Every year I sit down to write this post, I’m constantly amazed by the amount of high-quality horror fiction we’re getting. I mean, in past years I’ve really struggled to rank my ten favorites because I wanted to make them all #1. This year, I struggled with narrowing down everything I’ve read in 2019 into just ten spots. Some have suggested adding more than ten, but ten is a good solid number, it’s tradition, and what can I say – I’m reluctant to change. Two quick things – one, to qualify, the book must have been released in 2018. And two, the books on this list are only there because I’ve read or listened to them. There are probably a dozen or so books that should be on here but aren’t because I, unfortunately, didn’t get to them. You can look at everything I’ve read this year by checking out my Goodreads page, and if I missed something, please blow up the comments section at the bottom of the page. I’d love to hear from you and what you consider your favorite reads from ‘18.
So let’s get started!
TOP 10 HORROR NOVELS OF 2018
10. THE OUTSIDER by Stephen King
One part police procedural, one part creature feature, THE OUTSIDER is one of the more unique King novels to come along in quite some time. I really enjoyed this story and the characters, and its twisty plot kept me engaged the entire time. Definitely worthy of a spot in my TOP 10 of 2018. Might even be in my TOP 10 King novels.
9. THE NIGHTMARE ROOM by Chris Sorensen
If my memory serves correctly, this is Chris Sorensen’s first novel and that’s hard to believe. This was a really well-written novel that brings the scares. There were times while listening to the audiobook that I had goosebumps. Chris really knows how to build tension and I was thoroughly impressed with his characterization. Looking forward to the sequel that, I believe, comes out soon.
8. COCKBLOCK by CV Hunt
If I were ranking books based on their titles, this would be #1. Besides having a kickass title and a sweet cover, the words that follow are pretty great too. This is a balls-to-the-wall apocalyptic thriller that never runs short on action and ultra-violence. Mix all that with socially-relevant themes and an interesting cast of characters, you have yourself one of the best Indie horror books published this year.
7. SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLOOD-SOAKED by Christa Carmen
Okay, so I’m breaking a rule here. This isn’t a novel; it’s a collection. However, each story contains similar themes, all dealing with the power of addiction and the struggles of sobriety, and that makes them feel connected. It also happens to be one of my favorite books released this year, so I had to include it. Looking forward to more of Christa’s work.
6. CREATURE by Hunter Shea
Hunter has made my TOP 10 each of the last three years. The guy puts out fun stories, stuff that I can easily digest without exerting much brain power, yet, his stories all have a lasting effect. CREATURE is a different beast. This story follows a couple dealing with some very severe medical issues as they decide to take a break from the every-day pressures of their lives to spend the summer at a cottage in Maine, cut off from the rest of civilization. Only, instead of relaxing and enjoying their lives (what might be left of them) they end up getting stalked by something in the woods. I think it’s safe to say that this is Hunter’s masterpiece, the best thing he’s written to date. It’s touching, heartbreaking, and the last thirty pages are pure mayhem.
5. SKULLFACE BOY by Chad Lutzke
While you may not consider this short novel horror per se, I think it checks enough boxes to at least be enjoyed by fans of the genre. At its core, SKULLFACE BOY is a road-trip story that rips through the heart of middle/western America. What I enjoyed most about it is Lutzke’s view of America and its people through the eyes of his main character – Levi. Lutzke sprinkles in some good social commentary and a long roster of interesting characters, combining laughs, thrills, and the gut-punches we’ve come to expect from his work. This book is a real gem and I wholly recommend it.
4. THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER by Jonathan Janz
Another author who seems to find his way onto this list every year is Jonathan Janz. He’s definitely become one of those must-read authors I drop everything I’m doing for when he releases a new book. THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER is definitely one of my favorite Janz novels, and he did a great job of drawing the reader into the mysterious aspects of the ghost story while incorporating a combination of high-quality prose and rich character development. This book has all the ingredients of a classic haunted house novel, yet it feels fresh and unique, and that’s perhaps its finest quality.
3. THE SEA DREAMS IT IS THE SKY by John Horner Jacobs
I’d never heard of John Horner Jacobs until I saw this short novel/novella pop up on my Goodreads radar. But his writing is probably my favorite thing I’ve discovered as a reader this year. This short novel is engaging as it is entertaining, and Jacobs’s prose is something to be celebrated. It’s smooth and accessible while being totally literary, and, you know, the overall writing is just really fucking good. The story is solid too, and I’ll admit, I knew next to nothing about it before diving in. I recommend going in the same way. Read this book. You won’t be disappointed.
2. COYOTE SONGS by Gabino Iglesias
I read Gabino’s Zero Saints last year (I think) and I remember being totally captivated by his style. COYOTE SONGS captures the same essence, and again, his prose rendered me speechless. This book follows several different storylines which sometimes intersect. Each story deals with life near the border and the violent struggles that take place there. Not a traditional horror novel by any means, but I think the content and its gritty nature and the uber-violence portrayed here is enough to qualify. Plus, the reality these characters face and how closely it mirrors our own world is what really makes it scary, haunting, and unforgettable.
1. THE LISTENER by Robert McCammon
McCammon! I’ll preface my number one selection by saying Robert McCammon might be my favorite author of all-time. That said, THE LISTENER is a mesmerizing piece of fiction. What McCammon has always done well is characterization, and there is no better example of his mastery than this very novel. The words disappear and images form, and McCammon writes his characters like real people. THE LISTENER follows the story of a young man who can listen to other people’s thoughts even if they’re across the state. This special talent gets him mixed up in a couple’s evil plot to kidnap a rich business owner’s kids and hold them ransom. This book is all sorts of phenomenal and if you choose to ignore my first nine recommendations (even though you shouldn’t), please listen to this one.
Here are some other novels/novellas I really enjoyed this year, all of which could have made the list but didn’t for one reason or another. Check them out and their authors – I highly recommend them all.
PRACTITIONERS by Matt Hayward and Patrick Lacey
BONE SAW by Patrick Lacey
THE FAITHFUL by Matt Hayward
OUT BEHIND THE BARN by John Boden and Chad Lutzke
A WINTER SLEEP by Greg F Gifune
RETURN TO DYATLOV PASS by JH Montcrieff
HALCYON by Rio Youers
THE RUST MAIDENS by Gwendolyn Kiste
TRIPLE AXE by Scott Cole
BROKEN SHELLS by Michael Patrick Hicks