The Scares Keep Growing | Horror Preview 2023

The horror genre keeps growing, and its tendrils touch every subgenre and theme. LJ's preview looks at the titles and trends of the upcoming season.


The horror genre keeps growing, and its tendrils touch every subgenre and theme. LJ's preview looks at the titles and trends of the upcoming season. Click here for a downloadable spreadsheet of titles.

Horror is scary. That’s the point of it. It is trying to make the reader physically experience discomfort, dread, and fear. Horror is also as hot as it is scary. According to Publisher’s Lunch, in 2022 “horror sales rose significantly on a percentage basis, almost doubling at 79 percent.”

Looking at this explosion from his position as the president of the Horror Writers Association, author and publisher John Lawson notes, “The new golden age we find ourselves in doesn’t have the constraints of past horror booms. Horror now draws from untapped traditions while inventing new tropes altogether, fully integrated across other genres. People love shining a light into a dark hole, wondering what they’ll find, or gazing into the night sky, wondering, What’s out there? While horror stories keep people guessing, there’s no mystery or spoiler alert when it comes to knowing that horror, and all its subgenres, are a safe investment this year.”

In fact, it is this huge growth that is the overall theme in horror right now. This increase is seen in every facet of the genre, and its tendrils touch every subgenre and theme. That being said, it also appears that some of the oldest and most trusted themes, such as ghosts, vampires, and small towns, are among the biggest winners here, as authors are feeding off the genre’s pulsating energy to explore these old standby subgenres with renewed vigor.

New ghost stories include Jimin Han’s The Apology (Little, Brown), in which a South Korean matriarch is thrust into the afterlife to fight a curse that threatens her family across generations and oceans, and debut author Meredith R. Lyons’s Ghost Tamer (CamCat), about a woman who can see ghosts after she survives a train wreck.

Nat Cassidy looks at the horrors of parenthood and vampires in an exclusive New York City apartment building in Nestlings (Tor Nightfire), while Isabel Cañas’s hotly anticipated Vampires of El Norte (Berkley) offers an immersive, historical horror-romance with vampires.

Small towns scare more than charm in these titles: Stephen King’s Holly (Scribner) marks the return of the beloved character as she investigates the disappearance of multiple people from a Midwestern town; Chuck Wendig is back with another stand-alone horror epic, Black River Orchard (Del Rey), featuring the town of Harrow, PA, and seven strange apple trees; debut author Sam Rebelein satisfyingly combines scares with humor as a struggling author moves to the unsettling town of Edenville (Morrow); and Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies (Ghoulish) by E.M. Roy is a sapphic small-town horror story.


The public’s hunger for horror has also led to publishers wanting to be more inclusive by offering additional titles by women, people of color, and those who identify as LGBTQIA+. The result of welcoming more voices has also helped to refresh traditional subgenres and introduce books that actively contemplate the horrors of marginalization alongside supernatural terrors.

The largest publishers are now offering many must-buy horror authors, and they reflect the expansiveness of the genre. Horror author and scholar Tananarive Due says, “The entire horror genre is undergoing a renaissance, in part because of the emergence of filmmakers like Jordan Peele and a class of horror writers bringing new readers to the field from marginalized communities, such as Victor LaValle, Stephen Graham Jones, Johnny Compton, Alma Katsu, Gabino Iglesias, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and others.”

Due continues, “As a Black horror writer who began publishing in 1995, the field often has felt a bit lonely and isolating—but no more! As more viewers and readers free themselves from genre bias and realize that horror offers solace in the wake of uncertain times, the field will continue to grow and thrive. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Due’s new book joins a long list of horror titles coming from the largest publishers. Her first novel in 10 years, The Reformatory (Gallery: Saga), is a masterpiece, set in 1950s Jim Crow Florida in and around the haunted Gracetown School for Boys.


