Horror Books Perfect for Summer

Summer, for most people, is a time to catch up leisure reading. Whether that reading by a beach or poolside, or in a cozy cabin, we have a great list of books for every reader.

Summer Slashers

“Wait, wait, wait,” he said, and everyone stopped to listen. “This is about those children I murdered, isn’t it?” He laughed. “Listen,” he said. “If you spare the axe, you spoil the child.” 
― Joey Comeau, The Summer is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved

  • The Summer is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved by Joey Comeau Mentioned in our Summer Horror Episode this book follows Martin as he decides to spend a summer at his grandparent’s Bible Summer Camp in order to allow his mother, a horror special effects artist, the career opportunity of a lifetime. Things, unfortunately don’t go as planned at the camp. As far as slashers go, this one is emotionally hard-hitting.
  • Kill River by Cameron Roubique. In the summer of 1983 Cyndi and her friends ditch camp via rafting down the rivers. They find themselves at an abandoned water park, but unfortunately it’s not as fun as they would think as a dark figure appears and their group begins to dwindle. Mentioned in our Summer Horror episode, this is a great story with a protagonist you can really root for, and there’s a sequel if you just can’t get enough.
  • Kill Hill Carnage by Tim Meyer. In 1991 there was a massacre at Sant Christopher’s Summer Camp for Kids, even now twenty-five years later very few people know what actually happened. Clearing up those loose ends is Frank Harmon’s job, but will he be able to do what is necessary before it’s too late? This job might come with consequences he couldn’t have imagined.
  • Under the Blade by Matt Serafini. Melanie is the sole survivor of the Cyrus Holt massacre at Camp Forest Grove. She returns the town of her attack to write her memoir, but finds that for some reason, locals arent’ happy that she is back in town. This story of course fits into the Summer Camp sub-genre, but also fits so perfectly along with the conspiratorial small towns we love on the podcast.
  • The Forgotten Island by David Sodergren. Two estranged sisters agree to go on holiday to Thailand, but when events lead them to an out-of-control party they find themselves on an island so secluded that it’s not on any maps. Unfortunately, they might find that that’s for a good reason. The Forgotten Island has great dialogue showcased by some vivid characters that you will definitley have feelings about, good and bad.
  • Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven. Written in the form of documentary accounting for the events that happened when a hurricane trapped several employees in the giant Florida amusement park, Fantasticland for several days and the Lord of the Flies level of devolvement and debauchery that occured. Stephanie raved about it in our Carnival Horror episode, even though it’s technically an amusement park. You will not be able to put this book down!

Coming-of-Age Gems

“See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand.” 
― Robert R. McCammon, Boy’s Life

  • Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. Steeped in a Southern, mid-century atmosphere, Boy’s Life follows Cory Mackerson and his life in Zephyr, Alabama. It’s the summer he sees his father grapple with the sight of death and when he learns that sometimes monsters are human. We mentioned it in our read-alikes episode. It’s a book that might not make you cry, but will definitely pull at your heartstrings.
  • It by Stephen King. The seminal work of coming-of-age horror centers around the Loser’s Club and the figure that terrorizes them, Pennywise.
  • Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz. 15 year-old Will has a lot to deal with, the responsiblity of raising his little sister, the girl of his dreams is dating his worst enemy, and a serial killer on the loose that might put everyone he loves at risk. This is a great addition to the kids vs. evil sub-genre of horror.
  • Boys of Summer by Richard Cox. Rachel mentioned this book in our Summer Horror episode. This book follows a group of boys in Wichita Falls, Texas during a tumultuous summer. They revisit the town as adults and re-open wounds from the past.
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons. When a classmate goes missing on the last day of school, a group of five boys in Elm Haven, Illinois will band together to fight the supernatural evil plaguing their town.
  • Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones. This was the inaugural book for the Books in the Freezer Book Club. This is one of the best werewolf stories I’ve ever read. Our main character lives on the fringes of society with his Aunt Libby and Uncle Darren. The stark reality of what being a werewolf would look like in modern day is told in beautiful vignettes as the main character looks back on his life.

