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Summer Horror

scary headless reader

June 30, 2021

When I was a kid, summer was the time to read horror novels.

I know it's months away from the traditional spooky season, but summer was the only chance I had to read and really enjoy a good scary story.

As soon as it got hot—like July or August hot—l was at the library looking for the latest horror novel to keep me company on family trips or while camping.

Hopefully one or two of these will keep you company throughout the short summer nights!


FICTION

Book Cover: SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

"SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES" by RAY BRADBURY

Even though most of this novel is set in the fall, for me, this was the epitome of summer reading. Bradbury’s lush descriptions and storytelling, and his quiet horrors, make this a book to be savored as much as read. Jim Nightshade and his friend William Halloway explore a traveling carnival. Each boy must overcome his own demons in order to face down the evil of Dark’s Carnival. Exploiting the secret desires of the town’s inhabitants, Mr. Dark grants them what they believe they want, but with a twist. A fabulous introduction to Bradbury, this novel delves deeply into good and evil; what we want most and what destroys us.

Book Cover: THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS

"THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS" by STEPHEN GRAHAM JONES

Equal parts horror and social commentary, this novel follows four American Indian men and their families who are all haunted by a disturbing and deadly event that took place in their youth. Years after, they find themselves tracked by an evil entity bent on revenge. The four men are helpless as their past and the culture they left behind catches up with them.

Book Cover: THE TERROR

"THE TERROR" by DAN SIMMONS

Dan Simmons has a knack for picking settings that contribute to the horror. His book "Song of Kali" used Calcutta as a back drop against which the horror plays out. In this novel, Simmons tackles the Arctic. Using the historical search for the legendary Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Simmons tells the story of one of the boats and its crew. Stranded above the Arctic Circle with a boat that has been frozen into the ice, the crew of the HMS Terror are entering their second summer. Struggling in the bitter cold, with food becoming more and more scarce, the crew soon realizes they are not alone: something is stalking their ship just waiting to get in.

Book Cover: THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

"THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE" by SHIRLEY JACKSON

First published in 1959, "The Haunting of Hill House" became a classic of psychological horror. Four people are invited to Hill House by Dr. Montague, a scholar of the occult eager for confirmation of his beliefs. Among those invited are Eleanor, a friendless woman with a disinterested family who prey on her good will as well as a history of poltergeist activity surrounding her. At first, it’s a fun stay at an old house, until the house chooses one to keep for itself.

Book Cover: THE BALLAD OF BLACK TOM

"THE BALLAD OF BLACK TOM" by VICTOR LAVALLE

LaValle starts with Lovecraft’s "The Horror at Red Hook" and turns it on its head. From Harlem, to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook, Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table and keep a roof over his head. He knows how to use the magic of a suit, the invisibility of a guitar case and the curse on his skin to attract the eyes of wealthy white folks and their police officers. When he delivers an old book to a sorceress in Queens, he manages to attract the attention of things best left alone.

Book Cover: THE RED TREE

"THE RED TREE" by CAITLIN KIERNAN

Sarah Crowe left Atlanta behind her, along with the remnants of her tumultuous relationship. Now living in an old house in rural Rhode Island, she discovers an unfinished manuscript hidden in the walls. It’s written by the former tenant, an anthropologist obsessed with an ancient oak tree growing on the property. The oak continues to intrigue Sarah, and she begins her own account of its unsavory history. Risking it all, she unearths a revelation planted centuries ago.

Book Cover: LUNAR PARK

"LUNAR PARK" by BRET EASTON ELLIS

Bret Easton Ellis was a world famous novelist until his book "American Psycho," after which he spiraled into drugs and booze. Now imagine having a second chance. Ellis has a family and sobriety, but soon he is seeing ghosts, his house changes in bizarre ways and his daughter’s doll takes on a life of its own. Connecting the dots, leads Ellis to try and defend his family against evil, even while his wife, his therapist and ever the police believe that his misgivings are the result of his substance abuse and egomania. What would you do to protect your family from something they can’t see?

Book Cover: HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS

"HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS" by PAUL TREMBLAY

The Barrett family is torn apart when their oldest daughter shows signs of schizophrenia. Doctors can’t stop her descent into madness, so the family turns to the Catholic Church. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism to remove the demon possessing her. He also contacts a production company which wants to document the rite. Fifteen years later, a writer interviews the Barrett’s younger daughter, Merry. She recalls buried secrets and memories that conflict with the show. Merry must grapple with questions of reality and memory, science and religion and the nature of evil.

Book Cover: NOS4A2

"NOS4A2" by JOE HILL

Victoria has always been able to find things. As a child, she would ride her bike across the rickety covered bridge and she would always end up where she needed to be. Charles Talent Manx likes children. He likes to take them for rides in his car, a Rolls-Royce Wraith. With his car he can slip between worlds and drive on hidden roads to Christmasland. Vic is the only kid to ever escape Manx, but he’s never stopped thinking about her and now he’s got a new passenger, Vic’s son. This novel explores evil as well as the never ending love a mother has for her child.

