Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

It Takes Boo to Make Haunting Go Right: 8 Terrifying Horror Short Story Collections

Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty


From legendary storyteller and master of short fiction Stephen King comes an extraordinary new collection of twelve short stories, many never-before-published, and some of his best EVER. King’s ability to surprise, amaze, and bring us both terror and solace remains unsurpassed. Each of these stories holds its own thrills, joys, and mysteries; each feels iconic. You like it darker? You got it.

If you are reading this, it is probably safe to assume you enjoy being scared. WOO HOO! One of us! One of us! Horror stories are so much fun, especially when you can get a whole Gremlin-sized chunk of them at a time. It’s more bang for your “OH, F—!” Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are almost upon us, which means camping (watch out for monsters!), beach visits (watch out for sharks!), and road trips (watch out for serial killers!). And a collection of stories is perfect for this time of year when you can read just one or two in between summer activities. So, we are offering you this list of eight terrifying horror short story collections to give you chills in the warm weather.

Obviously, what scares people is different for every person, and there are a LOT of amazing horror story writers out there — Stephen King and Shirley Jackson go without saying. They’re masters and two of the most famous scary storywriters. These books on this list are some more of our favorites, each book with varying terrors and turmoil to keep your brain twisting while you try to sleep. There’s a little something horrifying between these for all you ghouls and goblins, so hold on to your butts and get ready to get scared!

cover of When Things Get Dark: Stories inspired by Shirley Jackson; image of eye glasses on the ground

When Things Get Dark: Stories Inspired by Shirley Jackson edited by Ellen Datlow

Eighteen of today’s greatest writers of the murderous and macabre tackle Shirley Jackson with their tributes to the Queen of Horror. This book, edited by the legendary Ellen Datlow, includes tales by Josh Malerman, Carmen Maria Machado, Paul Tremblay, Stephen Graham Jones, Kelly Link, Cassandra Khaw, and Seanan McGuire. They’re filled with torment, hauntings, torture, dismemberment, unease, and a bowl of beef stew you should really avoid.

Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due; image of young Black person kneeling by a body of water

Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due

Welcome to Terror Town — population: you! These are 15 stories and a novella set around strange happenings in rural settings, and they’re all so unnerving that it’s hard to tell if it’s worse to go in the house, in the lake, or in the woods! This one is a freezer book, for sure. And Due’s most recent novel, The Reformatory, is one of the greatest recent horror novels and is based on a story mentioned in this collection.

cover of Smashed by Junji Ito; illustration of scary, bloodied Asian woman peering from water

Smashed by Junji Ito

Junji Ito is the king of horror comics. He manages to portray so much creepiness and disturbing imagery in each panel. This collection contains stories about bats (and not cute ones), ghosts, a haunted house, and more disgusting, frightening events than you can shake a stick at. If you’ve never read Ito before, you should know that nothing is off limits — and it’s all drawn out for you. When people want really messed up stuff to read, this is where we point them.

cover of Entropy in Bloom by Jeremy Robert Johnson; photo of a skull with roses in its eye sockets

Entropy in Bloom by Jeremy Robert Johnson

If you like your horror on the more surreal side, JRJ is the author for you. These are like X-Files cases soaked in Red Bull inside Clive Barker’s skull. There’s a parasite making itself at home in a man’s body, extreme body modification, apocalypses, crime, and more. You will love and pet this collection and call it George, and also wonder, “Jeremy Robert Johnson, wtf is wrong with you?!?” (Be sure to also pick up Skullcrack City!)

cover of The Ones That Got Away by Stephen Graham Jones

The Ones That Got Away by Stephen Graham Jones

Surely if you are a horror fan, you know of Stephen Graham Jones by now. He’s one of the most awesome writers of the 21st century. And so freaking prolific! Most recently, he published the Indian Lake horror trilogy about a horror-loving young woman and horror tropes. (I’m going to say horror again: horror.) This is one of his many collections, with literal heartbreak, a haunted baby monitor, a disaster after a shipwreck, things in the woods, and so, so many scares you’ll want to read this in public.

cover of The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies; weird spiral flower amoeba illustration

The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies by John Langan

Another widely lauded horror writer of the last decade is John Langan. Some of these horror tales feature the familiar, like zombies, vampires, and werewolves, but all in frightening, unique takes. And there’s also plenty of flat-out weird and shiver-inducing stuff you have never imagined before. (And, if you want to read an excellent horror novel, be sure to grab Langan’s The Fisherman.)

cover of This Strange Way of Dying: Stories of Magic, Desire & the Fantastic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; illustration of woman's face painted with a skull for Dia Dos Muertoss

This Strange Way of Dying: Stories of Magic, Desire & the Fantastic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Book Riot favorite! Her last few novels have delivered vampires, curses, frightening fungi, and mad scientists. This is an older book, a weird and wild collection of tales inspired by Mexican folklore. There are legends involving scorpions, a skull tree, vampires, skin shedders, and possibly most frightening of all, giant penguins. (Come on, you know you’d freak if you encountered one.)

cover of Revenge- Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa, Stephen Snyder (translator)

And last but not least, what should already be being considered a modern classic. No Book Riot list of horror stories is complete without it! Ogawa did a complete 180 turn from her beautiful, sad novel The Housekeeper and the Professor with this collection of really messed up stories of…you know. R-E-V-E-N-G-E (Find out what it means to me…). There’s a new tenant who learns her landlord is a murderess; a surgeon interested in a singer’s unusual heart; a jealous lover plotting her beloved’s demise; a neglected house that is home to a collection of horrifying implements. All these connected tales and more comprise this creepy collection!

For more great horror book recommendations, check out 8 of the Most Polarizing Horror Novels Ever Written and Horror Comics That’ll Give You the Chills, and be sure to sign up for our horror newsletter The Fright Stuff!