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Five Horror Novels You Should Read But Haven’t

If you want comfort in the form of a classic scare but don’t want to read or re-read the usual suspects, here are five exquisite reads perfect for pumpkin-sipping page turning.

Fall is quickly creeping up on us with its ghostly little feet, and while some people may begin to feel the desire for all things pumpkin, I crave one thing and one thing only: a stellar horror novel.

If you love horror as much as me, you are well-versed in the classics of the genre. You’ve devoured all the “best of” lists and re-read Stephen King’s novels until you can recite the upcoming dialogue as well as any teenager spewing Katniss quips at a Hunger Games screening. But here’s the thing—horror is genre with a very steep drop-off point. When you’ve read the really, really good stuff it becomes hard to subsist on the bottom-shelf swill that inevitably clots the market. And fall is no time to waste the twilight hours on anything but the highest quality crisp-air page turners. What’s a horror fan to do?

Heather Herrman's debut horror novel, Consumption, is out now from Random House imprint Hydra. She also teaches fiction classes online with The Loft Literary Center and will be teaching a new class this October with her incredible agent, superwoman Barbara Poelle. The class, Double-Take: Writing Scenes that Hook an Agent & Keep a Reader, is open now for registration.

Heather Herrman - featured

Never fear, if you want comfort in the form of a classic scare but don’t want to read or re-read the usual suspects, here are five exquisite reads perfect for pumpkin-sipping page turning.

  1. Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon: Even if you’ve never heard of Thomas Tryon, you may have seen him in such classic films as The Cardinal. The deceased author was best known as a prominent Hollywood actor but, fed up with the lifestyle (in which he was forced to keep his sexuality closeted), Tryon left acting to write. Harvest Home is one of his best novels, accomplished, atmospheric, and incredibly well-written. The plot is familiar—couple Ned and Beth Constantine move to the country with their young daughter to escape city life only to find things are not as they seem—but the execution is anything but. Think, Children of the Corn as penned by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If you need a slow burn for a cool night, this is it.
  1. Furnace by Muriel Gray: I have a weakness for “on the road” horror novels. Cross-country driving is like peanut butter to horror’s bloody jelly. And who better to be on the road with than a big rig driver? Furnace is a fast-paced read with a shocking beginning that requires a strong stomach. If you liked Dean Koontz’s Intensity, you’ll love this.

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  1. Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman: Influenced by Stephen King’s The Shining and Euripides’ The Bacchae and then meticulously researched on a Fulbright Grant, this book is a terrifying exploration of cultural and geographic alienation. Set in a remote Finnish convalescent hospital for wealthy women, we follow protagonist Sunny, an American nurse, as she is pulled by internal and external horrors to a primal, unforgettable conclusion. If you liked Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, this is your book.

[Learn 5 Tools for Building Conflict in Your Novel]

  1. Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown: Though most horror fans won’t have read it (unless on a required reading list for college), this book is often considered the first American horror novel. Wieland is a psychological tale of one man’s growing insanity, in which he is led, finally, to commit the ultimate crime against his family. If you like The Amityville Horror, here’s the true original.
  1. The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson: Okay, so I’m cheating a little here on the finale. This book and its author are not exactly unknown. Evenson has actually created quite a buzz for himself. That said, this book doesn’t get a lot of attention from the every day horror fan, and it should. Evenson writes with the pen of a literary master, and/but his subject matter is dark, dark, dark—proving once again that the best horror escapes genre classifications. In this story, the reader follows teenager Rudd as he becomes entangled with the rare Mormon ritual of blood sacrifice. If you like the television show True Detective,The Open Curtain is your jam.

How about you? What are your favorite horror books that you think the typical horror fan should read but hasn’t? Let me know in the comments or feel free to reach out to me on twitter @horrorandbrains or online at

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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