner stopped in, they would notice one unusual thing—a cemetery far too large and much too full for such a small town, lined with the victims of the Saint-Ferdinand Killer, who has eluded police for nearly two decades. It’s not until after Inspector Stephen Crowley finally catches the killer that the town discovers even darker forces are at play.

When a dark spirit reveals itself to Venus McKenzie, one of Saint-Ferdinand’s teenage residents, she learns that this creature’s power has a long history with her town—and that the serial murders merely scratch the surface of a past burdened by evil secrets.

12. Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson

Song for the Unraveling of the World Cover Art
Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson (Coffee House Press)

A newborn’s absent face appears on the back of someone else’s head, a filmmaker goes to gruesome lengths to achieve the silence he’s after for his final scene, and a therapist begins, impossibly, to appear in a troubled patient’s room late at night. In these stories of doubt, delusion, and paranoia, no belief, no claim to objectivity, is immune to the distortions of human perception. Here, self-deception is a means of justifying our most inhuman impulses—whether we know it or not.

13. You Will Love What You Have Killed by Kevin Lambert

A Kind of Freedom Cover Art
A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Reveling in its own perversity, this horror tale accuses suburban Quebec of abusing and murdering its children—then takes revenge.

Faldistoire’s grandfather thinks he’s a ghost. Sylvie’s mother reads tarot and summons stormclouds to mete her witch’s justice. Behind his Dad of the Year demeanour, Sébastien’s father hides dark designs. It’s Croustine’s grandfather who makes the boy a pair of slippers from the dead family dog, but it’s his father, the cannily-named Kevin Lambert, who always seems to be nearby when tragedy strikes, and in the cemetery, under the baleful eyes of toads, small graves are dug one after the other: Chicoutimi, Quebec, is a dangerous place for children. But these young victims of rape, arbitrary violence, and senseless murder keep coming back from the dead. They return to school, explore their sexualities, keep tabs on grown-up sins—and plot their apocalyptic retribution.

Surreal and darkly comic, this debut novel by Kevin Lambert, one of the most celebrated and controversial writers to come out of Quebec in recent memory, takes the adult world to task—and then takes revenge.

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