Summer Scares: 18 Horror Books That Will Chill You to the Bone this Season
I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in the south we’re dealing with some serious heat advisories. We’re talking 100 degree weather and suffocating humidity. Yeah, I’m not a fan. The only thing to do to battle the heat during these hot summer months? Reading some truly chilling horror books in the comfort of my air conditioned home.
Thankfully, there are an overwhelming number of horror novels coming out in the summer season (June 21 – September 22). So many, in fact, that I had trouble narrowing it down for this list. There are way more than 18 horror novels coming out this season, so if you blow through this list and are still thirsty for more, never fear — or do. You’re reading horror, after all.
These 18 horror novels include some of my most anticipated novels not only of the season, but of the entire year. We’ve got new ones from some of my favorite authors in adult horror fiction — authors such as Paul Tremblay and Clay McLeod Chapman. We also have some exciting YA horror from two of my personal must-read young adult authors — Tiffany D. Jackson and Lamar Giles. There are some favorite authors on this list delving into the horror genre for the first time. And of course, we also have some debut authors coming out with some truly amazing new terrors.
Basically, if you love horror, it’s going to be a great summer. Let’s get to reading!
The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay
Let’s start with a bang: the highly anticipated new horror thriller from best-selling author Paul Tremblay, out today! Art Barbara was a high school loner in the 1980s who started an extracurricular club for volunteer pallbearers at poorly attended funerals. Never would he have imagined the coolest girl in school would join. Sure, there were some odd things about her, and some terrifying things that only seemed to happen when she was around — usually at night. But she was cool and she was his friend, so Art tried not to worry about it too much. That is, until decades later, when Art decides to write The Pallbearers Club: A Memoir. When this friend somehow gets her hands on the manuscript, she’s not too happy with what Art has written.
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher (July 12)
T. Kingfisher’s latest horror novel What Moves the Dead is a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.” When retired soldier Alex Easton finds out that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they rush to Madeline’s ancestral home in the countryside of Ruritania. What they’ll find there at the Usher home, however, will chill them to the bone. The house is overgrown with fungi and possessed wildlife, and the dark lake that surrounds it seems almost alive. Furthermore, Madeline and her brother Roderick both seem highly disturbed, and Madeline keeps talking to strange voices in the night. What is happening to the Ushers and their home? With the assistance of a British mycologist and an American doctor, Alex is determined to find out.
Mary: an Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy (July 19)
Nat Cassidy’s debut horror novel is the story of Mary, a middle-aged woman who doesn’t stand out and doesn’t really try to do so. She’s quiet and practically unnoticeable. But Mary has been undergoing some changes as of late. Hot flashes. Body aches. She also can’t look in a mirror without passing out. And then there are the voices in her head, urging her to commit unthinkable acts. After Mary is fired from her job in New York, she moves back to her hometown, where the changes only grow worse. And then the killings begin.
Other Terrors: an Inclusive Anthology edited by Vince A. Liaguno and Rena Mason (July 19)
Other Terrors is an exciting anthology of horror stories edited by Bram Stoker Award-winning authors Vince A. Liaguno and Rena Mason. Featuring stories from some of the biggest names in horror and some must-read new talents, this anthology aims to showcase voices from historically excluded backgrounds. The terrifying stories in this collection explore what it means to be seen as “other.” Featuring new works from Stephen Graham Jones, Tananarive Due, S.A. Cosby, Alma Katsu, and many more.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (July 19)
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is a reimagining of The Island of Doctor Moreau set against the backdrop of 19th century Mexico. Carlota Moreau is the only daughter of evil genius Doctor Moreau. She has spent her life growing up in a distant estate, safe from the hardships of the Yucatán peninsula. With the assistance of Montgomery Laughton, the doctor spends his days creating hybrids, creatures that are part animal and part human. These science experiments, financed by the wealthy and powerful Lizaldes, are going perfectly according to Doctor Moreau’s plans. But then the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, threatens to unravel everything.
Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey (July 19)
Looking for a summer horror novel that’s going to make you ask, “What the heck did I just read?” This is it. And I mean that in the best way. This book truly scared me. When Vera’s mother tells her to come home, she obeys, even though Vera hasn’t been back to her childhood home in years. Now, she will be forced to confront the horrible things that happened there — her strained relationship with her mother, the haunting memory of her serial killer father, and then there are all the bodies that he buried there. And while Vera thought most of these things were in the past, very real ghosts of her childhood still remain. What’s more, Vera keeps finding notes around the house written for her in her father’s handwriting.
The Witchery by S. Isabelle (July 26)
In Haelsford, Florida, the Haunting Season is approaching. Logan is a new witch who has just arrived at Mesmortes Coven Academy and is immediately taken under the wing of the infamous Red Three: Iris, Talia, and Jailah. With the Haunting Season upon them, the witches must prepare for the arrival of the Wolves, who will rise from the swamp to kill. Every year, witches and humans must work together to fight against the onslaught. But this year, the stakes are higher as students at the school start turning up dead. And Iris, Thalia, Jailah, and Logan realize it’s up to them and them alone to stop the Wolves.
The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean (August 2)
The Book Eaters is an inventive dark fantasy/horror novel about a secret group of people who live on the Yorkshire Moors. These people consume books as food and then retain all of a book’s information. Devon, the member of an old family of reclusive book eaters, has been raised like all other book eater women, eating a diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories. But there is a bigger world of dark, unhappy endings out there. This becomes all too apparent to Devon after her son is born with a rare a hunger for human minds.
