Frights and Delights: 60 Horror Titles To Thrill Readers | Horror Preview 2021

Upcoming releases in the hottest genre of the moment feature exciting debuts, new work from established authors, and more women authors, editors, and publishers than ever.

If 2020 was the year that real-life horrors upstaged anything we had seen in books, 2021 is the year that fiction caught up with reality. When the world entered lockdown, many readers sought escape from their intense, daily fear by reading about horrors other than the pandemic, especially those titles where the anxiety and terror could not possibly be real. Unfortunately, those real-life fears are not going away anytime soon.

The ramifications of the trauma we all endured are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, and have shaped horror fiction. Key aspects to note in 2021 are the influence of women in the genre and an increasing popularity of the genre as a whole, that includes reissues of horror classics and a new wave of important debut authors. All titles mentioned in this article are listed in this downloadable spreadsheet.


Women play crucial roles in today’s horror landscape. Editors such as Ellen Datlow, whose anthologies are mainstays of the genre, and owners of small presses wield influence that cannot be overlooked. Samantha Kolesnik, author and owner of Off Limits Press, had enormous success with her first year of releases in 2020, culminating in Laurel Hightower’s Crossroads appearing on LJ’s “Best Horror of 2020” list.

As she begins her second year helming the press, Kolesnik reflects, “I started Off Limits Press to publish high-quality horror fiction. We don’t take on a lot of titles, as we want to be able to devote a lot of attention to each publication. One of the highlights for me as a publisher was seeing Hailey Piper’s The Worm and His Kings take off. A new, exciting voice like Piper’s comes along and you feel like you’re seeing the cosmic horror subgenre evolve right before your eyes. It’s a great feeling to be a part of that. Every author we work with, we believe will be a big new voice in horror fiction for many years to come.”

Titles from future “big new voices” to keep an eye out for in 2021 include Catherine McCarthy’s Immortelle, Eric LaRocca’s The Strange Thing We Become and Other Dark Tales, and Claire Smith’s When We Entered that House.

Women authors too are making a mark, Piper key among them. Since her Off Limits Press release, she’s taken the genre by storm with a flurry of releases all linked by her aspiration to “make horror gay AF.” Her not-to-be-missed novel The Queen of Teeth features Yaya Betancourt, who will go from discovering teeth between her thighs to being hunted by one of the most powerful corporations in America.

Piper shares how being a woman informs her work: “Horror is the genre of honesty, and for me, horror is healing. No other genre allows me to claw open the dread and hurt and raw emotion of womanhood through every earnest layer, and no other genre stitches those wounds, scars them over, and helps me keep going. We deal in monsters, outside and in, and I feel whole and healed when I write monsters, too.”

Mainstay male authors are also reflecting the power of women in the genre, rethinking genre conventions in new ways. Examples include two of the most hotly anticipated and well-reviewed novels coming this summer, My Heart Is a Chainsaw, by Stephen Graham Jones, and The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix. Both use the final girl trope, a horror movie staple, to craft complex and emotional stories of imperfect, traumatized young women who save themselves and others.

As Jones says about this rise of the female perspective in horror, “Women aren’t just at the heart of the slasher, they are the heart of the slasher. Final girls stand up against these big lumbering bullies, and the determination they show is a model for us all…. Jade stood up and claimed My Heart Is a Chainsaw as her own. She looked around at Indian Lake, at Proofrock, at Camp Blood, at Terra Nova, and nodded like she could do this. And she did. So I rewrote the novel with her at the swirling, bloody center.”

The 2021 emphasis on women in horror is a continuation of the long overdue and essential broadening of the genre that readers and librarians have seen in the last several years. Authors of color such as Victor LaValle, Helen Oyeyemi, and Samanta Schweblin have redefined horror and significantly contributed to its current success. Joe Monti, editorial director of Saga Press, furthers this point: “Publishing had a reckoning in summer 2020 that is still reverberating throughout the BIPOC and larger marginalized literary community, and horror has been a major part of it. The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and The Year of the Witching by debut author Alexis Henderson were all released within a few weeks of each other last summer, and all extraordinarily resonated with readers and critics…. I’m looking forward to the continued development of the genre from this foundation in the next couple of years.”

