Horror fans, is there anything more terrifying than the relentless passage of time? We’re already approaching the halfway point of 2023, and now seems like a good time to reflect on the best horror books of the year. These are the best horror books that came out in the first half of the year and the best horror to look forward to reading in the second half.
So what has the year in horror in 2023 looked like so far? We’ve gotten a lot of new favorite books from some of our go-to horror authors. We’ve also gotten a lot of debuts and new authors to get excited about. It’s no surprise that haunted houses have been really big this year — after all, haunted houses are, in my opinion, just perpetually scary. Witches have also continued to be big in 2023. We’ve also gotten a few really great horror short story collections this year.
In no particular order, here are the best horror books that have helped to define the year in horror. Did your favorite horror book of 2023 make the list? Read on to find out.
The Best Horror Books: 2023
How to Sell A Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
How to Sell A Haunted House isn’t really Grady’s first foray into the haunted house horror sub-genre. Horrorstör takes place in a haunted IKEA-like furniture store. But Hendrix’s new novel is his first haunted puppets story. And if you’re wondering how puppets can be scary, read this book to find out. After Louise’s parents die unexpectedly, she’s forced to go home to Charleston to take care of their affairs. Louise thinks the most difficult part of selling her parents’ home is going to be dealing with her shiftless brother Mark. But neither Louise nor Mark are prepared to face what really awaits them in that house.
The Spite House by Johnny Compton
Let’s keep the ball rolling with the haunted house stories. The Spite House is a debut novel from author Johnny Compton. This one has The Shining vibes for sure, but trust me, there are plenty of surprises and new terrors happening here. Eric Ross is on the run and desperate to find shelter for himself and his two daughters as well as a job to keep them afloat. So when he sees the ad for a caretaker for the Masson House in Degener, Texas, it looks like a dream come true. Even though the house is supposedly haunted.
Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfit
More haunted houses? Don’t mind if I do. Three years ago, Alice and her friends Ila and Hannah spent one night in a haunted house, and nothing has been the same since. The last thing Alice wants to do is return to that place, but when Ila tells her they have to return to rescue Hannah, Alice knows she has no choice. Now Alice and Ila will be forced to face the horrors that happened to them three years ago or risk losing Hannah to the house forever.
She is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran
One thing that makes haunted house horror even more terrifying? Family drama. And there’s plenty of that in She is a Haunting, a story about Jade Nguyen, who comes to Vietnam to reconnect with her sister Lily and her estranged father, who is restoring a French colonial house. But the house has a mind of its own, and Jade can’t ignore the ghost of a beautiful bride who warns her not to eat. No one else will believe Jade when she says the house is haunted, but she’s determined to prove it.
Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones
If you loved Stephen Graham Jones’s My Heart is a Chainsaw, then you have to come back for the sequel, Don’t Fear the Reaper. Set four years after the event of the first novel, this novel sees Jade Daniels return to the rural lake town of Proofrock on the same day serial killer Dark Mill South escapes to exact his revenge. A lot has changed since Jade’s senior year, but after Dark Mill South’s 36 hour rampage and 20 dead bodies, many of the horrors of that year come flooding back.
Bad Cree by Jessica Johns
This debut novel is a must-read supernatural horror story. Every night, Mackenzie has unsettlingly realistic dreams recalling memories of a weekend at her family’s lakeside campsite, a time before her sister Sabrina’s untimely death. In her waking life, Mackenzie is being followed around by a murder of crows, and she keeps getting texts from someone claiming to be Sabrina. To stop these horrors from consuming her, Mackenzie returns to her home in Alberta to make sense of what happened to her sister years ago.
Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang
Here’s another exciting debut that tells a unique horror story. Natural Beauty combines horror and humor to tell the story of an unnamed narrator who quits her job as a pianist to care for her parents in New York City. There, she takes up a job at a high-end beauty and wellness store called Holistik and grows close to the owner’s niece Helen. The two form a friendship that slowly becomes more, and the narrator becomes deeply wrapped up in the products and ideology of Holistik. But underneath its glossy surface, Holistik hides something sinister.
