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17 Modern Horror Books (Not by Stephen King)

American author Stephen King is considered the undisputed master of horror, with as many published works as he has years on this Earth.

But King is far from the only great horror author writing today, so here are some of the best horror books by writers far and wide.

modern horror books

Essential Modern Horror Books

Beyond the library of horror giant Stephen King, there is a wealth of wonderful modern horror fiction out there for you to sink your bloodthirsty fangs into!

Note: As these are the best modern horror books, not only novels, you’re going to find a few short story collections, comics, and manga here as well.

The modern horror books on this list have been gathered up from across the world — from Argentina to Japan — and represent the finest in horror fiction as it exists today (beyond that of Stephen King).

Boundaries are being pushed; new kinds of horror are being discovered, poked at and tampered with. Enjoy what you find here, and keep the lights on after you’re done.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

the silent companions laura purcell

Laura Purcell is the modern queen of horror; a British author who twists and turns all the most beloved tropes, characters, and settings that horror fans love, turning them into something wholly fresh and disgusting.

While her second novel, The Corset, is considered by many (this writer included) to be her finest work, her debut novel The Silent Companions is easily her most immediately frightening.

The Silent Companions is easily one of the best modern horror books of this century; a haunted house novel of unique and exciting proportions.

Exceptionally gothic, very reminiscent of Susan Hill and Shirley Jackson, and yet wholly its own beast, The Silent Companions is gothic fiction, historical fiction, and horror all smooshed nicely together.

Our protagonist, Elsie, is pregnant, but her husband is already dead. And so she moves into his family’s country estate, where she feels isolated and lonely, with only her late husband’s cousin to call friend.

The thing that haunts this novel is what makes it unique; something we’ve never seen before in the haunted house subgenre of horror fiction. A masterpiece amongst modern horror books.

Shiver by Junji Ito

ito shiver manga

Japanese mangaka Junji Ito could (and should) easily swipe the horror crown off Stephen King’s head. Nobody in the world does horror and terror like Ito does.

While he has written several lengthy horror manga, Ito’s finest works remain his short stories, and the best collection of these stories is easily Shiver.

Junji Ito blends cosmic horror (see his books Sensor and Remina for more proof of that) with the isolation, tension, and surrealism of intimate family horror.

His ideas, characters, and narratives are creepy, intense, quietly frightening; his art pairs so beautifully with this as it brings to eerie life the expressions and experiences of his poor characters.

In Shiver we see a family that give into the urge to become living marionette dolls; a plague of flying balloons that look like (and hunt) us; and a house drowning in heat and grease.

It’s hard to go wrong with Junji Ito; he rarely disappoints. But if you really want to experience his finest works (and iconic characters like his terrifying cannibalistic supermodel), you need to check out Shiver immediately.

Junji Ito is the true king of horror, and his manga are some of the best modern horror books of all time.

The Hole by by Pyun Hye-young

Translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell

The Hole Hye-Young Pyun

The Hole is perhaps one of the most underrated modern horror books you’ll ever read. This is a masterpiece of truly unsettling, nail-biting terror.

Film fans should already know that Korean horror movies are a step above everything else, but the same can also be said about Korean horror novels, and The Hole is the best of them.

The Hole begins with a car crash. Our protagonist is fully paralysed, and his wife is dead. His mother-in-law has taken him in to care for him, but she blames him for the death of her daughter.

We must read on helplessly as our protagonist is trapped in his own mind, unable to move or fend for himself. All the while his mother-in-law digs an enormous hole in the garden.

Terror has never been done so well, not by Stephen King or any other horror author. This is tension like you’ve never felt it.

If you’re looking for the very best modern horror books, you owe it to yourself to read Pyun Hye-young’s The Hole.

Whisper by Chang Yu-ko

Translated from the Mandarin by Roddy Flagg

whisper chang yu ko

Whisper is a Taiwanese folk horror story set in the modern day. If you’ve seen and enjoyed the 2022 Taiwanese horror movie Incantation, you’re going to want to read Whisper.

This horror novel is very reminiscent of classic Japanese horror movies, as well as the darker side of Japanese and Chinese mythology.

The Japanese connection is fitting because Whisper is also a political novel that prods at the historical relationship between Taiwan and Japan.

