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Monday, October 4, 2021

2021 Fall Reading Guide: 10 Horror Books Perfect for the Halloween Season

The Halloween season is well underway, which likely means that you’ve already shored up your October horror watchlists and decked the halls with Halloween décor. Now, all that’s left to do is enjoy the cooler weather and curl up with a spooky story or five. Not much of a reader? Need a rec for your young, budding horror fan? Or maybe you’re in the mood for non-fiction or bite-sized horror shorts. This fall reading guide has something for just about all literary tastes and reader types. All bring the horror fun in varying ways.

Here’s what we’re recommending this Halloween season.

The Autumnal by Daniel Kraus, illustrated by Chris Shehan, colored by Jason Wordie, and lettered by Jim Campbell

The Autumnal kicked off its eight-issue run last Halloween season, and the entire collection was released in one collectible graphic novel on September 21, 2021. That means you can consume this Fall-set horror folktale in one sitting. The Autumnal follows Kat Somerville and her daughter, Sybil, as they start anew in the quaint town of Comfort Notch, New Hampshire, following the death of Kat’s mother. The town’s residents are overly generous and welcoming, but they get a little too overzealous about their fall foliage and equinox prep. The Autumnal unsettles until it explodes in a grim finale.

Sea of Sorrows by Rich Douek, illustrated by Alex Cormack, with letters by Justin Birch

Sea of Sorrows is five-issue series of aquatic terror from the creative team behind the horror graphic novel Road of Bones, soon to be released in one collection on November 16, 2021. It takes place shortly after World War I. A former naval officer hires a salvage crew and guides them into the middle of the North Atlantic to dive for fortune from a sunken U-boat. The cutthroat team can barely tolerate each other, but things get worse when they realize they’re not alone out at sea. The characters likely won’t win you over, but the aquatic terror sure will. It’s lean, mean, and bloody.

Dust & Grim by Chuck Wendig (releases October 19)

Thirteen-year-old Molly learned to look after herself thanks to a neglectful dad. But when dad dies, Molly will have to learn how to lean on the brother she never knew she had. Her attempts to claim an inheritance turn into a catastrophe when she discovers the family business is a mortuary for monsters, and she’s unwittingly let an evil entity through its locked doors. Wendig offers a whimsical spooky tale full of ghosts, vampires, fairies, cryptids, and monsters of all types for the young and young at heart. Wendig crafts a middle school read that treats his target audience with respect. In other words, it may be a lighthearted horror fairy tale, but the author isn’t afraid to inflict pain or heighten the stakes.

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep but winds up making enemies instead thanks to a prank gone wrong. It attracts the attention of a secret club of students with the sole objective to come up with the scariest prank ever to induce real fear. As the antics escalate, things get cutthroat and dangerous in this YA thriller. It’s been described as Scream meets One of Us is Lying, which feels accurate. It helps that Rachel finds comfort in horror movies, something to which many of us can relate.

Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume 1 by Heather Wixson (releases October 20)

Volume 1 marks the first of a four-volume series to celebrate over 80 of Hollywood’s most incredible special effects artists. All lovingly spotlighted by horror journalist and Daily Dead editor Heather Wixson. The series explores the lives, careers, and inspirations behind some of the greatest artisans to have ever worked in film and television, featuring behind-the-scenes photos and extensive interviews. Volume one is packed to the brim with interviews and behind-the-scenes stories by artists “Screaming” Mad George, Howard Berger, Alec Gillis, Ve Neill, Tony Gardner, and so many more.

Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark by Cassandra Peterson

The woman behind the horror icon reveals her entire story with every bit of the intelligence, wit, heart, and candor that you’d expect. Peterson chronicles everything from her family life to her enduring career, dropping no shortage of bombshells along the way. While the memoir itself makes for a rare Halloween treat, Peterson narrates her memoir for the audiobook. Not a reader? No problem; the audiobook also makes for a must-own.

Body Shocks: Extreme Tales of Body Horror edited by Ellen Datlow (releases October 19)

Bestselling editor Ellen Datlow (Lovecraft’s Monsters) presents twenty tales of terror centered around body horror. Twenty twisted, shocking, and grotesque short stories by notable authors Carmen Maria Machado, Richard Kadrey, Seanan McGuire, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nathan Ballingrud, Tananarive Due, Cassandra Khaw, Christopher Fowler, and many more. All curated by the queen of anthology horror in book form.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw (releases October 19)

An abandoned Heian-era mansion filled with the remains of a bride and sacrificed girls becomes a definitive wedding destination for thrill-seekers. It turns a night of merriment into a chilling nightmare when the hungry bride wakes. Khaw’s latest is a creepy haunted house novella infused with Japanese folklore. That means a brisk page-turner set in a unique haunted house and packed with unforgettable horror imagery.

Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar

From the author of Gwendy’s Button Box comes a true-crime horror novel described as a cross between Stephen King and Michelle McNamara. In the summer of 1988, the mutilated bodies of several missing girls begin to turn up in a small Maryland town. The grisly evidence leads police to conclude a serial killer is on the loose, but rumors start to spread that the culprit isn’t quite human. Chizmar puts himself in the story to tell a personal account of the serial killer’s reign of terror, unaware that these events will continue to haunt him. It’s small-town horror that blurs the lines between fiction and reality.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Nothing is as it seems in this unsettling novel that keeps you guessing. In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the woods in Washington lives a family of three. A teenage girl who’s forbidden from leaving the house. A man who spends most of his time alone, drinking, and a cat that loves to read the bible. That’s right. Ward stretches the concept of the unreliable narrator to extremes, toggling between multiple character perspectives. None of them can be trusted to tell the truth as we know it. It’s one eerie mind-bender of a novel in the best way.


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