If you were to ask me to rank the seasons best for horror reading, it be a strong tie between summer and fall. As much as I enjoy fall for beginning the start of scary book reading, summer is ripe for scares too. A lot of that has to do because I distinctly remember reading a lot of scary books in the summer growing up.
I started off my horror reading with Goosebumps. At the time, I thought that that Fear Street and Christopher Pike books would be too scary. I also was a fan of the Sweet Valley Twins Super Horror specials and Bruce Coville’s The Ghost in Row 13.
We are also huge horror fans over here at Book Riot. For the last three years, we have teamed up with Horror Writer’s Association, United for Libraries, and Booklist for Summer Scares. These winners are always well rounded and carefully selected before the honor is bestowed on them and helps to foster a love of reading even in the summer.
This idea of scary summer horror shenanigans even has a presence in the world of BookTube with the Summerween Readathon. This name comes from a Gravity Falls episode of the same name and if you haven’t seen the series yet, I highly recommend it. The readathon has passed but you can still check out the announcement video here if you’d like to participate with your own group of friends.
So, don’t let the fact that it’s summer and hot as all get out deter you from getting your scary reads on since you can soak in the rays while getting your scare on. Whether you’re reading it for your own joy, a readathon, a buddy read or book club, here are some summer horror books for your consideration.
Christina’s Ghost by Betty Ren Wright
Due to a change of circumstances, 10-year old Christina ends up facing the prospect of spending her summer with her cranky uncle rather than her loving grandmother. Determined to make the best of it, she spends most of her day staying out of his way and exploring the Victorian he lives in — and stumbles across the ghost of a boy. From that moment she has a new goal; to find out how he died. This is a staple of children’s literature and still is a fan favorite even all these years later.
Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon
After over a year of being missing, Zee shows up much to the joy of his friends and his mother. However, this turns to apprehension when it becomes increasingly apparent that Zee came back different. After a game of hide and seek goes awry, his friends Jake, Nia, and Lyric find themselves pulled to the Nowhere with seemingly no way to get back home. This is a new release and I don’t think enough people are talking about it. This is one I tore through and highly recommend.
Kill River by Cameron Roubique
Cyndi and her new found friends decide to sneak away from their summer camp in the middle of the night to run away back home. These plans change when they come across a seemingly abandoned but fully functioning water park. As they are kids, they see nothing at all wrong with this until they start disappearing one by one. This is a slasher movie in book form so it doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s good campy fun. If you’re a fan of ’80s settings and horror movies, this one is a good one to give a try to. And if you do enjoy it, in traditional slasher story form, it has two sequels.
The Lifeguard by Richie Tankersley Cusick
I mean, just look at that cover. That just screams scary beach read right there. It is also a Point Horror book, which was one of the go-tos for YA horror in the early ’90s. This one is about Kelsey, who gets invited to the famous Beverly Island for a fun-filled summer. Too bad for her that someone appears to have other plans for her…As I mentioned, this is a ’90s horror, so expect a fair amount of cheese. Still, if you’re looking for an entertaining way to pass a couple of hours, this will do it.
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
If you like Scooby-Doo and Lovecraft, well you’re in luck here with this mash-up homage to both. Bonus points if you were a Velma and Daphne shipper. Even without all that, this is an interesting little book told in a unique storytelling format. It’s got a bit of a bumpy start but once it gets going the twists and turns will have you scrambling to get to the end.
Ghost Summer: Stories by Tanarive Due
This is a collection of short stories and the title alone should give away why it’s here. Due also puts a paragraph before each story citing her inspiration for the story that follows, which is always nice to see. Plus, I always think of summer when I think of scary ghost stories since I picture reading or listening to them around a campfire. Since if you manage to get me camping it’s only going to be in the summer since I don’t do the cold well.
Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones
Sawyer’s final prank of the summer goes terribly wrong when the mannequin he sneaks into a theater to scare a friend comes to life and starts killing people. He has a plan to stop these murders and prevent further deaths, no matter the cost. This is a short and trippy one; but it’s well loved by horror aficionados and just the perfect book for an afternoon sipping the beverage of your choice on your porch.
Survive the Night by Danielle Vega
Casey is fresh out of rehab and lets her friends Aya, Julie, and Shana drag her to an all night-rave called Survive the Night. I mean, personally I would not go to a rave fresh out of rehab, but to each their own. Casey is feeling nervous about going and these feelings are very validated when she finds Julie’s dead body and realizes that they’re being hunted. To me, an all night rave just screams summer or at the very least a school vacation.
Asylum by Madeleine Roux
Dan arrives at the New Hampshire College prep ready an exciting and promising opportunity that will help him in the long run. It starts off rough when he’s moved to Brookline Dorm, which use to the an asylum for the criminally insane — and the doctor there didn’t exactly follow protocol when “helping” his patients. I don’t care who you are, former asylums are creepy as all get out and this takes place during a college prep week which is fancy talk for summer school.