Spotlight On: Modern Horror Novels Guaranteed to Leave Your Spine Tingling

Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Tell-Tale Heart are usually well-known to readers as classic horror stories, but where do you turn when you’ve already read all the classics? Here is a list of some modern horror novels that are guaranteed to leave your spine tingling!

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

An easy scare is accomplished through fear of the unknown; describing the noise of a rasping breath in an empty room, the screech of fingernails across a windowpane–the descriptions are vague enough to let your mind scramble to fill in the blanks. A more difficult feat is spooking your readers while showing them exactly what it is that they should be afraid of. Carroll’s lush and evocative artwork paired with her sparing, at times poetic, and always horrifying stories does just that. Through the Woods will leave you afraid, not of a nameless bogeyman, but of the images and creatures she conjures through her pen.

John Dies At the End by David Wong

“David Wong’s freakishly inventive monsters, alternate universes, and perverted humor can’t truly be served by special effects. At first, Wong (the pen name for online humorist Jason Pargin) published various short stories about the absurd exploits of main characters David and John, two college dropouts turned overmatched paranormal hunters. Riding mentally high on a brain-scrambling drug called “Soy Sauce,” the guys do battle with giant meat monsters (yes, uncooked hamburgers and other frozen beef), penis doorknobs, and talking dogs.

Though it may not be the scariest book, John Dies At The End is certainly the funniest, not to mention one of the most creative.” – Summary from Matt Barone of

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Author of the best-selling Gone Girl (now a movie!), Gillian Flynn blindsided horror readers in 2006 with her work Sharp Objects. “Flynn’s protagonist is Camille Parker, a newspaper reporter who once lived in an asylum, due to her obsession with self-cutting. She gets assigned a story that’s happening back in her hometown, where a young girl has gone missing and a killer is on the loose. And, as the bait-and-switch ending of Sharp Objects makes abundantly clear, Camille’s reality goes from unstable to painfully undesirable.” – Summary from Matt Barone of


Horns by Joe Hill (RFPL owns the eBook, but a print copy can be obtained through SWAN)

“We’ve all been there: After a night filled with more alcoholic beverages than one’s brain can handle, you wake up with a beastly hangover and no recollection of what happened before bedtime. But how would you react if that killer headache was compounded by a pair of pointy horns sticking out of your temples? You’d probably never sip on Hennessy ever again.

For Ig Parrish, the protagonist in Joe Hill’s heartfelt and devilish character studyHorns, his new built-in head accessories turn him into the world’s greatest listener: Everyone, in the presence of Ig’s horns, tells him their most fiendish desires, such as who they want to kill, and, in some cases, who they’ve already murdered. Which leads Ig on a chase to once and for all identify the person who left his girlfriend’s corpse lying in the woods.” – Summary by Matt Barone of

Genna’s February Recommendation

Welcome to Lovecraft, part of the Locke + Key series

by Joe Hill; Art by Gabriel Rodriguez

welcometolovecraftThe first novel in the series begins with the Locke family, reeling with grief from the loss of their murdered father, moving into the Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. They find mysterious keys around the house, but Bode, the youngest in the family, is first to discover one key that causes whoever passes through the threshold to become a ghost. Bode meets a creepy voice in the well on the property who has some ulterior motives.

I enjoyed this book for the engaging and creepy storyline, as well as the amazing illustrations.

This graphic novel series has six parts – the final book Alpha + Omega was just released this week and concludes the series that the duo Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have been working on for six years. Several of the books have been nominated for the Will Eisner Award – which are awards given to creative achievement in American comic books. You may already know Joe Hill as the son of Stephen King. Joe Hill has been carving a horror story niche for himself since his 2007 debut Heart-Shaped Box, to his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, and most recently NOS4A2



Victoria’s May Recommendation

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa

Revenge Eleven Dark Tales“Lately I’ve been reading books with twisted endings and I really love this one. Each story, there are eleven mini stories, which each connect to the other somehow. This book will leave you questioning and thinking.” – Victoria

“Fittingly, each tale seems to be its own torture chamber—dark and meticulous… More disturbing than the bloody imagery is the eerie calm with which each plot unfolds, as if one act of violence must necessarily transform into the portal for another.”—The New Yorker

3 Similar Reads:

A Multitude of Sins by Richard Ford

Death Sentences by Chiaki Kawamata

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk



Hadley’s January Recommendation

Breed by Chase Novak

breed“While most would agree this book is ‘not appropriate’ for me to be reading right now (I’m 7 months pregnant), my love of the macabre wouldn’t let me wait.  Breed centers on the lives of wealthy New York couple the Twisdens, who test the limits of infertility treatments in their obsession for a child.  After submitting to dangerous, questionable procedures, the Twisdens successfully conceive children…but at a horrible, gruesome price.  Breed is original fast-paced, scary and stomach-turning, and at times also funny and sad.  Stephen King even says it’s “the best horror novel (he’s read) since Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.”

Read about this book or request it from the library catalog!

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans

The Devil in Silver by Victor Lavalle

Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist


Weekly Spotlight On…Great Reads for Halloween!

Looking for a good book to put you in the Halloween spirit?  Then you’re in the right place!  Check out this list of scare-tastic horror reads that contain chills (and thrills)–guaranteed!  Whether you’re a fan of the good old fashioned ghost story, supernatural creature freatures, psychological horror, or just plain old gore, you can find something you’ll love on this list!  Again, this list is by no means comprehensive, so I’ve provided you with a few links to some great lists around the internet as well.  Also, don’t forget our subscription reader’s advisory database NoveList that you can access for FREE with your library card.  Enjoy!

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Enjoy “this classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre.  First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror.  It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House….At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers–and soon it will choose one of them to make its own”.

