I didn’t realize what a fantastic year this was for horror fiction until I sat down to write this list. So many good books, a lot of which—unfortunately—I couldn’t find room for. I didn’t get to read everything I wanted to this year (does anyone ever?), and I’m sure I missed some great books that deserve a spot. If you want a complete list of the books I read this year, visit my Goodreads page. Also, I feel the need to mention that this list represents my personal favorites from 2017 and I only included books I actually read or listened to. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below!
Let’s get started!
10 – Those Who Follow by Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason – Last year I really enjoyed The Sisters of Slaughter’s Mayan Blue. Those Who Follow is a fantastic follow-up. The plot is simple, yet complex in the way it unfolds, and the Sisters do a tremendous job weaving together the storyline. If you’re looking for some old-fashioned brutal horror mixed with a tale of interdimensional wandering, this might be for you.
9 – The Boulevard Monster by Jeremy Hepler – From what I understand this is a debut novel from author Jeremy Hepler, though it hardly reads like one. Hepler’s ability to tell a great story really carries this novel through to the end, and quickly. I breezed through this in about two sittings. Told in first-person, the story follows a hard-working family man trying to do the best he can and the choices he’s confronted with when he finds a body in the back of his friend’s pickup truck. I’d probably call it a supernatural thriller, but honestly, it’s so much more than that. The pacing of this book is unbelievable and I encourage all of you looking for an engrossing page-turner to check this novel out.
8 – We Came Back by Patrick Lacey – Patrick Lacey has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Dream Woods was excellent. We Came Back is just as excellent. While crafting dynamic characters and reinventing old horror tropes, Lacey’s story about mysterious forces taking over a small-town high school is simply a must-read for any fan of the genre. It’s like Salem’s Lot meets The Faculty. Just read it.
7 – What Do Monsters Fear? by Matt Hayward – Another author whose books have taken up a good chunk of my shelf space. In What Do Monsters Fear?, Hayward explores the dangers of addiction and the struggles of getting clean, casting an interesting light on these socially-relevant topics. This novel makes my list, not because of its themes, but because of Hayward’s nearly-flawless execution. Plus it has monsters, actual monsters, not just the beasts inside ourselves, and I’m a sucker for well-crafted creature features. The themes are just an added bonus. Add this one to your TBR.
6 – Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – More psychological thriller than straight horror, Behind Her Eyes is one of the more messed-up books on this list. Packed with chapters that ended with me eagerly flipping the page and plenty of holy-shit-what-the-hell-is-going-on-here moments, Pinborough’s novel about two women from vastly different backgrounds and how their lives become intertwined is straight-up bonkers. Unfaithful lovers, astral projection (yes, I said astral projection), and murder plots all contribute to a twisty-turn plot that concludes in jaw-dropping fashion. I hate to use the overused phrase “an ending you won’t see coming!”, but yeah. That.
5 – We Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea – It’s no secret: I enjoy Hunter Shea’s books. He’s a master of his art and We Are Always Watching might be the best of his bunch. The novel is actually a huge departure from most of his other stuff. This tale revolves around a family that finds out their new digs is being watched (haunted?) by a sinister group calling themselves The Guardians. Creepy stuff. Shea has crafted a page-turning mystery that really gets beneath the reader’s skin. Perfect for any fan of the genre.
4 – Ararat by Christopher Golden – Snow. Treacherous mountains. Secret caves. Noah’s Ark discovered. Demonic activity. If these things sound agreeable to your earholes, then you’ll want to check out Christopher Golden’s Ararat. Golden’s epic story about a group of scholars and a film crew making a terrifying discovery inside Noah’s Ark is filled with constant dread. It’s a bit of a slow-burn, especially compared to the other books on this list, but in the end, totally worth the journey. Golden’s writing is flawless and I love the situations his characters find themselves in. A fantastic horror novel, one of 2017’s best.
3 – Bone White by Ronald Malfi – This book was number one on my list up until a month ago. Malfi’s books never disappoint, nor do they ever fall short of expectations. Bone White is quite possibly my favorite of his, and that’s saying a lot since the man’s body of work is quite stellar. This engaging novel follows a man whose brother has gone missing in Alaska and his journey to find out what happened to him. Throw in a mysterious serial killer plot and a local legend about a devil who steals people’s souls, and you have yourself a heck of a novel you won’t be able to avert your eyes from. Fantastic stuff here.
2 – The Changeling by Victor LaValle – I wasn’t a big fan of LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom as much as others were, and it almost caused me to skip this gem of a novel. The Changeling starts off slow but builds toward this super creative and gut-wrenching story about a father who’s lost everything but refuses to accept his new reality—and with good reason; everything he thinks he knows isn’t the whole truth. One-part fairy tale, one-part supernatural thriller, The Changeling is one of the most breathtaking novels I’ve read in recent memory. It could easily be number one on this list. The hype around this novel is real, folks. A must-read for fans of fairy-tale horror and literary horror. Impressive on all fronts.
1 – Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman – I struggled with how to rank my top two. Both novels were amazing. Ultimately, I decided to go with Black Mad Wheel because of Malerman’s sheer originality and lyrical prose. The latter lends itself incredibly to this novel, making it one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. The story follows an old, washed-up band as they become appointed by the U.S. Army to investigate a mysterious sound emanating from somewhere in the African desert. Sound crazy? It is. But in the best way. The way Malerman constructs his prose is masterful, especially how he writes for the senses. Black Mad Wheel is a beautifully-crafted novel and I hope this thing gets its fair share of love and praise. Utterly mesmerizing.
Bonus: Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix. Not a novel, but fuck, you have to read this.
Other awesome novels from 2017 you should totally check out: The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling, Cavern of the Damned by Russell James, What the Hell Did I Just Read (John Dies in the End #3) by David Wong, A God in the Shed by J.F. Dubeau, and The Hemotophages by Stephen Kozeniewski.