Lately, whenever I look for horror recommendations I stumble into the same name over and over again: Stephen Graham Jones.
There’s a reason for that. Stephen Graham Jones is a prolific Indigenous author whose debut came out in 2000. He has more than a dozen novels, plus many novellas, short story collections and anthologies. I mean, Goodreads lists 175 distinct works of his — and I counted the amount of anthologies featured on his website and there were about 104. Which just makes the lyrics, “How do you write like you’re running out of time?” run on a loop inside my head.
Despite Jones’s tendency towards certain types of horror, like slasher stories, he is also quite experimental and genre-blending. The diversity and range of his horror books is impressive and — if we’re being honest — kind of intimidating. Especially for someone who’s just starting to discover his work. So, like me, you’ve probably wondered where to start reading Stephen Graham Jones’s books.
To get you started, I’ve got a recommended reading order to the creepy, thrilling, and downright scary world of Stephen Graham Jones. For this list I’ve included a bit of everything — a novel, a novella, and a short story collection too. Just to showcase the breadth of his talent as a horror writer. I’ve left out the anthologies because they’re not just his, but I do recommend reading them and you can find them all on his website!
So without further ado, here are three books to introduce you to the uncanny and terrifying world of Stephen Graham Jones.
Stephen Graham Jones Books
Night of the Mannequins (2020)
This journey starts with a novella, so that you can get a hang of Jones’s general style and voice. Night of the Mannequins is more of a traditional work of psychological horror — and it’s a bit less scary than some of his other books. But I think it’s the perfect jumping off point. Not too scary and not too weird.
The story follows a group of teenagers that try to prank the manager at their local movie theater. They do so by disguising a mannequin as a patron — but things go horribly wrong. Is it something supernatural? Or a psychopath on the loose? Well, you’ll have to read — with the lights on — to find out.
Short Story Collection
Next, I can’t ignore Stephen Graham Jones’s short stories. It’s a whole lot of weird and creepy in a much shorter format. But it works perfectly. The stories are really unsettling, and because they take less commitment, they’re perfect for reading before getting into full-length novels.
This particular collection is intense, brutal, and very disturbing. It is also very twisty — it seems like Jones is always two steps ahead of you, cackling because of your shock. It consists of 13 very different stories about people, their fears, and the lengths they will go for what they want.
The Last Final Girl (2012)
Last but not least, we have The Last Final Girl. Which seems quite fitting! This is a full-length novel — and even though it’s not his most popular (that would be The Only Good Indians), it’s a staple of his writing style. He really loves slashers!
In it, Jones revisits the format he used for Demon Theory (another of his more experimental stories) and writes this story as if it were a screenplay. Which makes for a very descriptive, fast-paced, cinematic, and easy to picture story. Because of this format, I really think that listening to the audiobook is the way to go!
But what is it about? The book follows Lindsay, an it girl who’s also the lone survivor of a very grisly massacre. With all her friends gone, she replaces her clique just in time for homecoming. For that, she chooses a host of virgins, misfits, and other final girls. With the killer still on the loose, it becomes a fight for survival. Who will be the last final girl standing?
If you’re wondering where to start with a certain author, check out our other Reading Pathways posts! Or if you want to read more scary books, check out these Indigenous horror books and the rest of our horror archive.