A notable aspect of this season is that big publishing is all in with horror. Kiersten White’s Mister Magic (Del Rey) is a supernatural thriller following former child stars as they learn the secrets about their show’s downfall. In Rachel Harrison’s Black Sheep (Berkley), a twentysomething woman returns to her deeply religious family’s home for a wedding, with terrifying results. A woman, her ex, and some of their family are trapped on Hemlock Island (St. Martin’s) with someone—or something—that doesn’t want them to leave alive in the latest from Kelley Armstrong. Clay McLeod Chapman’s What Kind of Mother (Quirk) is a missing-child story with a body-horror twist. Delilah S. Dawson’s Bloom (Titan) brings a grim psychological sapphic romance–horror hybrid, while a new book from library favorite Jennifer McMahon, My Darling Girl (Gallery: Scout), combines the terrors of caring for a dying parent and demonic possession. Elizabeth Hand revisits Hill House in A Haunting on the Hill (Mulholland), the first-ever authorized spin-off of Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House. Fan favorite Nick Cutter teams up with Andrew F. Sullivan for The Handyman Method (Gallery/Saga), a haunted tale of home improvement, and in an unexpected twist, mystery writer Jo Nesbø is giving horror a try with The Night House (Knopf), a tale of a young orphaned boy and a haunted phone booth on the edge of the woods.


The genre’s great sea change would not be possible without Nightfire, the only exclusive and intentional horror imprint from a Big-Five publisher. Their proven success has opened up more opportunities for horror authors at every publishing house. As associate editor for Tor Nightfire, Kristin Temple has had a front-row seat to it all: “Horror has always been a mirror reflecting back society, and I’ve loved seeing that in the market: horror confronting transphobia and racism; coping with COVID and isolation; exploring themes of generational trauma and identity; and more. I’m especially delighted to see more underrepresented voices coming to the table, bringing new perspectives and fresh, exciting takes on classic tropes.”

Readers can get a taste of what Nightfire is doing with several titles to watch for this season. Looking Glass Sound by critically acclaimed author Catriona Ward is a mind-bending story about a group of friends confronting a horrific event from their past; Scott Leeds considers grief and cursed vinyl records in Schrader’s Chord; and Alison Rumfitt brings readers a terrifying tale that exposes transphobia with Brainwyrms, a body-horror novel of obsession, violence, and pleasure. Two authors bring different spins on the popular folk horror trope as well with Alex Grecian’s Red Rabbit, which follows a witch in the Wild West, and Neil Sharpson’s Knock Knock, Open Wide, which combines horror with Celtic myth. And finally, one of today’s most exciting voices teams up with a library favorite as Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey release The Dead Take the A Train, a duology opener set in the gritty, cosmic magic underworld of New York City.


Proving the scope and appeal of the genre, breakthrough authors are finding a creative home in horror. One great example is Hailey Piper, an author who is about to see her widest release yet, A Light Most Hateful (Titan), in which a summer storm brings a monstrous force to a sleepy Pennsylvania town. Piper says, “Sometimes people ask, ‘Why horror?’ Which has so many great answers, and one of them is, I think we have a responsibility to bring discomfort. Not in an edgy ‘see if you can handle this’ way, but in a ‘see the whole picture’ way. You can shut a grim book when you need a break, but life rarely allows that kind of control. The understanding we get from horror fiction can help make us kinder people in the face of horror fact.”

Additional next-generation must-buy authors include Caitlin Starling with Last To Leave the Room (St. Martin’s), a terrifying tale of a sinking city, the scientist trying to stop it, and her doppelganger; Ally Wilkes’s Where the Dead Wait (Atria/Emily Bestler), a polar expedition in a Victorian gothic; and Keith Rosson’s punk-rock-horror-noir Fever House (Random), featuring a dangerous severed hand.