A Dark Matter by Peter Straub

In this novel, “the incomparable master of horror and suspense” tells the tale of the Spenser Mallon, a charismative and cunning campus guru in the 1960s, attracting the devotion and demanding sexual favors of his young acolytes.  After he invites his most fervent followers to attend a secret ritual in a local meadow, the only thing that remains is a gruesomely dismembered body…

The Grin of the Dark by Ramsey Campbell

From another master of contemporary horror: “A former professor offers film critic Simon the chance of a lifetime–to write a book on one of the greatest long-lost comedians of the silent-film era, Tubby Thackeray.  Simon is determined to find out the truth behind the jolly fat man’s disappearance from film–and from the world.”

Hemlock Grove, or, The Wise Wolf by Brian McGreevy

This new release is “an epic, original reinvention of the Gothic novel, taking the characters of our greatest novels, myths, and nightmares–the werewolf, the vampire, Frankenstein–and reimagining them for our time”.

Infected by Scott Sigler

In this cross between sci-fi and horror, CIA operative Dew Phillips works together with CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya in a race to stop the spread of a mysterious disease that is turning ordinary people into murderers.  A former football player who has become infected with the deadly bioengineered parasite may carry the cure.  A great, fast-paced read for fans of books about the viral apocalypse.

Haunted: A Novel of Stories by Chuck Palahniuk

Like the title implies, Haunted is indeed a novel of twenty three stories, twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach churning tales you’ll ever encounter–sometimes all at once.  The stories are told by people who have answered an ad headlined “Writers’ Retreat: Abandon Your Life for Three Months”, and who are led to believe that here they will leave hind all the distractions of ‘real life’ that are keeping them from creating the masterpiece that is in them.  Drawing from the literary tradition of the Villa Diodati (the event that led to the creation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), this gore fest is definitely not for the faint of heart but is sure to entertain.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

The classic horror story from Ira Levin (the movie directed by Roman Polanski is equally creepy).  Whe Rosemary’s Baby was first published in 1967, Ira Levin’s masterpiece gave horror an innocent new face.  It caused a worldwide sensation, found fear where we never thought to look before, and dared to bring it into the sunlight.  Do you dare to discover what all the fuss is about?

Pretty much anything by Stephen King, but if you’re new to the author, try Carrie, Salem’s Lot, or The Shining.  Stephen King is often called the master of horror fiction, and rightfully so.  His unique and powerful narrative voice never fails to connect with, and then terrify, the reader.  King is all about telling a story, and none of his stories disappoint.  These are three of his earlier classics, and are great for King newcomers.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

This literary, postmodern, and stylistic horror novel is hard to describe, but many have called it the most terrifying thing they have ever read.  Here is a great review from Book List: “This stunning first effort is destined for fast-track cult status.  A photographers decides to create a film document of his family moving into a new home.  The project runs smoothly until the interior dimensions of the house turn out to be larger than the exterior. Over time, a maze of passageways appear and disappear, perhaps inhabited by an unseen malevolent creature”.  I stumbled across a review that said this book is as is Nabokov wrote the book version of The Blair Witch Project.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Robert Neville may well be the last living man on Earth…but he is not alone.  An incurable plague has mutated every other man, woman, and child into bloodthirty, nocturnal creatures who are determined to destroy him.  By day, he is a hunter, stalking the infected monstrosities through the abandoned ruins of civilization.  By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for dawn…

Want more? Check out these links…

FlavorWire’s List of 10 of the Creepiest Ghosts in Literature’s List of the 25 Best Horror Novels of the New Millennium

Charlie Higson’s Top Ten Horror Books @ The Guardian

Try for all things horror as well! Happy reading!

Tara’s October Recommendation

The Stand by Stephen King

“Just in time for Halloween, here’s a horror novel that will knock your socks off!  The story begins with a lethal viral accident that occurs in a military lab.  Only one man escapes alive, and lives to infect his family and all of the nearby cities.  As the world begins to crumble, two camps begin to emerge.  One camp is led by a 108 year old woman named Abigail.  The other is led a lethal man with unspeakable powers, Randall Flagg.  The Stand is a futuristic, dystopian horror novel set in the United States. King combines skilled character development with gory detail that will keep you reading to the very end.  A warning to the squeamish–this may not be the book for you!

Read about it or request it from the library catalog!

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

1) I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (Access to library catalog here!)

2) The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell (Access to library catalog here!)

3) The Passage by Justin Cronin (Access to library catalog here, and don’t miss the sequel to this excellent novel, The Twelve, coming out October 16th!)

As a side note: Post-apocalyptic literature is a huge book trend, and there are tons of reading lists out there–check out this one from the Huffington Post, or try this list of End of the World reads from Flavorwire.  There is no doubt that the The Stand is one of the best, but there’s a whole lot to choose from, and all of it is great!

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

1) The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (Access to library catalog here!)

2) Collapse by Jared Diamond (Access to library catalog here!)

3) The Viral Storm by Nathan Wolfe (Access to library catalog here!)

Rebecca’s January Recommendation

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

A wry and lyrical take on the post-apocalyptic zombie novel, author Colson Whitehead describes a world devastated by a plague that has separated the population into two categories: the living and the living dead.  The novel follows a character named Mark Spitz, a man who can be described as ordinary in every way, except for the fact that he was one of the survivors.  He is now a part of a civilian unit working under orders of a provisional government in Buffalo with one mission in mind: take back and rebuild Manhattan.  While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives.  The living believe that they have won the war-until things begin to go dreadfully wrong.  I loved how this book was able to blend the lines between literary fiction and the horror genre, creating a masterfully wrought work that, despite the current “zombie trend”, is truly unique.

Read about it or request it from the library catalog