Spooky season is almost upon us, which means that there’s no time like the present to curl up with a book that makes you wonder whether or not you might want to leave the lights on when you go to bed tonight.
Of course, everyone’s definition of what horror means is different—whether you’re looking for more atmospheric frights, visceral scenes of gore, or ancient creatures lying in wait for a chance to do humanity harm. But, happily, the world of publishing is coming through in a big way for every kind of horror fan this fall, with all manner of complex stories that run the gamut from psychological scares to folktales bursting with dangerous otherwordly beasts to inexplicable murders and everything in between.
Here are our picks for the seventeen best horror titles hitting bookstore shelves this Fall.
Release Date: September 6 from Page Street Kids
Why You’ll Love It: A gloriously dark and varied compilation of folk horror tales from fantastic writers like Tori Bovalino, Hannah Whitten, Alison Saft, Aden Polydoros, Chloe Gong, and more, this anthology is a perfect start to spooky season. Featuring stories of hauntings, monsters, and horrifying familial secrets, there’s something for everyone here.
Publisher’s Description: A cemetery full of the restless dead. A town so wicked it has already burned twice, with the breath of the third fire looming. A rural, isolated bridge with a terrifying monster waiting for the completion of its summoning ritual. A lake that allows the drowned to return, though they have been changed by the claws of death. These are the shadowed, liminal spaces where the curses and monsters lurk, refusing to be forgotten.
Hauntings, and a variety of horrifying secrets, lurk in the places we once called home. Written by New York Times bestselling, and other critically acclaimed, authors these stories shed a harsh light on the scariest tales we grew up with
Release Date: September 6 from Poisoned Pen Press
Why You’ll Love It: A claustrophobic, deeply atmospheric horror story set in a winery that locals called cursed because of the hundreds of convicts who were once murdered on its property, Gallows Hill follows the story of the young woman who inherits it after her parents die there under mysterious circumstances. And although she wants nothing to do with the family business she left behind, the house doesn’t appear to be through with her just yet.
Gallows Hill’s (very) slow burn build won’t be for everyone, but the deliberate pace definitely ramps up the tension throughout and the last quarter or so of the story is genuinely terrifying.
Publisher’s Description: The Hull family has owned the Gallows Hill Winery for generations, living and working on the beautiful grounds where they grow their famous grapes. Until the night Mr. and Mrs. Hull settle down for the evening…and are dead by morning.
When their daughter, Margot, inherits the family business, she wants nothing to do with it. The winery is valued for its unparalleled produce, but it’s built on a field where hundreds of convicts were once hanged, and the locals whisper morbid rumors. They say the ground is cursed.
It’s been more than a decade since Margot last saw her childhood home. But now that she’s alone in the sprawling, dilapidated building, she begins to believe the curse is more than real?and that she may be the next victim of the house that never rests…
Release Date: September 6 from Katherine Tegan Books
Why You’ll Love It: In a sea of great releases this month, Tiffany Jackson’s The Weight of Blood probably has the most memorable premiise on this list. A retelling of Stephen King’s classic horror novel Carrie centered around a small town’s first integrated prom, the story explores both overt and internalized racism, as a Black teen mistreated by her classmates finally gets her revenge. Jackson deftly weaves multiple formats together and taps into our collective true crime obsession to frame the horrific events of this tale in such a way that feels all too realistic and probable.
Publisher’s Description: When Springville residents—at least the ones still alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation… Maddy did it.
An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she’s dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.
After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High’s racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school’s first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it’s possible to have a normal life.
But some of her classmates aren’t done with her just yet. And what they don’t know is that Maddy still has another secret… one that will cost them all their lives.
Release Date: September 27 from Titan Books
Why You’ll Love It: A small town horror story set in a dystopian Wild West future, The Butcher follows Lady Mae, a girl training to become The Butcher of Settlement Five, the enforcer charged with removing body parts from criminals as punishment for their misdeeds. But when her mother is brutally killed for refusing to butcher a child, Mae’s duties arrive early and leave her all alone in the world at the same time.
