A Bookseller Recommends: Scary Stories for Adults - Crypt Keeper Colin's Recommendations
This is my number one must-have for anyone who loves being absolutely terrified. Two collections of short stories that will have you regularly questioning your sanity and sleeping with the lights on. I read this for the first time five or six years ago and I think about these stories at least once a week.
Tananarive Due is one of the best horror writers out there and her books should be on every horror reader’s bookshelf. The Good House is probably my favorite, with The Between a close second. The Good House is all about family secrets, the history of a community, and the supernatural forces that threaten to destroy everything. Due is great with supernatural horror and this book works as a great introduction to her work.
There are only a few ways you can go wrong with Stephen King (Roadwork, The Tommyknockers, Rage) and even those aren’t terrible. If you’ve never read any King, pick up whichever one strikes your fancy in the moment. My current favorites are probably The Shining and Under the Dome, but a lot of folks say Pet Sematary and ‘Salem’s Lot are the scariest and I can’t argue with that. If those are looking a little too thick for you try a short story collection like Skeleton Crew or Everything’s Eventual.
An excellent haunted house tale full of scares and surprises. A woman travels to a sprawling mansion in 1950s Mexico to save her cousin from a mysterious illness and discovers there’s more to the residence - and the residents - than meets the eye. If you like this one (you will) she’s got a new thriller out called Velvet Was the Night that’s also great.
Shirley Jackson is a master of the genre and there’s no Shirley Jackson novel, novella, or short story that will disappoint. If you’ve never read The Haunting of Hill House or We Have Always Lived in the Castle I would start there. A fascinating writer with endlessly re-readable work. Scares me every time!
Victor Lavalle pulls apart and restructures classic Lovecraftian lore and turns it into something far more exciting. A Black musician living in New York is tasked with delivering a creepy book and learns more than he’d care to about the world in which he lives. Short and sweet, The Ballad of Black Tom is an instant classic.
Yeah, this is a kid’s book I suppose, but I can’t think of any better way to spend a stormy night in October (or September or August or whenever really) than getting cozy and reading these spooky stories that are exactly as unnerving as you remember.
Ok, so you’ve watched all the scary movies and read all the horror novels - cool - and now you’re looking for an in-depth scholarly analysis of what you’ve seen. Carol Clover is the person who coined the term “final girl” so there’s your bona fides. Men, Women, and Chain Saws is extremely fascinating and will have you re-watching and re-reading through new lenses.
A tornado warning sounds and a family goes to wait it out in their bathroom. Pretty quickly we see that these folks don’t exactly get along. What could make this worse? Oh, okay, a tree falls through their house and wedges up against the bathroom door, trapping them. This sounds bad enough, right? Max Booth III doesn’t seem to think so. All I can say without spoiling your experience is THERE IS ONE SCENE IN THE BOOK WHERE I HAD TO PUT IT DOWN AND COLLECT MYSELF BEFORE CONTINUING. Truly terrifying stuff.
Any Grady Hendrix you pick up is going to be perfect for Halloween reading. I loved My Best Friend’s Exorcism (exactly how it sounds), Horrorstör (haunted IKEA), and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (again, fairly self-explanatory), and why not pick up his new one this season? Funny AND scary - how could you go wrong?
Lauren Beukes is one of my favorite authors and I eat up everything she writes. Broken Monsters is about a detective trying to solve a brutal murder of a young boy in Detroit. All of that stuff is great and super well-written and scary enough, but we also see through the eyes of the killer and let me tell ya, those parts will keep you up at night.
Southern werewolves on the run from the law - it's brutal and horrifying, moving and heartfelt. A necessary addition to werewolf canon. Stephen Graham Jones is your favorite horror writer’s favorite horror writer. He’s also got a scary new book out called My Heart is a Chainsaw, and if that title doesn’t appeal to you then what are you doing reading this?
White is for Witching reads like someone who loves Shirley Jackson and has the chops to stretch out and luxuriate in that gothic-horror realm, taking that structure and telling a brand new story with modern themes. You’ve got a creepy old estate with secret passages and hidden secrets. You’ve got strange voices and even stranger goings-on in a town that doesn’t seem to want you there. What’s not to love?
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This is a book I’m always recommending to people who love horror. It’s the story of a woman who notices she’s behaving differently, more impulsively, and acting on sudden violent urges. As her behavior becomes more erratic and her life begins spinning out of control, she starts to think she might be possessed by a demon. So scary!
Paul Tremblay is another writer where I’m always eagerly anticipating the next thing. Every book has been excellent and it totally depends on what you’re looking for. Do you want exorcism horror? A Head Full of Ghosts. How about apocalypse horror? Cabin at the End of the World. Something-in-the-woods horror? Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. Short stories? Growing Things. You’ve read all those and need his newest book? Wow! Survivor Song, right this way!