Lone Women by Victor LaValle
The latest from acclaimed author Victor LaValle takes readers into the American West in the year 1915. Adelaide Henry is on the run after her secret sin killed her parents and forced her to leave her hometown of Redondo, California. Her journey will take her to Montana to be one of the “lone women” who will take advantage of the government’s offer of free land for those who can cultivate it. But Adelaide isn’t alone. With her, she carries an enormous steamer trunk that must always stay locked. When the trunk gets unlocked, people around her start disappearing. The locked trunk holds the secrets to Adelaide’s past. And that secret she’s keeping locked away might also be the only thing keeping her alive.
Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez
Mariana Enriquez has previously has short story collections translated into English (they’re amazing, by the way), but this is her first novel translated into English. And it’s pretty stunning. After his wife Rosario’s mysterious death, Juan and his son Gaspar set off on a journey to return to Rosario’s ancestral home, where her family gathers as a maniacal cult called the Order, committing horrifying acts in search of immortality.
Monstrilio by Gerardo Sámano Córdova
Monstrilio is a literary horror debut about a grieving mother named Magos who nurtures a small piece of her deceased 11-year-old son Santiago’s lung until it grows into a monster. While the little Monstrilio in many ways resembles Magos’s son, the creature has animalistic impulses that threaten to destroy everything. This novel is a chilling and heart-wrenching examination of the complicated and all-consuming journey of grief.
VenCo by Cherie Dimaline
Cherie Dimaline is back with another banger, and this one is all about witches. Lucky St. James lives in a tiny apartment in Toronto with her grandmother Stella. One day, she finds something strange in the wall of her apartment: a silver spoon with the image of a witch etched into it and the word “SALEM.” Lucky has no idea that the spoon actually links her to a whole network of witches throughout North America through a front company called VenCo.
The Marigold by Andrew F. Sullivan
The Marigold is such an exciting new entry into the eco-horror sub-genre. The story takes place in the Marigold, a luxury apartment complex that hasn’t sold nearly as well as expected. The apartment building has been left half-full, and a second building remains unfinished. The remains of the unfinished Marigold II is where horror is brewing. There is toxic mold growing in the building, but this isn’t just your average mold. Just how evil can mold be? You’ll have to read to find out.
Piñata by Leopoldo Gout
Some horror books are just kinda eerie, and some are straight up scary. Where does Piñata fit on that scale? It kind of depends on what scares you, but this one is pretty freaking frightening. Carmen Sanchez is back in her home country of Mexico with her teen daughters, Izel and Luna, to oversee the renovation of an ancient cathedral into a boutique hotel. The locals treat Carmen and her daughters like outsiders, and her contractors are openly sabotaging the project. After Luna is nearly injured at the construction site, Carmen decides enough is enough and she returns with her family to New York. But returning to New York doesn’t mean escaping the troubles the Sanchez family encountered in Mexico. Something has been awakened, and it might be too late for Carmen and her daughters to escape.
Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury
2023 is the year of haunted houses, it seems. This is another one that was a super compelling and scary read. Daisy has the ability to see dead people, which can be quite overwhelming when she lives in a city, where there are ghosts on every corner. So when her mother inherits a secluded mansion, Daisy is relieved to get away from the noise of the city. But the house hides horrors Daisy could never have imagined. And the horrors there aren’t just supernatural.
Sister, Maiden, Monster by Lucy A. Snyder
Love cosmic horror? Love apocalyptic fiction? Get your hands on Sister, Maiden, Monster. A virus has torn the world apart, and in the aftermath of the world’s horrific transformation, three women are pulled together but dark, cosmic forces. Erin has acquired a particular taste for one woman and her brain. Savannah finds sexual pleasure in committing murder. And Mareva, who is riddled with tumors, has a divine role in the coming apocalypse that she will be forced to face, whether she likes it or not.
The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw
What if The Little Mermaid was a horror story? Then you’d have Cassandra Khaw’s The Salt Grows Heavy, a short but effective and atmospheric horror novel where mermaids have teeth and destructive tendencies. And this little mermaid is joined on land by a plague doctor with plenty of their own dark secrets. On their strange journey, the two come across a village filled with children with a taste for blood. Will they be able to make it out alive?
