I was always a chicken who got scared very easily and never watched or read anything related to the horror genre. However, all of that changed after I discovered gothic fiction which I loved. But I still had not ventured into the actual horror genre until I read “Bird Box”. I enjoyed the spooky creepy feeling I got from that book and now I am a big fan of horror fiction. 2021 was a horrific year (even without horror books) when I discovered that I love this genre and ended up reading more horror fiction that any other genre and it was fitting for the kind of year that it was. So I thought I will make a list of my favorite horror books that I have read recently. I also ended up watching way too many horror movies in 2021. I will make a post on movies separately. This one is only about the books. Do you read horror? Recommend me some of your favorites in the comments below. I am always looking for new books to read.
I will list all the horror books I have read recently from most favorite to least favorite –
1. Malorie and Bird Box by Josh Malerman – 5 stars
The book that got me into this genre was “Bird Box” and then I read its sequel “Malorie” which was also a favorite of mine. Not many people liked Malorie but I loved it.
Do you like post apocalyptic books or movies like The Road or I am Legend? If yes, you definitely have to read this book. It gave me the same chills and fear that those books gave along with a horror element in the form of creatures who kill people just by looking at them. Anyone who looks at these creatures ends up turning mad and killing him/herself. What are these creatures and why do they kill people? We don’t really get answers to these questions in the first book sadly. But the struggle to survive in a world where even though you have eyes, you cannot use them to see was done brilliantly. One of the scariest books I have read. The suspense build up and the way it is written was amazing. I am sure this will be a great horror movie. The movie is under production and I can’t wait for it to get released. We do get some answers about these creatures in Malorie so definitely read that book if you loved Bird Box.
2. The southern book club’s guide to slaying vampires by Grady Hendrix – 5 stars
I found a new favorite book and author. I hadn’t read such a fun book in the recent past. The story and characters were so engrossing and interesting that I had a hard time keeping the book down. This was like Dracula but with suburban moms, their kids and dumb unsupportive husbands. It’s set in a small town where everyone knows everyone else in the town. One of the moms thinks that a vampire has moved into their town and is attacking people. Of course, nobody believes her. The first half of the book had me laughing while the second half was pretty scary. Never read a horror comedy before and I want to read more books like this. This was really entertaining. I can’t wait to watch the movie adaptation.
3. Locke and Key series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez – 5 stars
This was my first real “horror” book with actual ghosts in it. I get scared easily so never pick up such books but this is a graphic novel series so I thought I might not get scared that much. But this was pretty scary! It’s about 3 kids whose father gets killed and they move to a place called “Lovecraft” with their mother. The youngest Bode goes exploring and finds some mysterious creepy things in the mansion. Bode is easily my favorite character from the book. The story, artwork everything is great. But it is too dark, grim and violent. One of my most favorite graphic novel series.
3. The Shining by Stephen King – 4 stars
I watched the movie and it was so bad! The book does it so much better. Book is scarier and the slow pace makes the story and characters seem more realistic.
It was scary but not the scariest book I have ever read. Maybe I went in with too many expectations looking at how many people said it was too scary and also Joey in one of the Friends episodes where he puts this book inside the freezer. I found the book to be too slow, too long and plot was predictable. I was waiting for something to happen for like 400 pages and the author kept filling pages with back stories of the characters. It was way too descriptive for my liking. But the setting was pretty creepy and the hotel was the perfect setting for haunted house spooky story.
I cannot believe that I am brave enough (the chicken that I was a few years back) to read a Stephen King book finally and then say that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I feel like I have graduated into real horror genre after having read one of SK’s books.
4. The Troop by Nick Cutter – 4 stars
This was a pretty scary novel. Imagine Lord of the flies with The Thing or Alien movie concept. A boy scout group goes camping with their teacher in Canada and an infection spreads there. Loved the plot and all the characters. Shelley was scarier compared to even the creatures.
But I had some issues – there are too many graphic scenes of animal torture and abuse. I am okay with humans butchering each other but killing innocent animals makes me extremely uncomfortable and sad. I wish the author hadn’t explained those scenes with that much detail. Animals are innocent unlike humans.
The pacing and the length of the novel didn’t work for me either. The starting of the novel was great but then the plot slowed down quite a bit. The novel felt too verbose for my liking and for what is supposed to be a thriller, it should have been fast paced. If you have read Michael Crichton books, you know what I mean by pacing. The book should just grip you and keep you hooked. Here I knew the outcome that everyone was going to die and didn’t feel like reading the gruesome descriptions. At least 100 pages could have been edited out to make the book crisper.
