Books Reading List

Nine horror books to read this February

This is the first in a new series where we round-up the most interesting new (UK) releases in horror and cross-over horror fiction. “Cross-over” is worth specifying because a number of the books here wouldn’t be shelved under “horror” in the average bookshop but alongside other literary fiction, so it’s all the more important we call them out. One of the aims of Sublime Horror is to remove some of the artificial boundaries between what is “genre” and what isn’t, which I hope will bring new books to the attention of readers who might otherwise fall into one camp or the other. The first book on this list is a brilliant example of what I’m referring to.

The last thing I will say in my introduction is that by including these books here, I am not necessarily recommending them for I haven’t read them all. What I am recommending, however, is that you check them out, as you’ll likely discover something you’ll enjoy.

New releases

You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian

You Know You Want This is Kristen Roupenian’s confidently-titled first short story collection, containing the 2017 “viral sensation” Cat Person, published first in The New Yorker. You Know You Want This is one of those rare (or maybe they’re not so rare) books that straddle the fence between what is classed as “horror fiction” and “literary fiction”, and I am especially keen to include it in this list so other horror readers pick it up. These stories are of “women’s lives now… In some, women endure the horror. In others, they inflict it.” I suspect we are going to be hearing a lot from Kristen Roupenian in the years to come.

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The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

C. J. Tudor comes Stephen King approved, which is reason enough to read her second book about the disappearance and reappearance of a young girl who was fundamentally changed by the experience but could never speak of what actually happened. Then, out of the blue, the mystery begins to unravel as events repeat themselves.

Read our review of The Taking of Annie Thorne.

Re-releases and new editions

The Library Window by Margaret Oliphant

This under-read classic of Victorian ghost story fiction is being released in a new edition by Broadview Press and it feels quite timely given our focus on Victorian fiction recently, especially that written by women. The Library Window is a short story about a young woman who, while recuperating at her aunt’s house in Scotland, spends a great deal of time staring out of the upstairs window. Of particular interest is the window of a university library across the way where she sees things that are there and then not there, and it is not clear whether these are figments of her imagination.

In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey

Originally released last year, Dale Bailey’s modern gothic fairytale-inspired fantasy is being re-released by HarperVoyager in a new hardback edition. The story centres around the biographer of Caedmon Hollow, the Victorian writer of the fictional children’s book In the Night Wood, who moves from America to England with his wife to stay in Hollow’s home, which the couple have inherited. While researching Hollow’s life, they discover a truth close to the apparent fiction of In the Night Wood and are haunted by a past come alive.

Read our review of In the Night Wood.


The Face in the Glass: The Gothic Tales of Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Another entry in the brilliant Tales of the Weird series by the British Library, this book does what the series does best: unearths forgotten or long-unpublished stories. Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who published more than eighty novels in her long career (the best known of which is the ‘sensation novel’ Lady Audley’s Secret ), is a brilliant example of one of the many Victorian women who used their skill as writers to make a living for themselves. This edition is, I think, a re-release of a collection the British Library published in 2014, and features a selection of Braddon’s supernatural tales.

The Mammoth Book of Nightmare Stories edited by Stephen Jones

Another book in the Mammoth Book of… series edited by Stephen Jones (previous Best New Horror editions have won many British Fantasy Awards for best anthology collection), this one featuring “unjustly overlooked or ignored” stories by big-name authors such as Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Kim Newman, and Poppy Z. Brite, all on the theme of sleep and nightmares.

Paperback releases

The Sing of the Shore by Lucy Wood

Lucy Wood’s second short story collection speaks of a Cornwall we’re less aware of, bleak and out-of-season, where the sea is a constant presence in a series of stories that are in turns thrilling, haunting, and beautiful. Much like another short story collection, Fen by Daisy Johnson, The Sing of the Shore is about a place and landscape, described by Patrick Gale as “a wholly original Cornish Gothic”.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Another book with the Stephen King stamp of approval (who will take Stephen King’s place as the his-name-on-the-cover-will-sell-books reviewer when he stops publically announcing his favourite books on Twitter?). Based on the true story of the ill-fated Donner party, Katsu’s novel is about the wagon train headed west that turns to disaster, as people begin to die and reach the brink of madness. “Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere”.

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

John Malerman has been propelled to stardom following the hit Netflix movie adaptation of his first novel Birdbox late last year. I think it says a lot about the quality of the novel that the movie, despite its great success, was not remotely as good as the book. But that’s a different conversation. Unbury Carol, described as a “surreal, Wild West take on Sleeping Beauty“, is about a woman who has a peculiar malady that causes her to “die” but only for a few days, before coming back to life. Infamous outlaw James Moxie must save Carol from an early grave as her husband plots to bury her alive.

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