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Thursday, December 23, 2021

Bloody Disgusting’s Meagan Navarro Reads Off Her List of the 10 Best Horror Books of 2021

Much like movies, television, and streaming platforms, 2021 offered a robust year for horror books as well. Graphic novels, novellas, nonfiction, and fiction delivered no shortage of worthwhile reads for the genre fan. So much so that narrowing it down wasn’t easy.

Whether you’re in the mood for supernatural chills or insight into your favorite horror icons or deep cut films, 2021 had it all.

Here are the ten best horror reads of the year.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Hendrix’s latest offers his take on what happens long after a Final Girl survived a night of traumatic slaughter. It hits the ground running, plunging his Final Girls back into a fight for survival while meditating on what it means to live. Nestled within the chaos that puts Final Girls back in the crosshairs of a new slasher mystery is a dissection of the subgenre itself. Hendrix takes aim at the cultural obsession with serial killers and their violence by giving an intimate look at the aftermath. 

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

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. Khaw presents one memorable haunted house with Eastern flair, centered around a group of flawed but authentically rendered characters. It’s a brisk, eerie read.

Goddess of Filth by V. Castro

Ancient folklore, atypical possession, and a coming-of-age story collide in this novella by V. Castro. Five teen friends get tipsy one summer night and decide to hold a séance. They summon more than they bargained for, and one of the girls winds up acting very peculiar after. They call in a priest, which only makes matters worse. Dark magic summons something more unexpected than your average demon here, and Castro balances folkloric horror with humor and heart.

Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive by Lars Nilsen, edited by Kier-La Janisse

Part oral history of the Alamo Drafthouse’s best-known programming series and part compendium of films that have screened throughout the program’s history, Warped & Faded offers everything from cult faves to deep, deep cuts for the cinephile. It’s an expansive and passionate dive into film history made accessible for all but will appeal most of all to exploitation enthusiasts and fans of offbeat cinema. It’ll also deepen your appreciation for what it takes to program repertory screenings while adding to your growing watchlists.

Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar

From the author of Gwendy’s Button Box is a fictionalized 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 a little too well between fiction and fact; you’ll find yourself questioning whether the account is real or not as it sends chills up your spine.

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

Technically, The Autumnal kicked off its eight-issue run last Halloween season and concluded in April 2021. The entire collection was released in one collectible graphic novel on September 21, 2021. 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 folk horror tale unsettles until it explodes in a grim finale.

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

This easily digestible read makes it abundantly clear that Cassandra Peterson has packed quite a bit of life into her seventy years and knows how to spin an excellent yarn about it. Chronicling her childhood through the present, Peterson runs through the stages and events in her life that led to Elvira. That includes all the highs and lows in the process: bombshell revelations, unexpected celebrity anecdotes, and more with Peterson’s brand of humor. While Peterson grows more guarded in the book’s back half as it approaches her present-day living, and minor questions go unanswered, it’ll deepen your appreciation for the Mistress of the Dark.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Nathan grew up in a rural home with his abusive dad until he could finally start a life on his own, far away from the abuse. Then his father dies, leaving Nathan his house. He relocates his family there, and things get weird almost immediately. Nate sees the ghost of his dead dad; his empathetic son encounters a new “friend” that may not be all that human, and time and space get wonky. Repressed trauma and family bonds ground Wendig’s propulsive and layered tale of ghosts, demons, dimensional disturbances, and lurking horror. The author injects witty humor into a grim story.

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.

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

Jade feels like she’s trapped in a slasher film as tourists go missing, and the tension between her community and the celebrity newcomers to her rural lake town reaches a fever pitch. Only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for this. Jones’ latest showcases his extensive knowledge of the horror subgenre through his protagonist, delivering a captivating story that works as a thought-provoking examination of the familiar formula while recontextualizing slashers to forge new ground. It’s both a heartfelt love letter and a fresh take, making you fall in love while shredding your heart to pieces.


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