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Saturday, December 23, 2023

Best of 2023: The 10 Best Horror Books of the Year

Much like movies, television, and streaming platforms, it’s been a densely packed year for horror books as well. If the selection of horror movies available this year feels overwhelming, it pales in comparison to the horror renaissance that the book world offered this year.

The horror book industry has truly become more robust and expansive than ever, with 2023 bringing no shortage of fear-inducing reads through fiction and nonfiction alike.

Whether you’re in the mood for supernatural chills, slasher thrills, visceral terror, or insight into your favorite horror films and tropes, 2023 had it all.

Here are the ten best horror reads of the year.

10. How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

How to Sell a Haunted House

Bestselling author Grady Hendrix gives his spin on a horror staple: the haunted house. Louise gets called back to her hometown after her parents die in an accident. More than begrudgingly leaving her daughter with her ex, Louise dreads dealing with her brother Mark most of all. She’ll have to put aside her volatile differences with Mark to prep their parents’ house for sale, but that’s before the place reveals that it doesn’t want to be sold. Enter mom’s creepy puppets, led by the reigning champ of creepy: Pupkin. Hendrix’s distinct blend of scares and sentimentality aims to give a fresh spin on the familiar horror story, and its southern setting and depiction of family sets it apart.

9. The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar by Robin R. Means Coleman, Ph.D. and Mark Harris 

The Black Guy Dies First

This one is a must for fans of the acclaimed documentary Horror Noire, based on Robin R. Means Coleman’s 2011 nonfiction book. Coleman teams up with prominent horror expert and journalist Mark Harris to analyze themes, tropes, and traits that have come to characterize Black roles in horror since 1968. The pair chronicle the history of Black horror films, from fodder like Spider Baby to the Oscar-winning Get Out and beyond. Unlike most academic texts, though, Harris and Coleman bring a charming sense of humor that makes their examination of the genre and its tropes easily digestible and fun.

8. Mister Magic by Kiersten White

Mister Magic

Kiersten White’s novel follows a group of surviving cast members three decades after an unspeakable accident on the set of their children’s show stopped production permanently. The survivors assemble for a podcast to share their memories working on the kid’s show, but the more they look to the past, the more they realize sinister forces were at play. Mister Magic employs unimagined horrors, a creepy kids’ show host, and a hefty dose of ’90s pop culture nostalgia for a strange, abstract horror story that feels akin to a creepypasta.

7. Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward

Looking Glass Sound

As prolific a writer as Catriona Ward is, it’s impressive how layered, complex, and twisty her horror stories can be. Such is the case with this psychological horror story that follows a writer, Wilder Harlow, embarking on his last novel. He intends to pen the story of his childhood, of the summer where a killer prowled his New England town. The more he gives himself over to his work, the more Wilder’s grip on reality changes. Ward uses a meta narrative to explore the horrors of buried trauma and society’s true crime obsessed culture, but with mind-bending storytelling that rewards.

6. Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

Silver Nitrate

Whereas Mexican Gothic delivered a Gothic romance, and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau retooled a sci-fi horror classic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest takes on Nazi occultism and cursed films set in the film industry in ’90s Mexico City. The author blends occultism, mysticism, cultural specificity, and a love of the horror genre into a compelling read made richer by the world-building. Much like Stephen Graham Jones, Moreno-Garcia wields horror movie history to her narrative advantage here for a fun genre page-turner.

5. Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell

Our Share of Night

Technically, this sprawling horror tome was first published in Argentina in 2019. Thanks to translator Megan McDowell, complete with stunning prose, Our Share of Night made its way stateside early this year. The story spans several decades, from ’60s London to Argentina’s military dictatorship, anchored by the occult pursuits of the Reyes family. As expected for its massive scope, this journey is long and arduous. But it’s also melancholy, haunting, unexpected, and sometimes downright cruel in a way that impresses.

4. The Reformatory by Tananarive Due

The Reformatory

It’s not surprising at all that Stephen King referred to Tananarive Due’s latest as “one of those books you can’t put down.” There’s an almost Castle Rock type of small town evil bubbling just beneath the surface of a Florida town in the Jim Crow era. It’s also a personal horror story for the author; Due drew inspiration from her great uncle Robert Stephen’s death at the far-too-young age of fifteen. The Reformatory toggles between two perspectives, that of young Robbie as he’s sent to the reformatory school and his sister Gloria as she attempts to set her brother free. Robbie also happens to have the ability to see ghosts. Due’s stunning, emotionally charged masterwork of historical fiction blends supernatural with reality based horror in a way that gets under your skin.

3. Boys in the Valley by Philip Fracassi

Boys in the Valley

Described as “The Exorcist meets Lord of the Flies, by way of Midnight Mass,” Philip Fracassi’s novel is scary! The novel is set at an orphanage over winter, where a group of men arrive one night with an injured, sickly man in need of dire help from Father Poole. The man’s death unleashes an evil that spreads within the orphanage, leading to more death as hard battle lines form between good and evil. While the setup may feel familiar, Fracassi ensures what transpires is anything but with a full-throttle horror story that’ll leave you scrambling for the light switch with your jaw on the floor. It’s unnerving in the best, most propulsive way.

2. Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones

don't fear the reaper

The second entry in the Indian Lake Trilogy reintroduces final girl Jade Daniels as older, wiser, and worn down by the enduring problems that she faced in the wake of the last book’s massacre. This Jade has left her slasher obsession behind in Proofrock. But four years later, Jade’s return to the town that scorned her coincides with the escape of convicted serial killer Dark Mill South, who’s out for revenge in her neck of the woods. Stephen Graham Jones’ endless well of slasher knowledge makes for a gripping sequel that expands the characters and body count while slowly peeling back the layers to Jade’s vulnerability in an unbelievably satisfying slasher sequel. Good thing we don’t have too much longer of a wait for the trilogy’s conclusion.

1.Whalefall by Daniel Kraus

Whalefall book cover

Jay Gardiner feels a tremendous weight of guilt over his father’s passing. So much so that he decides to retrieve his father’s remains from the sea. But his solo dive proves to be a grave mistake when an eighty-foot, sixty-ton sperm whale swallows him whole amidst a fierce battle with another sea creature. Daniel Kraus’ brisk-paced novel toggles between survival horror and an internal journey through grief in the most propulsive way possible. Jay’s keen survival instincts and the insanely disturbing obstacles that comes from being swallowed alive gets grounded by the melancholy process of forgiveness. It results in the most pulse-pounding, fast read of the year, making it no surprise that a movie adaptation is already in development.

The post Best of 2023: The 10 Best Horror Books of the Year appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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