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Scary Tales: 12 Must-Read Horror Books Out This Month

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Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

Welcome to October, the month basically sponsored by Halloween. I know so many of you are like me and enjoy reading horror books all year long, but it is especially fun to read them in October. The chill in the air, the early dark hours of night, the frightening decorations. All of it makes for peak scary reading! Which is why we’re giving you 12 must-read horror books out this month!

For starters, I first want to mention that I can’t believe this month marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. It’s about Jack the Ripper, but in this story, he’s a vampire hunter. I read it in high school (lolsob). It seems impossible that I have been telling people it’s my favorite vampire novel for three decades now, but here we are. But that’s a 30-year-old novel. It’s Halloween month, which means there are a ton of NEW titles to tell you about too!

Below you will find a selection of 12 must-read horror books to add to what I am sure is your already towering TBR. You’ll find the usual scary things, like witches, ghosts, monster aliens, and serial killers. There’s also unsettling short stories, a compelling work of nonfiction about horror history, and some ancient evil on a turpentine farm. All 12 are sure to tickle your horror itch, just like that thing that tickles your ankle when you dangle your leg over the edge of the bed…

Jackal by Erin Ecover of Jackal by Erin E. Adams; image of young Black woman with night sky superimposed over one side of her face. Adams book cover

Jackal by Erin E. Adams (Bantam, October 4)

I’m excited to kick this list off with this book, because I loved it! It’s a mystery, it’s a thriller, it’s a horror novel, it’s a sharp social commentary on the treatment of missing Black women. When Liz Rocher reluctantly returns to her hometown in Pennsylvania, it’s to mark a joyous occasion: the marriage of her best friend. But it soon becomes a nightmare when her friend’s daughter Caroline goes missing in the woods — the same woods where another girl went missing when Liz was in high school. As Liz races to discover what could have happened to Caroline, she uncovers a long legacy of the stories of missing Black girls in the area going ignored by the police.

cover of The Witch In The Well by Camilla Bruce; image of a tree upside down in a dark forest

The Witch In The Well by Camilla Bruce (Tor Books, October 4)

Bruce is going to frighten us next month with All the Blood We Share, based on the true case of the Bloody Benders of Kansas. But for Halloween month, she has a scary story of a past tragedy that haunts the present. Centuries ago, a young woman was acquitted in the case of several missing children, but the townsfolk still murdered her in the well. In the present day, a social media influencer and a writer who both want to tell this story begin to feel an unnatural presence driving them towards something horrible.

cover of Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison; illustration of a profile of a werewolf against a blood-red full moon

Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison (Berkley, October 4)

Rachel Harrison has fast become one of my new favorite horror writers, first with The Return and Cackle, and now with this excellent offering! As we know, returning to your hometown in a horror novel is never a good idea. In this book, Rory Morris returns home to help her pregnant twin sister and ends up getting bit by something big and furry that she hit with her car. And that’s when she starts to feel different…

cover of Dark Carnivals: Modern Horror and the Origins of American Empire; image of a map of the United States with a corner peeled up to reveal someone standing in a scary wooded area

Dark Carnivals: Modern Horror and the Origins of American Empire by W. Scott Poole (Counterpoint, October 4)

The last few years have given us an incredible selection not just of horror novels, but also nonfiction about horror and its history. This is an examination of horror from the United States, and how its roots are planted deep in real events in American history, such as slavery and war.

cover of Man Made Monsters by Andrea Rogers; featuring an illustration of a human heart in red against a blue background

Man Made Monsters by Andrea L. Rogers and illustrated by Jeff Edwards (Levine Querido, October 4)

Cherokee writer Andrea L. Rogers is making her YA debut with this great horror book! It’s a collection of scary stories about one Cherokee family and the horrors they have encountered over the centuries. They range from zombies and spirits to uniquely American horrors. And the stories are accompanied by several scary illustrations!

cover of The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson; illustration of an upside down bear with red branches growing out of its sides

The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson (MCD, October 11)

Here’s another “returning home is a bad idea” novel! When Nellie Gardner’s grandfather leaves her his desolate turpentine estate, it’s just the escape she needs to get away from her abusive husband. Taking her 11-year-old son, Max, and not much else, she moves into the Georgia property. But there is danger around every corner. Not everyone is happy Nellie received the property; her husband is looking for her; and oh, yeah, there’s an ancient evil with ties to her family that has been residing there too. TL;DR: Nellie has a lot to worry about.

cover of Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi; photo of a young boy in clown makeup standing in shadow

Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi (Titan Books, October 11)

Ronald Malfi is a prolific favorite amongst horror connoisseurs. This is a collection of four horror novellas. And three are about books. (Fitting!) There’s a book that drives people mad. There’s a child with a frightening pop-up book. And a deadly choose your own adventure game. The fourth story is about a delivery job that goes about as bad as it possibly can. It’s four frights for the price of one!

cover of Little Eve by Catriona Ward; photo of a creepy Scottish castle

Little Eve by Catriona Ward (Tor Nightfire, October 11)

Catriona Ward is another beloved contemporary horror writer. Her last two novels, The Last House on Needless Street and Sundial, have been huge hits with horror fans. Now the Tor Books horror imprint Nightfire is releasing her award-winning novel Little Eve.

cover of Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin; illustration of an oddly shaped door set in a green wall

Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell (Riverhead Books, October 18)

It’s really exciting to be including this book on this list, because it just made the National Book Award longlist for best book in translation! Schweblin is an expert at unsettling horror: stories that invoke the kind of creeping dread that slowly comes over you. This is a book of seven stories about seven strange houses. (I also highly recommend her novel Fever Dream — I have read it eight times!)

cover of Aliens: Vasquez by V. Castro; photo of a Latine woman holding a gun surrounded by aliens

Aliens: Vasquez by V. Castro (Titan Books, October 25)

You know those toothy beasts from the Aliens franchise? They now come in novel form too! V. Castro is another one of my favorite recent horror writers. Goddess of Filth is excellent, and so is The Haunting of Alejandra, which is out in April. This is an original story featuring FC Jenette Vasquez from the movie Aliens. She must battle beasts — and the system — to get back to her family.

cover of Festival by Christopher Golden; illustration of a scary skull face in a dark sky

Festival by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, illustrated by Peter Bergting (Dark Horse Books, October 25)

This is an illustrated scary tale by two of the most prolific veterans of horror writing. It’s about a music festival held to celebrate a long-ago Viking slaughter. But The Valhalla festival is held on old lands, and with it comes old troubles, as the bands begin playing unusual tunes.

cover of Dissolving Classroom: Collector's Edition; illustration of young woman looking at the sky in terror

Dissolving Classroom: Collector’s Edition by Junji Ito (Vertical Comics, October 25)

And last, but not least, a master in horror comics! Junji Ito has a fabulous selection of terrifying manga to choose from, including his most famous work, Uzumaki. This is another one of his classics of unsettling terror, about two really horrible siblings, one a devil worshipper and one “the worst little sister in recorded history.” Needless to say, nothing good ever happens when they are around. The opposite, really.

That’s it for my October 2022 horror recommendations, but if you can’t get enough horror, you’ll be happy to hear this is a monthly post! Check out last month’s horror picks, and be sure to sign up for The Fright Stuff, our horror newsletter!