6 BOOKS LIKE BIRD BOX THAT WILL CREEP YOU OUT

I have always loved horror. The poorly-written mass market paperbacks I pulled from my father’s shelves. The B-horror flicks I watched in dark basements. The books and movies that suggested that true horror lived within everyday people.

But lately, I’ve been particularly transfixed by horror that focuses on feelings of claustrophobia and unseen menace. As a grownass adult whose day-to-day fears revolve around being trapped by the consequences of my terrible decisions (schedule shift; career move; poor spending choice; ill-advised parenting tactic), this seems apt. And perhaps no book has embodied these fears as perfectly as Josh Malerman’s Bird Box.

When I first read Bird Box, a work of literary horror that has since been adapted (and quite well) by Netflix, it was just a few months before my daughter was born, a life change that would shrink my world, leave me feeling at times constricted. Even four years later, she is so needy it often seems as if she’s trying to crawl back inside my body. So when I read Malerman’s book, there was something in me that connected to the story.

For those who haven’t read the book or seen the Netflix adaptation, here’s the gist: An unseen menace causes people to become violent and suicidal. After a time, it is determined that victims go crazy when they look upon these creatures. As a result, survivors remain in boarded-up houses, with papered-up windows. They go on supply runs with blindfolds over their eyes. Their world shrinks and, in this miniaturized life they are forced to live, they don’t even know what it is they fear.They don’t know what their monster looks like.

It’s a delicious mix of claustrophobia, blindness, and a fear of the unknown. Are there other books like Bird Box? Which ones bring that same brand of terror?

6 books like BIRD BOX to creep you the heck out. book lists | scary books | creepy books | horror books | books like BIRD BOX

THE BEST BOOKS LIKE BIRD BOX

The Mist by Stephen King - 6 Books Like Bird BoxTHE MIST BY STEPHEN KING
Let me just get this one out of the way. King has a number of titles beneath his belt in which the main protagonist finds himself trapped in an untenable situation. The one that reminds me most of what went down in Bird Box is The Mist, a novella about a small town enveloped by a strange mist, in which terrible creatures seem to be skulking about. Most of the action takes place in a supermarket in which a number of townspeople find themselves trapped. As these people, thrust together by circumstance, grapple with what’s going on—and what they should do next—tensions explode. Will anyone make it out alive?

 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - 6 Books Like Bird BoxTHE GREAT ALONE BY KRISTIN HANNAH
When I received an ARC of this book in the mail, I was unfamiliar with Hannah’s work. I had no clue she was a New York Times bestselling author with approximately eleventy-billion published novels on her résumé. But I was immediately bewitched by this story of this coming-of-age story in which a small family moves to the wilds of Alaska in order to start anew. Unfortunately, there’s no leaving behind the inner demons of the family’s patriarch, a former POW. In this book-length fight for survival, the barren landscape isn’t the most dangerous thing the young protagonist needs to fear. This isn’t a horror novel, but it is horrifying.

 

Blindness by Jose Saramago - 6 Books Like Bird BoxBLINDNESS BY JOSÉ SARAMAGO
Where in Bird Box, characters were forced to blindfold themselves when outside so as to avoid glimpsing the thing that drove others mad, Saramago’s book is about literal blindness. A city is hit by an epidemic of blindness. Those afflicted are confined to an empty mental hospital, but the conditions there are brutal. Meanwhile, one woman who has miraculously retained her sight struggles to guide a group of strangers through this terrible new wilderness, made even more terrible by how it has empowered others to embrace the worst in themselves.

 

Cover of Blind DescentBLIND DESCENT BY JAMES M. TABOR
Before Bird Box, I lost my shit over The Descent (the British horror film; not the book by Jeff Long upon which it is very loosely based). When I saw the film, I spent the entire one-hour-40-minute run time gasping for air as a group of female spelunkers—trapped in an uncharted, underground cave system—fought and strained to find a way out. There were monsters and jump scares in the film. But what was most terrifying was, again that sense of claustrophobia. Which is why Blind Descent, a work of narrative nonfiction on two scientist-explorers who find themselves trapped within the depths of massive cave systems, freaks me out so much.