There are moments of gross body horror here, as well as relieving moments of comedy, and all are handled so exceptionally by the translator, Roddy Flagg.

Our protagonist is a drunk, gambling waste of space; a taxi driver who has all but given up. He and his wife are haunted by a ghost, and that ghost succeeds in killing his wife in the very first chapter (in a very gruesome and unsettling way).

The ghost itself first manifests as the talking and singing voice of a Japanese girl, and its presence leads to disaster.

Whisper takes us on a journey across both geography and history, to many different locations as our protagonist continues to be haunted.

This is one of those essential modern horror books that gives you everything: creeping dread, gross body horror, twisted imagery, vivid dreams, and paranoid hauntings.

Read More: Essential Taiwanese Books

Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

tell me im worthless

Alison Rumfitt is one of the most unique and exciting voices in modern horror, and Tell Me I’m Worthless isn’t only one of the best modern horror books of this century, but also one of this writer’s favourite novels ever.

Tell Me I’m Worthless is a British horror novel by an incredible transgender author, published by a small indie press, and it is singlehandedly shaking up the world of literature, both within and outside of the horror genre.

This is an angry novel that holds a mirror up to the fascistic state of modern day Britain.

Our protagonists are a pair of young women who were once friends. At university, they and a third friend spent a night at a haunted house.

Something terrible happened at this house, and the women blame each other for it. They each claim the other sexually assaulted them in this haunted house.

Now, one of them is a young trans woman haunted by ghosts that represent the twisted state of modern-day Britain. The other is a TERF who campaigns against the rights of trans people.

The house itself, Albion (get it?), is also a character in its own right, and we learn a lot about its history as the novel progresses.

This is an angry, smart, punk, and critical horror novel about trans rights and TERF Island. It’s also an imaginative and bold piece of horror fiction. One of the best modern horror books you’ll ever read.

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

my heart is a chainsaw

Genre fiction legend Stephen Graham Jones has created a smart and subversive homage to the slasher subgenre of horror movie with My Heart is a Chainsaw.

But, Jones being a Blackfoot Native American, this modern horror novel is also something that confidently and powerfully shines a spotlight on the legacy of American brutality against his people.

Our protagonist is a young Idaho native named Jade, who is struggling to graduate from high school; her father is abusive, her friends nonexistence, and she has an encyclopaedic knowledge of slasher films.

Jade is a walking caricature of angsty teenage life; she quotes horror films, wears heaps of eyeliner, and has accepted her position as the school and community outcast.

When My Heart is a Chainsaw begins, we enjoy a prologue which features a young Dutch couple mysteriously drowning in Jade’s local lake, before then cutting to Jade herself attempting suicide there shortly after.

And so begins a literary slasher film.

If you like your modern horror books to be smart, literary affairs with a lot to say; books that play on the horror genre; books that move at a breakneck pace, then this is exactly what you’re looking for.

With My Heart is a Chainsaw, Stephen Graham Jones has penned one of the great modern American horror novels.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts

American author Paul Tremblay has made a big name for himself with some of the best modern horror books of our time, but the best of these is A Head Full of Ghosts.

The perfect horror novel for fans of possession narratives, A Head Full of Ghosts begins with a young woman returning to her childhood home.

She is accompanied by an author who wishes to hear, and then writer, Merry’s family’s story.

Merry recounts to the author, and to us, the story of how her older sister began to change, showing signs of schizophrenia, before the family eventually became the subject of a cult reality TV show called The Possession.

Multiple perspectives and narrative keep this incredible horror novel moving at a breakneck pace, and the events of this story are truly chilling.

This is a real American horror novel, through and through, even down to its iconic rural New England setting. One of the finest modern horror books you’ll ever read.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

nos4a2 joe hill

Every horror fan knows that Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son, and that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree when it comes to writing excellent modern horror books.

Hill has written novels, short stories, and comic books, but the best of the bunch (for this writer’s money) is NOS4A2.

Much like his father’s fiction, Hill’s NOS4A2 is set in rural New England, and begins in the 1980s with a girl who figures out how to find lost things by riding her bike across a covered bridge.

One of her journeys takes her to a library where she meets a woman with the power to predict future events using Scrabble tiles.

