I’m not generally a horror reader. I’ve read a few more popular horror books, for sure (The Shining, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Dracula) but it’s not a genre I tend to seek out on its own. However, I love books that are a mishmash of genres, and in the spirit of Halloween I thought I’d make a list of my favorite books with a touch of horror–perfect for horror lovers and newbies alike. Happy (almost) Halloween!
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer: this is the first book in Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, which were my absolute favorite reads of last year. An expedition is heading into the mysterious Area X, about which little is known, and its members are referred to only by the names of their roles in the group. Our narrator, the biologist, and her squad are almost immediately met with obstacles they did not expect, and the mysteries of Area X–and how the group members respond to them–continuously challenge her abilities and her sanity. It’s a quick read that’s more immersive than absorbing; it will absolutely keep you up at night, but it’s a very smart read as well.
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville: This book is about a scientist living in the grimly complex metropolis of New Crobuzon, who finds himself pitted against monstrous, dream-sucking moths who are slowly driving the city’s citizens insane. It’s a gritty book that’s equal parts eloquent description and thrilling action sequences, and the author’s fascination with the macabre is evident in his depictions of beings such as the Remade: humans and non-humans who have been transformed into something other for punishment or sick purpose.
Authority by Jeff Vandermeer: Yes, Jeff Vandermeer is in here twice. Yes, this was on purpose. The creepiness of the second book in his trilogy is an entirely different type of creepiness than in the first; without spoiling any of the events of the first book, Authority is slower-moving, more subtle, and deals more with the insidious lurking in the mundane than its predecessor.
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman: I love Neil Gaiman. He’s one of my favorite writers. The first book I read by him was American Gods, and it had me completely hooked. (Although I wasn’t a fan of Stardust. I think I would have liked it better if I’d first read it when I was younger.) This short story collection has plenty of fantasy interspersed with horror, including tributes to Lovecraft and werewolves. I also highly recommend his other short story collection Fragile Things, but Smoke and Mirrors is definitely, in my opinion, more fitting for Hallowee.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: I feel like everyone has seen the movie version of Fight Club, but not enough people have read the book. (Although the movie is excellent, I won’t lie to you. But you should experience both of them.) Palahniuk’s writing is frequently violent to the point of disturbing, and he’s another writer who can easily unearth the horrific nature of the everyday and the routine, although Fight Club turns out to be anything but.
Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link: These short stories are eerie, and have serious staying power. Kelly Link uses different elements of fantasy and fairytales, and occasional science fiction, combined with elements of horror to tell stories that are continuously surprising. As a reader, you’re never quite sure where she’s going with the story until she gets there.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice: Sure, this is a more obvious choice for Halloween than the others on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less good. Twilight has been the go-to vampire book in recent years, but there’s a reason that Anne Rice’s story has endured and held up under scrutiny: it’s well-written, it captures powerful human emotions, and its central characters’ very different moral perspectives horrify and fascinate. If you think you’re tired of vampires, then you need to go back and read this book. (I’m planning on another post soon about non-Twilight vampire books, which is why I’ll stop my vampire ranting here.)
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: I’ve been singing the praises of this book since I read it a few weeks ago, and it’s a perfect read for the month of creepiness. It’s not really fantasy, or science fiction, or horror, but it is scary and has villains and scenes of gore that will absolutely freak out a reader.