Best Horror of 2020

Zombies, vampires, and assorted monsters stalk the pages of the best horror novels published in 2020.

See all of our 2020 Best Books lists

 

Clark, P. Djèlí. Ring Shout. Tor.com. ISBN 9781250767028.

This story of Black female power honors the Black American experience in all its complexity, yet also delivers Lovecraftian delight. Readers will gasp at the visceral horrors, both real and otherworldly, cringe at the destruction and carnage, and ultimately cheer for Maryse to keep fighting for herself and her people.

 

Danforth, Emily M. Plain Bad Heroines. Morrow. ISBN 9780062942852.

Danforth asks readers to contemplate how stories are told. Which horrors are real, which are imagined, and which are consciously constructed? The story, set at the cursed Brookhants School for Girls, unfolds across time in three linked story lines. It features a pointed female focus, an unease seeping in from the perimeter, spiking to fear at key moments, and vividly drawn characters.

 

Davidson, Andy. The Boatman’s Daughter. Farrar. ISBN 9780374538552.

Miranda earns her living running contraband while trying to survive monsters, both human and supernatural. The restrained narrative doles out the tension, expertly pulling readers in as the novel embraces its horror genre affinities while also confidently fitting among Southern gothic classics of the 21st century.

 

Guess, Jessica. Cirque Berserk. Unnerving. ISBN 9781989206362.

This celebration of the slasher story also turns out to be a love story, a tale of survival, and an ode to the power of family. Guess shows this through a demented fun house mirror, taking love and devotion to their darkest extremes.

 

Hendrix, Grady. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. Quirk. ISBN 9781683691433.

Hendrix blends the disaffected Southern housewife story with a terrifying vampire tale. The anxiety and tension are palpable as a book club shifts from discussing true crime to battling societal stereotypes and demeaning husbands, as well as an intensely evil, centuries-old vampire, to save their children from very real harm.

 

Hightower, Laurel. Crossroads. Off Limits. ISBN 9780578723563.

Hightower is writing at the sharpest edges of grief. Her portrait of a mother’s pursuit to undo the unthinkable loss of her son is relentless, muscular, and emotionally fearless. It’s a novella about grief that turns into obsession, and it’s unforgettable.

 

Jones, Stephen Graham. The Only Good Indians. Saga: S. & S. ISBN 9781982136451.

This classic tale of revenge horror oscillates among eerie moments, violent action, and an overarching sense of dread. It is also an achingly beautiful story about hope and survival, grappling with themes of cultural identity, family, and traditions. Fully entrenched within the genre, the book’s well-developed cast, lyrical language, and heightened suspense will have broad appeal.

 

Kiste, Gwendolyn. Boneset & Feathers. Broken Eye. ISBN 9781940372594.

Kiste’s writing style moves fluidly back and forth through time with lyrical language describing awful things. Readers will hang on every word, cringe and cheer through the action, and passionately root for Odette, the last of the witches, who has banished herself to a magic-free life of isolation. Kiste casts a spell with this original and suspenseful horror story, which offers more than meets the eye.

 

Moreno-Garcia, Silvia. Mexican Gothic. Del Rey. ISBN 9780525620785.

Featuring a feisty, whip-smart protagonist, a perfectly rendered setting, exquisite supernatural details, and an escalating sense of dread that jumps off the page, effortlessly pulling both the protagonist and the reader through a range of emotions from unease to panic, and finally, to breathless terror. This is not your mother’s gothic tale.

 

Romero, George A. & Daniel Kraus. The Living Dead. Tor. ISBN 9781250305121.

The zombies are terrifyingly realistic, but it is the well-developed human characters that readers will appreciate, particularly Etta Hoffmann, autistic researcher and archivist of the apocalypse. This is a rare gem of a story, one that pays homage to its varied source material while also standing on its own merits.

 

See all of our 2020 Best Books lists

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