Ho-Ho-Holiday Horror: Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas

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Cassie Gutman

Staff Writer

Cassie Gutman is happiest when surrounded by books and dogs. Originally from a small, funny-named town near Louisville, Kentucky, she now edits words for a living near Chicago and would like to be paid in ice cream. You can find her on Instagram @happybooklovers or on Twitter @cassiepgutman.

It’s clear that we love a good horror novel around here. But just because haunting season is over doesn’t mean we’ve stopped with the scary books! In fact, as soon as November hit, I was ready to read some good, scare-the-pants-off-me holiday horror books. You know, to get in the holiday spirit!

In researching, I have discovered this niche category is largely populated by white authors, so there is not a lot of diversity reflected in this list. As horror trends upward in popularity, hopefully we will see a rise in this soon. In the meantime, check out these horror books by authors of color.

Book cover for Hark! The Herald Angels Scream

Hark! The Herald Angels Scream Edited by Christopher Golden

With stories by the likes of Seanan McGuire, Kelley Armstrong, and Josh Malerman in this collection, you’ll encounter some terrifying retold classics and horrifying brand-new tales that you won’t be able to forget.

Book cover of Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood

Leah’s husband and son have just died a tragic death. Desperate to escape the pitying looks through the holiday season, she hastily purchases a rundown farmhouse to get away from it all. But soon after she moves in, she starts seeing and hearing things that aren’t there—that shouldn’t be there.

Book cover for Secret Santa by Andrew Shaffer

Secret Santa by Andrew Shaffer

If comedy horror is your thing, try this office satire about an office holiday gift exchange gone wrong. Lussi is hired at a publishing firm, and she’s ready to break into the business. But her new coworkers are not so nice to her, and in the Secret Santa gift exchange, she receives a strange, demonic-looking object. Soon, her coworkers begin falling one by one, and Lussi has a feeling the Secret Santa gift has something to do with it.

Book cover for Dead of Winter

Dead of Winter by Kealan Patrick Burke

This collection of seven winter horror stories is perfect for all kinds of seasonal horror. From snowmen with faces that appear out of nowhere to snow suffocating an entire town, pretty much everything that is usually the delight of the holiday season turns sinister.

Book cover for The Winter Ghosts

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

This post–World War I holiday horror book follows Freddie, whose car spins off the mountain road on which he’s traveling. He finds an inn in the village nearby to wait out the storm, and soon is in a deep discussion with Fabrissa, a woman who shares generations of stories and a haunting past.

Book cover for Unmemory

Unmemory by Kristi DeMeester

A college student tries to find a movie that traumatized her as a kid—a mysterious Christmas film she can’t get out of her head. This illustrated Christmas horror book is a short novella that packs a big punch.

Book cover for Where the Dead Go to Die

Where the Dead Go to Die by Aaron Dries and Mark Allan Gunnells

This mashup of holiday horror and the zombie apocalypse might feel a little too close to real, even if it is about zombies. It’s Christmas in Chicago, and Emily and the nurses do their usual rounds at The Hospice—a place where the infected are quarantined and will live out their final days, separated from the rest of the world.

Book cover for The Abominable

The Abominable by Dan Simmons

While not necessarily a holiday horror book, if you’re looking for a creepy story set amid unending snow and the creeping winter dread, this is the book for you. In 1924, the race to climb Mount Everest comes to a halt when George Mallory and Sandy Irvine disappear from the face of the mountain. The following year, new climbers are ready to try. But as they begin their trek, they realize someone—or something—is following them.

Book cover for Wolf Winter

Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck

This Swedish historical fiction is set in 1717, following Maija and her family as they arrive from Finland, hoping to leave their dark pasts behind them. BlackÃ¥n, the mountain that overlooks their new town, seems to haunt those who live in the village, though. When one of Maija’s children stumbles upon a body on the mountain, the family gets pulled into the dark history of what happened on the mountain as the winter settles in.

Book cover for Ghost Story

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

If you enjoyed The Only Good Indians, try this horror classic following four men who made a terrible choice in their youth. And now, that decision has come back to haunt them. This was adapted into a film in 1981, so you can have a nice (haunted) book and movie club, if you can convince anyone else to read holiday horror with you!

Book cover for Snow

Snow by Ronald Malfi

If you’re looking for a truly scary Christmas horror book to keep you busy while you avoid family members this season, this is your pick. Todd only wants to spend Christmas with his son, but he finds himself stranded at the airport thanks to a snowstorm. He rents a car with a few other stragglers, and on their way to their destinations, they pick up a hitchhiker in the snow, who is covered in scratches and slashes all over. And the journey only gets more sinister from there.

If holiday ghosts are more your thing, also check out this roundup of Christmas ghost stories!