 

Hye-young-Pyun The Hole | 2017 Shirley Jackson Awards | Book RiotTHE HOLE BY HYE-YOUNG PYUN
A man wakes up from a coma after causing a car accident that takes his wife’s life and leaves him paralyzed and badly disfigured. He is left in the care of his mother-in-law, who is bereft at the loss of her only child. Confined to his bed and neglected by his reluctant and resentful caretaker, he is left only with memories of his troubled marriage. “Yellow Wallpaper” much?

 

The Devil in Silver by Victoe LaValle - 6 Books Like Bird BoxTHE DEVIL IN SILVER BY VICTOR LAVALLE
And then there’s the book that first introduced me to LaValle’s work. In it, a group of inmates at a mental institution find themselves picked off one by one by a terrifying creature with the body of an old man and the head of a bison. But is the creature real, or just the result of group delusion? This book tackles many tough topics, among them the question of how and why our fears manifest.

By , February 
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H.P. Lovecraft And The Shadow Over Horror

Scary tentacles

Hello Lovely/Getty Images/Blend Images

H.P. Lovecraft’s stories are among the foundations of modern horror. He has an entire subgenre named after him (Lovecraftian horror, also called cosmic horror). His stories can still wring shivers from the modern reader; his gods and monsters are cloned, adapted and mutated by new authors every year (I’m one of them). I don’t actually know how many anthologies include either his name or his iconic creation Cthulhu in their titles — though a sample make up a largish shelf among my books, and then there are the movies, songs, role-playing games and plush abominations (another shelf). During the 2016 election, a Washington Post op-ed claimed Cthulhu’s endorsement for Donald Trump.

But Lovecraft was a bigot. He was a bigot by the standards of our time and his. He hated and feared African-Americans, Jews, poor people and anyone who had the temerity to speak languages other than English in his presence. He once wrote a poem called “On the Creation of [N-words]” and a story in which the horrific punchline was that the femme fatale with monstrous, man-strangling hair was “a negress.” Though sometimes less overt, his terror of humans who were not upper-class Anglo-Saxons pervades his stories. One celebrated classic […] ends by recognizing a strange and alien race as “men” like the reader — men whose civilization collapsed because of a revolt by their monstrous slaves. Those slaves, the shoggoths, appear as boogeymen throughout Lovecraft’s oeuvre.

What to do about the darkness gnawing at horror’s roots? Perhaps Lovecraft’s own metaphors are best: Can this ancestral taint be denied, or does it warp its descendants even today? Could we destroy it, even if we wanted to? If we did, what would remain of our modern branches? Could we instead transform it? Horror excels at making thought-provoking beauty and terror out of the most vile seeds. Can we work such metamorphoses with our own foundations?

Every time someone raises this topic, traditionalists accuse them of forced amnesia. “You’re trying to bury Lovecraft’s memory. You want us to forget him.” Yet modern horror has repeatedly chosen transformation over suppression. Victor LaValle, Caitlin R. Kiernan, N.K Jemisin and Matt Ruff are only a few of those now penning Lovecraftian stories in which bigotry itself is the horror.

Pervasive in cosmic horror is the conflict between attraction and repulsion. Lovecraft’s narrators stumble into terror because they can’t look away: The only thing worse than knowing things man wasn’t meant to know is putting down the book. I feel the same way about Lovecraft. “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” begins with the town’s amphibious inhabitants being forced into internment camps; my first novel resulted from yelling at the story until I had to put my fury down on paper. Yet “Shadow” also contains moments of strange sympathy for its monsters and a protagonist who ultimately discovers himself to be one of them, and transforms to “dwell amidst wonder and glory” beneath the waves of the Atlantic.

Lovecraft, too, was conflicted — though in his short life he never found the courage to let his attraction to difference overcome his repulsion. Perhaps we keep building on his creations in the hope that we can finally complete that half-hinted transformation.

