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The Best Horror Books of 2017

The Best Horror Books of 2017

I have an October tradition: every Halloween, I choose my favorite horror novels, novellas, and short story collections of the year. This year, I thought I’d share them publicly and ask what books I’ve missed! Some of my picks might not be shelved in your bookstore’s “horror” section, but they creeped the shit out of me nonetheless.

9780812995947_62c09The Changeling by Victor LaValle
Spiegel & Grau

Honestly, this book is a masterclass in tone, atmosphere, and grafting speculative elements onto real-life geography. It’s about an antiquarian bookseller in New York who stumbles upon a hidden world while looking for his missing wife. As a new dad, this story hit close to home, and stands out as one of the most memorable things I’ve read this year, period.


9781555977887_4123aHer Body and Other Parties: Stories
by Carmen Maria Machado
Graywolf Press

I was so happy to see this short story collection make the longlist (and shortlist!) for the National Book Award for fiction. In these eight neo-Gothic tales, a plague ravishes the remnants of America, a wife refuses to remove the ribbon around her neck, and … I could go on, but instead, I’ll just let you read the first story in its entirety over at Granta.

jacThe Grip Of It by Jac Jemc
FSG Originals

My favorite haunted house novel since House of Leaves. It’s about a Chicago couple whose new home in rural Wisconsin turns out to be…pretty fucked up. Jac is a Chicago-based author, so I chatted with her about this book on our podcast, Writers Answer Weird Questions (she’s a big fan of Guillermo del Toro and “The Bachelor”). The book was also shortlisted for the 2017 Chicago Review of Books Award for Fiction.

35066661._UY1600_SS1600_The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford Publishing

I have unrealistically high expectations for Jeffrey Ford books, but he manages to meet them every time. Three college students unearth an infant skeleton beneath an abandoned Victorian mansion, and things go downhill from there. There’s also a neat connection to Chicago history: see my interview with Ford to learn more.


9781101871928_1fcacYou Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann
Translated by Ross Benjamin

This brisk little novel (just 128 small-format pages) packs an existential wallop. It’s the journal of a writer who’s holed up in an isolated house in the middle of the German alps. About halfway through, Kehlmann pulls a narrative trick I’ve never seen before, and the payoff is incredible.


9780374282103_b809eUniversal Harvester by John Darnielle
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Speaking of narrative tricks, the Mountain Goats frontman deploys a few of his own in this Midwestern nightmare set in the darkest corner of Iowa. Our own Amy Brady called it a masterpiece. I enjoyed it even more than Wolf in White Van. Head over to Electric Literature for my interview with Darnielle, where we discuss how he came up with that title.


See Also

9780765394323_e9a5fAgents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan Publishing

Lovecraft-based horror is really hit-or-miss for me, particularly since I think Howard Phillips was a despicable human being. But Kiernan’s brutal little novella has stayed with me all year. It’s like an R-rated episode of The X-Files crossed with True Detective‘s first season.


9780765397362_7d892The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion
by Margaret Killjoy Publishing

I know I’ve listed three novellas, but listen: this book is about demon deer. DEMON. DEER. What more do you need to know, really? Plus, Tor announced a sequel yesterday.



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