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.
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.
Read More: The Best Horror Novels Ever Written
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
With What Moves the Dead, author T. Kingfisher has taken Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story, The Fall of the House of Usher, and built upon it. The result is something glorious.
It takes a lot of daring to attempt something like this, and Kingfisher should be applauded for not only attempting it, but for also creating one of the finest modern horror books you’ll ever read.
The nameless protagonist from Poe’s original tale has here been given a name and a backstory, and just like in the original, they are on their way to the Usher house in response to a letter from an old friend.
What Easton finds there, much like in Poe’s original, is a sick and frail brother-sister pair living in a crumbling estate on a marshy land.
However, in What Moves the Dead, Kingfisher has decided to answers questions raised by The Fall of the House of Usher. The biggest being: what caused all of this sickness and decay?
The answer is a genius one, and it creates a wonderfully frightening and compelling “villain” for us to follow and consider.
What Moves the Dead is a truly chilling and disgusting modern horror novel; a gothic delight that builds on Poe’s original tale in so many fantastic and clever ways. An instant classic of the horror genre.
The Silent Companions by 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
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 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.
Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez
Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
Written by Argentinian author Mariana Enriquez, Our Share of Night is nothing short of a political, cosmic horror epic.
This 700+ page horror novel blends the Lovecraftian, the Stephen King-esque, and the dark academia genre to create something smart, political, and allegorical.
We begin in the early 1980s, during a period of military dictatorship. Juan is a medium for a powerful cult known as the Order.
Now that his son, Gaspar, is showing signs of the same power, Juan is on the road trying to find a way to keep Gaspar away from the Order, and to give his son a better life than he has had.
The Order offers sacrifices to a cosmic god known as the Darkness, and in exchange is able to maintain power, wealth, and privilege, as well as eventually attain immortality.
This is a horror novel about the abuse of power, about the rich manipulating the poor and vulnerable, about colonialism and corruption.
As it moves forward, the novel also shifts its tone from the cosmic to more local horror, and eventually to dark academia.
This is a masterpiece of modern horror that wears its influences on its sleeve while also being so much greater than the sum of its parts.
Whisper by Chang Yu-ko
Translated from the Mandarin by Roddy Flagg
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
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.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca
This beautiful, disgusting book collects three stories by author Eric LaRocca.
The first and longest is the titular Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, which is an epistolary story comprised entirely of emails and instant messages between two women.
We begin with a woman struggling to pay her rent, and so she is looking to sell an antique apple peeler online.
A woman responds to the ad, they exchange a few emails, and the second woman convinces her to keep the antique, and she will just help the destitute woman pay her rent.
In exchange, she must enter into a contract where she does whatever the second woman says, and the story spirals into something quite horrific from there.
The second story is set in a world where scientists have proven that there is nothing beyond death.
The son of couple who are going through divorce crucifies himself, and his suicide note simply begs them to remain together, and so they do.
The crux of this story takes a cue from The Shining, as the couple then spends the winter taking care of an empty hotel on an isolated island.
The third and shortest story involves a man visiting his elderly neighbour and being wrangled into a series of dangerously escalating dares for money.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is a masterfully modern horror book from one of the genre’s rising stars.
The Trees Grew Because I Bled There by Eric LaRocca
Following the huge success of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Met comes this collection of terrifying tales from Eric LaRocca, with a larger emphasis here on body horror.
The short horror stories in this collection will make you feel more uncomfortable than you’ve ever felt; you’ll squirm in your seat as you read them. You might even feel a little nauseated.
Take, for example, the titular tale of this collection: The Trees Grew Because I Bled There (also the most aggressively visceral story here).
In this story, a woman wheels herself into the house of her lover, a man who has been steadily taking pieces from her for a handful of years. He removed one eye, both her feet, and even her heart.
She offered him these things willingly, and claims to love him dearly. But now he tells her that he loves and is engaged to someone else. She does not take this news well.
The story Bodies Are For Burning follows a pyromaniac obsessed with burning things — specifically people — who has been asked to look after her infant niece for a day, and is terrified of what she might let herself do.
The Strange Thing We Become is framed as a series of blog posts from a woman whose wife is undergoing cancer treatment; but this wife is also obsessed with a performance artist who did radical things as acts of protest, including bodily mutilation and self-mummification.
Modern horror books are often described as “not for the feint of heart” but that phrase has never been used more accurately than when describing this collection specifically. Tread carefully.