Lovecraft’s repellent assumptions still make their way into modern work; even beloved modern authors sometimes show hints of that taint. If we know that a story or author [we’re discussing] is problematic, we’ll tell you — and no shame on anyone who doesn’t care to dip their hands into that particular variety of putrescent pool. There are a few I won’t touch myself. But for those who can’t turn away from what glints at the heart of the slime — or who seek imperfect materials to sculpt into strange new forms — we’ll do our best to map the abyss.

By RUTHANNA EMRYS, August 16, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR

Editor’s Note:

Ruthanna Emrys is the author of the Innsmouth Legacy series and co-writes Tor.com’s Lovecraft Reread. She lives in a mysterious manor house on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. with her wife and their large, strange family. You can find her on Twitter as @r_emrys.

 

Reading Horror Can Arm Us Against A Horrifying World

Why read horror when the world is already so creepy?
Maree Searle/Getty Images/EyeEm

Tom Lehrer famously said that satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. And yet here we are, still struggling to exaggerate the follies of power until power can’t get around us. Horror has much the same resilience. As terrifying as the world becomes, we still turn to imagined terrors to try and make sense of it. To quote another favorite entertainer, Neil Gaiman, “Fairy tales are more than true: Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Horror, descended from those tales, tells us about more monsters — and more strategies for beating them.

The banal evils of the world — children shot, neighbors exiled, selves reframed in an instant as inhuman threats — these are horrible, but they aren’t horror. Horror promises that the plot arc will fall after it rises. Horror spins everyday evil to show its fantastical face, literalizing its corroded heart into something more dramatic, something easier to imagine facing down. Horror helps us name the original sins out of which horrible things are born.

Some of my favorite horror stories are those in which real-world terrors grow gradually into something stranger. Mariana Enriquez, recently translated into English in Things We Lost in the Fire, writes a Buenos Aires in which poverty and pollution inevitably swell into risen corpses and sacrificial cults. Stephen King’s Carrie only destroys her town because abuse and bullying feed her frustrated teenage telekinesis. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic “The Yellow Wallpaper” starts from the simple psychological claustrophobia of well-meaning relations and deep-rooted sexism.

All of which gives horror the opportunity to be radically empowering, and to condemn these evils in the starkest of terms. But it doesn’t always do so. In too many stories the Thing That Should Not Happen is simply someone violating the status quo, or outsiders existing visibly. H. P. Lovecraft is a prototypical example — his world-shattering deities are worshipped primarily by those without other means to power: immigrants, rural folk, dark-skinned people trying to summon dreadful entities. His monsters are closely entwined with mental illness and “miscegenation.” His works insist, again and again, that civilization depends on keeping such creatures out of both sight and mind. Nor is Lovecraft (conveniently dead and ostensibly “of his time”) the only one. How much modern horror still draws frissons of fear from disabled villains, or the threat of “madness,” or whatever Other happens to be convenient? How many can only imagine threats as violations of white-picket-fence comfort, overcome when the monster’s defeat allows a return to that comfort for those who had it in the first place?

While it’s tempting to write horror from the perspective of those most easily shocked — those in a position to believe the universe dispenses comfort evenly to all — the best modern work depicts terrors fit for those already intimate with fear. Mira Grant (a.k.a. Seanan McGuire) is brilliant at this. Her Newsflesh trilogy amplifies the perils of political journalism, mindful that authorities’ response to disaster can make the difference between zombie apocalypse and zombie inconvenience. Victor Lavalle, another favorite, finds ways to faze protagonists who already face segregation, police violence, and the cosmic indifference of everyday prejudice.

Horror as a genre is built around one truth: that the world is full of fearful things. But the best horror tells us more. It tells us how to live with being afraid. It tells us how to distinguish real evil from harmless shadows. It tells us how to fight back. It tells us that we can fight the worst evils, whether or not we all survive them — and how to be worthy of having our tales told afterward.

 

Editor’s Note:
Ruthanna Emrys is the author of the Innsmouth Legacy series and co-writes Tor.com’s Lovecraft Reread. She lives in a mysterious manor house on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. with her wife and their large, strange family. You can find her on Twitter as @r_emrys.

By RUTHANNA EMRYS, August 5, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR

Learn Your Library Resources – Adult Genre Collection

Those of you familiar with the layout of the adult collection on the second floor of the library will know that our Fiction (FIC) section is only part of our fiction collection.

