Horror fans, fear not. Warm weather doesn’t mean scary stories are no more. If you’re wondering what to read during the final month of summer, we’ve got you covered. Slide your toes in the sand, lather up with sunscreen, and pull out one of these great horror novels. You’re in for a scary good read.
In this collision of 1970s acid rock novel and eerie ghost story, uncover what happens when a British folk band’s leader goes missing in the strange and unsettling Wylding Hall. In that unnerving house, they recorded the album that will make their careers, but the cost was Julien Blake, who was never seen or heard from again after he vanished into the halls of the mansion.
Years later, the remaining members of the band meet again, but this time with a documentarian who’s trying to uncover the truth of what happened to Blake. The challenge: If everyone has a different version of the story, which one is the right one?
The Sleep Room
Young psychiatrist James Richardson is offered the job of a lifetime assisting Dr. Hugh Maitland, and he is thrilled. The work entails monitoring the experiments designed to cure mentally unstable patients by keeping them asleep for many months. It has the potential to make his entire career. Everything is going smoothly until the dreams of the patients begin materializing in real life. Take a trip into the darkness of the human mind, and find what can happen when someone is pushed just a bit too far.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
One of Gaiman’s best novels, this quietly eerie and utterly terrifying story will appeal to fans and newbies alike. When the unnamed narrator returns to his hometown for a funeral, he suddenly begins to remember all of the strange things that he had buried away.
His former neighbor and friend, Lettie Hempstock, seems to be the key to this experiences. And those experiences allowed a strange, supernatural creature to get into the world. Can the narrator and Lettie stop the evil spirits before they destroy his family, their town, and the ocean at the end of their lane?
When young Karen Tandy discovers a mysterious lump growing underneath her skin, her family fears the worst. Or so they think. Doctors are trying to figure what to do. Then Karen’s personality begins shifting. They reach the conclusion that there is only one thing to do: Cut out the lump. But then, without explanation, it moves. Now, everyone who comes into contact with Karen feels exactly what kind of terror she experiences. Her body and soul have been taken over by a dark spirit over four centuries old. He was formed as an act of vengeance against the white people for the harms committed against the Indian people. His name: the Manitou.
So begins the sixth mass extinction on Earth. On the first day, subglacial volcanoes erupt in Iceland, a tsunami destroys the Norwegian coastline, an ash cloud blocks out the sun across Europe, nuclear power plants experience meltons, millions of people die, and millions more are uprooted and displaced. And this is just the beginning. Abraham Wright is a scientist at the center of it all. He’s separated from his family by continents and sent to uncover what caused this series of disasters. But what he discovers is beyond what he ever imagined. This ancient horror is set to unleash on the rest of the world, and Wright must be at the head to stop it.
The Winter People
In West Hall, Vermont, strange disappearances are common. Alice and her two daughters, Ruthie and Fawn, move to West Hall in an attempt to live off the grid—after all, what better place to disappear? The three think it’s the perfect place for them. That is, until one morning, Ruthie wakes to find her mother is missing. She sets about searching for answers and discovers the diary of the former owner of the farmhouse where she currently resides. It belongs to Sara Harrison Shae, who was found dead in a field nearby just weeks after her own daughter’s death in 1908. Ruthie digs deeper and begins to uncover the mystery behind these strange disappearances, and the paranormal happenings surrounding them.
Night Film reads quickly as a fascinating thriller that takes the reader through the mystery of recluse filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, whose daughter Alice has just been found dead in an abandoned warehouse. Investigative journalist Scott McGrath had tried to find the mysterious man once before Alice’s death, but he failed and lost his career and marriage in the process. Now he is once again trying to find Cordova, driven by revenge and an insatiable obsession for the truth. This novel is an adventure into the mind of the horror/occult movie director, while delivering an equally chilling read.
Summer of Night
Back in 1960s Elm Haven, Illinois, five boys begin to discover terrifying things about their school and town. After many strange occurrences, they begin to unravel the secrets of their principal and schoolteacher—who are involved in harboring a deep, dark evil that is likely to kill them and everyone they know. Using the perspective of the children grants us a feeling of intense unease as we watch them slowly lose faith in the people they are supposed to trust the most. This is one of four books in a series by Dan Simmons that follow the protagonists as they become older and encounter more wrong in the world, so if you enjoy the first one then you’ll be happy to know that your summer is going to be plenty busy.
No Doors, No Windows
Harlan Ellison is just one of those prolific writers who successfully dips his pen into different genres. Although this entry isn’t exactly a novel, Ellison’s short stories are horrifying in a wonderfully realistic way that moves us away from the supernatural side of the genre and take us into the chilling reality of everyday danger and suspense. The book contains 16 different stories ranging from nuclear holocaust to crazy people roaming the street. All are disturbing in their own right because they bring the dangers of the real world to the forefront. Every entry is well written and constantly teeming with Ellison’s unusual style, which perturbs the mind and produces high levels of tension that keeps readers gripping ever tighter to the pages.
The Girl Next Door
The Girl Next Door is a horror novel that is incredibly unnerving and not for the faint of heart. It is about two young girls, Meg and Susan, who are sent into their aunt Ruth’s care when their parents suddenly die. The responsibility of two more children, along with the neighborhood kids who often use the house to do whatever they please, leads to the deterioration of Ruth’s mental state. After Megan attacks one of the boys for groping her, she’s locked in a room and tortured. The story then becomes about David, a neighborhood boy who is secretly in love with Meg, trying to save the sisters from Ruth before she ends up killing them. The novel hosts many violent and brutal scenes, so if you can manage all of that then this terrifying read is right up your alley.
I am Legend
A classic published in 1951, I Am Legend is noted for being very influential in the development of the zombie genre. Richard Matheson’s book is about one of the last people on Earth, trapped in L.A. during an outbreak of a disease that turns people into nocturnal zombie creatures who are constantly trying to get into the main character’s home at night. During the day he is off researching and trying to find a cure for the disease, to which he is immune. The story evolves into an insight on how we treat things we don’t understand and to where we look when we have only solitude. It is a deeply moving piece of horror fiction and a fast read for any lover of the genre.
We would go to a lot less horror movies if we knew that once the lights came back on we had to take the terror home with us. That is the plot of Brad Strickland’s ShadowShow. Set in a small town in Georgia, the story takes place primarily in a theater that packs its seats with people who can’t get enough of the violence, sex, and gore that takes place on-screen every night. All that awful fun can’t go on untaxed forever, though, and the moviegoers start realizing that they’re doing a lot more than just watching horror movies–they’re living them. Strickland’s concept is inspired and it’s entertaining to watch the movies in the book come to life.
Stephen King’s novel is a perfect page-turner for those who are as afraid of rollercoasters as the supernatural. Joyland is nearly 300 pages of mystery and horror following Devin Jones, a college student who takes an unsuspecting job at an amusement park in North Carolina where he becomes steeped in the mystery of a girl’s death. His curiosity quickly turns to terror when he starts looking in the most dangerous of places for the person who is responsible. Ghosts, shootings, and haunted houses blend together beautifully with King’s ability to create a heart-stopping narrative, making Joyland into a terrifyingly superb book to pack next to your sunglasses.
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