A brutal coming-of-age story that’s true horror lies not in monsters or supernatural threats but in the depravity of humanity itself and what happens when a society gleefully pits the least among us against one another to survive. Also, there’s a ton of blood, violence, and vengeance, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Pubslisher’s Description: When Lady Mae turns 18, she’ll inherit her mother’s ghastly job as the Butcher: dismembering Settlement Five’s guilty criminals as payment for their petty crimes. But then their leaders, known as the Deputies, come to Lady Mae’s house, and there in the living room murder her mother for refusing to butcher a child.
Within twenty-four hours, now alone in the world, Lady Mae begins her gruesome job. But a chance meeting years later puts her face to face with the Deputy that murdered her mother. Now Lady Mae must choose: will she flee, and start another life in the desolate mountains, forever running? Or will she seek vengeance for her mother’s death even if it kills her?
Release Date: September 27 from Tordotcom
Why You’ll Love It: To be honest, you might not love it. Leech is one of those books that is going to intensely divide audiences, depending on how you feel about what is essentially deeply creepy parasitic body horror. But Ennes’ story is wildly original, focused on a hivemind that has essentially taken over the bodies of every medical professional on earth because we’ve proven we aren’t capable of taking care of our own species.
Publisher’s Description: In an isolated chateau, as far north as north goes, the baron’s doctor has died. The doctor’s replacement has a mystery to solve: discovering how the Institute lost track of one of its many bodies.
For hundreds of years the Interprovincial Medical Institute has grown by taking root in young minds and shaping them into doctors, replacing every human practitioner of medicine. The Institute is here to help humanity, to cure and to cut, to cradle and protect the species from the apocalyptic horrors their ancestors unleashed.
In the frozen north, the Institute’s body will discover a competitor for its rung at the top of the evolutionary ladder. A parasite is spreading through the baron’s castle, already a dark pit of secrets, lies, violence, and fear. The two will make war on the battlefield of the body. Whichever wins, humanity will lose again.
Release Date: September 27 from Ace Books
Why You’ll Love It: I loved Alexis’ Henderson’s debut The Year of the Witching so I am pleased to report that her sophomore effort is equally enthralling, albeit in a completely different way. A fast-paced, decadent tale of a young woman who seeks to escape a life of poverty and misery by becoming a bloodmaid to the wealthy nobles who drink the blood of those in their service, House of Hunger offers an entirely new spin on vampire lore. Combining sumptuous prose, beautiful, if often gory, visuals, queerness, social commentary, and a dash of real-life history—it’s not an accident that Countess Lisavet’s last name is Bathory—the story is captivating from start to finish.
Publisher’s Descriptin: Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation is all she knows. Despite longing to leave the city and its miseries, she has no real hope of escape until the day she spots a peculiar listing in the newspaper, seeking a bloodmaid.
Though she knows little about the far north—where wealthy nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in their service—Marion applies to the position. In a matter of days, she finds herself the newest bloodmaid at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery—and at the center of it all is her.
Countess Lisavet, who presides over this hedonistic court, is loved and feared in equal measure. She takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, and Marion is eager to please her new mistress. But when her fellow bloodmaids begin to go missing in the night, Marion is thrust into a vicious game of cat and mouse. She’ll need to learn the rules of her new home—and fast—or its halls will soon become her grave.
Release Date: October 4 from Redhook
Why You’ll Love It: A dark fantasy retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the perspective of his unnamed brides, A Dowry of Blood is a lyrical Gothic ode to queerness, polyamory, and violence. Its complex depiction of abuse and survival is both thorny and moving, and like nothing else you’ll read this fall.
Publisher’s Description: Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things.
Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets. With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.
Release Date: October 4 from Hyperion Avenue
Why You’ll Love It: The adult debut from popular YA and children’s author Megan Shepherd (of Grim Lovelies fame), Malice House is a genre-bending story with plenty of spooky creatures and haunted house vibes that feels like a weird blend of Misery and The Haunting of Hill House. What’s real and what isn’t is a central question of this tale, which certainly has more than its share of unexpected twists and surprises.