Hell Hath No Sorrow Like A Woman Haunted by RJ Joseph (August 7)
Hell Hath No Sorrow Like A Woman Haunted is a debut short story collection from RJ Joseph. These stories focus on the Black women that are already familiar to us in our daily lives — the mothers, wives, business owners, creatives, and more who work harder than we could ever know to hold it together. These are women we recognize, but some of them are also victims. Some are monsters. And many of them are a little bit of both.
The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings (August 9)
The Women Could Fly is a dystopian horror novel set in a world where witches are real and The State mandates that all women are married by the age of 30. If they are not married by then, they must enroll in a registry that allows for their every move to be monitored. 27-year-old Josephine Thomas has never known why her mother mysteriously disappeared. But now as Josephine nears 30 and still has no interest in getting married, she feels like she understands her more than ever. When Jo is offered the opportunity to honor one last request from her mother, Jo will leave behind the life she’s always known to feel a connection to her one last time.
They Drown Our Daughters by Katrina Monroe (July 12)
Katrina Monroe’s queer gothic ghost story is set in a haunted place called Cape Disappointment. At least, the tourists say it’s haunted, and that’s why they keep coming. Meredith Strand’s mother, who is suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s, is also convinced the ghost stories are real. She believes there’s something in the water. Something watching them. Waiting for them. And if Meredith isn’t careful, she, her mother, and her daughter, will all fall victim to the ocean’s call.
Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste (August 23)
Three-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author Gwendolyn Kiste’s latest novel is inspired by the untold stories of forgotten women in literature. Set during the Summer of Love, Haight-Ashbury, 1967, this novel focuses on two men of classic literature, Dracula and Mr. Rochester, and the two women who survived them, Bertha and Lucy. Now Bertha and Lucy are undead immortals, and when Dracula and Rochester make a shocking return, these women refuse to be victims again. This time, they will have their revenge.
The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson (September 6)
Tiffany D. Jackson’s White Smoke was my favorite YA horror novel of 2021, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this new novel all year. Especially because it’s a retelling of Stephen King’s Carrie. Madison Washington is a student at Springville High, a small high school in small-town Georgia. She’s always been the target of bullying, but things get much worse after her big secret is revealed: she’s biracial and has been passing as white, at the behest of her white father Thomas Washington. After a video that reveals the high school’s racism goes viral, Springville students know they have to rehabilitate their image. Their solution? Hosting the school’s first integrated prom. But of course the students’ intentions aren’t all good. They still have a few surprises for Maddy. And when Maddy reveals another one of her well-kept secrets, she’ll have a big surprise for them as well.
It Looks Like Us by Alison Ames (September 13)
Sure, it’s still hot outside, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early for a snowy horror novel. Riley Kowalski is spending her winter break on a research trip to Antarctica, along with five student volunteers, a chaperone, and an impartial scientist. Their aim is to prove that environmental plastic pollution has reached all the way to Antarctica. But what they find instead is much, much worse. When Riley first notices their expedition leader, Greta, is acting strange, she writes it off as her overactive imagination. Then Greta snaps and tries to kill Riley before she completely disintegrates, and suddenly Riley realizes something has infiltrated the camp. And if they’re not careful, it could replace any one of them.
Daphne by Josh Malerman (September 20)
Best-selling horror author Josh Malerman is reinventing the slasher genre with his new female villain Daphne. For Kit Lamb, this is her last high school summer, which means it’s her last summer with the basketball team, the last summer with her best friend Dana, and the last summer before her life begins. But Kit’s world gets turned upside down when one of her fellow basketball players tells a ghost story about Daphne, a girl who went to their school many years ago and died under mysterious circumstances. Shortly after Kit hears the story, her teammates start to disappear. Are the stories of Daphne real, or is it all in Kit’s head? Either way, Kit will have to face her fears before this becomes her last summer — ever.
Ghost Eaters by Clay McLeod Chapman (September 20)
If the stunning cover of Clay McLeod Chapman’s latest horror novel doesn’t scare you, how about this synopsis? Erin and Silas have been in a tumultuous, on-again, off-again relationship for years. Erin knows that Silas is reckless and that her relationship with him is toxic, so she decides to end things with him once and for all. But then she learns that Silas has died of an overdose, and what’s more, apparently Silas had discovered a drug that would allow him to see the dead. Erin doesn’t believe in ghosts, but in her grief and guilt for abandoning Silas, she agrees to a pill-popping “séance” to ease her pain. Unfortunately for Erin, it appears as if the drug is real, and once she attempts to step into the real world, her visions of the dead refuse to let her go. Are the bloody and brutal images she sees all around her the effects of some powerful drug? Or is something more sinister at play?
The Getaway by Lamar Giles (September 20)
We started with a bang, so let’s end with a bang. The Getaway is another one of my most-anticipated horror novels of the year, from one of my favorite YA authors, Lamar Giles. This book is about Jay, who is loving his life at Karloff Country, one of the world’s most famous resorts. He’s got good friends, a great family, and a job he loves, working after school at the property’s main theme park. The world outside might not be going so great, but inside the resort, people can escape from their problems. Little does Jay know what’s really going on. When the richest and most powerful families arrive and don’t leave, employees discover that the resort has been selling shares in an end-of-the-world oasis. As the world ends outside, the most powerful people in the world can remain safe and taken care of. And Jay and the rest of the resort’s employees will be the ones to care for them, whether they like it or not.
I hope these horror books help you stay cool this summer! Looking for more horror recommendations? Check out the spring horror you might have missed. And don’t forget to sign up for our horror newsletter The Fright Stuff.