She warns our protagonist about the book’s vampiric villain: a kidnapper of children called Charlie Manx, who takes stolen children to a place called Christmasland.

NOS4A2 is a creatively strange and engaging horror novel that is wonderfully reminiscent of many of King’s own works, while still refreshingly existing as Hill’s own beast.

Side Note: Hilariously, for us British readers, the novel is spelled NOS4R2 to align with our accents.

Side Note 2: This writer is of the right age to remember a robot vampire character of the exact same name from the cartoon Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.

The Shadow Book of Ji Yun

Translated from the Mandarin by Yi Izzy Yu and John Yu Branscum

the shadow book of ji yun

Ji Yun was a famous and well-regarded politician, scholar, poet, philosopher from 18th Century China, and what we have here is a collection of his writings, newly edited and translated by two incredible translators.

As the book’s introduction explains, Ji Yun took it upon himself to investigate strange, ghostly happenings and then write them down with a “storytelling flair”.

The result of this is The Shadow Book of Ji Yun, a collection of observations, accounts, and folk tales from 18th Century China.

These stories are sometimes creepy and frightening, sometimes strange and eerie, and almost always impossibly weird.

The blurb sums up the vibe by saying: “Imagine if H.P. Lovecraft was Chinese and his tales were true.” That is exactly what you’re getting here.

These are stories of the metaphysical and the supernatural. Either Ji Yun experienced them himself or was told them by people he knew or met on his journeys.

In one section of the book, the stories specifically deal with encounters with gods, saints, and mythological beings from Taoist and Buddhist folklore and tradition.

While not technically modern, this book still fits into this collection of modern horror books, given that it is freshly collected and translated for us to enjoy here and now, for the first time!

Read More: Essential Chinese Books

Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung

Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur

cursed bunny bora chung

Korean author Bora Chung is a sensation. A fluent speaker of Korean, English, Russian, and Polish (at least), she also teaches Russian language, literature, and sci-fi studies at Yonsei University.

Her accolades go beyond this, but the most important point for us right now is that she writes phenomenal horror and folk tales, like those found in Cursed Bunny.

This is a collection of stories that mangle genre in a playful and twisted way. Sci-fi, fantasy, fairy tales, and most importantly horror fiction are all found here.

Cursed Bunny could perhaps best be described as a book of frightening and malformed fairy tales for horror addicts.

The book’s first two stories are unapologetically gross and visceral body horror; twisted, scary, and gross. From here we move into experimental ghost, sci-fi, and fantasy tales.

If you’re a fan of weird fiction, of blurring the lines between genres, and of fairy tales, Cursed Bunny is one of the most essential modern horror books you could ever read.

Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin

manhunt felker martin

Manhunt is a curious piece of fiction. It is gross, gory, uncomfortable, visceral, shocking, and punk as all hell.

It isn’t, at any point, particularly scary, however. But, like many of the best 80s horror b-movies, it foregoes terror for truly disgusting body horror.

Manhunt is also a plainly angry book. It is a post-apocalyptic narrative that follows a pair of trans women who have survived a plague that specifically targeted testosterone.

This plague turned anyone with high levels of testosterone into horny, snarly, mindless zombie-like beasts, which means most cis women, and some trans women and men, were saved.

Our protagonists must fight and hunt and scavenge to survive, while also facing down another threat: TERFs. There is a cult of dangerous transphobes who hunt and lynch any trans women they come across.

Manhunt is a horror novel about the mindless, sexual, and physical aggression of men towards women (cis or trans), and about the potential violent endgame of transphobia.

The visceral nature of Manhunt cannot be overstated. This is a book of such violent and bloody imagery that many readers may not be able to stomach it.

Horror fans should have no problem with it, and what they’ll find is one of the most daring modern horror books ever written.

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez

Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell

the dangers of smoking in bed mariana enriquez

Mariana Enriquez is one of Argentina’s finest modern writers. She takes modern politics and feminism, blends them together with folk traditions and superstition, and creates something refreshingly unique and powerful.

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is a spine-chilling collection of modern gothic short stories. These tales focus around ghosts and hauntings, cults and witches, curses and cursed places.

