Haunt me
November 20, 2019 3:21 PM   Subscribe

I used to read every horror novel I could get my hands on, but for the past several years I've been reading in other genres. I miss curling up with a good scary book, and today's dark, rainy weather reminded me that I have a lovely 10 days of stayacation ahead of me. What should I read?

I like:
* If it's by Stephen King, I've already read it (and probably liked it). (Joe Hill is usually not my cup of tea, however.)

* My vast preference is for spooky/creeping dread type novels, the kind that curl their cold, bony fingers over your shoulder in dark hallways in the dead of night.

* I prefer to get my creepiness from supernatural sources. But I'm marginally willing to dip into human-generated horror if it's really, really super creepy and not just random-psycho-killer-with-knife.

* I love haunted houses, and will happily read any and all variations of "hero/heroine/family moves to the country to live in crazy uncle's mansion just down the road from Creepytown." I loved The Haunting of Hill House, for instance. I also really loved the creepy-house bits of House of Leaves. Basically - haunted house = I'm down.

* I'm looking for more recent novels because I've long since read my way through the big names of the 80's and 90's, but I'm willing to entertain re-reads from those days too.

* I generally prefer the "good guys" to "win", even in horror fiction - but I don't insist on it!

Not a fan of:
* I'm not put off by gore, but if it's the primary vehicle for the scare, it's not going to work.

* I'm definitely NOT looking for any kind of sexy paranormal shape-shifting vampire werewolf series in the True Blood/Anita Blake/Twilight vein - I have the CW for that.

* I prefer NOT to marinate my brain in racism and sexism - I have reality for that.

* I'm not looking for anthologies or short fiction this time around. Novel length only please!

Vacation starts Friday at 5... what should be in the stack on my nightstand?
posted by invincible summer to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
The Grip of It by Jac Jemc is a great, chilling haunted house novel. Slow burn and so, so unsettling.
posted by pie_seven at 3:34 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh booooy horror!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - If you haven't already gobbled it up - another gem by Shirley Jackson

The Changeling - Victor LaValle - A bit of a fable / fantasy vibe more than a straight up horror vibe, but definitely creepy too. But LOVED the writing style, the characters, the overall tone, the adventure of it.

The Red Tree - Caitlín R. Kiernan - Oh my gosh, I want to eat this book poured over ice cream! Dark New England devil stuff with modern characters. Like woke and more fun-to-read Lovecraft.

The Ritual - Adam Nevill - Also a movie - both the movie and book are fun
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 3:40 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh, and it is technically more like a novella, but You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann is another recent great haunted house read.
posted by pie_seven at 3:41 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe not what you're looking for but Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward and White Tears by Hari Kunzru are both propelled forward by needy or vengeful ghosts, in the vein of Beloved. They aren't really genre ghost/haunting stories in the way of Stephen King or Haunting of Hill House.

Also, I assume you've read Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.
posted by vunder at 3:43 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I read Ghost Sensitive by Lois Lee Gates recently and it was a nice mix of creepy and interesting, with vivid descriptions of the city of Savannah. If you like a bit of history and mystery mixed with your horror, this could scratch your itch. It's a slow burn.
posted by cleverevans at 3:44 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

You've probably read it already or discarded the idea if it didn't appeal to you... Dracula?

On the Blue right now.

Fanfare thread.
posted by Fukiyama at 3:53 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just read The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher and it was an enjoyable horror. Creepy house, supernatural source, a nice build and the author runs with it. Also loved the more sensible then usual supporting cast.
posted by lepus at 3:57 PM on November 20, 2019 [7 favorites]

If you haven’t read “The Twisted Ones” by T. Kingfisher, put that toward the top of your list. Spooky happenings in the rural South + creepy house + the diary says WHAT? = OUTSTANDING!
posted by epj at 3:59 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Two books by Dan Simmons come to mind: The Terror and Drood. The latter is a deeply creepy Victorian romp.
posted by pipeski at 4:05 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I read these in the past year and liked them:

Head Full of Ghosts - Paul Tremblay (whether the scares are supernatural or not is ambiguous/up to the reader to decide)

This House is Haunted - John Boyne (a good old-school story that legit surprised me near the end)

The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters (also a movie, which despite its strong cast is just meh...and I didnt like how it explicitly shows something that is merely suggested in the book)
posted by methroach at 4:19 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Joe Hill is usually not my cup of tea, however.

Completely with you regarding SK and Joe Hill. However if you haven't looked into Locke & Key and you like comics/graphic novels then you're selling yourself short. It's great. Ditto the DT comics.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Seconded but you've probably already read it.

