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From the Haunted Stacks: 2022 Horror Book Highlights

A detailed look at the emerging horror trends of 2022, from the "library world's horror maven."

horror highlights feature

While there are many best lists out there for you to peruse this time of year, in true librarian fashion, I thought I would give you a more researched look at the year by taking you on a walk through the top trends in Horror publishing, accompanied by exemplary 2022 titles that illustrate those trends.

Short Scares Are Going Strong

Shorter works for horror have always had traction precisely because of their length. When reading a tale that is meant to elicit feelings of fear, dread, and terror, the ability to stay immersed in the story for its entirety adds to the reading enjoyment.

We Can Never Leave This Place by Eric Larocca

We Can Never Leave This Place

By Eric LaRocca

LaRocca put out two of the best novellas of the year. We Can Never Leave This Place is a macabre, visceral, lyrical, and beguiling dark fantasy fever dream while They Were Here Before Us is a tale of thought-provoking depravity, told in six smaller pieces, all united by how they portray the brutality that lies at the foundation of love.

Both may appear to be unrelated on the surface, but all of LaRocca’s stories exquisitely articulate the disgust and unease of horror, the dark emotions readers crave, without ever losing sight of the pure wonder, buried at the center of it all.

they were here before us

They Were Here Before Us

By Eric LaRocca

Helpmeet

Helpmeet

By Naben Ruthnum

Louise, a nurse in 1900 New York City is caring for her husband, Edward, a doctor, suffering intensely as his body is literally dissolving, piece by piece. However, his suffering comes from something much bigger than bacteria. Readers will get immersed in Louise and Edward's story, their emotions will be held hostage, as they watch everything transform into an uncanny tale of otherworldly beauty, with just the right touch of darkness hiding in the wings.

Breakable Things Cassandra Khaw

Breakable Things

By Cassandra Khaw

With their first collection, Khaw presents 23 stories that span the speculative fiction landscape. Invoking fairy tales and mythologies from all over the world, many prominently featuring water.

These are lyrical, brutal, and intensely unsettling tales featuring disquieting imagery and situations with language so beguiling that readers will go back to reread lines. While none of the stories here are long, each hooks the reader quickly and steadily builds to a perfect ending, one that makes them pause to think about what they just experienced, shiver at the fear of it, and then eagerly dive back in to experience it all over again.

roost by hope madden

Roost

By Hope Madden

Retellings: Everything Old Is New Again

Retellings are not a new thing in horror. Using known creatures or classic storylines helps to orient the reader even before the story begins. But in 2022, the very best retellings have come from authors who have firmly framed their tales to uplift marginalized voices. 

reluctant immortals

Reluctant Immortals

By Gwendolyn Kiste

1967, Hollywood California, a beautiful young woman, Lucy, is fighting to bury an urn containing Dracula’s ashes, her roommate, Bee by her side. These women live in the shadows and yet, are known to all, cursed victims of the evil men (Dracula and Rochester) whom history has rehabilitated into romantic heroes. What follows is a fast-paced, road trip adventure, during the Summer of Love, that both honors the source material and adds something new. This unapologetically feminist tale, is an ode to forgotten women everywhere.

what-moves-the-dead_t-kingfisher

What Moves the Dead

By T. Kingfisher

Kingfisher updates the Poe classic, The Fall of the House of Usher, filling in much of what was left unsaid in the original with intensely unsettling, claustrophobic, fungi details. Also different this time, the narrator is named.

Alex Easton is a soldier from a fictional, European country, one in which pronouns are not tied to gender, adding a thoughtful and intriguing facet to this briskly paced, claustrophobic, and unsettling tale. As the tension increases, readers will experience the book’s title as it becomes apparent in all of its skin-crawling glory.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Fervor

The Fervor

By Alma Katsu

The queen of historical horror is already well known for taking real-life events from the past and adding a terrifying supernatural twist.

This time Katsu turns her gaze toward Japanese internment, following Meiko and her daughter Aiko in an Idaho camp, Archie, a pastor from Oregon, and Fran, a freelance reporter from Nebraska, as they get entangled in the destruction caused by Japanese fire balloons in the American West. The unease is constant, as past mistakes, anti-Asian racism, a mysterious illness, government cover-ups, and Japanese demons permeate the pages.

Verisimilitude is Terrifying

Sometimes the truth is scarier than fiction, but this year, it seems that some authors took that well-known saying as a writing prompt, crafting novels that use the appearance of or closeness to the truth as their means to ratchet up the fear a few extra notches.

the pallbearers club

The Pallbearer's Club

By Paul Tremblay

In this brilliant take on the coming-of-age horror trope, Tremblay’s novel—or is it a memoir by Art Barbara, a man strikingly similar to Tremblay himself?—is presented as a found document. It is found by Art’s childhood friend, Mercy, who may or may not be a vampire. What follows is a strikingly realistic tale of a troubled man.