The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro
La Llorona has been getting a lot of attention in recent horror movies. But you’ve never seen this folk demon quite like this. Within Alejandra is a darkness struggling to be released, but no one knows it but her. So Alejandra goes to a therapist. To unravel why she’s seeing the spirit of a crying woman, Alejandra will first have to unpack her family history and generational trauma. Will Alejandra be able to summon the strength to overcome the horrors of her past and be rid of La Llorona forever?
A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher
If you’ve got room in your heart for more scary houses (I know I do), pick this one up. A House with Good Bones is about Sam Montgomery, who is really worried about her mother. Out of nowhere, Sam’s mom is acting jumpy and nervous, and she’s starting to make strange changes to the family home on Lammergeier Lane. Sam wonders if her mother’s behavior has anything to do with her late grandmother. And as shocking family secrets are revealed, Sam will discover that she’s not wrong. Now Sam struggles to uncover the truths behind their family home before Lammergeier Lane completely consumes her.
Everything the Darkness Eats by Eric LaRocca (CLASH Books, June 6)
Eric LaRocca became something of a TikTok darling with his shocking novella Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. Now LaRocca is back with his first full-length novel. A string of shocking disappearances have rocked this small Connecticut town. As the local law enforcement starts to investigate the strange disappearances, the insidious hatred that’s hidden behind the friendly exterior of the small town threatens to bubble up to the surface.
Nineteen Claws and a Black Bird by Agustina Bazterrica (Scribner, June 20)
Speaking of viral horror books, Agustina Bazterrica is another author that made waves on BookTok and BookTube with her horror novel Tender is the Flesh. Her newest book is a collection of 19 short stories that will lure readers into terrifying stories and make them face their nightmares.
The Beast You Are by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow, July 11)
Here’s another excellent horror short story collection for 2023. The Beast You Are consists of 15 short stories and one novella. The horror in these stories is experimental and creative. It will twist your brain. So obviously you have to read it! Paul Tremblay has proven himself as a master horror author with novels like Cabin at the End of the World and Head Full of Ghosts, and his short stories are just as spectacular.
Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward (Tor Nightfire, August 8)
Catriona Ward remains one of my favorite horror authors, and Looking Glass Sound is one of her best. Years ago when Wilder Harlow was young, there was a summer that changed everything. A killer stalked his small town in Maine, and a tragedy bonded Wilder to his friends, Nat and Harper, in ways that would forever change them. Now, decades later, Wilder has returned to the town in the hopes of making sense of that summer’s events as he writes his memoir. But the longer he spends in the town and the more he writes, the more Wilder feels like he’s losing his grip on reality. And it feels as if the book is somehow writing itself.
Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas (Berkley, August 29)
Isabel Cañas’s The Hacienda was one of the best horror books of 2022. Her latest is a supernatural western set on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1840s. As the daughter of a rancher, Nina knows there are things much more dangerous than the Anglo settlers in the north. Something stalks the ranch at night, attacking people and drinking their blood. Nena knows it’s there because she was once attacked. Meanwhile, Néstor thinks Nena is dead. Since the attack, he has been moving from ranch to ranch working as a vaquero, unable to shake the grief from losing his childhood love. When the United States attacks Mexico in 1846, Néstor meets Nana again in a shocking reunion.
What Kind of Mother by Clay McLeod Chapman (Quirk Books, September 12)
How lucky are we that we get a new Clay McLeod Chapman novel in just a few months? What Kind of Mother is a Southern Gothic horror novel that follows Madi Price, who has reluctantly returned to her hometown of Brandywine, Virginia, with her 17-year-old daughter. Madi scrapes by working as a palm reader, and this is where she encounters Henry McCabe, whose son went missing five years ago. Everyone assumes Henry’s son is dead, but when Madi reads his palm, she sees something different. Something that will haunt her.
The Reformatory by Tananarive Due (Saga, October 31)
On June 27, we’re getting a new horror novel from Tananarive Due for the first time in eight years. And it was well worth the wait. The Reformatory is set in Gracetown, Florida, in the summer of 1950. Robert Stephen Jones Jr. is sent to Gracetown School for Boys after kicking a white boy’s leg. Robert thinks he’s just being sent to a reform school, but Gracetown is something much more than that. The school is a segregated school that is haunted from the boys who have died there.