Lovecraft? Probably already consumed by you but yea, this is good creeping horror in it's infancy.

I always recommend this book, perhaps a bit hard to find but niche enough that the SF/thoughtful horrifying elements are novel and impressive. The Carpet Makers.
posted by RolandOfEld at 4:19 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Robert Westall’s The Wheatstone Pond and The Scarecrows (YA, but good old-fashioned supernatural horror).
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 4:22 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Horror novels I have read and enjoyed in the last few years:

Experimental Film by Gemma Files - old gods and the dangers of film making

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor La Valle, and Winter Tide and Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys - especially fun if, like me, you have a complicated relationship with the works of H P Lovecraft, but excellent even if you don't

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley - delightfully creepy slowburn ambiguous folk horror

The Fisherman by John Langan - cosmic horror with fish monsters

The Twisted Ones by T Kingfisher has been mentioned above and I agree with those recommendations

It's old but if you like cosmic horror and haven't previously come across William Sloane's The Rim of Morning, it's really excellent

(Also, okay, you asked for books and this is a podcast but if you are at all interested in consuming your horror in an audio medium, allow me to put in a brief plug for The Magnus Archives. If not, feel free to entirely ignore this parenthetical.)
posted by darchildre at 4:33 PM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]

possibly out of print now and maybe a bit cheesy but I recall enjoying HomeBody by orson scott card.

If you've covered off all your king you may also have done your peter straub, but shadowland is pretty cool. I think there's a sequel but I have not yet read it.
posted by hearthpig at 4:57 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's not exactly horror but it's weird and haunting and years later I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

Lives of the Monster Dogs
posted by workerant at 5:16 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Jennifer McMahon's The Winter People
posted by fluttering hellfire at 6:10 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I recently read and loved The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Simmons.
posted by incountrysleep at 6:13 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Fourthing The Twisted Ones! Listened to the audiobook version of it while tackling my own family member's hoarding during a staycation, and it was perfect.

I also really liked Ruthanna Emrys' Lovecraftian novels, though their strength was in a fresh take on that world, rather than being particularly creepy.
posted by Pryde at 6:31 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest is a fun haunted house story. An architectural salvage team is taking all the beautiful old windows, crown molding, and fireplaces out of a mountainside mansion in the days before it's demolished.

You've read The Woman in Black, right??
posted by zoetrope at 6:35 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan is possibly one of the creepiest books I've ever read.
posted by signsofrain at 7:17 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Have you read any any Edgar Contero? The Supernatural Enhancements is a 'found footage' haunted house story while Meddling Kids is a Lovecraftian Scooby-Doo epilogue.

+1 for The Fisherman and Ballad of Black Tom if you have not read them yet.

Also consider The Saturday Night Ghost Club. On the King scale, it's more The Body than The Shining, but it is the book I've read this year that lingers the most.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:27 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, you should subscribe to Nightmare Fuel! Highly-curated horror recommendations, good at calling out things like gore and sexual violence. It's on Substack but I think it's all readable for free in the archive at that link.
posted by babelfish at 7:28 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

+1 for Dan Simmons books Terror and Drood. Terror is a paranormal take on what happened to the Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage. I found it entrancing - and educational and damn creepy.

Drood is a speculation about what was really going on with Charles Dickens as he was writing his last, unfinished novel, Drood. (There really is an unfinished novel by Dickens named Drood, too.) It’s told from the viewpoint of a lesser writer, a contemporary of Dickens (who really lived, too.) Drood contains one of the most devastatingly effective scenes, in the top 5 on my list, when and how the narrator realizes Dickens is far superior a writer. Plenty of supernatural creepiness and pervasive dread.

Loved both these books!
posted by rw at 9:51 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

+n for Experimental Film by Gemma Files and The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan. I’ve found F.G. Cottam’s Colony series... mostly fun with authentic chills but it gets a little threadbare with binging. Maybe try the first one. If you like Gemma Files, her linked short story collection We Will All Go Down Together is a twisty net of snakes, grimy and cruel.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:54 AM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ghost Story by Peter Straub
posted by Ideefixe at 6:18 AM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you like Lovecraftian cosmic-y horror, I read Laird Barron's short story collection The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All not long ago and REALLY liked it. I also really enjoyed Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, but as racism (both supernatural and not) is a primary carrier for much of the horror in the stories, that might not be what you're looking for. (It is SUPER good, though.)
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:48 AM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks, everyone!! I've compiled all these suggestions into a reading list for myself on Amazon and I'm planning to work my way through it. Probably starting with The Red Tree, The Twisted Ones, and The Grip of It. Also subscribed to Nightmare Fuel (what a great resource!) and The Magnus Archives.