Image result for genres

Genre fiction is a part of fiction, of course, but fans of certain genres like to be able to browse books it their particular area of interest. As we can’t stand the idea of not being as helpful as possible, certain genres have been separated out from the rest so that readers can do just that.

Graphic Novels, Mystery, Romance, Speculative Fiction (an umbrella term that covers Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror) and Westerns all have there own area.

It can get a little confusing sometimes when a book could fit into more than one category – genre crossovers and mash-ups were always a part of certain genres (hence grouping sci-fi, fantasy and horror together under Speculative Fiction) but they are only becoming more common – so, if you are not sure what section to look in just ask.

We are here to help!

 

 

7 INDIE HORROR, MYSTERY, AND CRIME NOVELS FOR MUSIC LOVERS

Nothing goes together quite as nicely as music and crime. Any bloody scene begs for a soundtrack. And while all books line up perfectly with some playlist, there are some a little more tailor-made than others. So if you prefer your literary murders with operatic accompaniment, here are 7 indie horror, mystery, and crime novels for the music lovers among us.

WE SOLD OUR SOULS

music-lovers-books-we-sold-souls

This Grady Hendrix horror novel from Quirk Books is the story of Kris Pulaski. Although a current manager of a Best Western, she served as former guitarist for the ’90s band Dürt Würk. Kris discovers that lead singer Terry didn’t just break up the promising band for a solo career. He sold all of their souls. Literally. What follows is a heavy metal power ballad of a road novel with equal parts horror and rock. Hendrix is an indie horror legend, and We Sold Our Soulsis one of his best.

 

WELCOME TO THE SHOW: 17 HORROR STORIES – ONE LEGENDARY VENUE

music-lovers-books-welcome-show

Although The Shantyman, the stories’ unifying San Francisco music venue, is fictional, the horror is real enough. On the book’s back cover, Crystal Lake Publishing warns us: “We all know the old cliché: Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Now, add demons, other dimensions, monsters, revenge, human sacrifice, and a dash of the truly inexplicable.” Detailing the strange and wonderful history of The Shantyman, Welcome to the Show’s musical references range from jazz club to rock club, with plenty in between. You’ll especially want to check out offerings from Kelli Owen (“Open Mic Night”), Matt Serafini (“Beat On the Past”), and the closer from Mary SanGiovanni (“We Sang in Darkness”).

 

GETHSEMANE BROWN MYSTERY SERIES

music-lovers-books-gethsemane-brown

From Henery Press, Alexia Gordon’s mystery series, beginning with Murder in G Major, centers around African American classical musician Gethsemane Brown. Gethsemane, in addition to being an expert violinist, is Sherlock smart and funny as hell. The cozy mysteries satisfy lovers of BBC-style whodunits as well as classical music lovers. My personal favorite has been Killing in C Sharp, where Gethsemane has to fight off a vengeful ghost. Did I mention there are supernatural elements? Yeah. These books have a lot to offer.

 

THE VINYL DETECTIVE MYSTERIES

music-lovers-books-vinyl-detective

Beginning with Written in Dead Wax, Andrew Cartmel’s series from Titan books follows a record collector with knack for tracking down rare vinyl. Luckily for the readers, he also has a way of stumbling into some fast-paced murder mysteries. Cartmel brings his experience writing for Midsomer Murders to the page, and it shows. The music is spilling off the page along with the blood and the coffee. There are cats. So many reasons to pick up this series. My favorite: The Run-Out Groove.

 

THE PLOT AGAINST HIP HOP

music-lovers-books-plot-against-hip-hop

From Akashic Books, hip hop expert Nelson George presents his parallel history of hip hop within a gritty AF Noir York City. Along the way he name drops Kanye and Jay-Z and Russell Simmons and others. The story is one of D Hunter’s search for the person who stabbed a well-respected music critic. Like good hip hop, there is social commentary and a blurring of the lines between great storytelling and all-to-real happenings. The Plot Against Hip Hop reads almost like Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, but in the world of rap music. Brilliant prose, vast conspiracy, (at times) borderline trippy narrative. If you love crime fiction and you love hip hop, this book is a must read.

