Ah, summer! Bust out your May Queen headdress, book a cabin at your favorite lakeside camp, splurge on an exclusive tasting at a Michelin-starred restaurant, or commit some accidental vehicular homicide… but don’t forget your beach reads. Here you’ll find a selection of tasty horror-adjacent books for any literary appetite. Lather up that sunscreen and get reading, ghouls!
For Armchair Academics
The Black Guy Dies First by Robin R. Means Coleman and Mark H. Harris: In the post-Jordan Peele era, it might be easy to forget the precarious position occupied by Black characters in horror media for decades preceding. History nerds and horror hounds alike will find new analyses delivered in humorous, conversational style. For fans of: Horror Noire, Tananarive Due, and survival through genre awareness.
Gothic Nature Journal, edited by Elizabeth Parker: Subtitled “New Directions in Ecohorror and the EcoGothic,” this open-access journal explores nature-centered horror in an engaging fashion. With contributions from established academics as well as newcomers, the journal delivers topics as broad-ranging as suburban landscaping in A Nightmare on Elm Street, hunting motifs in Yellowjackets, and plenty of book and film reviews. For fans of: Annihilation, Swamp Thing, and overthinking it.
It Came from the Closet, edited by Joe Vallese: A powerhouse collection of essays on the intersections of queerness and horror–come for the star power of Carmen Maria Machado on Jennifer’s Body, stay for the sleeper hit of Carrow Narby on The Blob and Society. A mix of academic and personal angles keeps this anthology readable and fast-paced. For fans of: Susan Sontag, Bodies Bodies Bodies, and clove cigarettes.
Nightmare Fuel, by Nina Nesseth: A flagship title from spec-fic titan Tor’s foray into horror, Tor Nightfire, Nightmare Fuel explores the brain and body responses behind the screams. If you’ve ever wondered why you’re impervious to jump scares but a creepy score will haunt your dreams, read on! Interviews with directors, composers, and academics set this pop-science title apart. For fans of: John Carpenter, mad scientists, and Fear Factor.
For Monsters and the People Who Love Them
The Gathering Dark, edited by Tori Bovalino: This collection features young adult heavy hitters such as Alison Saft, Aden Polydoros, Hannah Whitten, and more. Cemeteries, bridges, lakes, and other famously spooky locales haunt the pages, delivering solid weird-Americana vibes. For fans of: Midsommar, monster-of-the-week episodes, and small towns with dark underbellies.
The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro: Generational trauma and Mexican folklore meld for this lush, deeply-felt iteration of grief horror. Alejandra’s journey through pain and power hits with both fists, particularly given our current backdrop of American politics. For fans of: La Llorona, contemporary gothics, and complicated mother-daughter relationships.
Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer: Less Godzilla and more Polanski, this isn’t an easy read, but it is a rewarding one. Dederer’s exploration of monstrous genius in American culture lets no one off the hook. For fans of: Possession, problematic faves, and cursed film sets.
Sister, Maiden, Monster by Lucy Hannah Snyder: Queer in every sense, Snyder’s offering to the pandemic gods serves up body horror on a platter. If apocalypse means “revelation,” these characters experience both a world-ending plague and a world-opening of bodily change, sexuality, and appetites. For fans of: The Lure, Ovid, and ethical cannibalism.
For Strummers of Satan’s Chord
Black Metal Rainbows, edited by Daniel Lukes and Stanimir Panayotov: This collection challenges mainstream assumptions of black metal as innately conservative, insular, and unwelcoming. The book’s mixed-media approach–art, essays, and other formats are included–highlights the kaleidoscopic nature of contemporary black metal. Queer artists and authors of color are centered, creating a prismatic, multi-faceted, and life-affirming effect. For fans of: Until the Light Takes Us, Blackbraid, and SPF 70.
Gone to the Wolves by John Wray: A riotous examination of those relationships held together solely by love of Their Thing (whether that’s comic books, the Mets, or grindcore), and an ode to all things loud and heavy. Wray blends a fan’s genre worship with nods to infamous metal-world incidents, intense and insular friendships, and the doom-laden landscapes of Norway. For fans of: Heavy Metal Parking Lot, Tampa Bay death metal, and codependent relationships.
Sleep Alone by J.A.W. McCarthy: Merch girl blues, meet a band of real man-eaters. A booze-soaked body horror bonanza, this indier-than-thou first novel takes readers on a doomed tour through the moody Pacific Northwest. For fans of: Green Room, Clive Barker, and basement shows.
Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand: Drenched in atmosphere and vibing to its own beat, this neo-Gothic is for anyone who thought Daisy Jones and the Six could’ve used more occultism. Add in some docu-horror and you’ve got a chart-topper. For fans of: A Field in England, Agatha Christie, and the Rashomon effect.