As a horror writer and the director of the Horror Writers Association’s (HWA) Library & Literacy Program, I can name a hundred spine-chilling books off the top of my head. But for book club recommendations, I decided to do a kind of mix-and-match of books from HWA members, to not only showcase the range of sub-genres and styles of HWA members, but also to remind readers that there are many great books published by small and independent presses.
These picks range from suspenseful thrillers to darkly funny; from subtle scares to gruesome mayhem. But all of them have one thing in common: they are, at their cores, stories about the human condition. Stories that we can all relate to in some way, because the themes are universal. Coming of age. Love triumphing over fear. People going beyond their perceived limits to survive. People dealing with danger, with the unknown, with their own emotions. They are books where readers can easily see themselves in those situations, and bond with the heroes as they struggle to stay alive. Or sane.
If you are looking for more books to recommend to book clubs or just to library patrons, then visit the HWA’s special Libraries page, where among other informational tools you’ll find our annual Recommended Reading List, which showcases the best long and short fiction in the horror genre. You can also contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) regarding having any of the authors listed here provide supporting materials or schedule Skype calls.
Here’s my list:
Odd Adventures with your Other Father
by Norman Prentiss
From multi-award winning writer Norman Prentiss comes a heart-rending tale of love and history.
Because one of Cecilia’s fathers died when she was very young, her only knowledge of her family comes from the stories her surviving father tells her. But these aren’t just any stories. They are wild, road-trip thrillers about life in the mid-80s, and many of them have a supernatural context to them: A rescue mission aided by ghostly hallucinations; a remote town filled with strangely shaped inhabitants; a movie star with a monstrous secret. As time goes by, Celia discovers some startling truths about her family’s past.
This book is more than just a supernatural thriller; it explores themes such as the homophobia of the 1980s and the struggles of single parenthood.
The Haunted Forest Tour
by Jeff Strand & James A. Moore
When comedy and horror collide, you end up with the perfect Halloween tale.
What happens when a dark and mysterious forest suddenly appears out of nowhere in the middle of Midwest America? Why, it gets turned into an amusement park, of course!
Now folks can relax and enjoy a comfortable tram ride through this most astonishing place. A forest packed with dangerous creatures of all shapes and sizes: werewolves, giant spiders, demons, vampires! And since this is Halloween, The Haunted Forest Tour is going deeper into the wooded depths than ever before, just to guarantee you a terrific scare! You’ve got nothing to worry about, though. The Tour has a 100% safety record. Nothing can go wrong . . .
Rot & Ruin
by Jonathan Maberry
From multi-award winning, New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry comes this exceptional tale of a horrifying future and the people struggling to survive in it. Post-apocalyptic America is a zombie-infested ruin, a place where Benny Imura, like all surviving teenagers, must find a job by the age of 15 or get put on half-rations. Benny doesn’t want to be a zombie hunter like his older brother, but he doesn’t have much of a choice. However, he soon finds himself on a path that’s fraught with danger and loss. Yet along the way, he learns a valuable lesson: what it means to be human.
by Josh Malerman
Readers searching for something different may find Bird Box just the book they are looking for. Written in a tense, unique narrative, this novel (now being made into a movie starring Sandra Bullock) will keep you on the edge of your seat. In a dangerous, post-apocalyptic world, two young children are blindfolded by their mother, who then takes them on a 20-mile ride down a river in a rowboat. If they survive, they’ll reach a place where they can live in safety the rest of their lives. But something is following them, something that wants them dead.
by Robert R. McCammon
Robert R. McCammon isn’t just an award-winning novelist; he’s also a co-founder of the Horror Writers Association. And in this coming-of-age tale, he delivers a remarkable story that you will never forget.
11-year old Cory Mackenson lives in a small town in Alabama. On the outside, it’s like every other small town. But one morning, Cory and his father see a car drive into a lake, and when his father tries to rescue the drive, he experiences something terrible, something that will haunt him forever. As Cory struggles to deal with his changed father, he comes to understand that there is more to the town of Zephyr than meets the eye. Monsters, an ancient woman who can hear the dead and cast spells on the living, and violent humans with no regard for anyone or anything are just some of the dangers lurking in the shadows. Now Corey must confront the secrets of his town before they claim his father—and him.
by JG Faherty
A supernatural thriller with a very human question at its core: How far would you go to save the person you love?
Veterinarian Leah DeGarmo has the power to Cure with just a touch. But her gift comes with a dark side: whatever she takes in she has to pass on, or suffer it herself. Now a sadistic criminal has discovered what she can do and he'll stop at nothing to control her. He makes a mistake, though, by killing the man she loves and triggering a rage inside her that releases a new power she didn't know she had: the ability to Kill. Transformed into a demon of retribution, Leah resurrects her lover and embarks on a mission to destroy her enemies. The only question is, does she control the power or does it control her?
A life-long resident of New York's haunted Hudson Valley, JG Faherty has been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award® (The Cure, Ghosts of Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time), and he is the author of 6 novels, 9 novellas, and more than 60 short stories. He writes adult and YA horror/sci-fi/fantasy, and is a member of the Horror Writers Associations’ Board of Trustees as well as the head of the HWA’s Library and Literacy programs. He is also an active member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Romance Writers of America. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and read his blog.