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Gothic Summer Reading List: Best Modern Horror Novels

Whether you’re heading off somewhere sunnier or staying at home this summer, you’re going to need a few decent reads to get stuck into. We’ve put together a gothic summer reading list for those that like stories with a darker edge to them.

We’re going to go right ahead and assume you’re all clued up on the horror classics (we’re talking Frankenstein, Dracula etc.) and dive straight into some of the best books to emerge from the horror genre in the 21st century, you may recognise some of the titles already…

NOS4A2 – Joe Hill

The son of Stephen King was always going to be a prolific horror writer, it’s in his blood. Joe Hill has become a horror legend in his own right, and NOS4A2 is one of his best sellers. Voted the best horror book of the 21st century by the people of Goodreads, this 2013 horror has to make its way on your reading list.

NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.”

 

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

Great pic by @spineless_bookwyrm

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A singer/songwriter for the band The High Strung as well as a writer, Josh Malerman would write while on the road with the band. His debut novel Bird Box skyrocketed him to popularity in the horror genre, gaining him a ton of nominations and accolades back in 2014. With a storyline not unlike the film A Quiet Place, Josh Malerman’s book surely deserves a spot on your reading list.

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?”

 

Doctor Sleep – Stephen King

A real love it or hate it entry from Stephen King, enough readers loved the unexpected sequel to King’s famous The Shining. Revisiting the character of Danny (now going by Dan) Torrance is a far from comforting experience. Definitely loop back and read The Shining if you’ve only seen the film before you dive into this sequel, but don’t expect little Danny Torrance to be exactly as you found him…

Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.”

 

The Passage – Justin Cronin

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The first Cronin’s trilogy, The Passage was an instant phenomenon. Cronin found himself compared to Stephen King and Margaret Atwood and spent 3 months on The New York Times bestseller list for his efforts. For those that love a suspenseful horror with an end-of-the-world feel, The Passage is a must-read!

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.”

 

John Dies at the End – David Wong

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Finding yourself in need of some comic relief? David Wong (the pseudonym of author Jason Pargin) has written a one of a kind series that starts right here with John Dies at the End. A tongue in cheek read that’s hellbent on breaking the third wall, this book is packed with horror, action, and some downright surreal moments. Those with a dark sense of humour are sure to find their new favourite book series in amongst these pages.

“STOP. You should not have touched this flyer with your bare hands. NO, don’t put it down. It’s too late. They’re watching you. My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours. You may not want to know about the things you’ll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it’s too late. You touched the book. You’re in the game. You’re under the eye. The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.

The important thing is this: The drug is called Soy Sauce and it gives users a window into another dimension. John and I never had the chance to say no. You still do. I’m sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the very dark epoch the world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind: None of this was my fault.”

 

House of Leaves – Mark Z Danielewski

House of Leaves has something of a cult following and is notoriously complex to read – the story isn’t simply written out in standard paragraphs, instead you’ll find yourself turning the book at all angles, squinting to read the writing and shaking your head in frustration at the lack of linear…well, everything. If you need a project book to delve into – this is it. Walking that tightrope between genius and pretentious, House of Leaves is an iconic title, whatever you make of it…

Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth—musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies—the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story—of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.”

 

Horns – Joe Hill

So good we had to include him twice, Horns is another Joe Hill title that’s become hugely popular, owing primarily to the film adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe. Horns is a surreal ride through the life of protagonist Ignatius Perrish; great starter novel if you’re new to Joe Hill and still worth a read if you’ve already seen the film.

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside.”

 

Haunted – Chuck Palahniuk

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The author of Fight Club Chuck Palahniuk has become infamous for his boundary pushing fiction, and Haunted may just be the toughest read yet. Those with a weak stomach, look away now, Haunted is gut churning, heart wrenching, and a totally unique piece of writing. One of Chuck’s most divisive books yet, you might want to keep a sick bag near you while you read.

Haunted is a novel made up of stories: twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales you’ll ever encounter.

The stories are told by people who have all answered an ad headlined ‘Artists Retreat: Abandon your life for three months’. They are led to believe that here they will leave behind all the distractions of ‘real life’ that are keeping them from creating the masterpiece that is in them.

But ‘here’ turns out to be a cavernous and ornate old theater where they are utterly isolated from the outside world – and where heat and power and, most importantly, food are in increasingly short supply. And the more desperate the circumstances become, the more desperate the stories they tell – and the more devious their machinations to make themselves the hero of the inevitable play/movie/non-fiction blockbuster that will certainly be made from their plight.”

 

The Strain – Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

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Now a popular TV series, this trilogy co-written by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan seeks to take back the vampire narrative that was arguable ruined by the likes of Twilight. Reinstating the threat and brutal gore of vampires, The Strain is a refreshing vampire apocalypse story in a sea of sparkly vampire boyfriends.

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing.

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city – a city that includes his wife and son – before it is too late.”

The Wolves in the Walls – Neil Gaiman

Okay this is for little ones, but if you’re taking the kids on holiday with you they might as well join in with your spooky holiday reading! The Wolves in the Walls is a great Neil Gaiman title to get kids started on the supernatural with a unique take on the classic ‘child who called wolf’ tale.

Lucy hears sneaking, creeping,

crumpling noises

coming from inside

the walls.

She is sure there are

wolves living in

the walls

of her house.

But, as everybody says, if the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.”

 

So you’ve got the books but how’s the rest of your holiday prep going? Check out our holiday shop to pick up all those last minute holiday essentials from Attitude Clothing!

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