So many new writers and novels I've never even heard of - now I'm just annoyed that I have to get through another day and a half of work before I can dive in. :)

I've already read The House Next Door - and second that recommendation, for anyone else coming through looking for recs. Likewise The Woman in Black and all the Peter Straub. I haven't read The Terror or Drood but they're definitely on my list - I've read some of Dan Simmons' earlier work and really enjoyed it.

More suggestions always welcome, I'll continue to follow the thread! And thanks again!
posted by invincible summer at 7:14 AM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you like The Red Tree, The Drowning Girl is a far more ambitious novel by the same author. It is very creepy, in places, but it also plays a lot more with an unreliable narrator (who knows she is not reliable) and issues of perception and mental illness, which may not be your cup of tea. There are definite multiple readings of book.

By the way, I know you said you did not want collections, but We Will All Go Down Together Has a coherent narrative that emerges from the separate stories into a single large tale, although told from many points of view (some more directly relevant than others). It also takes place in the same “world” of Experimental Film, So, if you like that book, you might enjoy the collection as an expansion of the themes in that world.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:47 AM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Rebecca Roanhorse: Navajo monster hunter is the only person standing between her people and ... well monsters.
posted by krieghund at 12:52 PM on November 21, 2019

The Passage scared the shit out of me and I love scary stuff. It sounds liek standard dystopian sci-fi but its not. It has this pervasive sense of anyone-could-die-at-any-moment throughout the entire book. It's exhausting. And great!
posted by fshgrl at 12:52 PM on November 21, 2019

I've recommended it before here; The Wide Carnivorous Sky by John Langan is a great short story collection
posted by Dmenet at 3:47 PM on November 21, 2019

I don't read much horror; I'm a scaredycat, but I am interested in nautical fiction and history, and so I read the aforementioned The Terror, which is set among the two ships, Terror and Erebus, of the Franklin Expedition. A real expedition which went searching for the Northwest Passage, and was lost under mysterious circumstances. The (several) ships sent after them came back with some evidence (and the novel connects a lot of those dots), but Simmons adds some supernatural twists into his speculation about the real-life tragedy. Between that and the men being under very trying conditions, well, there's some human horror to be had as well.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:47 PM on November 21, 2019

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons and his first novel Song of Kali.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:58 PM on November 21, 2019

Laird Koenig: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
Peter Straub: Ghost Story
Thomas Tryon: The Other

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 12 Stories for Late at Night
This includes --
M. R. James: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, The Ash Tree
Gouverneur Morris: Back There in the Grass

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: More Stories for Late at Night
This includes --
William Hope Hodgson: Carnacki, The Ghost Finder, The Whistling Room
Brett Halliday: Pieces of Silver
George Langelaan: The Fly
Jerome Bixby: It's a Good Life
posted by TrishaU at 1:56 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Have you read Michelle Paver's Thin Air and Dark Matter? She mostly writes romance and YA fantasy, but out of nowhere she's also produced these two gorgeous, chilling classic ghost stories. Dark Matter in particular stuck with me for a long time.
posted by BlueNorther at 1:58 AM on November 22, 2019

I'm in the middle of gobbling up all of the Stephen King I haven't read, but I came by to second Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country. It looks like it's free on kindle unlimited, if you have that. While I was looking for a link, I saw that it's being made into an HBO thing by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams (among others).
posted by mabelstreet at 11:33 AM on November 22, 2019

Robert Aickman’s short stories - there are quite a few, but The Wine-Dark Sea and The Unsettled Dust are good collections to start with.

Simmons’ Song of Kali is effective, as I recall, but it trades on a fairly unpleasant exoticisation of its Indian setting, which may or may not factor into your decision to read it.
posted by inire at 11:42 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I (somewhat) recently read and enjoyed The Dead Path by Stephen Irwin. It features a spooky forest and unwanted ghost sightings. It's also set in Australia, so that was a fun change of pace for someone who reads a lot of books set in the US and UK. It is not sexy, extraordinarily gory or politically problematic.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:26 PM on November 22, 2019

Oh, and if you like your horror fiction more on the artsy side and less on the pulpy side, try Slade House by David Mitchell. It's a haunted house novel par excellence.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:27 PM on November 22, 2019

The Library at Mount Char might not *exactly* fit you request, but boy, it's stuck with me the last few years.
posted by nenequesadilla at 11:13 PM on November 23, 2019

I recommend The Invited by Jennifer McMahon. Couple doesn’t just move in to a haunted house, they build one.
posted by socksandsushi at 8:01 AM on November 24, 2019

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