Publisher’s Description: Of all the things aspiring artist Haven Marbury expected to find while clearing out her late father’s remote seaside house, Bedtime Stories for Monsters was not on the list. This secret handwritten manuscript is disturbingly different from his Pulitzer-winning works: its interweaving short stories crawl with horrific monsters and enigmatic humans that exist somewhere between this world and the next. The stories unsettle but also entice Haven, practically compelling her to illustrate them while she stays in the house that her father warned her was haunted. Clearly just dementia whispering in his ear . . . right?
Reeling from a failed marriage, Haven hopes an illustrated Bedtime Stories can be the lucrative posthumous father-daughter collaboration she desperately needs to jump-start her art career. However, everyone in the nearby vacation town wants a piece of the manuscript: her father’s obsessive literary salon members, the Ink Drinkers; her mysterious yet charming neighbor, who has a tendency toward three a.m. bonfires; a young barista with a literary forgery business; and of course, whoever keeps trying to break into her house. But when a monstrous creature appears under Haven’s bed right as grisly deaths are reported in the nearby woods, she must race to uncover dark, otherworldly family secrets—completely rewriting everything she ever knew about herself in the process.
Release Date: October 4 from Bantam
Why You’ll Love It: One part chilling horror story and one part searing social commentary about race in America, Erin E. Adams’ Jackal is set in a predominantly white Rust Belt town where the search for a bride’s missing daughter uncovers a darker truth. Young Black girls have been disappearing in these woods—one each summer—for years and not only has no one ever figured out what happened to them, but the police have actively helped cover their disappearances up.
A well-crafted reminder that far too many monsters still wear human faces, even in a world where larger supernatural threats exist.
Publisher’s Description: Liz Rocher is coming home . . . reluctantly. As a Black woman, Liz doesn’t exactly have fond memories of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town. But her best friend is getting married, so she braces herself for a weekend of awkward and passive-aggressive reunions. Liz has grown, though; she can handle whatever awaits her. But on the day of the wedding, somewhere between dancing and dessert, the bride’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing—and the only thing left behind is a piece of white fabric covered in blood.
As a frantic search begins, with the police combing the trees for Caroline, Liz is the only one who notices a pattern: a summer night. A missing girl. A party in the woods. She’s seen this before. Keisha Woodson, the only other Black girl in school, walked into the woods with a mysterious man and was later found with her chest cavity ripped open and her heart missing. Liz shudders at the thought that it could have been her, and now, with Caroline missing, it can’t be a coincidence. As Liz starts to dig through the town’s history, she uncovers a horrifying secret about the place she once called home. Children have been going missing in these woods for years. All of them Black. All of them girls.
With the evil in the forest creeping closer, Liz knows what she must do: find Caroline, or be entirely consumed by the darkness.
Release Date: October 4 from Tor Nightfire
Why You’ll Love It: As seen above in this list, folk horror is having something of a moment right now, and Lute is a great example of why. A creepy, atmospheric story about a bizarre island community where seven people must die every seventh summer, Thorn teaches a master class in slow-burn terror as newcomer Nina Treadway gradually begins to realize the scope and truth of Lute’s history and the curse that binds its residents.
Publisher’s Description On the idyllic island of Lute, every seventh summer, seven people die. No more, no less.
Lute and its inhabitants are blessed, year after year, with good weather, good health, and good fortune. They live a happy, superior life, untouched by the war that rages all around them. So it’s only fair that every seven years, on the day of the tithe, the island’s gift is honored.
Nina Treadway is new to The Day. A Florida girl by birth, she became a Lady through her marriage to Lord Treadway, whose family has long protected the island. Nina’s heard about The Day, of course. Heard about the horrific tragedies, the lives lost, but she doesn’t believe in it. It’s all superstitious nonsense. Stories told to keep newcomers at bay and youngsters in line.
Then The Day begins. And it’s a day of nightmares, of grief, of reckoning. But it is also a day of community. Of survival and strength. Of love, at its most pure and untamed. When The Day ends, Nina?and Lute?will never be the same.
