Halloween’s almost upon us, which means it’s time to load up your nightstand with as many scary stories as it can hold. I’ve picked out nine horror short story collections you can read to maximize your chills and thrills, because the only thing better than one horror story is a book full of them.
Brian Evenson’s horror short story collection, Song for the Unraveling of the World, opens with “No Matter Which Way We Turned,” a super short piece of fiction about a girl born with no face. With 22 stories in all, would you believe that it just gets weirder and scarier from there?
The only graphic novel on the list, Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods contains visual and psychological scares. There’s plenty to love here. If you’re looking for standouts, though, I can’t recommend these two stories highly enough: “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold” is a twisty “Bluebeard” retelling, and as for “The Nesting Place”…well, let’s just say I still think about the story’s final image.
Jamaican Canadian author Nalo Hopkinson has published a few excellent collections of short fiction. If you’re looking for horror, though, I recommend checking out her 2001 collection Skin Folk. Among these 15 dark fables, you’ll find the story of a skinless woman who kills and consumes children. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
With his 2020 novel The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones proved himself to be one of the world’s horror masters. His 2010 horror short story collection, The Ones That Got Away, brings 13 tales of mystery and the macabre right to your nightstand. Childhood horrors take center stage in this work, which showcases cannibalism, vampires, dismemberments, and other visions that will keep you up at night.
Horror fans know that The Cipher author Kathe Koja always delivers. Koja’s 2020 collection, Velocities, deviates from her typical gory offerings. Instead, this collection of 13 horror short stories deals in the creepy, the unnameable, and the macabre. What it lacks in blood and guts, it more than makes up for with surreal explorations of life’s little horrors.
Weird fiction fans are already familiar with John Langan, but new readers should consider this an introduction. Children of the Fang contains 21 stories, including the title tale: an ode to Lovecraft that centers on a discovered egg, waiting to hatch. Longtime Langan fans and newcomers are in for a treat with these creeps and crawlies.
One of the most lauded story collections in recent memory, Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties deserves a place on your Halloween TBR. Read a grown-up version of “The Green Ribbon” and enjoy 272 synopses of a very weird version of Law & Order: SVU, featuring a girl with bells for eyes, in this wonderment of a collection.
Daniel Mallory Ortberg has always had a way of twisting our favorite stories into something new and different. Adapted from his Children’s Stories Made Horrific series at The Toast, The Merry Spinster puts that talent on full display. This collection of classic tales told at a slant features stories inspired by Frog & Toad Are Friends, King Lear, and “The Six Swans,” just to name a few.
Last—but certainly not least—on our list of horror short-story collections, there’s Lisa Tuttle’s A Nest of Nightmares. Although it was published in the UK in 1986, the book wasn’t available in the U.S. until recently. Twisty, dark, and seething, these horror stories have captivated fans for generations. Thanks to a Paperbacks from Hell reprint, we can all enjoy Tuttle’s 13 gripping tales today.