As readers follow his downfall in the memoir, Mercy adds in her perspective with notes in the margins and at the end of each chapter. The intimate and playful nature of their conversation on the page draws readers in immediately, but as the novel continues, darkness envelopes the narrative and everyone’s reliability is questioned.

The Devil Takes You Home

The Devil Takes You Home

By Gabino Iglesias

Mario is facing the horrific reality of being poor and brown in America. Desperate to repay his medical debts and reunite with his wife, he takes a violent job to steal from the Mexican drug lords who have stolen so much already. Scenes of magic, love, family, and faith are contradicted by brutality, violence, racism, and terror, but all is anchored by staggeringly beautiful language and a commitment to incorporate the ghosts, language, and traditions of the people it honors. A revenge thriller with a deadly twist that will leave readers wondering if reality is actually more terrifying than fiction.

ghost eaters by clay mcleod chapman

Ghost Eaters

By Clay Mcleod Chapman

Using the frame of the very real horror of addiction, not only what it does to those plagued by it, but also those who love them, Chapman introduces readers to Erin who is struggling after her best friend Silas dies of an overdose, but not before he discovered a drug that allowed him to see the dead. Wanting nothing more than to see Silas one last time, Eric takes the pill and begins a descent into a nightmare. Does Erin become an addict or is she actually surrounded by ghosts who want a taste of the drug that is taking over her body? An intense reading experience that will make readers feel as if something is lurking over their shoulders.

the ghost that ate us

The Ghost That Ate Us: The Tragic True Story of the Burger City Poltergeist

By Daniel Kraus

On June 1, 2017, six people were killed at Burger City #8 just off the ramp to Exit 269 on I-80 in Iowa. A cottage industry of books, movies, and TV shows have been made about the event. Was Kit Bryant a murderer, or were they all the victims of an evil poltergeist?

Bestselling novelist Daniel Kraus sets out to solve the case with this definitive and exhaustively researched true crime account, except…none of it happened. The verisimilitude is disorienting, forcing the reader to question everything on the page, their own memories, and at times, their sanity. A great true crime/horror mashup, already well on its way to becoming a classic.

The Most Breathtaking Debuts Are By Women

Finding new voices in horror is always exciting, but this year, women have dominated the debut novel marketplace. By far, in 2022, the most compelling, thrilling, and stunning first novels dotting the horror landscape were published by women.

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

Our Wives Under the Sea

By Julia Armfield

Leah went on a routine submarine research trip where something went very wrong and now she has returned to her wife, Miri, completely changed. Told in stunning language and organized into sections named for the layers of the ocean, this is a disquieting, heartbreakingly beautiful, body horror tale about what happens when the person you married transforms into someone you barely recognize.  

Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin, a horror book from Tor Nightfire

Manhunt

By Gretchen Felker-Martin

Living in a world where a virus turns any human with enough testosterone into a zombie-esque creature, Beth and Fran are in extreme danger because as trans women, they need estrogen in order to survive. Part of a band of survivors who have figured out how to distill E from the testicles of now feral men, Beth and Fran are getting by; however, they are also up against an organized group of TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) who want them dead.

Featuring all of the action, character building, tension, and hope found in the very best zombie tales, Manhunt also poignantly centers those who have been perpetually ignored by this popular genre.

The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

The Hacienda

By Isabel Cañas

Beatriz, a recently disgraced young woman living during the tumultuous years around the Mexican War of Independence, is given a chance at a better life by marrying the recently widowed Don Solórzano and moving to his beautiful estate. Almost immediately, Beatriz is under constant attack by the malicious ghost of the first Doña Solórzano. With the help of a local priest, Andres, the two fight to save the Hacienda—and the lives of everyone who calls it home.

This is a confident debut,  with a strong sense of place, a claustrophobic, ghost story that exudes pure terror.

white horse

White Horse

By Erika Wurth

Kari’s life as an urban Indian in Denver revolves around her love of heavy metal, Stephen King, and nights at the White Horse bar. 35 but still dealing with childhood trauma, Kari is struggling. When her cousin finds a bracelet that once belonged to her dead mother, she is not only forced to confront her past, but she must also battle a literal monster if she hopes to survive.

Combining mystery, thriller and horror, White Horse is a scary, compelling, and thought-provoking page-turner, announcing the appearance of a strong new voice in the genre.