This long overdue inclusion of diverse voices into the scariest of genres has resulted in a spectacular range of stories.


This year is bursting with horrific novels, from big names like Jones and Hendrix, to lesser-known writers who will thrill and chill patrons. This explosion is fueled by a reclaiming of the genre itself by publishers big and small, as Kristin Temple, assistant editor at Tor Nightfire, notes: “For a long time, people shied away from calling horror, well, horror. I’m glad we’re back to embracing it. That’s one of my favorite things about working at Nightfire. Our books bleed into other genres—thrillers, scifi, dark fantasy, etc.—but they’re all fundamentally, and unapologetically, horror.”

Among the most buzzed-about books are Josh Malerman’s Pearl, Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing but Blackened Teeth, Chuck Wendig’s The Book of Accidents, Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street, Daryl Gregory’s Revelator, Caitlin Starling’s The Death of Jane Lawrence, Richard Chizmar’s Chasing the Boogeyman, Rachel Harrison’s Cackle, and James Han Mattson’s Reprieve.

However, don’t count out voices that may be new to some readers but whose titles are worth considering for all public library collections. S.A. Barnes’s Dead Silence, which is set on a decades-lost ghost ship; Glenn Rolfe’s brutally honest look at real trauma, August’s Eyes; J.H. Moncrieff’s tale of a crumbling mansion still holding on to its secrets, The Restoration; Brom’s bewitching Slewfoot; EV Knight’s story of a vanished cult, Children of Demeter; Hunter Shea’s pulp horror latest, Faithless; David Demchuk’s contemplation of the ramifications of bigoted violence, Red X; Ronald Malfi’s haunted small-town horror Come With Me; and Kristi DeMeester’s exploration of powerful women, angry men, and all the ways in which girls fight against the forces that try to silence them, Such a Pretty Smile, round out a strong showing from the horror midlist catalogue.

And there is really no sign of this momentum letting up. Road to Bones, the upcoming Siberia-set horror novel by Christopher Golden, which Stephen King has already given his stamp of approval, comes out in January 2022.


Fall 2021 features one of the best crops of debuts the genre has ever seen. LJ’s June issue included a Q&A with V. Castro about her engrossing, violent, and exultant The Queen of the Cicadas; others are keeping pace, such as Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo, The House of Dust by Noah Broyles, Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn, This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno, Sisters in Arms by Erica Ruppert, The Gold Persimmon by Lindsay Merbaum, Tidepool by Nicole Willson, and A Touch of Jen by Beth Morgan. Each of these promising debuts probes new themes, perspectives, and storytelling styles, stretching the boundaries of the genre with their prose, heightening the trauma of the real world, and exciting new readers along the way.

LaTanya McQueen’s debut is the perfect example. When the Reckoning Comes uses the disturbing practice of celebrating weddings and other happy moments on restored slave plantations to ratchet up the discomfort and fear, creating a story where readers actively root for the angry spirits. It is violent and fun, for sure, but it is also quite provocative, as McQueen explains. “I was interested in the idea of using horror to talk about the white gaze and specifically white fear. The premise of the novel—how the ghosts of slaves are seeking revenge and murdering the slave-owning descendants—that’s a horror premise, but the piece that evokes fear is one that is specifically a white fear. Historically, our country has made laws, policy decisions—even thinking about now and the ways Black communities are overpoliced—part of that is coming from white fear of Black Americans, so I thought it could be interesting to center a book that used that in its premise while also critiquing it in a way to discuss the history and ramifications of white supremacy.”


Story collections and anthologies are a terrific way to find new voices while also keeping fans of better-known names satisfied between full-length releases. Ellen Datlow is one of the most-respected editors in the horror world, and along with Best Horror of the Year, Volume Thirteen, an annual release that has a track record of introducing some of the best new voices in the genre, Datlow also has two hotly anticipated themed anthologies for 2021: Body Shocks: Extreme Tales of Body Horror and When Things Get Dark: Stories Inspired by Shirley Jackson.