 

DIRTY BOULEVARD: CRIME FICTION INSPIRED BY THE SONGS OF LOU REED

music-lovers-books-dirty-boulevard

Edited by David James Keaton, this Down & Out Books anthology lives at the intersection of rock music and crime fiction. It features some of the heaviest hitters in the game: Reed Farrel Coleman, Gabino Iglesias, Cate Holahan, Alison Gaylin, and J. David Osborne. On the dirty, drunken streets of this book, there is all the gender-bending, rule-breaking, hard-rocking poetic pain that was Lou Reed. For me, Cate Holahan’s “Pale Blue Eyes” takes what I can only assume would be, in this case, a grimy booze-soaked blue ribbon dotted with blood.

 

TRAGEDY QUEENS: STORIES INSPIRED BY LANA DEL REY & SYLVIA PLATH

music-lovers-books-tragedy-queens

Leza Cantoral, expert anthology editor (who also did the fantastic Walk Hand In Hand Into Extinction: Stories Inspired By True Detective), curated this collection from Clash Books. Although these stories are not all exclusively crime fiction, there is more than enough to be found. Although there are some male writers involved (Gabino Iglesias shows up again), this anthology is all about female empowerment. Laura Diaz de Arce, Ashley Inguanta, Tiffany Scandal, and Monique Quintana all bring A game to this haunting volume of raw emotion.

By , November 

Oh Poor Horror, Misunderstood: Josh Malerman on Horror’s New Generation

Photo by W A T A R I on Unsplash

Oh, poor horror, misunderstood.

Mother says you’re made up of witches and woods, brutal bloodletting, slashers in hoods. But I know better, having eaten my share, saved some for later, stashed under stairs.

Mixed ‘em and matched ‘em and made new pairs.

Mother doesn’t like you. She says you are trite! I try to convince her night after night. I beseeched her, “Dear Mother, open thy mind. Horror is no longer a word you will find so neatly packaged with stuffing and twine.”

“Leave me, dark child, with a full foamy stein.
And take your common monsters, speckled with teeth
Used so often they put me to sleep.
Take your old bones lying out in the rain
While I read something compelling and sane.”

Oh, poor horror, misunderstood.

I continued with Mother, as well as I could. My argument expanded to include books she deemed good. “Some say Jane Eyre is as much of a fright as Tanith Lee’s Dreams of Dark and Light. And some cite Melville as a man of such tales, for what could be scarier than a giant white whale? But never mind the classics, fuddy mother of mine, horror no longer grows on the vine Here, let me show you one of mine.”

Here I showed Mother Inspection of mine.

She huffed and she hawed until halfway she knew it, she lifted the book and she almost threw it, then brought it back down to the yarn on her knees, and read the second half at her ease.

“But this isn’t horror, rotten child of mine, for it has no vampires or inverted nines.”

“But Mother, you see! The word is elastic, and all us new writers are made of new plastic! We’ll write of such things, but not cause they’re gaudy, we’re interested in both the mind and the body. We thrill but we think, we’re intellectually naughty. We’re interested in both the mind and the body.”

Dear Mother then frowned and dismissed me again. But she hadn’t yet thrown the book in her hand.

“What does your kind know of the ways of the soul? Coming of age? Quality control? Leave me, braindead child, and take with you your trolls.”

Oh poor horror, misunderstood.

I took leave as she ordered but for only so long, and returned with a stack of new songs.
A tower of books, a stack of new songs.

“Horror has changed, Dear Mother it’s true, it’s not the same now as it was for you. The genre is present as the ice in your drink, it’s come up through the pipes and the sink.”

Here Mother looked to the kitchen, to the sink, and I felt I’d made progress, had got her to think.

“The genre has fled from the castles of yore and is no longer steeped in bones and gore–though we love such elements, we love them, it’s true! But did you know the color blue could be as much monster as the thing in the brew? Did you know we see monsters in even baby blue?”

“The way you talk, it’s as if you see scares everywhere.”

“That’s it! That’s right! Even over there!”

I pointed to a corner where nothing was there.

