2020 has been an excellent year for horror. And it makes sense if you think about it. With all of the horrifying things happening all around the world, it’s been nice (at least for me) to escape into fictional horror this year. I don’t know what it is about horror that’s so comforting. Maybe it’s knowing that things could always be worse. Or maybe it’s the validation of seeing what horrible things would be like if all of our worst fears came to fruition. All of that sounds really bleak. But really. Thank goodness for the best horror books of 2020. There are so many horror novels out this year that are worth a read, but here are 16 new horror novels for 2020 you definitely won’t want to miss.
The Deep by Alma Katsu
If you ever watched Titanic and thought, “This isn’t scary enough,” this is the book for you. On the Titanic’s maiden voyage, several of the passengers are convinced the ship is haunted. Years later, one of those passengers—Annie Hebbley—survived but cannot remember the details of what happened on the Titanic. Now, she’s working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship the Brittanic. And suddenly all of the memories are coming back to haunt her.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
This was my most anticipated book of 2020, and as usual, horror author Grady Hendrix did not disappoint. This book is set in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1990s. Patricia Campbell is a housewife who’s joined the neighborhood book club where they read and discuss true crime books. Outside of Patricia’s book club meetings, life has become pretty disappointing and bland. Then a stranger moves into the neighborhood, and Patricia soon becomes convinced her new neighbor is a vampire.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Stephen Graham Jones has not one but two new horror novels out this year. But if you’re only going to read one 2020 Stephen Graham Jones novel, make it The Only Good Indians. This novel follows four Blackfoot Indian men who, at a young age, go on a hunting trip that goes very, very wrong. Now, years later, there’s an evil spirit hellbent on revenge, and she’s hunting the men down one by one.
Wonderland by Zoje Stage
Wonderland is being compared to Shirley Jackson and The Shining, which is perhaps a little unfair to this book. Wonderland is doing something entirely different and should be enjoyed in its own right. This novel follows the story of the Bennett family. After the mother, Orla, retires from dancing, the family decides to leave their city life and start over in the country. But no one in the family could have prepared for what awaits them in the wilderness.
If It Bleeds by Stephen King
Stephen King’s latest collection of novellas was, of course, a necessary addition to this list. The title novella, If It Bleeds, is a standalone sequel to The Outsider. And there are three more creepy novellas (or maybe they’re long stories?) included as well: Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, The Life of Chuck, and Rat.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexican Gothic is a gothic horror novel set in Mexico in the 1950s. After receiving a distressing letter from her newlywed cousin, Noemí Taboada leaves her life as a socialite in Mexico City to find out what has happened to her cousin. But when she arrives at her cousin’s new home—High Place, a dark and remote mansion in the country—she finds unsettling mysteries around every corner. The mansion is falling apart, her cousin’s new family is eerily strange, and there are whispers in the nearby village.
Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay
When you start reading this novel, you might wonder how Paul Tremblay was able to so accurately predict the horrors of life in 2020. It only took a few weeks for the rabies-like virus to spread across Massachusetts. Those who are infected with the disease lose their minds, and it only takes a few hours. Hospitals are overrun and hysteria has taken hold of the population. Natalie is a pregnant woman whose husband was just killed by an infected neighbor, and in her attempt to save her husband, Natalie herself was bitten. Now, her only hope of saving herself and her unborn child is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible before madness takes hold.
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
This book had me as soon as I heard it was a feminist horror-comedy featuring a sapphic love story. But if you need more information, fine. Brookhants School for Girls is an old boarding school with a troubled and mysterious past, including many mysterious deaths. One hundred years have passed since the horrors that befell the school, and writer Merritt Emmons has written a book celebrating the queer, feminist history of the school that was so cursed. Her book inspires a horror film adaptation of the story.
Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare
If you think you’ve heard of every clown horror story there is, think again. Adam Cesare’s Clown in a Cornfield has some surprises. Quinn Maybrook and her father have moved to the small, boring town of Kettle Springs in the hopes of starting over. But ever since the shut down of the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory, Kettle Springs has been a town split in half, and there’s a constant battle happening between the youths of the town and the adults. Then the Baypen mascot Frendo goes homicidal, convinced that the only way to solve the town’s problems is by killing off the rebellious children.
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
All I ever want to read this time of year is a good story about witches, and The Year of the Witching really delivers. Set in Bethel, a fictional place based on Puritan settlements, The Year of the Witching follows the story of Immanuelle Moore, a woman whose very existence is blasphemy because her mother is white and her father is Black. Immanuelle finds herself drawn to the Darkwood surrounding Bethel, the forbidden forest where four witches were once killed. But the spirits of those witches are still lurking in the Darkwood, and they have something for Immanuelle: her mother’s secret journals. Reading the journals, Immanuelle is shocked to discover her mother consorted with witches in the woods.
Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
While Empire of Wild was originally published in 2019, it was just published in the United States for the first time earlier this year. So I’m counting it as a 2020 horror novel. This novel is based on the Canadian Métis legend of the Rogarou, a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of native communities. Joan’s husband has been missing for almost a year. And then one morning, she hears the unmistakable sound of his voice coming from a revival tent in a Walmart parking lot. When she goes to investigate, there he is. She recognizes everything about him, and yet he insists he’s not who she says he is. And Joan begins to suspect something dark and sinister is at play.
Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark
As if the Ku Klux Klan wasn’t frightening enough, P. Djèlí Clark’s latest novel Ring Shout adds a supernatural twist to the KKK. D.W. Griffith is a sorcerer, and the Klan has a plan to unleash Hell on Earth. But they will not succeed, not if Maryse Boudreaux has anything to say about it. She’s a monster fighter with a magic sword, and she might be the world’s only hope in the fight against hatred. In 2020, when America feels so divided by hate, this novel couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.
The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
This next book is a horror/sci-fi novel that explores the chilling possibilities of alternate universes. In The Hollow Places, Kara has discovered a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. And in that hole is a portal to other realities. But all of these places are haunted by creatures that can read your thoughts. The more you fear them, the stronger they get.
Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power
The final three novels on this list venture into YA horror territory. Yet while these books are written with younger audiences in mind, they’re still creepy for readers of any age. Burn Our Bodies Down was a novel I could not wait to get my hands on after reading and enjoying Rory Power’s scary and strange debut novel Wilder Girls. Margot’s past has always been a mystery. But then Margot finds a photograph that gives her a hint about her mother’s past and the family she never got a chance to know. And it points her to the small town of Phalene. Margot heads to the town searching for answers, but she quickly discovers that there might be a reason her mother ran and never looked back. And now that Margot is in Phalene, will she ever be able to leave?
Vampires Never Get Old, Edited by Zoraida Cordova and Natalie C. Parker
This horror anthology features vampire stories from some of young adult fiction’s most beloved contemporary authors, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley. Each story in this collection is a fresh take on the vampire tale, and proof that vampires (and their stories) really never get old.
Horrid by Katrina Leno
After the death of her father, Jane North-Robinson moves with her mother to an old house in Maine where her mother grew up. Their new home is very different from the sunny California life they left behind, and the old manor hides secrets of a haunting family past. While Jane looks for solace in books and new friends, her mother is slowly spiraling, and she won’t say why. Then, to add to the mysteries of their new home, Jane finds a secret room that her mother has kept hidden from her. And it seems like someone is living inside of it. If you’re looking for a horror novel with plenty of surprises, Horrid is it.
Still looking for more of the best horror books of 2020 to keep you creeped out for the rest of the year and beyond? Try Tailored Book Recommendations. The personalized book subscription service is ready and waiting to give you a scary book or two to read, based on your own personal horror tastes. Enjoy being scared! I know I always do.