The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories, Volume Two, edited by James D. Jenkins and Ryan Cagle, and Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror, edited by Aric Sundquist, are both worth readers’ attention, while Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror, edited by John F.D. Taff, features 12 terrifying novelettes from authors including Josh Malerman, Alma Katsu, Stephen Graham Jones, and Caroline Kepnes.

There are also quite a few exciting single-author story collections on the publication horizon, including From the Neck Up by Aliya Whiteley, Fit for Consumption by Steve Berman, Six Dreams About the Train and Other Stories by Maria Haskins, On the Hierophant Road by James Chambers, and Big Dark Hole by Jeffrey Ford.


The renewed interest in horror among a wider audience has also inspired publishers to satisfy demand by getting classics back in print, adding an extra layer of context. One of the best examples of this reimagining of stories from the genre’s past can be seen in the ongoing “Haunted Library of Horror Classics” series from Poisoned Pen Press, edited by Eric Guignard and Leslie S. Klinger.

Guignard notes, “I feel incredibly fortunate to be allowed to curate this series of classic literature. Not every title selected is readily known (in fact, most are not to the average reader), which is one of the reasons for promoting these volumes, to broaden the definition of what horror is about, and how it affects people differently, discussing works that were seminal stories of their time and/or served as catalyst for genre changes or otherwise acted as inspirations to future authors.”

The next few months see three more editions in this series: The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James, and Gothic Classics: The Castle of Otranto and the Old English Baron by Horace Walpole and Clara Reeve.

Beyond these, Klinger joins with editor Lisa Morton to explore forgotten women of horror in Weird Women Volume 2: 1840–1925 (Pegasus), while editors Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson continue their “Monster, She Wrote” series of reissues for Quirk Books with their fifth installment, Manfroné; Or, the One-Handed Monk by Mary Anne Radcliffe. But the most squirm-inducing volume of the reissued bunch of 2021 is clearly Crawling Horror: Creeping Tales of the Insect Weird, edited by Daisy Butcher and Janette Leaf (British Library Publishing).

Another sign that this trend of reissues is an important one to mark is the race to make available out-of-print titles by today’s biggest names. Coming soon are new editions of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s 2016 Mexican vampire story, Certain Dark Things, and the 1995 debut by one of today’s most important voices in the genre, The Between by Tananarive Due. As horror continues to grow, readers will likely see more reissues of modern classics.


The increased interest in the genre has translated into more horror nonfiction. Many of those who found escape from the real world by exploring the genre for the first time last year will enjoy gaining some background knowledge, and publishers have a strong slate of offerings. The fascinating, personal, and enlightening compilation The Letters of Shirley Jackson, edited by her son Laurence Jackson Hyman, pairs nicely with the Jackson-themed Datlow anthology mentioned above, while Untold Horror, a collection of interviews featuring horror legends George Romero, John Landis, Joe Dante, Brian Yuzna, and others, by Dave Alexander, is a great introduction to some of the scariest movies ever made. Narrative deep dives into some horror subgenres, such as Marc Hartzman’s Chasing Ghosts: A Tour of Our Fascination with Spirits and the Supernatural and Michael Mallory’s Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror, are getting more attention.

There are even a few self-help books with just the right touch of the macabre, including Mathias Clasen’s A Very Nervous Person’s Guide to Horror Movies and Kathy Benjamin’s helpful, introspective, and fun guide to planning your own final farewell, It’s Your Funeral!: Plan the Celebration of a Lifetime.

All signs point to horror maintaining center stage, reflecting the times, and providing frightfully good reading. 


Editor’s Note: Becky Spratford has a new work on horror advisory forthcoming this August. Read our interview with her about the book.

All titles mentioned in this article are listed in this downloadable spreadsheet.

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