Mother shook her head and pointed, too, a long wrinkled finger and said, “You, oh you. Do you think me so vulgar to believe such a thing? That your genre might be found on a butterfly’s wing?”

“But what better place–do not make a face–for your likeness may match the pattern of lace in the curtains of this room in which we debate, or the pattern indeed of the butterfly’s mate.”

“Oh!” Mother said, shaking her head. “Leave me, gross child, and take your undead. You speak as though you’d marry Dreary and Dread.”

Oh poor horror, misunderstood.

“I’ll leave you, Dear Mother, I’ll go up to my bed. But not without repeating the things that I’ve said. For horror has risen from the graves of yore and can be found now in places never heard of before, or perhaps even the corners of this very room! A brand new monster in this very room!”

She looked to the corner and I felt I’d scored, but I’d need to describe what stood where the walls met the floor.

“Do you see it, Dear Mother? The crown of its head? Why, it’s not even a ghost, it’s not even dead. Nor is it invisible, as you’ve read of before. What stands in this room is More.”

More as a monster?” Mother laughed at me so. “But what sort of horror does More have in store?”

I crossed the room then.

“The livers are living but they still want More.
The lovers are loving but they still want More.
Mothers are presented with examples but they still want More.
Do you see, Dear Mother, we’ve made a monster of More?”

Mother seemed to consider, but did not look resigned.

“I told you,” I said, “the body and the mind.”

She set down my book, took the yarn from her lap, rose to a standing, and clapped a lone clap.

“Bedtime for me, ugly child of mine.” And she made for the staircase of antique pine.

Her opinion, I thought, as hard as the wood.

Oh poor horror, misunderstood.

But as she took the first step, and the step did shriek, she paused without turning to speak: “The way you see it, stairs could be horror. And a person who takes them, an explorer.”

She did turn then, and gave me a wink, nodded her head as if to rethink, then climbed the stairs and called over her shoulder, “Interesting child, you simmer and smolder–do all you new writers think this way? Horror in all things, every day?”

She stopped outside her bedroom up there, perhaps pondering a brand new scare.

“Yes, Dear Mother,” Dear Mother, I swore.

And she whispered, “Not bad,” before closing the door.

25 Horror Classics You Need to Read

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

In any genre there are always those seminal works that are pure must-reads. They’re the classics, the stories that are either the foundational underpinnings or pitch perfect examples of what the genre has to offer. People have been telling scary stories for as long as they’ve been, in fact, telling stories. There’s just something addictive about a bit of bone-chilling terror. But the sheer breadth of the horror catalog can be a little daunting – particularly when you’re talking the must-reads. Ever the glutton for punishment, I’ve taken a stab at pulling together twenty-five must-read classics, from the 1800s through the 1980s. Let us know your favorite horror reads in the comments!

The cover of the book The Haunting of Hill House (Movie Tie-In)The Haunting of Hill House 
SHIRLEY JACKSON
With The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson crafted one of the most influential haunted house tales of all time. It’s a slow burn masterpiece that relies as much on its deeply drawn characters as its potentially haunted setting to methodically ratchet up the dread and terror.

 

 

The cover of the book Interview with the VampireInterview with the Vampire
ANNE RICE
Anne Rice essentially reinvented the popular mythology of the vampire with her Vampire Chronicles series, and it all began with Interview with the Vampire. Rice’s influence on the vampire genre in the latter twentieth century is difficult to overstate and Interview is still one of her best.

 

 

The cover of the book ItIt
STEPHEN KING
For me personally, this was the most difficult pick. I debated The Shining, The Stand, and ‘Salem’s Lot. However, I just can’t escape the fact that It is just so quintessentially Stephen King. If you only read one Stephen King novel, the sprawling story of a group of kids fighting a timeless evil in the twisted of community Derry, Maine has to be the one.

 

 

The cover of the book DraculaDracula
BRAM STOKER
Dracula is the definitive vampire novel. It quite literally defined many of the tropes and conventions that are now staples of the of the vampire genre. Beyond underpinning an entire subgenre, Dracula is a tale of obsession, loss, and repressed sexuality.

