For horror fans who think they've read it all, we've got a list of 21 lesser-known horror novels you should aim to discover this season. It has every kind of scare, from the gory to the macabre, and each book is practically waiting on you to pick it up this fall.
It can be a challenge to put together a great TBR list, especially when you're trying to evoke a particular mood, or work within a specific genre. You don't want to get burned out, or throw yourself into a reading slump, but you also don't want to give up on your reading list entirely. If you're assembling a reading list for Halloween, these lesser-known horror novels will give you the variety you need to keep your reading plans on track this spooky season.
The novels and story collections on this list vary in intensity. When it comes to the size and scope of the horrors they're dishing out, you might find that not every book here is to your liking. That's OK! I've set out to give you oodles of options here. Check out my recommendations below:
'Gothic Tales' by Elizabeth Gaskell
You might be familiar with Elizabeth Gaskell's Regency fiction, but did you know that she also wrote horror stories? Gothic Tales collects nine of her short stories and novellas for your reading enjoyment.
'The Between' by Tananarive Due
The first novel from The Good House author Tananarive Due, The Between, centers on Hilton, the survivor of a tragic accident that claimed the life of his grandmother. Thirty years later, his family begins to receive death threats, and Hilton becomes convinced that his dark visions are connected to what happened to him as a child.
'The Keeper' by Sarah Langan
Susan Marley was once the town of Bedford, Maine's all-American girl, but now she walks the streets, plaguing her hometown's citizens with horrific nightmares. As the dying town begins to lose families to jobs in other places, Susan's wrath grows deeper and more vengeful, zeroing in on those who have wronged her.
'Now You're One Of Us' by Asa Nonami
After marrying into a large, affluent family that lives under the same roof, Noriko finds herself unexpectedly pleased with her new relatives. But when someone begins to pressure her for information on her in-laws, Noriko grows less and less certain that the Shito family are as they appear.
'Skin' by Kathe Koja
Working together on a performance art piece, Tess and Bibi, a metalworker and a dancer, have made a name for themselves as "Surgeons of the Demolition." Bibi wants to go further, to push her body beyond its limits, and Tess is helpless to stop her from making a huge mistake.
'The Gilda Stories' by Jewelle Gómez
In this landmark text from Jewelle Gomez, a formerly enslaved woman named Gilda secures her freedom and is granted eternal life while working with vampires in a brothel.
'Slights' by Kaaron Warren
A serial killer who brings her victims back from the dead to interrogate them about the afterlife gets a taste of her own medicine — and then becomes addicted to dying — in this unsettling novel.
'The Hole' by Hye-Young Pyun
The winner of the 2017 Shirley Jackson Award, Hye-young Pyun's The Hole examines the lives of a recently widowed man and his late wife's mother, who has become his caretaker. As the grieving woman begins to tear up her property in pursuit of her daughter's unfinished business, her son-in-law is left helpless and alone.
'Honour Thy Father' by Lesley Glaister
Lesley Glaister's award-winning horror novel centers on four elderly sisters who have spent the last 60 years in isolation. They've all kept up a shared story about their childhood, but reality is about to come crashing down around them.
'Blood Crime' by Sebastià Alzamora
In this award-winning horror novel set during the Spanish Civil War, a police inspector finds himself fighting against an unnatural enemy when cloistered victims turn up completely exsanguinated.
'Amatka' by Karin Tidbeck
In a world in which things have to be told what they are, a young government pollster finds herself living far from home in the frigid commune of Amatka. But the very fabric of reality lies horribly close, waiting for someone to speak it into shape.
'Skin Folk' by Nalo Hopkinson
Sister Mine author Nalo Hopkinson shines in this short-story collection that blends horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Whether you're looking for werewolves or fairy tales, this isn't a book you want to pass on.
'The Mist in the Mirror' by Susan Hill
Best known for her 1983 novel The Woman in Black, Susan Hill shows off her taste for the macabre. In this ghost story, a globetrotting gentleman attempts to learn more about the dead man he idolizes. The protagonist of The Mist in the Mirror becomes increasingly obsessed with solving the mystery of the other man's origins — and convinced that someone is watching his every move.
'The Cat in the Coffin' by Mariko Koike
In this novel from The Graveyard Apartment author Mariko Koike, a widower's household threatens to explode with tension after his daughter's au pair falls in love with him. But his new girlfriend realizes she can never outrank the family cat.
'The Pillow Friend' by Lisa Tuttle
A little girl longing for a friend gets more than she bargains for when her aunt gives her a porcelain doll named Miles. He's everything she could have asked for, and he'll make her every wish come true — for a price.
'Wonderland' by Jennifer Hillier
What list of horror novels would be complete without a creepy clown story? In Jennifer Hillier's Wonderland, a local theme park that sports a clown museum full of wax statues and porcelain dolls becomes the focal point for a series of missing-persons cases.
'The Auctioneer' by Joan Samson
The residents of a small town find themselves coerced out of all their worldly possessions in this creepy novel from the late Joan Samson. At first, John and Mim Moore are happy to give away their excess farm equipment to Perly Dunsmore's new auction house. But soon the auctioneer's demands begin to press uncomfortably against them.
'The Children' by Carolina Sanín
A wealthy housekeeper comes into possession of a strange, small boy in this haunting, lyrical novel from Colombian author Carolina Sanín. Part horror novel, part commentary on Colombia's 2.5 million missing children, The Children follows Laura and her new charge, Fidel, as they dig into the mystery of his origins.
'The Devil Crept In' by Ania Ahlborn
Stevie's cousin and best friend, Jude, has gone missing from their hometown of Deer Valley. The entire community has rallied to search for Jude, but Stevie worries that his buddy may have fallen victim to the person — or thing — that has been hunting victims in Deer Valley for years.
'The Icarus Girl' by Helen Oyeyemi
After she returns home to England from a family trip to Nigeria, a lonely little girl named Jess learns that the only friend she made in Africa, TillyTilly, has followed her back to Europe. TillyTilly wants more than mere friendship from Jess, however, as the girl will soon discover.