Thoughtful, personal horror fiction
August 16, 2016 11:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for horror recommendations (defined as broadly as you wish). I'd like books with a deeper resonance, the kind you keep thinking about after you finish, but books that make you feel as well. My favorite writers are Shirley Jackson, Peter Straub, Caitlin R. Kiernan; I don't care as much for Lovecraft and the more cosmic stuff. Ideally this would be a book you would describe as being emotionally moving or compassionate as well as creepy. The further off the beaten path, the better.
posted by thetortoise to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Ben Marcus, Stacey Levine.
posted by zdravo at 11:54 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sean Stewart, Perfect Circle
Jonathan Carroll, From the Teeth of Angels
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:21 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Andrew Michael Hurley - The Loney.
posted by misteraitch at 12:42 AM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Almost anything by Graham Joyce.
posted by tiger tiger at 1:34 AM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Gothic family drama? The Fifth Child by Dorris Lessig and The Tax Inspector by Peter Carry.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 1:49 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kem Nunn manages to write exceptionally well about surfing, crime and the darker stuff of the human psyche (and soul). In particular, Dogs of Winter. I'm still trying to decide whether it goes supernatural, or just teases ...
posted by philip-random at 2:01 AM on August 17, 2016

Carry? No. Carey.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 2:34 AM on August 17, 2016

Paul G. Tremblay has A Head of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil's Rock. Both are smart, chilling, and emotionally engaging. Some of the best horror I've read in years.
posted by ELind at 4:57 AM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Joyce Carol Oates has a bunch of short story collections that are in the horror genre (her book of short stories called Haunted is deeply unforgettable IMHO). She also writes some novels that can loosely fit in the gothic-horror category (Bellefleur is fantastic). Here's a list of her short story collections. Her suspense tales are pretty emotional and compelling as well and often have a twinge of horror to them.
posted by archimago at 6:08 AM on August 17, 2016

I AM LEGEND fit the bill for me of horror that i thought had a deeper meaning and that i thought about a lot after reading. it is quite different from the movie, and imo much better.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:31 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Elizabeth Engstrom's When Darkness Loves Us, Margo Lanagan (anything, though her Black Juice collection is superb) and I've had Greg Egan recommended to me, too.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 6:46 AM on August 17, 2016

I found Oracle Night by Paul Auster particularly unsettling.
posted by Tentacle of Trust at 6:50 AM on August 17, 2016

Cherie Priest, especially her earlier stuff like the Eden Moore series. Southern Gothic, quiet horror, empathic and resonant.
posted by pie ninja at 7:05 AM on August 17, 2016

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.
posted by cakelite at 7:26 AM on August 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

I enjoyed Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country, which despite the title is not especially Lovecraftian; it's about a very engaging black community dealing with racism and the supernatural in the 1950s.
It's maybe not quite horror, but I really enjoyed the unsettling tone and sympathetic characters in Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 7:26 AM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Robert Westall wrote intelligent YA horror which, IMO, fits the bill perfectly.

Particular recommendations:

The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral
Blackham's Wimpey
Yaxley's Cat

The above 3 novellas are handily anthologised together in Spectral Shadows. (N.B.: Spoilers in the comments at the Amazon link.)

Short stories:

- 'Rachel and the Angel', 'The Woolworth Spectacles', 'The Creatures in the House', 'The Last Day of Miss Dorinda Molyneaux' (included in Demons and Shadows).

- 'St. Austin Friars', 'The Boys' Toilets' (included in Shades of Darkness).

- 'The Badger' (included in The Call).

And, if you only read one, I would make it either Blackham's Wimpey or The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 8:19 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Peter Watts' sci-fi / thriller / horror books, which I learned about through MeFi, fit well here. Starfish, for instance, is superficially about humanity exploring the sea floor. But really it's about the people who can work well on the seafloor, and what it took for them to develop personalities and psyches that thrive in utter isolation, complete darkness.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:25 AM on August 17, 2016

Two short novels I learned about from MeFi: William Sloane's To Walk the Night and The Edge of Running Water. Published together as The Rim of Morning although they're unrelated stories.
posted by zadcat at 8:38 AM on August 17, 2016

Two recent things I quite liked are The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. The Scott Hawkins is more horror-esque which I normally don't read but I found this totally worth my time. I can't get the Claire North out of my head and others that I've recommended it to really liked it as well.
posted by rdnnyc at 10:14 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by Michele in California at 10:22 AM on August 17, 2016

Lauren Beaukes!
The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters in particular.

Also Megan Abbot though I think her stuff is less "horror" and more "disquieting" (I'm thinking The End of Everything in particular)
posted by soplerfo at 12:46 PM on August 17, 2016

I came in to recommend Broken Monsters, so I guess I'll just second it!

I also enjoyed Rooms by Lauren Oliver and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, both of which are ghost stories of sorts. Not really scary/horror, but more atmospherically creepy, with lots to think/ talk about.

[edited to say now I see that The Little Stranger has already been recommended, too!]
posted by nuclear_soup at 1:19 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I really loved Kathryn Davis' novel Duplex. The tone is similar to Welcome to Nightvale, if you're familiar with that, but more... thought-provoking, moving, and existential? It stayed with me a long time.
posted by stellaluna at 2:28 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Alberto Manguel's Black Water short story compilations are interesting for their wide selection of classic and overlooked gems.
posted by ovvl at 6:06 PM on August 17, 2016

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. And several other of his books. They skirt the edges of possibility. You know that people really are like this.
posted by Altomentis at 7:35 PM on August 17, 2016

Stephen Graham Jones.
posted by JaneEyre at 8:34 PM on August 17, 2016

I recommend Hilary Mantel's Beyond Black.

I've only read the first few chapters myself, and they were fascinating, absolutely engrossing, and recursively dark in a way I find hard to describe, except that as I put the book down and came back to myself, I had a sensation of relief I usually only get waking up from a nightmare.

And I haven't gone back yet, but I'm working my way up to it.
posted by jamjam at 9:11 PM on August 17, 2016

Any of Tana French's 5 books, but certain passages from In The Woods sent chills down my spine.
posted by mashaaa at 10:01 PM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I came here to recommend The Fifth Child by Dorris Lessing, happy to see it recommended above. There's little otherworldly in there--the horrors are terrifyingly quotidian, including the claustrophobia of small-town life as a woman.
posted by duffell at 9:59 PM on August 20, 2016

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