Around October, a lot of people ask for horror books. Many want popular authors, both classic and current. So, what can you read when our branches are out of “It, opens a new window,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes, opens a new window” or “Dracula, opens a new window?” Hopefully, this post will give you some ideas. I have compiled all the titles from this post in this list, opens a new window, along with a few others I had to cut for space.
“My Best Friend's Exorcism, opens a new window” by Grady Hendrix is a story of friendship. Set in South Carolina during the 1980s, Abby’s best friend, Gretchen, starts acting strangely after experimenting with acid and disappearing at a party. A strong emotional core and likable characters keep you invested as the terror escalates.
A look at the Faustian bargain in the age of marketing and fine print, “Dead Souls, opens a new window” by J. Lincoln Fenn is a gruesome story of ironic punishment. Fenn has a fantastic sense of planting and payoff which makes the violence of the last several chapters hard to look away from.
Carmen Maria Machado’s “Her Body and Other Parties, opens a new window” uses horror, fantasy and science fiction to explore the struggles real women face with being the targets of violence. She shows her versatility as a writer with her collection of dark and striking stories. If you are more interested in a classic, Machado edited a new edition of “Carmilla, opens a new window” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. This vampire story predates Dracula by decades and tells the story of a mysterious house guest who simultaneously fascinates and disgusts the narrator.
If you are more interested in a graphic novel try “Uzumaki, opens a new window” by Junji Itō. Creepy and imaginative art draws you deeper into the book, much like the way the characters obsess over spirals. The stakes rise, bringing the story of a cursed small town to a cosmic scale, giving Itō the chance to showcase his skills as an artist.
“The Laws of the Skies, opens a new window” by Grégoire Courtois and “The Summer Is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved, opens a new window” by Joey Comeu are the most disturbing books on this list. Both are short, fast paced, and gory like a slasher movie, though “The Laws of the Skies” features an omniscient narrator bleakly reflecting on the brutality of humanity and nature, while “The Summer is Ended...” focuses more on the individual perspectives. A brief warning: These books feature a lot of graphic violence against children, so if that is too far for you, you may want to skip them.
“John Dies at the End, opens a new window” by David Wong is a splatter horror/comedy hybrid, like the "Evil Dead" movies. It also uses an unreliable narrator to ask some clever questions about change and identity. There are two more books in the series: “This Book Is Full of Spiders, opens a new window” and “What the Hell Did I Just Read, opens a new window.”
I like the way a good horror story can help us understand more about human nature by having us ask ourselves why we find these things scary and what the monsters represent. I hope this helps you find a good Halloween read or, if you’re like me, something you can read any time of the year.