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i don't read horror except when I do...
a few books to brave--and why they're safe, I swear
On the one hand, bookstores are the best. On the other… when you’re NOT in the bookstore, you’re not limited by where a book is shelved. Because here’s the thing: I don’t think I ever would have tried these books if they’d been sitting under a big “horror” label (although more and more, you’ll just find these under “fiction” and this is why…
But what is horror, anyway? Scary creepy stuff in varying degrees. And I LIKE scary: if it’s the right kind. The Halloween kind. The kind where I don’t have to contemplate real people doing awful things. In the immortal words of Ghostbusters, I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost. Or at least, I am—but in print, at least, it’s a kind of scary I like.
So: I adored Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison. What’s it really like to turn into a werewolf? It sucks… and it bears a remarkable resemblance to being pregnant, and has some bad-ass feminist implications and turns out to be an incredibly thoughtful and also incredibly creepy read.
Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs is in the running for one of my favorite reading experiences of the year. You won’t find this housed under horror, because the magic/witchy fantasy vibe is going to cancel out some deeply gruesome stuff… but it could be. And you should ABSOLUTELY read it anyway.
The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix might or might not be found on the horror shelves… the thing these books have in common is their unflinching look at the physicality of things like sucking blood, growing fur and fangs or spells that require body parts to work. It’s gross and horrible and fascinating and I kinda adore the practicality of the whole thing. I mean, being a monster is complicated, y’all. While we’re on the Grady Hendrix train…. I cannot recommend How to Sell a Haunted House. Oh, it’s good. It’s really good. It also includes… scary clown-puppet-dolls. A trifecta of no. But if that appeals to you, you go get that book.
Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste is CLASSIC gothic horror in every way, as Lucy (one of Dracula’s victims) and Bertha (the locked up wife of Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester) struggle to revenge themselves and escape from the men who made them what they are—reluctantly immortal and more powerful than they know. It. Is. So. Good. (My husband read and loved this one too—and the books we have in common are rare indeed. Look for an email on that shortly!)
Finally, here’s a secret about Playing the Witch Card—in its first iteration, it belonged on the horror shelves too. It’s STILL a darkly cozy story of Flair’s attempt to protect her teenaged daughter from three things: her ex, her family deck of magic Tarot cards, and her mother—and her discovery that she’s been worried about the wrong things all along.
It now involves significantly less bloodshed. So—absolutely safe for all readers! But if you DO like to dabble in darkness, it scratches that itch, too.
BTW, I talked about horror on my BookTok account. So if you’re a TikTok-er, go have a listen!