 

 

The cover of the book Something Wicked This Way ComesSomething Wicked This Way Comes
RAY BRADBURY
There are times when it feels like I read Ray Bradbury as much for his absurdly well-written prose and use of metaphor as his forays into all things horrific. Something Wicked This Way Comes is the gold standard – it melds Bradbury’s keen sense of nostalgia, unfettered imagination, and gleeful wordsmithing into one brilliant and unsettling package.

 

 

The cover of the book Frankenstein: The 1818 TextFrankenstein: The 1818 Text
MARY SHELLEY
Although it’s also widely considered one of the first science fiction novels, the macabre horror of Frankenstein is undeniable. Its influence has stretched through two centuries of horror and it remains a foundational piece of the genre.

 

 

The cover of the book BelovedBeloved
TONI MORRISON
Beloved wrecked me the first time I read it. At its base, it is a ghost story – and an incredibly well-told one – but the horrifying secret at its core, and the way Toni Morrison expertly peels away the layers of guilt, desperation, and trauma that define the tale, make this Pulitzer Prize-winner a singular and devastating appearance.

 

 

The cover of the book Gothic TalesGothic Tales
ELIZABETH GASKELL
Any discussion of Gothic horror and its genesis should include Elizabeth Gaskell. The dread-inducing collection of stories in Gothic Tales is a perfect example why. Her works are darkly surreal, blending local legends, fairy tales, and an incisive understanding of mankind’s darker inclinations into a deeply unsettling collection of eerie tales.

 

 

The cover of the book RebeccaRebecca
DAPHNE DU MAURIER; INTRODUCTION BY LUCY HUGHES-HALLETT
Rebecca is a classic study in obsession and sustained suspense. Readers are inexorably carried along with the unnamed narrator’s increasingly intense fascination with the death of her husband’s first wife. What unfolds is intricately woven mystery as unnerving as it is shocking.

 

 

The cover of the book The Best of Richard MathesonThe Best of Richard Matheson
RICHARD MATHESON
Richard Matheson is arguably best known for I Am Legend, his seminal post-apocalyptic pseudo-vampire novel, but he’s also one of the finest short fiction writers of latter twentieth century. Matheson’s occasionally pulpy and always terrifying short stories influenced virtually every major horror writer to follow in his considerable wake, including the likes of Stephen King and Peter Straub. They also had a major impact on Victor LaValle, who both edited and wrote an introduction for this collection. LaValle is no slouch in the horror department himself and well worth a look.

 

 

The cover of the book The OtherThe Other
THOMAS TRYON
It was arguably the success of novels like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Other that ushered in the paperback horror boom of the late 70’s and early 80’s. With The Other Tryon’s takes a deep dive into humanity’s darker side. Set against a bucolic farming community, the story eschews the supernatural in favor of more mundane, if no less horrifying, scares.

 

 

The cover of the book The ExorcistThe Exorcist
WILLIAM PETER BLATTY
If you only know William Peter Blatty’s terrifying masterpiece by way of its classic adaptation, pick up a copy of the novel that inspired it. Blatty manages to imbue an eerie sense of plausibility into the story that makes it all the more unsettling.

 

 

 

The cover of the book Rosemary's BabyRosemary’s Baby
IRA LEVIN
Rosemary’s Baby effortlessly weaves its suspense through the oft-mundane everyday lives of the young couple at its center. There’s an inkling from the beginning that something is not quite right, but the reader’s realization, paced alongside Rosemary’s own, is what lifts Ira Levin’s masterpiece to a different level.

 

 

The cover of the book The Woman in BlackThe Woman in Black
SUSAN HILL
The Woman in Black feels like a throwback to a much earlier period. It’s a bit shocking to realize this Victorian chiller was published in 1983. That’s a very good thing. The Woman in Black is a pitch perfect ghost story – one that takes its time and lets the fear slowly creep in and envelope the reader.

 

 

The cover of the book The House Next DoorThe House Next Door
ANNE RIVERS SIDDONS
The House Next Door is an oddly overlooked slice of horror that deserves a spot alongside the haunted house heavyweights (The Haunting of Hill House, The Shining, Hell House). Best known for novels like Peachtree Road that center around the sagas of wealthy southern families, Anne Rivers Siddons nonetheless quietly crafted a brilliantly creepy haunted house tale that has stood the test of time.

