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October marks the start of spooky season, but really 2023 has brought the scares since last winter. It was difficult to narrow down the year’s best horror into just 10 books—and we stopped just short of Halloween, which conveniently coincides with several more creepy book releases including Nat Cassidy’s Nestlings—but these eerie selections sum up how horror has outdone itself so far this year.
Haunted houses abound, from abandoned homes you dare each other to sneak into to summer getaways for artists starved for space, but each sentient building has a unique torture for its visitors and inhabitants. The more meta offerings find the uncanny in everything from bloody memoirs to sinister home improvement YouTube channels. Families are grimly united by demonic secrets, or brutally separated by abduction and misfortune. Whether your tastes run more supernatural or more toward the mundane horrors of neighbor turning on neighbor, you’ll find a chilling tale or three to keep you company on All Hallow’s Eve.
A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand
The first-ever authorized return to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Elizabeth Hand’s latest replaces the supernatural investigators of Hill House with an emerging playwright and her troupe of actors trying to develop a new play. Holly Sherwin is not the first unfortunate soul to learn that Hill House has a will of its own, as her new summer home invites its inhabitants into its shadowy corners, revealing what’s haunting each of them…
Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward
Catriona Ward’s latest is a metafictional meditation on unforgettable summers and unreliable memory, filtered through a memoir written by protagonist Wilder Harlow—his way of coping with the summer he and former best friends Nat and Harper stumbled upon the truth behind Whistler Bay’s infamous Dagger Man. But as Wilder returns to this Maine town to exorcize personal demons, events from his book, not to mention entire chapters, appear out of nowhere. Is his mind failing him, or is it the Dagger Man?
The Handyman Method by Nick Cutter and Andrew F. Sullivan
Nick Cutter and Andrew F. Sullivan’s chilling domestic satire explores the darker corners of home improvement internet. When Trent and his family move into their dream home in an unfinished neighborhood, they’re shocked to discover it still needs work. But as Trent consults DIY YouTuber Handyman Hank, who supposedly has the answer to everything, Hank begins issuing disturbing edicts for Trent alone, slowly invading his family’s space. This is body horror where the body being corrupted is your home.
The Spite House by Johnny Compton
Abruptly fleeing their old home, Eric Ross moves daughters Dess and Stacy into a “spite house,” a building designed to annoy neighbors, to reset their lives. But it’s not just the eccentric design of the Masson House that disturbs its neighbors, but rather the property’s supernatural history reflecting the sins of Degener, Texas. All Eric has to do is record any potential paranormal activity, but the Masson House may evict the Rosses before they have the chance to put down roots.
What Kind of Mother by Clay McLeod Chapman
Madi Price fled her hometown as a teen mom, but she eventually returned to Brandywine, Virginia, her seventeen-year-old daughter in tow, to read palms at the farmer’s market. What sounds like a cozy Gilmore Girls vibe gets a sinister twist as Madi reads the palm of high school sweetheart Henry McCabe—and potentially finds a lead on his missing, and supposedly dead, son Skyler. As Madi’s visions become more disturbing, they’ll lead her to answers… just not the ones she expects.
Your Lonely Nights Are Over by Adam Sass
Viking Books for Young Readers
A couple of decades ago, Wes Craven’s Scream felt like the only metafictional horror out there. Now, YA readers have this fiercely funny and dark slasher novel, which winks at Scream but also Clueless and Heathers, as gay besties Dearie and Cole are framed for the murders of their fellow Queer Club members. Someone at their school is masquerading as the true-crime murderer Mr. Sandman, but this pair will have to find the real killer before they’re the next to be garroted.
Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt
Transgressive and brutal, Alison Rumfitt’s debut weaves familiar haunted house tropes with the modern horrors of transphobia in Britain. Three years after Albion House took their friend Hannah as its own, former lovers Alice and Ila return to the haunted house for closure. But Alice is a trans woman and Ila is a TERF, and both bear scars and unreliable memories about what each did to the other that night—or rather, what Albion made them believe happened.
Black River Orchard by Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig will make you think twice about autumnal apple picking in this contemporary fairy tale with a spooky bite. When Calla’s dad Dan plants an unusual orchard in their town of Harrow, it initially bears uniquely delicious fruit that makes everyone’s lives better, brighter, stronger. But the townspeople aren’t just consuming apples; they’re inviting madness into their hearts, turning more violent and inhuman, as a dark force waits over a century to reap its own harvest.
Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle
Chuck Tingle joins the horrors of gay conversion camps with the suspense of It Follows via Rose, a member of the fundamentalist church group The Kingdom of the Pine. God-fearing Rose never questions the Kingdom’s four tenets… until she begins vomiting up flies, and a demonic woman appears every time she thinks about a pretty girl. Rose’s inquiry into why a demon is tied to her uncovers the secrets behind Camp Damascus and forces a reckoning with her true desires.
Out There Screaming: An Anthology of New Black Horror edited by Jordan Peele and John Joseph Adams
Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions lifts up exciting Black talent both on-screen and on the page: its first-ever horror anthology features beloved SFF names like N.K. Jemisin, Maurice Broaddus, Tochi Onyebuchi, Nalo Hopkinson, Cadwell Turnbull, Rebecca Roanhorse, P. Djèlí Clark, and many many more. These stories, in which freedom riders face the supernatural and a brave girl confronts a demon at the center of the Earth, will both chill and fulfill you.