‘Tis the season to scare your pants off, and there are plenty of great new books that will do just that. I’m not someone who enjoys horror movies, but there’s just something special about reading a truly scary book in October.
Here’s a roundup of books published in the last few months to check out if you’re OK with losing some sleep this Halloween season:
Devolution: Max Brooks
Chaos breaks out in the Pacific Northwest when Mount Rainier erupts, cutting off the isolated Greenloop community from the rest of the country. The residents have created a high tech, self-sustaining colony, but as their technology begins to fail, they realize how alone they really are — aside from whatever is living in the woods and slowly picking them off one by one.
Max Brooks is best known for his 2006 novel World War Z, an account of the zombie apocalypse through interviews with the people who were there (and one of my favorite books!). All of his work features meticulous, well-crafted research into how the real world would function when faced with horrors we can only imagine. Devolution is Brooks’ first novel since World War Z, and it’s perfectly timed for this period of isolation we’re all facing. It’s suspenseful, full of brutal action and a growing sense of terror with every page. Read it if you’re interested in epistolary novels, found footage stories and, of course, Bigfoot.
Plain Bad Heroines: Emily M. Danforth
The less you know about this one, the better; it’s best to come into Plain Bad Heroines as a blank slate.
Emily Danforth’s adult debut — just published October 22nd! — follows two timelines in one setting, the Brookhants School for Girls in New England. Readers follow the principal of the boarding school in 1902, right at the start of a series of macabre deaths, and the current-day horror movie being filmed there starring two talented young actresses. As people return to the school, past and present become grimly entangled and strange things start happening to the women. Is it a curse on the school, or just Hollywood drama? Characters and readers alike will question everything that happens.
The morning after I finished Plain Bad Heroines, I woke up to a bunch of wasps on my window … on the inside! Once you read the book, you’ll know why this is absolutely terrifying, and didn’t just provoke normal levels of stinging-bug fear.
The Only Good Indians: Stephen Graham Jones
Stephen Graham Jones blends classic horror with social commentary in his 15th novel. The Only Good Indians follows four young Blackfeet men 10 years after a hunt gone wrong. Some of them have left their home, while others stayed, but all are haunted by what happened– literally, in this case. There’s an undercurrent of tension running through every page of the novel, even in benign passages without blood or violence.
You’ll need a tough stomach to get through this one, for sure. The Only Good Indians is bloody, brutal and genuinely horrifying– and unlike anything I’ve read before.
The Year of the Witching: Alexis Henderson
Immanuelle Moore lives in a rigid, puritanical society. She keeps her head down, trying not to draw more attention to her family, who live in disgrace after her mother’s disobedience cost them everything. In spite of her efforts, she ends up in the Darkwood, a forbidden place haunted by the ghosts of dead witches, where she receives a journal that once belonged to her mother.
This discovery sets Immanuelle on a path to uncover the harsh reality behind her community. Subtle hints of horror set in early, and the novel only gets more atmospheric and dark, and even bloody, with each chapter.
The Year of the Witching is Alexis Henderson’s debut, but you’d never know it. I’ve described the book as The Handmaid’s Tale meets Nathaniel Hawthorne, with a dash of pilgrim-era Carrie, and Henderson manages to seamlessly link each of these aspects into a nightmare of a novel.
Mexican Gothic: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Noemi is a young socialite in 1950s Mexico City, content to flirt and dance her way through life. Things get serious, however, when she’s summoned to the mountains to check in on her ailing cousin, recently married to a reclusive but wealthy Englishman. When she arrives, she’s kept separate from her cousin and spends her time roaming the halls of High Place and in nightmares inspired by the manor’s ruin. Rot seeps from the ceiling and mold steadily grows on the walls, there is no electricity, and the weather chills with every day.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s sixth novel has everything you could want in a gothic novel updated for twenty-first century readers: a creepy estate with a malicious vibe, complete isolation from society and strange, hallucinatory dreams.
I devoured Mexican Gothic in just two days, something I both love and regret, because now I can’t read it again for the first time. Readers will, however, have the chance to experience Mexican Gothic again; Hulu recently picked it up for a limited series after an intense bidding war for the rights! In the meantime, Moreno-Garcia has plenty of other work to keep you busy.
Don’t read this one right before bed, especially if you live alone. Your nightmares will be vivid and weird.
So there you have it! If you like your books with more than a dash of fear, these are the ones for you. All are on sale now and available to purchase at your local bookstore or at Bookshop.org.
Now, if you need me, I’ll be curled up in bed with all of the lights on and a pile of blankets, because I won’t be sleeping for the next week.
By Alex R. Faccibene (she/her)