Following on the heels of authors beginning to make their mark, there is also a large list of promising debut novelists ready to haunt the shelves. The Daughters of Block Island (Thomas & Mercer) by Bram Stoker Award–winner Christa Carmen is a modern gothic tale set at an isolated island mansion, and The September House (Berkley) by Carissa Orlando features a woman who refuses to leave her dream home even after she knows it is dangerously haunted. Alicia Elliott writes motherhood horror about a young Indigenous woman in an all-white community in And Then She Fell (Dutton), while in No Child of Mine (Poisoned Pen) Nichelle Giraldes crafts a story about Essie, who is pregnant and dealing with a family curse that has left a string of fatherless daughters in its wake. Meanwhile, in a mountain town along the Pacific Crest Trail, a man does not find the solace he’s looking for in The Woodkin (CamCat) by Alexander James.


Horror has long thrived in shorter formats. The genre’s expert, award-winning anthology editor Ellen Datlow, leads the season with two options, the annual The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 15 (Night Shade), which reprints her handpicked favorites and includes a comprehensive look back at the previous year’s trends, news, and awards, and Christmas and Other Horrors: An Anthology of Solstice Horror (Titan), featuring all-new stories from around the globe. Between these two volumes, Datlow presents well-known authors such as Alma Katsu, Tananarive Due, and Josh Malerman, as well as “new to them” writers whom readers will love to discover. Another major-press anthology of note is Shane Hawk and Theodore C. Van Alst Jr.’s Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology (Vintage). With an introduction by Stephen Graham Jones and 27 original stories by authors including Tommy Orange, Cherie Dimaline, Morgan Talty, and Rebecca Roanhorse, this highly sought-after volume will draw new readers to horror.

Single-author horror story collections are also worth adding to library shelves. One to look forward to is Root Rot by Bram Stoker Award–winning author and librarian Sarah Read (Bad Hand). Todd Keisling also offers up stories of the horrific and strange in Cold, Black & Infinite (Cemetery Dance), and Lisa Tuttle gives readers 12 unsettling tales in Riding the Nightmare (Valancourt).

The novella format is where horror most brightly shines its menacing light. Josh Malerman’s Spin a Black Yarn (Del Rey) sets the pace, as it is constructed of five unsettling novellas under one cover., well known for its investment in horror novellas, presents Wild Spaces by S.L. Coney, a Lovecraftian coming-of-age story. One of the most award-winning independent horror presses, Raw Dog Screaming Press, is launching a new line of horror novellas, under the editorship of author R.J. Joseph, with a pair of novellas in one book, Bleak Houses: Safer & Family Solstice by Kate Maruyama. This year’s bountiful novella harvest also includes What Happened at Hawthorne House by Hadassah Shiradski (Brigids Gate), set in a 1926 orphanage where a game of pretend turns ominous, and Rainbow Filth by Tim Meyer (Ghoulish), a weird tale of a small cult that believes a rare psychedelic substance can physically transport them to another universe.


The popularity of horror is further showcased in indie releases. Some notable titles include Apparitions by Adam Pottle (Dark Hart), The Promise of Plague Wolves by Coy Hall (Nosetouch), Dark Woods, Deep Water by Jelena Dunato (Ghost Orchid), and Posthaste Manor by Jolie Toomajan and Carson Winter (Tenebrous).


To help patrons discover even more new reads, point them to Emily Hughes’s Jump Scares website for a list of 2023 titles and to Sadie Hartmann’s 101 Horror Books To Read Before You’re Murdered (Page Street), the ultimate list of today’s must-read horror novels.


Fans of the genre have long treasured the particular thrills of horror, delighting in its ability both to frighten and to offer solace and an expanded point of view. Now that publishers of all sizes are making way for even more new titles, the cosmic array of choices is ever-expanding. It is a great time to be a horror reader or to explore its spiky and spooky shores for the first time. The terror is waiting.

Becky Spratford is the Library Journal horror columnist. Her latest book is The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, Third Edition (ALA Editions, 2021). You can follow her reading adventures on her blog RA for All ( or on Twitter @RAforAll

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