Book Cover: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

"THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS" by M. R. CAREY

Melanie is special. Every day she waits in her cell to be collected for class. When the soldiers come for her, the sergeant points his gun at her while two others strap her into a wheel chair and wheel her to the classroom she shares with other children. She’s smart and articulate and bright. But no one seems to like her. In fact they all seem scared of her. And she can’t understand why.

Book Cover: WE WILL ALL GO DOWN TOGETHER

"WE WILL ALL GO DOWN TOGETHER" by GEMMA FILES

After fleeing Scotland, five clans settle in a small town in Northern Ontario. They are the descendants of witches and have become shaman, spell casters, singers and thieves. Files presents a collection of stories about the five families and how they survive by trading on their occult powers, knowledge and talent, though few can afford to pay what they ask.

Book Cover: THE TWISTED ONES

"THE TWISTED ONES" by T. KINGFISHER

After her grandmother dies, Mouse is asked by her dad to clear out her grandmother’s house. It couldn’t be all that bad, right? Wrong! Her grandmother was a hoarder and every corner of the house is stuffed with worthless stuff. Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, chronicling his spiral into dementia. At least that’s what it seems to be, until Mouse and her dog stumbles across some of the same things he described. Mouse is on a collision course with something dark and horrible and quite possibly not of this world.

Book Cover: IMAGINARY FRIEND

"IMAGINARY FRIEND" by STEPHEN CHBOSKY

From the author of the acclaimed teen novel, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," comes a horror novel that Stephen King would have been proud to have written. Kate Reese and her son Christopher are on the run from an abusive relationship. They find themselves in Mill Grove, Pennsylvania, a tight knit community with one road into town and one road out. Then Christopher vanishes. Six days later he emerges from the woods, seemingly unharmed. But he returns with a voice in his head. A voice that urges him to build a tree house in the woods by Christmas or his mother and everyone else in town will never be the same.

Book Cover: THE TOLL

"THE TOLL" by CHERIE PRIEST

Titus and Melanie Bell are on their honeymoon and have reservations at the Okefenokee Swamp cabin where they plan to take a canoe trip. But before they reach their destination, the road narrows to a rickety bridge with room for just one car. No one knows what happened next but it leads to Titus waking up in the middle of the road. There is no bridge and there is no Melanie. When Titus calls the police, they inform him that there is no such bridge on the route he was following.

Book Cover: WAKENHYRST

"WAKENHYRST" by MICHELLE PAVER

In a mansion house on the edge of the Suffolk fens, Maud is a lonely child growing up without her mother and a terrifyingly repressive father. When her father discovers a medieval devil painted in the graveyard, strange and terrifying forces are awakened. Maud must battle against a world haunted by witchcraft, frightening folk stories about her beloved fens, and her father’s personal demons. Is she prepared?

Book Cover: THE HUNGER

"THE HUNGER" by ALMA KATSU

The Donner Party is probably the most infamous wagon train going west in American history. Not for what they accomplished, but for the horror and tragedy that seemed to follow their every step. They cannot escape tragedy, but who was to blame? Katsu’s answer will surprise and horrify readers as they follow the Donner Party through uncharted terrain and growing fear.

Book Cover: THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES

"THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES" by GRADY HENDRIX

Some people go trout fishing. Others travel the world. Patricia Campbell goes to book club. This close knit group of women drawn together by their love of true crime is the one thing that keeps Patricia sane. One evening, Patricia is attacked by an elderly neighbor. This brings James Harris, the elderly neighbor’s nephew into her life. James is well traveled, well read and Patricia feels things she hasn’t felt in years. Then children begin to go missing and Patricia begins to believe that there is more to James Harris, even as he insinuates himself into her life, trying to take away everything she ever valued, including book club.

Book Cover: LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

"LOVECRAFT COUNTRY" by MATT RUFF

When his father goes missing, Army veteran Atticus Turner sets out on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George, the publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide and his old friend Letitia. They are headed for the manor of one Mr. Braithwaite, whose family owned one of Atticus’s ancestors. As they travel, they encounter both the everyday horrors of racism as well as evil spirits directly out of a weird tale. Channeling the cosmic horror of Lovecraft and the pedestrian horrors of racism, Ruff has created a truly gothic tale of Americana. 

Book Cover: I AM LEGEND

"I AM LEGEND" by RICHARD MATHESON

Forget the movie with the same title, or even the 1971 movie "Omega Man" with Charleston Heston. This is the real deal. Robert Neville is the last man on earth. A pandemic has killed most of the population and turned the remainder into horrible vampire like creatures. Robert Neville is an ordinary guy. Every night his house is surrounded by these creatures begging him to come outside and join them. He barricades himself inside, arming himself with garlic, crucifixes and mirrors. Throughout his time, he struggles with depression and alcoholism, even as he tries to hunt down these creatures. Slowly he comes to believe that there is a scientific reason behind this transformation and he turns to reading and experiments in an attempt to try and cure them. When he meets Ruth, he is unprepared for his feelings for her and what she might represent.

