There’s no need to wait until October to suggest horror books for book clubs to read. Lots of book clubs always blaze through the latest mystery reads and are looking for something new, and here at Book Riot we love some good scare-the-pants-off-you books. If your group is into the macabre or dark psychological mysteries, try branching out to horror books for interesting and new discussions among your book club members.
These horror book for book club recommendations are chosen based on some discussions I think they could prompt, as well as how readable they are for groups.
I’ll start with books that are a bit on the lighter side, and move to the darker, only-for-horror-lovers books toward the end of the list. This ranking, however, is my totally subjective opinion, and others may think these books are more or less gruesome than I do, so read with caution, because some definitely contain some upsetting subject matter.
The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson
This Stranger Things–esque novel is more a fun coming-of-age than a true horror book. It follows a band of misfit kids in the 1980s (sound familiar?) who spend their summer investigating local ghost stories and town legends. What starts as a fun way to kill time slowly evolves into something more than the kids had ever thought would happen. This one is fun for groups who like reminiscing and don’t usually stay too on topic.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Mostly campy horror fun (though it does contain some blood spatter), this one follows a women’s book club fighting to protect their quiet neighborhood from a stranger who…happens to be a vampire. Groups who like reading true crime or thrillers will like this one, as the in-book book club loves chatting
about recent crime events near them, and they become amateur investigators themselves.
We definitely veer into the scarier territory with this one, but The Good House is a classic and a great place to start if your book club has never read horror before. This is a good old-fashioned haunted house story that includes good discussion points surrounding classic horror story tropes. It also discusses a grieving mother who lost her son to suicide, so there are some non-horror elements that will prompt interesting conversations to consider as well.
For those who don’t mind Stephen King horror and enjoyed Misery, this is the perfect book to pick up. Following a young man in a car accident who is now paralyzed, he watches as his mother-in-law obsessively digs holes in their backyard. This is fun to compare to King’s Misery while also contrasting with cultural differences, as this is translated and originally published in Korean.
Groups that enjoy historical fiction and don’t mind a supernatural twist will enjoy this horror book club book. Iseult’s mother died in childbirth, so it’s just her and her father, who is trying to marry her off so she doesn’t die a spinster. Iseult manages to scare off suitor after suitor; she does, of course, believe her dead mother’s ghost lives in the scar on her own neck, and she must go to greater and greater lengths to quiet her mother as she becomes more outspoken. This one will prompt great discussions of women’s roles in history and mental health throughout history.
A horror/sci-fi combo, this short novel (250 pages) gets its fear factor from how wild yet real some of the novel seems. “Kentukis” are everywhere—mechanical animals that have cameras and microphones and are connected to an anonymous global server. From the outside, they seem harmless. But these can follow anyone anywhere, both connecting humans and working to harm them. Pick this one if your group liked The Circle or Dark Matter.
Taking cues from truly terrifying worlds like The Handmaid’s Tale (a well-deserved comparison), this debut novel feels incredibly real—which is precisely what makes it so scary. Lena’s family is in serious debt, so when she finds a job that pays well and offers free housing and benefits, she signs up, ready to help her family. But the new program she’s participating in is top-secret, and she begins to see the dark side. Medical experimentation—changing eye colors, curing dementia, eliminating depression—that all promises good things sounds great, but when it goes too far, Lena wonders how it will be stopped.
Another classic haunted house story, this one is more for groups that enjoy watching American Horror Story as some “light” television and have made their way through the standards like Amityville Horror long ago. The Finch House has long been forgotten, but when bestselling horror writer Sam McGarver gets the opportunity to spend Halloween night there, he can’t turn down the offer. With him are three other writers who also have shaped the horror genre. But once they’re there, it quickly becomes apparent the house does not want them to leave and wishes to make them part of the house forever. This fun book-within-book style paired with mystery elements will be a great beginning horror book for book clubs ready to dive into the dark side and don’t mind some blood on the page.
Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus
This one is full of blood and guts and horror and some deep, disturbing discussions about what it means to be human and how far some will go to discover the truth or save themselves. Liv’s father is known around town as the crazy man who believes in aliens. He sets traps everywhere and makes Liv and her friend Doug check them every week. When her father goes missing, Liv finally feels like she can breathe…until she finds something in one of the traps that isn’t exactly human. This is an excellent one for discussion of morals in the face of hardship, but only pick this one up if your group truly wants to read some of the worst of the worst.
This is an unforgettable psychological thriller, but you have to really be ready for some dark topics if you choose this for your group. Dixie Wheeler is the famous baby left behind in the murder-suicide of her family—her father brutally murdered her mother and brothers and then himself. Now, at 26, Dixie buys her childhood home, which has just gone on the market. Old ghosts come back to haunt her, and at the same time, she begins to unravel more about her family’s gruesome end than she knew before. This will prompt great discussions about past and present traumas, but be prepared for an incredibly dark read.
Not sure where to start with horror or what book your book club should read next? Tailored Book Recommendations can help you—or your book club—find your next great read, specially picked based on exactly what you’re looking for. There are also plenty of horror book subscription services if you want to try a sampling, or, if after reading this list decide horror may be too much, try some of these mystery books for book clubs instead.