You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood by Eric LaRocca
You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood is a wildly smart, enticing, and layered horror novella that never gets away from itself. This is a collection of transcripts, diary entires, poems, and even a novella within a novella that all works together perfectly.
We begin with an editor’s note which explains that everything within this book belonged to a serial killer named Martyr Black, who recorded conversations with his partner, wrote poems, and even had his own novella published.
All of that is presented here in a satisfying cycle. We read a short diary entry, then a poem, then a few chapters of a horror novella, then a transcript, then another diary entry, and as it goes on.
The novella within this novella is fantastic: the trippy and claustrophobic tale of a young woman who has been recruited by an enigmatic but beloved video games designer to help him with his newest project.
She brings along her little brother, and her work takes place in this odd man’s enormous gothic home. He has been injured and is bedridden, and his standoffish sister rules the roost.
You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood is a bonkers concept that works so well in execution, perfectly demonstrating LaRocca’s imagination and his strengths as a writer, plotter, and editor.
There is nothing quite like this novella; one of the most enigmatic, exciting, and original modern horror books.
Buy a copy of You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood here!
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Grady Hendrix might well be king of the clever horror titles, with each one proclaiming that this is his take on a specific horror sub-genre, and each one being given a dash of humour and cheekiness.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism isn’t just a funny title, but one that is also thematically detailed, stating to the reader that this is a horror novel about demonic possession, but also one about friendship.
Hendrix never just writes horror; he blends horror into stories about family feuds, community, young life, and more.
Here, Hendrix is tackling the trope of high school drama, smartly setting it in the ’80s when that trope was all the rage.
Our protagonists are two best friends who (as part of a larger group of four girls), met in a clumsy way at age ten and have been mostly inseparable ever since.
One night, the four of them decide to try hallucinogenic drugs and one girl, Gretchen, goes missing for the entire night. When Abby finds her best friend, she is different.
Something terrible happened to her during those few hours, and Gretchen is steadily reliving the horrors of it while also losing control of herself, changing, becoming unfamiliar, and even manipulating those around her.
This is a story that uses demonic possession as a way to explain and build an allegory for puberty and adolescence, but it is not half as clumsy as that might sound.
This is a frantic, dynamic, satisfying novel that escalates to a frightening crescendo and one of the smartest modern horror novels of the past few years.
Buy a copy of My Best Friend’s Exorcism here!
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
Any fan of horror cinema will be familiar with the “final girl” trope: the one young woman left alive at the end of a slasher movie. She’s usually a sweet, innocent virgin.
The trope has become an important element of the slasher formula, but also a key ingredient when creating “meta horror”, which at this point is also an exhausted genre of its own.
The Final Girl Support Group is a piece of meta horror that leans hard on the final girl trope, and yet what we have here is something truly exciting, messy, fun, and clever.
The titular final girl support group is a collection of middle-aged women who all survived real slasher stories in the ’80s and now meet on a regular basis; their meeting chaired by a famous psychiatrist.
But when the novel begins, one of these final girls doesn’t show up, and we soon learn that she’s dead. A recent slasher incident has also created its first final girl in decades.
So begins a slasher about slashers: the story of someone killing off final girls. This is a love letter to the genre while being a thrilling modern horror novel in its own right.
The Final Girl Support Group begins with a fun concept and quickly morphs into a chilling adventure that places it amongst the very best modern horror books.
How to Sell A Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
Following The Final Girl Support Group, Hendrix wrote his take on the haunted house novel: How to Sell A Haunted House.
Like Hendrix’s other novels, this is one of those modern horror books that puts as much of an emphasis on character drama as it does on horror, blending comedy, terror, and family drama together perfectly.
Our protagonist is a single mother named Louise, who is close to forty and living in San Francisco. She learns from her brother back home in South Carolina that their parents have tragically and suddenly died.
Leaving her daughter in the hands of her ex, Louise returns home to organise the funeral, the wills, and to sell the home she grew up in, but the house has other plans.
At its heart, this is a tale of grief and familial bonds, as well as the inescapable traumas that families instil in us, to one degree or another.
Smart, witty, and a brilliant reflection of sibling rivalries — both as children and as adults — this novel feels like the next step in American horror.
Fans of ghosts, demons, and hauntings will not be left disappointed, but neither will readers who love getting hooked on addictive family drama.
My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
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
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.