Release Date: October 4 from Tor Books
Why You’ll Love It: The story of two friends whose relationship collapses in the wake of their shared obsession over a local town legend about a young woman accused of witchcraft in 1862, The Witch in the Well is a supernatural thriller that deals with everything from mental health and misogyny to darker, more malevolent forces. Though some of the lead characters are not particularly likable, Bruce manages to weave several very disparate narrative threads into a cohesive whole.
Publisher’s Description: When two former friends reunite after decades apart, their grudges, flawed ambitions, and shared obsession swirl into an all-too-real echo of a terrible town legend.
Centuries ago, beautiful young Ilsbeth Clark was accused of witchcraft after several children disappeared. Her acquittal did nothing to stop her fellow townsfolk from drowning her in the well where the missing children were last seen.
When author and social media influencer Elena returns to the summer paradise of her youth to get her family’s manor house ready to sell, the last thing she expected was connecting with—and feeling inspired to write about—Ilsbeth’s infamous spirit. The very historical figure that her ex-childhood friend, Cathy, has been diligently researching and writing about for years.
What begins as a fiercely competitive sense of ownership over Ilsbeth and her story soon turns both women’s worlds into something more haunted and dangerous than they could ever imagine.
Release Date: October 4 from Redhook
Why You’ll Love It: The latest from the author of The Seven Visitations of Sydney Burgess, It Rides a Pale Horse is a visceral, disturbing story about the power of art and ritual focused on a pair of siblings forced to take part in an occult ritual.
Publisher’s Description: The Larkin siblings are known around the small town of Wofford Falls. Both are artists, but Peter Larkin, Lark to his friends, is the hometown hero. The one who went to the big city and got famous then came back and settled down. He’s the kind of guy who becomes fast friends with almost anyone. His sister Betsy on the other hand is more… eccentric. She keeps to herself.
When Lark goes to deliver one of his latest pieces to a fabulously rich buyer, it seems like a regular transaction. Even being met at the gate of the sprawling, secluded estate by an intimidating security guard seems normal. Until the guard plays him a live feed: Betsy being abducted in real-time.
Lark is informed that she’s safe for now, but her well-being is entirely in his hands. He’s given a book. Do what the book says, and Betsy will go free.
It seems simple enough. But as Lark begins to read he realizes: the book might be demonic. Its writer may be unhinged. His sister’s captors are almost certainly not what they seem. And his town and those within it are… changing.
And the only way out is through.
Release Date: October 4 from Berkley Books
Why You’ll Love It: After last year’s feminist, darkly funny Cackle, author Rachel Harrison shifts her focus from witches to werewolves with Such Sharp Teeth, a story that, at its heart, is about many types of transformation. (With a little body horror thrown on top.)
Publisher’s Description: Rory Morris isn’t thrilled to be moving back to her hometown, even if it is temporary. There are bad memories there. But her twin sister, Scarlett, is pregnant, estranged from the baby’s father, and needs support, so Rory returns to the place she thought she’d put in her rearview. After a night out at a bar where she runs into an old almost-flame, she hits a large animal with her car. And when she gets out to investigate, she’s attacked.
Rory survives, miraculously, but life begins to look and feel different. She’s unnaturally strong, with an aversion to silver—and suddenly the moon has her in its thrall. She’s changing into someone else—something else, maybe even a monster. But does that mean she’s putting those close to her in danger? Or is embracing the wildness inside of her the key to acceptance?
Release Date: October 11 from Tor Nightfire
Why You’ll Love It: Look, at this point, I’ll basically read anything Catriona Ward writes. Recent releases The Last House on Needless Street and Sundial both ably prove she’s one of the best authors writing psychological horror today, deftly mixing mystery and genuine terror without relying on blood or gore. This novel, which was originally published in the U.K. in 2018 where it won both the August Derleth and Shirley Jackson awards, and tells a compelling tale of faith, family, madness, and murder in a strange village on an island off the coast of Scotland.