If you’re a fan of the ways in which horror blends with gothic fiction, you can’t do better than The Dangers of Smoking in Bed.

Take the story Meat, which begins with an Argentinian rock star with a cult following of obsessed teenagers.

When he kills himself (in the most brutal fashion) in a hotel room, the media predicts a slew of copycat suicides. Instead, something far darker and stranger follows.

The Well follows a woman who, as a young girl, was taken to a witch by the seaside to watch as her sister and mother had their anxieties exorcised.

As an adult with her own crippling anxieties, she and her sister return to the witch only to learn the truth of what happened that day.

The stories found in this collection are haunting, inducing fear and paranoia and hopelessness in the reader. A powerful collection, and one of the best modern horror books on the shelves.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

through the woods carroll

Through the Woods is a wonderfully fresh and unique take on horror. A collection of horror short stories, reminiscent of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, but all drawn with a dreamlike flair.

Carroll embraces the unknown and the unknowable with her stories; they are tales that thingle the spine and rarely reach a satisfying conclusion, leaving the reader feeling cold and alone.

But Through the Woods is also a comic book, and the twisted, ethereal nature, as well as the emphasis on black, white, and red, gives this book a nightmaring visual quality.

If you’re a fan of comic books, short stories, gothic tales, and a hefty dose of dread in your horror, Through the Woods is one of the best modern horror books you can pick up and read right now.

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

our wives under the sea

The debut novel by an author who has already cut her teeth on imaginative and visceral short stories, Our Wives Under the Sea is a powerful modern gothic novel.

The dual-narrative story follows a lesbian couple, one of whom is sent on an expedition in a submarine to the bottom of the sea.

While the expedition should last a few weeks, she and the crew are stranded there for six months.

Her narrative is a claustrophobic and tense one, with a Lovecraftian fear of the unknown knocking at the walls of the submarine with every page turn.

When she finally returns, however, she is no longer herself, and her wife must make peace with the fact that the woman she loved is gone, replaced by something else.

Our Wives Under the Sea is a contemporary gothic horror novel about how we grieve, and the fact that we can grieve badly.

It’s a claustrophobic story, set in a cramped submarine and an equally cramped apartment, with the unknown and the terrifying always within arm’s reach.

Sisters by Daisy Johnson

sisters daisy johnson

Daisy Johnson’s Sisters is a tiny novel; a short piece of dreadful gothic horror.

Our protagonists are a pair of teenagers, two girls, whose mother has moved them north from Oxford to a big, empty house in the Yorkshire countryside.

Their mother is a children’s book author who is struggling with depression and exhaustion. The girls are left to play alone and entertain themselves.

All the while, the reason for their move — some terrible incident at school — hangs over them like the sword of Damocles, and we must wonder what in the world happened.

This is a modern twist on the haunted house genre of horror, one that explores trauma and shared pain within a family that is cracked but still held together, however poorly.

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

the loney

British author Andrew Michael Hurley has penned a few excellent gothic horror novels, but his debut The Loney remains this writer’s favourite.

The titular Loney is an isolated and lonely stretch of beach in Lancashire where the majority of this novel takes place.

A family (mother, father, and two sons) come up to the Loney every year from London, along with their local parish priest.

This is a pilgrimage, and here they pray, mostly for their one son who is mysteriously mute.

This is a gothic horror novel all about mysteries piled on top of mysteries. Questions surround the family, the Loney itself, their faith, and the strange locals that live in the area year-round.

The Loney is all about atmosphere. The bleak, gloomy, isolated, cold world of this forgotten corner of England is an unsettling place that strikes fear without actually doing anything at all.

The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

the lost ones anita frank

Set during World War I, The Lost Ones is a historical piece of gothic horror fiction very reminiscent of the works of Laura Purcell and Susan Hill.

Our protagonist is a tortured young widow who lost her husband during the war, which she herself worked through as a nurse.

She has now moved in with her pregnant sister in her impressive country manor, but it’s here that the horrors unfold.

Stella hears footsteps and crying: the sounds of a child haunting the house. And she becomes obsessed with who the child was and what happened to them.

This is a novel that blends horror, gothic drama, and mystery into a delicious cocktail of intrigue and dread. One of the most engaging modern horror books of recent years.

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