Welcome to Dead Leaves, an occasional table stacked high with recent horror tomes! Today we delve into winter reading: the most vibes-based of all reading, perhaps? Some of us seek cozy comfort reads during the shortest days; some of us use the long nights to tackle chunky tomes we’ve been putting off. And then there’s those of us who take only the scariest tales with us under the sheets. If you’re that type, here’s a selection of wintry weird sure to chill your bones.
Short as the Solstice Day
The Collectors by Philip Pullman: short but suitably brisk and nasty, this His Dark Materials supplementary novelette has all the trappings of a wintry night in England. Roaring fires, mysterious visitors, and ancient stone buildings are highlighted by ink illustrations and Pullman’s trademark dark humor. For fans of: the source series, haunted paintings, and port wine.
Dead of Winter by Kealan Patrick Burke: Prismatic as a snowflake, this collection offers all the proof you need to stay inside from December til March. Readers be warned–if you already have Scrooge tendencies, stories like “Visitation Rights” that explore family holiday dynamics will dial them up to 11. For fans of: Black Christmas, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” and getting coal in your stocking.
Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories by Thomas Anguti Johnson, et al: From forces of nature to post-apocalyptic settlements and intimations of the wendigo, there’s an icy edge for every reader in this anthology. The remoteness, isolation, and rough terrain of the Arctic are utilized to uncanny effect, while Native and First Nations cultures inflect the stories with authentic subjectivity. For fans of: Sasquatch, Slash/Back, and snowstorms.
Unspeakable/Unthinkable, ed. Celine Frohn: Not strictly snowy, but the Gothic’s true season is winter. This anthology duo queers Gothic tropes with great relish and to even greater effect. Expect crumbling estates, shadowy pacts, and hauntings aplenty. A shameless plug–Dee Holloway’s late-autumn story “Vestal” is included in Unthinkable! For fans of: Algernon Blackwood, Crimson Peak, and ghost romances.
Weird Fiction Quarterly Winter ’22, ed. Sarah Walker, et al: Short and not-so-sweet, this collection of wintry flash goes well with your hot beverage of choice. Whet your appetite with a sneak preview of “Whiteout,” available on Weird Quarterly’s website. For fans of: Mythos stories, The Thing, and classic pulps.
The Winter Spirits: Ghostly Tales for Frosty Nights by Stuart Turton, et al: On the gentler side of spooky sits this extremely European collection. If you’ve ever wondered about the line “scary ghost stories and tales of the glories” from “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas,” these jaunts through haunted castles and fog-shrouded islands answer the question. For fans of: Scrooged, the Mari Lwyd, and seance parties.
Long as the Midwinter Night
30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith: The OG! It’s never the wrong year to reread this landmark graphic novel, or experience it for the first time. An Alaskan take on the Western, a nest of truly frightening vampires (no sparkles or sex appeal here), and gory, instantly-iconic art… plus a credible film version? Your January longread is set. For fans of: vampires.
All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes: Trans man stowaway? Check! Post-WWI emotional milieu? Check! Antarctic voyage gone wrong? Check check check! Survival horror tropes are tempered by a deep exploration of grief and identity–plus some tasty preternatural thrills. For fans of: Alma Katsu, At the Mountains of Madness, and Weird tales.
Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom: There’s no one like Brom for the perfect slice of delicious poison. Well-balanced between darkly lovely illustrations and evocative prose, The Yule Lord situates Krampus in West Virginia. This vibe shift works like gangbusters for readers seeking an American tall tale, rooting Krampus and Klaus in the land as genii loci and forces of nature. For fans of: monster boyfriends, pagan rituals, and Old Gods of Appalachia.
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice: This stealthy hit is finally receiving a sequel, just in time for the cold season. Eerily prescient of the COVID-19 crisis, Rice’s novel is skillful and readable… and best digested in small bites. For fans of: Station Eleven, The Last of Us, and homesteading.
Road of Bones by Christopher Golden: A documentarian searching for the stories of the Siberian gulag gets a bit more than he bargained for. From spectral wolves and inexplicable accidents to ghost towns and the sins of history, Golden’s thriller hits the perfect edge between thriller and supernatural horror. For fans of: found footage films, A Murder at the End of the World, and Atlas Obscura.
The Route of Ice and Salt by José Luis Zárate: If The Last Voyage of the Demeter left you high and dry, try this sexy take on the doomed ship’s voyage. Only recently available in an English translation, Zárate’s novella contains all the chills and sweats of a fever dream. For fans of: The Terror, queer-coded villains, and of course Dracula.
Are you shivering yet? Dreaming of a Christmas romance with Krampus? Either way, grab your library card and stock up before winter vacation begins. Happy reading, ghouls!