Best Horror of 2023

From intensely unsettling to heartbreakingly beautiful moments, the best horror novels of 2023 offer fresh spins on terrifying tropes.


Due, Tananarive. The Reformatory. Gallery/Saga. ISBN 9781982188344.

Set in Jim Crow Florida in 1950 and following Gloria and Robbie during the two weeks Robbie is (wrongly) sent to the Gracetown School for Boys, the horror in this story has a long tail, and the ghosts who live on the school’s grounds are unwilling to wait for justice any longer. A masterpiece of fiction, this novel speaks to all situations where injustice occurs, and compels its readers to act.

Hendrix, Grady. How To Sell a Haunted House. Berkley. ISBN 9780593201268.

After the sudden death of her parents, Louise must clear her family home, which is filled with creepy dolls and a terrifying clown puppet. Are the toys moving on their own? Why is the attic door clumsily barricaded? The only way for her to get out alive may require Lousie do the scariest thing of all—reckon with the secrets that have haunted her family for generations. Inserting fresh horrors into the haunted-house pantheon, Hendrix also crafts an emotional and thought-provoking story about trauma and loss.

Jones, Stephen Graham. Don’t Fear the Reaper. Gallery/Saga. ISBN 9781982186593.

Final girl Jade Daniels is back, but this time it is December, an epic blizzard is blowing, and serial killer Dark Mills South is on the loose in Proofrock, ID. Over the next 36 hours, Jade, armed with her horror-movie knowledge, indefatigable spirit, strong moral center, and trusted group of friends, will fight to save it all. Jones effortlessly blends bloody slasher action with contemplation of the genre itself; his novel honors its past while also plowing its own trail.

Khaw, Cassandra. The Salt Grows Heavy. Tor Nightfire. ISBN 9781250830913.

What if the Little Mermaid laid eggs, and her hatched children’s hunger laid waste to her prince’s land? Khaw poses this sinister question with a brutally visceral but seductive opening sequence. When the mermaid connects with a plague doctor, the unlikely pair go on an imaginative and thought-provoking journey told through lush language, innovative uses of the body-horror trope, and a captivating direct narration that will make readers contemplate what it means to be “saved.”

LaValle, Victor. Lone Women. One World. ISBN 9780525512080.

It’s 1915, and Adelaide leaves her California home as it burns down to head for a Montana homestead that accepts unmarried Black women. She carries an overnight bag and an extremely heavy, securely locked trunk containing the family curse that she is now responsible for controlling. Told with a pulp sensibility, LaValle’s story is a women-centered Weird Western that is at turns both utterly terrifying and heart-breakingly beautiful.

Malerman, Josh. Spin a Black Yarn: Novellas. Del Rey. ISBN 9780593237861.

In this intensely unsettling, utterly original collection of five novellas, Malerman takes well-known horror tropes and twists them, pushing both readers and characters to the edge—and he’s not afraid to push everything over. Whether it’s a house that is only half haunted, a deathbed confession from a would-be serial killer, or a dark satire featuring an awful couple, his stories will be relished by readers new and returning.

Pelayo, Cynthia. The Shoemaker’s Magician. Agora. ISBN 9781957957104.

Polly, an expert in horror history, has always found comfort in horror movies and passed that love on to her autistic son, Bela. But after her Chicago detective husband starts investigating a brutal murder with ties to a famous occult film, it appears someone else is sharing ominous fables with Bela that connect the murder to their family, the history of horror films, and Chicago’s deteriorating movie palaces. Both a gripping narrative and a love letter to the genre.

Piper, Hailey. A Light Most Hateful. Titan. ISBN 9781803364209.

Olivia, 18, who came to the small, insular town of Chapel Hill, PA, as a runaway three years ago, has found a home living in best friend Sunflower’s orbit. As the novel opens, a fierce storm brings torrential, infecting rain that turns most residents into zombies. And where is Sunflower? If Neil Gaiman, Mary Shelley, and Shirley Jackson could collaborate, this stunning novel would be the result.

Song, Jade. Chlorine. Morrow. ISBN 9780063257603.

Ren, speaking from adulthood, recounts her final year of high school, the year she exchanged her life as an elite swimmer and perfect Chinese daughter for her current life as a mermaid. Told with a confidence rarely seen in a debut, this remarkable novel expertly balances the contradictions of wonder and dread, magical realism and harsh reality, beauty and discomfort, inundating readers in emotion and a tale in which they’ll willingly drown.

Tingle, Chuck. Camp Damascus. Tor Nightfire. ISBN 9781250874627.

Engaging, curious, and proudly neurodivergent, Rose belongs to a church that runs a popular LGBTQIA+ conversion camp with a 100 percent success rate. While out with friends, she spies the decaying body of a woman at the edge of the woods, wearing a red polo and nametag and staring straight at her. Confusion and disorientation build until it all bursts open with full-blown terror. This novel is chilling and thought- provoking, but what makes it remarkable is the immense love at its center.

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