It’s a very good time to be reading horror. Whether you’re picking up novels from major publishers or short story collections by small presses, scary stories are thriving in print right now, and they’re thriving in a very diverse, eclectic way. That’s reflected in the best horror books released in 2022, a collection of stories from across the cultural and literary spectrum, each of which will scare you in its own beautifully gruesome way.
So, from new twists on the haunted house story to an unorthodox vampire novel and beyond, here are our picks for the 15 best horror books of the year.
Jackal by Erin E. Adams
In The Jackal
, a woman returns home for a friend’s wedding and finds that old terrors are still very much alive and well in this crackling, wonderfully suspenseful novel about a violent predator hunting down Black girls across decades in one Pennsylvania town.
Erin E. Adams’ prose is laced with dark beauty, and her story of a group of survivors working to track down a monster will keep you reading late into the night.
The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
In 19th century Mexico, a woman settles into the estate of her new husband, eager to turn the rundown house into something brighter, more like home. What happens next is a juicy, romantic, endlessly creepy descent into the Gothic that announces Isabel Cañas as one of modern horror’s most satisfying, promising new voices.
You’ll get lost in the atmosphere of The Hacienda, then swept away in the darkness.
Mary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy
Leading with one of the most unforgettable first chapters in recent horror history, Nat Cassidy’s novel about a woman who journeys back into her own past and finds something horrifying will rattle your nervous system from the very first page, and basically never stop.
Full of gripping character moments and memorable, inventive imagery, Mary: An Awakening of Terror is one of those horror novels that will make your skin crawl while also seducing you into never putting it down.
Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives by Adam Cesare
With Clown in a Cornfield
, Adam Cesare crafted a modern slasher gem packed with juicy plotting and unforgettable kills. With its sequel, Frendo Lives
, he returns to his world of killer clowns for a sequel that’s part homage to many classic Part Twos in slasher history, part meditation on conspiracy theories and modern brutality, and it all works.
Frendo Lives feels simultaneously like a perfect companion to the first novel and a wonderful jumping off point for more adventures in Frendo’s dark world.
Ghost Eaters by Clay McLeod Chapman
When a woman loses her troubled best friend to an overdose, she decides to try an unorthodox and mysterious way to reach out to him in the great beyond, and ends up lost in a tangle of her own obsessions and the haunted streets of her home city.
Springing off from a fantastic central concept, Clay McLeod Chapman’s Ghost Eaters is full of great character moments, unbelievably tense hauntings, and an emotional core that runs so deep you’ll still be unpacking it long after the last page.
The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson
Southern Gothic meets cosmic horror in Andy Davidon’s novel about a troubled woman, her curious son, and the crumbling turpentine estate where they hope to get a fresh start thanks to a surprise inheritance.
Lush, imaginative, and teeming with skin crawling imagery, The Hollow Kind is a stunning blending of genres and eras into one very impactful package.
Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin
Probably the most talked-about book on this list in 2022, Gretchen Felker-Martin’s Manhunt
is also the rare case of a book that absolutely lives up to the tremendous hype and infamy surrounding it.
The story of a handful of survivors navigating the realities of a plague that’s turned anyone with enough testosterone into a murderous beast, it’s both a satisfyingly gripping apocalyptic horror novel and a thoughtful, emotional exploration of the savagery trans people endure from the world around them every day.
Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey
A woman returns to her childhood home to care for her dying mother, and unlocks secrets better left buried. It’s a satisfyingly Gothic beginning to what ultimately becomes one of the most intriguing, psychologically complex haunted house narratives in years.
Told through Gailey’s rich, deeply layered prose, Just Like Home weaves true crime, ghost stories, and psychological terror together for a lyrical, unforgettable experience.
Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison
Few horror authors working today can get into their characters’ heads quite like Rachel Harrison, and she proved it yet again with Such Sharp Teeth
A werewolf novel told from the first-person perspective of a woman who’s slowly turning into something she doesn’t recognize, it’s both a great horror narrative and a great depiction of a metaphorical transformative experience through trauma and hope.
The Babysitter Lives by Stephen Graham Jones
If you’re looking for great horror experiences, never count out the audiobooks. Modern horror icon Stephen Graham Jones and narrator Isabella Star LaBlanc proved that all over again in 2022 with The Babysitter Lives
, an audio-exclusive book about a babysitter spending the night in a very strange house that will force her to confront the darkest parts of herself and the secret places in the world around her all at once.
It’s a story full of so many frightening twists and turns that you’ll be checking every nook and cranny of your own house by the end, just to make sure something terrifying isn’t about to creep out from the dark.
Breakable Things by Cassandra Khaw
While this list is primarily comprised of novels, good short story collections are always welcome in horror, and this year Nothing But Blackened Teeth
author Cassandra Khaw turned in one of the best.
Every story in their Breakable Things is a bright, frightening shard of glass waiting to slip into your brain, whether Khaw is unraveling the nature of urban legends or digging deep into the fragile nature of love.
They Were Here Before Us: A Novella in Pieces by Eric LaRocca
Eric LaRocca is one of the most exciting, beautifully dark voices in horror right now, and while a lot of the attention this year went to his collection Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes
, don’t count out this haunting, gorgeously rendered novella which defies explanation.
Like most of LaRocca’s work, They Were Here Before Us is a collision of great beauty and great darkness, and it will sweep you away into a series of dark dreams that share profound, often shocking thematic links.
Daphne by Josh Malerman
The author of Bird Box
takes on slasher tropes in his own wonderfully strange way with Daphne
, the story of a girls basketball team and the local urban legend who slowly creeps into their lives through the sheer power of thought.
What follows is a stomach-churning journey of almost ecstatic violence, led by an unforgettable title villain.
The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay
One of horror’s finest stylists delivered one of horror’s most fascinating reads in 2022, a fictionalized memoir full of annotations from its first reader that transforms this novel into two friends having a decades-long argument about life, death, and vampires.
Rich with character detail and full of often sneaky emotional punches, The Pallbearers Club is unlike anything else you’ll read this year.
White Horse by Erika T. Wurth
One of the best genre debuts of the year, White Horse
follows the story of one woman’s reckoning with her own past when she discovers that the loss of her mother might be a much darker story than she previously believed.
Part haunted object story, part haunted people story, steeped in history and legacy, Erika T. Wurth’s novel will have you gripping the pages a little tighter with each passing chapter.
There were far too many great horror novels released this year than could ever fit in a single 15-entry list, so if you’re still craving more scary reads, here are some of the other best scary stories of 2022.
Maggots Screaming! by Max Booth III
Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester
The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias
The Fervor by Alma Katsu
What Moves The Dead by T. Kingfisher
Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
No Gods for Drowning by Hailey Piper
Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak
Matthew Jackson is a pop culture writer and nerd-for-hire who’s been writing about entertainment for more than a decade. His writing about movies, TV, comics, and more regularly appears at SYFY WIRE, Looper, Mental Floss, Decider, BookPage, and other outlets. He lives in Austin, Texas, and when he’s not writing he’s usually counting the days until Christmas.