Cabins and Hiking are Scary

“Too many people have smiles that don’t mean what a smile is supposed to mean.” 
― Paul Tremblay, The Cabin at the End of the World

  • Creature by Hunter Shea. This emotionally-grounded story follows Kate who’s suffering from chronic pain from an auto-immune disease and her husband as they rent a cabin in an idyllic setting to get away from it all. The cabin becomes their prison as something outside lurks and torments them. The relationship between Kate and Will is very close to the relationship between Shea and his wife, we discuss this in more detail in our Creature Horror episode.
  • The Ruins of Scott Smith. A podcast favorite, originally mentioned in our Summer Horror episode, this follows a group of American tourists as they find themselves heading to an archaeological dig. The locals hostility traps them in the ruins as they must band together for survival. This is non-stop action with a great group of characters. The movie adaptation is great too!
  • You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann. This German story takes the classic family in a cabin story and ramps up the tension and claustrophobia. Told through journal entries that keep the reader unsure of reality and what is wrong with his house. There is a rumor that this is getting an adaptation with Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried as the stranded couple.
  • Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. In our interview with Paul Tremblay, he talks about Cabin. A family is tormented by a group of strangers proclaiming some violent and strange beliefs. Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel!
  • The Troop by Nick Cutter. A boy scout troop taking their annual trip come across a strange man that stumbles into their camp and stirs up violence among them. This is not for the faint of heart and a warning that there is harm to animals.
  • Kin by Kealan Patrick Burke. This book opens up after a teen joyride into backwoods Alabama ends in a brutal massacre at the hands of a cannibalistic redneck family. Claire our final girl stumbles her way onto the road to find help, but as one can guess, her troubles are definitely not over yet.

Ghostly and Gothic

“You can’t stop the girls from becoming what they became.”

Gwendolyn Kiste, The Rust Maidens

  • Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due. We recommended this short story collection on our Summer Horror episode. This collection all takes place in Florida and showcases stories with great variety. The opening story is fantastic!
  • The Elementals by Michael McDowell. A Southern Gothic story about families spending time at their Victorian summer homes along the Gulf. The old Mobile families are connected by marriage and an old secret that wants to make itself known. This book had fantastic atmosphere and made sand scary. I don’t know how, but it did.
  • Wyldling Hall by Elizabeth Hand. If you enjoyed the oral history/ VH1 Behind the Music approach to Daisy Jones and The Six this is such a great book. The members of acid folk band Windhollow Faire are meeting years later to discuss the summer they spent at Wyldling Hall to record the album that made them stars. It was also the summer that their lead singer went missing. This was a great novella if you enjoy atmospheric stories, unique narratives and unreliable narrators.
  • The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste. Winner of the 2018 Bram Stoker Award for first novel! In 1980’s Cleveland Phoebe and her cousin Jacqueline are facing an uncertain future after graduating high school. Along with that a handful of girls are going through a grotesque transformation no one can explain. First their fingernails become broken glass and their skin begins to expose corroded metal bones. The story goes back and forth in time between present and that summer as Phoebe tries to piece together what happened to the “rust maiden” and her role in the phenomenon.

Poolside Thrillers

“See, there I am. I told you I lived. I told you I was.” 
 Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects

  • Final Girls by Riley Sager. Quincy Carpenter was the “final girl” of a camping trip massacre ten years ago that left five of her friends dead. A group of survivors from similar incidents reached out and formed a bond for those who’ve survived the unthinkable, but one of the survivors dies under mysterious circumstances, Quincy wonders if someone is hunting the Final Girls. This thriller plays with horor movie tropes and will keep you guessing until the final reveal.
  • Providence by Caroline Kepnes. Chloe and Jon are perfect for each other, but they can never seem to find the right time or words to express their feelings for one another. On the eve of Jon deciding to confess his affection for Chloe he is kidnapped by a substitute teacher who is obsessed with HP Lovecraft. When he escapes he finds that so much has changed not only with Chloe, but himself. He is a danger to himself and those he loves. He has to try to make sense of what happened to him when he was gone and what that means for him now.
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. We couldn’t list great thrillers without mentioned Queen Gillian. The source material for the fantastic 2018 HBO miniseries, this story follows Camille Preaker, who after a brief stint at a pscyh hospital, is assigned to a story about two murdered preteen girls in her Missouri hometown. She knows that there’s a lot more than meets the eye with the story and she will have to confront some demons from her past along the way.
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Tom Ripley is tasked with retrieving the young and carefree Dickie Greenleaf from Italy. The two hit if off right away, but the fondness turns to obsession on Ripley’s side as he becomes enamored with the lifestyle. Possibly a little too enamored… This is of course the source material for the 90’s film starring Jude Law, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

What kind of books do you like to pick up during the summer months? Do you like your stories on the dark side?

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