Book Cover: IT

"IT" by STEPHEN KING

Read the novel that inspired the movies. Derry, Maine is a small town with one big problem. Something is killing children. Seven friends first stumble on the horror when they were teens. Now they are adults and they are preparing to return to battle the monster once again. Derry is a favorite setting of King and this book has links to King’s magnum opus, The Dark Tower, as well as with other books he’s written. Experience the terror for yourself.

Book Cover: SLADE HOUSE

"SLADE HOUSE" by DAVID MITCHELL

If you want to visit Slade House, the conditions must be absolutely right, otherwise, you will never see the small door that leads into the lush overgrown garden. With luck, you will never meet the inhabitants of Slade House, either. Every nine years, the house’s residents, a strange brother and sister, offer an invitation to someone who is different or lonely. If they accept, their fate has already been determined and it is too late to escape.

Book Cover: NIGHT FILM

"NIGHT FILM" by MARISHA PESSL

Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse. Her death is ruled a suicide, but journalist Scott McGrath isn’t so sure. After all, she is the daughter of reclusive cult film director Stanislas Cordova. Another death linked to his family makes McGrath suspicious, especially after seeing his dark films. As McGrath investigates, he realizes that he might be getting closer to the truth, and he remembers the last investigation that led to him losing his wife and his career.

Book Cover: MEXICAN GOTHIC

"MEXICAN GOTHIC" by SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA

After receiving a letter from her newlywed cousin begging for help, Noemi heads for rural Mexico. Noemi has no idea how she could possibly help. After all, she’s a debutante, not a detective. But that doesn’t mean that Noemi doesn’t have a good head on her shoulders, and an iron will. She’s not frightened of her cousin’s creepy, yet strangely compelling husband. Ancient curses and secrets won’t phase her. Haunted houses don’t bother her. Until the family’s house, High Place, begins to invade her dreams with images of bloody doom. This house holds many secrets, hidden secrets that no one wants to admit to and it’s up to Noemi to uncover these secrets before it’s too late.

Book Cover: THE REAL LOLITA

"THE REAL LOLITA" by SARAH WEINMAN

I read Nabokov’s "Lolita" in college, enjoying the literary play, but I never knew that the story was based upon a real case. But like all good stories, this one is based in fact. In 1948, 11 year old Sally Horner was abducted. Pulling together criminal records, history and literary investigation, Weinman tells the story of Sally Horner and how much Nabokov knew about the case and the effort he took to disguise his knowledge during the writing that resulted in Lolita.

NONFICTION

Book Cover: DEAD BLONDES AND BAD MOTHERS

"DEAD BLONDES AND BAD MOTHERS" by SADY DOYLE

In horror, women are often seen as monsters, freakish and destructive. But is that a good thing? Sady Doyle examines the female dark side—from Mary Shelley, to Lilith, to the teen witches of "The Craft"—and highlights the ways that these “monsters” push back against the violence and fear and ways we can re-imagine them as examples for taking back female power.

Book Cover: THE WICKED BOY

"THE WICKED BOY" by KATE SUMMERSCALE

The neighbors were suspicious when Robert and his younger brother Nattie were seen around East London spending like money grew on trees. They claimed their mother had gone to Liverpool to see family and they were left on their own. Eventually, their aunt became suspicious and forced her way into the house, only to discover the decomposing body of the boys’ mother. Both boys were arrested and stood trial; Robert confessed, but his lawyer said he was insane while Nattie struck a plea and gave evidence against his brother. Robert was a boy obsessed with penny dreadfuls; he had severe headaches and a fascination with violent criminals. He was sentenced to Broadmoor, a famous lunatic asylum. For most, this would have been the end of the story, but for Robert, it was just the beginning.

Book Cover:  MONSTER SHE WROTE

" MONSTER SHE WROTE" by LISA KRöGER

Horror stories and other kinds of weird, fantastic fiction wouldn’t exist without women. From Gothics with their haunted castles, to Frankenstein and his monster to science fiction, women writers have been central to the creation of spooky stories, and their life stories are as intriguing as the horrors they have created. From Mary Shelley, the godmother of horror who kept her husband’s heart in her desk to Shirley Jackson whose haunted houses reflect the personalities of the people inside to the claustrophobia of V.C. Andrews, this book is part biography and part reader’s guide to women of the horror genre.

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Book Cover: UZUMAKI

"UZUMAKI" by JUNJI ITO

Kurouzu-cho is a small town. Lately strange things have been happening. People are becoming obsessed with spirals. First the potter makes spiral bowls and images, then people begin changing. Shuichi Saito believes their town is haunted, but not by ghosts, but by spirals. Ito is known for his Lovecraftian storytelling and the disturbing art that accompanies it. This book is not for the faint of heart, as a double dose of terror—from the story and from the art—is definitely disturbing.

 


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