It was good and horrifying but could have been better. I am not sure I want to read this author’s other books as I didn’t particularly “enjoy” this book and the animal abuse is something that I am not sure I can read again in any other book.
5. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – 4 stars
It’s a classic and I am sure when this book was first released, it scared the hell out of people. It was the first haunted house novel ever written (correct me if I am wrong). BUT with the amount of horror media that we consume on a daily basis now in the form of books, movies and TV shows, this wasn’t scary. I didn’t get scared and it didn’t give me any nightmares. After reading books like Bird Box and Locke and Key, this wasn’t spooky enough for me. But still an interesting read and very thought provoking. The author probably visited the Winchester house in California and even compares Hill house to that in this novel. Having seen the Winchester house, I kept imagining it as the setting for the book.
6. The cabin at the end of the world by Paul Tremblay – 4 stars
A family is vacationing in a cabin in the middle of the woods and four strangers break in and ask them to save the world with their mumbo jumbo. They try to convince the family that they really are trying to save the world and the family needs to do a sacrifice in order to save. It was pretty creepy and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. This is more of a thriller than a real horror but I still thought of including this here.
I will definitely try more books by this author.
7. Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine – 4 stars
A woman whose husband is a serial killer moves to a new town with her children. Then killings start to happen, very similar to how her husband used to kill. But her husband is in prison, or is he? This was great. There was unease and unsettling, creepy feeling throughout the novel. Thankfully I couldn’t guess the killer until the point when the author decided to give clues about his identity. That made the book more interesting and difficult to put down. I plan to continue with this series.
8. Cassidy Blake series by Victoria Schwab – 4 stars
This is the only middle grade fiction I have on my list. I picked it up mostly because the author is well known and the story reminded me of Sixth Sense, which was the first horror movie I saw in a theatre thanks to my dear friends who forced me to watch it with them. This about a girl who can see ghosts and has a ghost friend who is only visible to her. I read all 3 books in this series and each book takes place in a different country and these books are fun and spooky.
9. A House at the Bottom of the lake by Josh Malerman – 3.5 stars
It is about a house that is located at the bottom of a lake and it looks abandoned or is it really? It’s a haunted house story written differently. This was totally weird and unexpected. I loved how creepy and unsettling I felt throughout the book. This author is an expert at making readers uncomfortable. The ending however fizzled out I felt. I was waiting for something really horrific to happen at the end, but nothing much happened and it had an open ending. I wish it were creepier. Still a good horror novella.
10. We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson – 3 stars
I was a bit underwhelmed after reading this book. I had given up on this book earlier after listening to the audiobook since it felt boring. Reading the physical book made me like it but not much. The story is about two sisters who live with their uncle and the book starts with one of the sisters visiting the village to get groceries. We learn slowly about what happened several years back. The entire family was poisoned and ended up dead except for their uncle who is very sick. After like one-third of the book, a cousin comes visiting and then events spiral out of control in the lives of these women.
I liked the setup and the Gothic feel of the novel. But it did not feel like actual horror to me and I wasn’t scared at any point while reading. The unreliable narrator is 18 years old but acts like a small child. Even her older sister treats her that way. The ending didn’t make any sense to me whatsoever. The story was also not that interesting. It was an okay one time read. I read it with too many expectations as this author is supposed to be the queen of horror and was disappointed.
11. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – 3 stars
I am a big fan of gothic novels like Rebecca, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and I love Garcia’s other books so I went into this book with high expectations. This was again a haunted house story about a girl who goes to visit her cousin in a big mansion. The book was way too slow paced for my liking but since I wanted to know what was happening in that creepy house, I somehow kept turning pages. The novel had some spooky scary scenes too. The reveal was really absurd, unbelievable and silly which made me lose interest in the novel completely. As a result, the ending was a slog for me. The book was way too long with not much plot. It would have worked better as a novella. I didn’t like any of the characters too. Even Noemi sounded like a cardboard cutout of a feminist and didn’t really feel like a real person to me. She goes and wipes silverware after someone says she is not doing anything useful. She was there to care for her cousin and not to take care of the house so not sure how that makes her headstrong and brave. There weren’t many twists in the story too. It was a pretty straightforward horror story.
12. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager – 2 stars
The premise of the book sounded interesting as it is about a woman who takes up the job of apartment sitting with a good pay. But then her job sounds too good to be true. The very first person that I guessed to be the killer was the killer. Meh mystery and too melodramatic main protagonist. Everything sounded very dramatic and unrealistic. The first half was still okay but the ending was unbelievable.
13. Uzumaki by Junji Ito – 2 stars
This is the only manga I have in this list. It was way too weird for my liking. It’s about a town that is haunted by spirals. The synopsis was so strange that I had to read the book. The first two volumes were more like short stories about people descending into madness because of these spirals. The last volume tries to wrap up with some explanation which did not make sense at all. Not my cup of tea. Felt like nonsense to me.
The book is gory and drawings are horrific enough to give one nightmares. I am surprised that I survived. This was my first foray into proper “horror”. I am a chicken when it comes to horror so I am really surprised that I completed this book. Maybe because the plot was absurd and did not feel realistic at all.
14. Leave the world behind by Rumaan Alam – 2 stars
What a boring book this was! People hyped it up so much as spooky scary blah blah. I was okay with the first 50% of the book thinking something was going to really happen in the second half. But NOTHING happened. There is no plot, no story and it’s not a horror novel by any means. The mystery is unsolved and nobody knows what is happening so I felt like reading this book was a complete waste of my time. I thought it was going to be a scary dystopia. It is just a character study and focuses only on interactions between two families who are locked up in a house in the middle of nowhere. I still have no idea why they were not willing to go back to civilization. One loud noise was given so much emphasis as if it was the most scary thing ever.. Every dialogue is followed by a monologue of that character and it got too annoying and irritating to read after sometime. It was not for me. I didn’t think this book was anything like Parasite movie. That comparison made me want to pick it up.
15. Kill Creek by Scott Thomas – 1 star DNF
This book was a struggle to get through. It is a haunted house story where a bunch of horror writers spend a night for a vlog on youtube or something. I kept looking for reasons to not pick it up and it put me in a reading slump. After hearing some people call this the best haunted house book ever, I picked it up thinking it would be really scary. But it was SO boring. The writing just didn’t do it for me. It had long winded descriptive writing which works well for literary fiction but not for horror genre. It reminded me of The Silent Patient where I kept waiting for something exciting to happen and it just fizzled out. I cannot read 100s of pages for just one pathetic twist at the end. I read the ending of this book and it definitely wasn’t worth slogging for 400 pages of mediocre writing. Also I didn’t like a single character in the book and didn’t really care for their back stories.
16. Bunny by Mona Awad – 1 star DNF
It is about a group of girls who call each other bunny and a new girl gets into their group after she befriends them. It was way too weird for my liking. Definitely not my cup of tea. The big reveal at the end was yucky.
17. 172 Hours on the moon by Johan Harstad and Tara F. Chace – 1 star
This book was completely unbelievable. Everything that everyone said or did felt unrealistic.
-> NASA sends teenagers using a lucky draw from all over the world (but not from US) to moon. Lol
-> Parents are eager to send their kids on a space mission where they may not come back from. How many shuttles have blasted to pieces?
-> All the teenagers who got selected are going only because they want to get out of their country or because they want to become famous. Not because they are interested in science or space or moon. When the main characters themselves are not excited about the mission, why would the readers be?
One of the characters is so rude to her parents in this book! I wouldn’t even want teenagers to read this book. Maybe I have seen and read too many first contact/alien/space books and movies that I felt this book was stupid. The writing or in this case the translation was atrocious. The sentences and scenes were so badly written that it was a slog to read. It took 140 pages to launch their space shuttle and 162 pages to land on moon. By then I had lost interest in the book. There are better books and movies out there on the same topic.
Hello, AK. I am a sucker for horror. This list is godsend. I’ve read most of the titles on here. Some I wish to catch up with now. Thanks for putting these together.
I am a potter nerd too. So very happy to meet you.
P.S.: Would love to know your name!
I haven’t read true blue horror in ages. I think I have gotten more chicken as I grow older. I used to devour Stephen King as a teenager, but I have found his books too repetitive of late.
Will keep your other horror recommendations in mind for the next time I am in the mood for something scary.
This book sounds adorable!! I can’t wait to read it with my little scientist sometime!