Publisher’s Description: On the wind-battered isle of Altnaharra, off the wildest coast of Scotland, a clan prepares to bring about the end of the world and its imminent rebirth.
The Adder is coming and one of their number will inherit its powers. They all want the honor, but young Eve is willing to do anything for the distinction.
A reckoning beyond Eve’s imagination begins when Chief Inspector Black arrives to investigate a brutal murder and their sacred ceremony goes terribly wrong.
And soon all the secrets of Altnaharra will be uncovered.
Release Date: October 11 from MCD
Why You’ll Love It: Horror stories set in the dark side of the American South are a personal weakness of mine and Andy Davidson’s atmospheric tale of a decrepit estate haunted by a seemingly ancient evil in the form of a creepy ghost child and other bizarre supernatural incidents. Told in two timelines that split between 1989 and 1917, readers get a sweeping view of Redfern Hill’s legacy of horror, and the dark Gothic vives are legit.
Publisher’s Description: Nellie Gardner is looking for a way out of an abusive marriage when she learns that her long-lost grandfather, August Redfern, has willed her his turpentine estate. She throws everything she can think of in a bag and flees to Georgia with her eleven-year-old son, Max, in tow.
It turns out that the estate is a decrepit farmhouse on a thousand acres of old pine forest, but Nellie is thrilled about the chance for a fresh start for her and Max, and a chance for the happy home she never had. So it takes her a while to notice the strange scratching in the walls, the faint whispering at night, how the forest is eerily quiet. But Max sees what his mother can’t: They’re no safer here than they had been in South Carolina. In fact, things might even be worse. There’s something wrong with Redfern Hill. Something lurks beneath the soil, ancient and hungry, with the power to corrupt hearts and destroy souls. It is the true legacy of Redfern Hill: a kingdom of grief and death, to which Nellie’s own blood has granted her the key.
Release Date: October 11 from CamCat Books
Why You’ll Love It: Stories focused on climate-related themes are a growing subgenre within horror fiction, from cautionary tales of environmental justice to survivalist sagas about those left behind after specific disasters. When the Night Bells Ring falls into the latter category, set in a future where the Earth has been ravaged by drought and climate refugees aren’t the only creatures being pushed from their established homes. And in the ruins of a Western town, two lost motorcyclists discover an abandoned silver mine that contains something darker than they could have ever imagined.
Publisher’s Description: In a future ravaged by fire and drought, two climate refugees ride their motorcycles across the wasteland of the western US, and stumble upon an old silver mine. Descending into the cool darkness of the caved-in tunnels in desperate search of water, the two women find Lavinia Cain’s diary, a settler in search of prosperity who brought her family to Nevada in the late 1860s.
But Lavinia and the settlers of the Western town discovered something monstrous that dwells in the depths of the mine, something that does not want greedy prospectors disturbing the earth. Whispers of curses and phantom figures haunt the diary, and now, over 150 years later, trapped and injured in the abandoned mine, the women discover they’re not alone . . . with no easy way out.
The monsters are still here—and they’re thirsty.
Release Date: November 8 from Angry Robot
Why You’ll Love It: A folk horror story involving a catastrophic snowstorm in England’s sparsely populated Peak District where a bunch of strangers have to band together to survive both the elements and solve murders that may or may not have been committed by someone human? Sign me up.
Publisher’s Description: In a lonely village in the Peak District, during the onset of a once-in-a-lifetime snow storm, Constable Ellie Cheetham finds a body. The man, a local ne’er-do-well, appears to have died in a tragic accident: he drank too much and froze to death.
But the facts don’t add up: the dead man is clutching a knife in one hand, and there’s evidence he was hiding from someone. Someone who watched him die. Stranger still, an odd mark has been drawn onto a stone beside his body.
The next victims are two families on the outskirts of town. As the storm rises and the body count grows, Ellie realises she has a terrifying problem on her hands: someone – or some thing – is killing indiscriminately, attacking in the darkness and using the storm for cover.
The killer is circling ever closer to the village. The storm’s getting worse… and the power’s just gone out.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.