The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
Published a few years after A Head Full of Ghosts, Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World elevated his craft even further, showing his skills at their peak.
This is a 300-page horror novel in which not a lot actually happens. Only a single day passes, and every moment of that day serves up nail-biting tension.
We begin with a family in a rural New Hampshire cabin: a young adopted girl and her two fathers. Almost immediately, a tall man appears and begins chatting with the girl.
He explains that three more people will soon be joining him, and that the four of them must be invited into the cabin.
The are wielding hand-made weapons out of farming tools, and they promise that they will not harm the family. That, in fact, they need the family’s help to prevent the end of the world.
This is a novel all about faith and cult mentalities, about scepticism versus blind belief, about conspiracies and signs and how our experiences shape us (for better or worse).
The shifting perspectives, the layers that get peeled back, it all leads to more and more uncertainty and terror from the reader, until it reaches a feverish conclusion.
Bad Cree by Jessica Johns
Both a modern horror novel and a mystery thriller, Bad Cree tells the story of a young cree woman in Vancouver whose dreams are seeping into reality.
When Mackenzie wakes up one day, she is holding the severed head of a crow, and this isn’t the first time a thing from her dreams has materialised in her waking world.
The dreams themselves are taking her back to a lakeside forest, a place where her older sisters briefly disappeared, before emerging, dishevelled and shaken up, but safe.
That is, until one of these sisters, Sabrina, very suddenly died of an aneurysm, and now she seems to be haunting her little sister’s nightmares.
The memories, the haunting, the blurring of dreams and reality all make for some really disturbing and chilling horror, as well as a compelling supernatural mystery.
When Mackenzie confesses some of these occurrences to her family, she learns that many of them have powers related to their dreams, and so the plot thickens.
Twisted and chilling as a horror novel, and utterly compelling as a mystery thriller, Bad Cree is a unique spectacle of a novel.
Orpheus Builds A Girl by Heather Parry
There has never been a modern gothic horror novel that captures the vibe, tone, and character style of the 19th Century gothic period like Heather Parry’s Orpheus Builds A Girl.
This is a novel with Frankenstein and Dracula in its veins. A claustrophobic gothic story of science fiction, madness, obsession, and the frightening power of male authority.
Our two narrator-protagonists are the villain, a German doctor named Wilhelm von Tore, and the hero, a Cuban woman named Gabriela.
Wilhelm is a “mad scientist” who believes that death is only the beginning, and there is life left beyond it. He becomes obsessed with a sick girl named Luciana (Gabriela’s little sister).
Luciana becomes an object of Wilhelm’s dangerous and deluded romantic obsession, as well as a lab rat for his experimental approach to mastering and overcoming death.
Ghostly apparitions and gross, tangible body horror (reminiscent of the aforementioned Frankenstein and schlocky 80s horror movies like Re-Animator) is stitched through this narrative.
This is an unhinged and frighteningly intelligent gothic horror that explores themes of migration, male privilege, sisterhood, and more.
NOS4A2 by 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
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
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 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 Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
American author Chuck Wendig has made a name for himself writing comic books, Star Wars novels, and then his award-winning sci-fi epic Wanderers.
And here, with The Book of Accidents, he has proven himself a master of modern horror as well.
The Book of Accidents follows a three-person family who have moved from Philadelphia into the family father’s childhood home, following the death of his own father.
Nate’s late father was abusive and callous, and Nate — a former cop — takes joy in seeing his father die. He doesn’t want to inherit the house, but his obligations to his family force him to be responsible.
Nate’s son, Oliver, is a sweet, tender, and empathetic teenager. We watch him make friends with the local nerds at his school, and eventually meet a far rougher punk kid who might tempt him down a darker path.
It doesn’t take long before strange things start happening in and around the house: images and noises that all point to a typical haunting; this story, however, is far from typical.
The Book of Accidents is a modern horror novel that tests family ties, that explores inherited trauma and cycles of abuse, and also blends the genres of horror and science fiction together in unexpected ways.
Buy a copy of The Book of Accidents here!
A Good House for Children by Kate Collins
On its surface, A Good House for Children is a traditional haunted house novel, but at its core its a novel about what parenthood asks and demands of us.
This modern horror novel presents us with a dual narrative: the late 2010s and the mid 1970s, both set in the same place: a lonely house known as The Reeve, which sists on the cliffs of Dorset, on England’s south coast.