 

 

The cover of the book PhantomsPhantoms
DEAN KOONTZ
Dean Koontz has leaned a bit more into sci-fi and pure thrillers for most of his prodigious career, but on the occasion that he embraces full-on horror it’s invariably worth a look, and Phantoms is one of his best. It builds on classic urban legend with more than a small debt to Lovecraft, and is precisely the sort of page-turner that made Koontz a perennial bestseller.

 

 

The cover of the book The Damnation GameThe Damnation Game
CLIVE BARKER
The Damnation Game proved without a doubt that Barker could sustain his particular brand of unrelenting terror over the course of an entire novel. Following Books of Blood, The Damnation Game delves into the darkest recesses of Barker’s imagination for a particularly depraved tale tinged with cannibalism, incest, and all manner of macabre.

 

 

The cover of the book The Bloody ChamberThe Bloody Chamber
ANGELA CARTER
The Bloody Chamber is, at base, a series of fairy tale retellings. What lifts the whole package and sets it apart is Carter’s understanding of the dark undertones of virtually every fairy tale ever conceived. She pulls those darker elements to the forefront, deftly inverting every classic trope.

 

 

The cover of the book The Bad SeedThe Bad Seed
WILLIAM MARCH
The idea of a seemingly innocent child committing heinous acts has become a fairly common trope in horror, but when The Bad Seed was published in 1954, it proved a tremendous shock for its readers. March’s matter-of-fact prose style lends an air of both authority and plausibility to this story of a mother slowly realizing the true evil of her young, murderous daughter.

 

 

The cover of the book Geek LoveGeek Love
KATHERINE DUNN
Odds are you’ve never read a novel quite a like Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. Geek Love, centering around a family of circus “freaks,” is bizarre, mesmerizing, and perverse. It’s a shocking lamentation on the human condition, of torment and trauma. Ultimately, it turns a sort of fun house mirror on societal ideals, presenting a delirious and disturbing vision in return.

 

 

The cover of the book The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost StoriesThe Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories
HENRY JAMES
Henry James seminal ghost tale is one of those foundational texts for the horror genre. There are still very few authors who have done the traditional ghost story better. James keeps the scares and narrative subtle, but no less dread-inducing. The fact that even after the final page it’s not precisely clear what’s happening — that very uncertainty is the genius of “The Turn of the Screw.”

 

 

The cover of the book American PsychoAmerican Psycho
BRET EASTON ELLIS
American Psycho is a gleefully over-the-top slasher flick in prose form that also happens to be an absurdly biting, post-modern cultural dissection. It’s dark, for sure. There’s cannibalism, necrophilia, all manner of torture. But it’s also a wholly unreliable descent into pure madness – but also maybe not. This one is as thought-provoking as it is unsettling.

 

 

The cover of the book Summer of NightSummer of Night
DAN SIMMONS
There’s a lot of great horror scattered across Dan Simmons’ eclectic bibliography. Summer of Night is one of my favorites. Falling on a spectrum somewhere between Bradbury and King, it is a tale of small towns and ancient evils, but there’s an eerie sort of quality that taints the nostalgic hue in a way that separates it from those clear influences.

 

 

The cover of the book The ElementalsThe Elementals
MICHAEL MCDOWELL
Best known for scripting the likes of “Beetlejuice” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” McDowell’s brilliantly terrifying novels are once again making their way onto the radar of horror fans. The Elementals is arguably his best work – a southern Gothic-tinged haunt that is claustrophobic and disturbing.

 

 

The cover of the book The Silence of the LambsThe Silence of the Lambs
THOMAS HARRIS
While it’s on the list of novels overshadowed by their adaptations, there really is just something about experiencing Hannibal Lecter in print that even the brilliance of Anthony Hopkins can’t quite match. And while Thomas Harris may have overextended with perhaps too many sequels, Silence of the Lambs is an unrelenting and bone-chilling descent into the darker – and very plausible – recesses of humanity.