In 2017, a married couple with two children move from Bristol to The Reeve, the man of the family insisting it’ll be good for their mute son to be out in the fresh and open air.
In 1976, a woman from London moves in with a family whose patriarch has died, and her job as nanny is to care for the big brood of four children: an eldest boy, twin girls, and a baby boy who was born after his father passed.
Both timelines present us with a haunting; The Reeve twists the minds of its residents, making them see things and doubt their senses. And eventually, a curse will guarantee the tragic death of a child.
A Good House for Children is a spine-chilling modern horror novel that plays with the tropes and traditions of the haunted house narrative in engaging and tantalising ways.
Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth
Motherthing is an intense and unsettling modern horror novel that explores the toxic, demanding, and unhealthy relationships between in-laws.
Our protagonist is a Canadian woman named Abby whose husband has asked if they can move in with his mother to take care of her, since her physical and mental health is declining.
When the book opens, however, Ralph’s mother takes her own life, and her ghost begins to haunt the basement.
We frequently flash back to Abby’s relationship to her abusive mother-in-law, as well as her own troubled childhood with her love-obsessed and abused mother.
The tension and the horror builds to a bloody conclusion as Motherthing examines the toxicity of female relationships, and the ways in which patriarchy puts pressure on the roles of women.
Motherthing has so much to say about the creepy relationships that often tether mothers to their sons, as well as the strain that family puts on a person and on a marriage.
This is also a novel that blends blood, ghosts, delusional terror, and knife-edge tension spectacularly well.
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez
Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
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.
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
The Last House on Needless Street is a nerve-shredding, spine-chilling psychological thriller that will send you down into a deep, dark labyrinth of confusion, paranoia, and disorientation.
This horror-thriller puts you in the mind of Ted, a lonely and isolated man who lives in the titular last house on Needless Street.
Ted is unemployed and lives with his cat, Olivia, and his daughter Lauren. After spending some time with Ted, we also soon get to see the world through Olivia the cat’s eyes.
Eleven years ago, Ted was a prime suspect in the disappearance of a young girl at a nearby lake (one of many). Since then, he has lived a solitary life.
However, that missing girl’s sister, another POV character in this story named Dee, is still on the hunt for her sister and the kidnapper, and the trail is leading her back to Ted.
But surely Ted didn’t do it? That would be too obvious.
This really is a mind-bending thriller. You’ll guess a thousand times at what is really going on; which narrator is unreliable and how and why.
You might even guess right, but you’ll enjoy the ride regardless.
This is one of those modern horror books that so seamlessly blends the horror of gore and claustrophobia with the tension of a good psychological thriller.
Through the Woods by Emily 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
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
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
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.
Severed by Scott Snyder, Scott Tuft, and Attila Futaki
Written by comic book legend Scott Snyder (whose run on Batman is legendary, as is his vampire comic American Vampire), Severed is a fantastic piece of American horror.
Set in 1916, the story follows a boy named Jack who runs away from his warm, loving home to find his “real” father.
Jack hops on a train and hitchhikes his way across the US, while being hunted by a monstrous, cannibalistic killer.
This is a thrilling cat-and-mouse story set on the open road of pre-war America. It has hefty Stephen King vibes but also manages to stand on its own as an original horror comic.
The book’s framing device begins with an older Jack telling us the story of what happened on that journey and how he lost an arm along the way.
And this is all expressed through some stunningly textured and rich art by Attila Futaki.
With a little blood and a lot of terror, this is an excellent piece of dark, unsettling American horror.
The Lost Ones by 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.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Wilder Girls is unique on this list of modern horror books in the sense that it’s the only YA novel here. And, in true horror fashion, it blends with other genres as well.
Those genres include post-apocalyptic fiction, sci-fi, and “pandemic fiction”.
This YA horror novel is set on an island off the coast of Maine. This island is home to the Raxter School for Girls, which has been put under quarantine after the breakout of a virus called the Tox.
The Tox has taken the lives of several students and teachers, and those who haven’t died have been physically mutated in painful and gruesome ways.
These mutations are described with rawness and grit, making the reader squirm with discomfort.
Our protagonist, Hetty, leads us on a journey to uncover the mysteries of this virus, and the quarantine itself, after her best friend Byatt disappears following a “flare-up” of the virus.
There is more going on here than meets the eye, and Hetty is willing to endanger herself (and her friend Reese) to find answers, and to find Byatt.