Well folks, it’s July: we’re now halfway through this year. These past few days I’ve been reminiscing through some old travel photos (peep my old friends from the Sedlec Ossuary above). Since traveling is a bit out of the question right now – at least for us living here in the United States – I decided reading is the second closest thing to it. I now present you with a list of summer recommendations to read the hot days away. These ten books are just a few of my scary favorites.
The Between by Tananarive Due
“Hilton was seven when his grandmother died, and it was a bad time. But it was worse when she died again.”The Between pg. 1
If you’re not reading Tananarive Due, you need to get on it. The Between is her debut novel, and an astounding one at that. She has been and continues to be a pivotal voice in horror, using it to scrutinize and condemn racism and oppression that often dwell in the genre. In the Between, we follow Hilton, a thirty year old man haunted by death, nightmares and unnatural realities. When his wife, Dede, receives racist threatening letters from a man she once prosecuted, Hilton makes it his mission to find the man terrorizing his family. But what if the truth is not even from this world?
Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez
There is a lot of South American horror we need to keep our eyes on, and Things We Lost in the Fire is one of them. Translated in English by Megan McDowell, Mariana Enriquez takes us to Argentina with eerie stories of black magic, ghosts, history, violence and political deceit. This short story collection, infused with different aspects of horror from cosmic and gory to gothic and psychological, is a force to be reckoned with.
The Farm by Joanne Ramos
The Farm is dystopian thriller about race, families and capitalistic control. The story takes place in a fictional facility called Golden Oaks, aka “the Farm,” where women live as surrogates for wealthy clients. Once the women enter the facility, they belong to the Farm and all their autonomy is gone. The novel follows four women in the facility, and Ramos details their experiences in suspenseful and jarring prose.
Poso Wells by Gabriela Alemán
This is a fast-paced feminist eco-thriller. Women in Poso Wells continue to disappear. But the political leaders of the settlement couldn’t care less; their only concern is the upcoming election. When the leading presidential candidate and his posse are electrocuted, dark mysteries and secrets unveil an even more horrifying reality. Translated from Spanish to English in 2018, this book uses elements of horror, sci-fi and humor to tell a tale just as relevant now as it was when Alemán wrote it in 2007.
Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s edited by Kier-La Janisse and Paul Corupe
The Satanic Panic, one of the world’s many moral panics, was a tumultuous time that impacted much of the English speaking world. While parents feared D&D and heavy metal, lies and misinformation ruined the lives of countless people, including young adults (e.g. the West Memphis Three) and teachers. Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s is a collection of visual and written accounts from various people who experienced this unforgettable era. Photographs and essays of horror movies, Christian comics, board games and religion are just the cusp of this extensive anthology.
Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sara Takeda
Monstress is a beautifully illustrated steam punk horror-fantasy comic series. There are currently five volumes, but here’s a simplified plot: Set in 1900’s Asia, Maika struggles with the trauma of war while fighting to control her psychic link to a powerful monster. The story is filled with an array of magical creatures, demons, humanoid wolves and talking cats with big personalties. There is so much to love about this dark and inventive comic. I couldn’t put it down.
Preacher (Complete Collection) by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
The entire Preacher series is difficult to describe in only one paragraph, so I’m going to do it in two. In short, the story is about preacher Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Hare and Irish vampire Cassidy, all on a mission to literally find God and ask him, “Hey God! What’s the big idea? Why’d you dip out when a demon and angel procreated a creature named Genesis? The world is kind of a crapshoot right now, man. Thanks for nothing, you piece of shit.” (Okay not verbatim but you get the idea.) But that’s only the big, vague picture. Preacher is encapsulated with fantastical story arcs and virtually everything you could ever want in a comic book series: sibling cannibals, Arseface, serial killers, political Vatican cults, Jesus on a bicycle.
Now, how you feel about religion may impact how you feel about Preacher. From a religious perspective, the best way to describe the series would be “blasphemous.” If you’re like me, blasphemy might be one of the reasons you love it (where are all my lapsed Catholics at?). Preacher is by no means a perfect comic – at least by my standards – as there are some themes and moments that are… problematic. But then there are many times where the series was well ahead of its time, sometimes even a little progressive given that it was published from 1995 to 2000. But my most favorite part of all is the art. Even when the dialogue goes a bit on an endless tangent, Dillon’s illustrations always make up for it. They are detailed, colorful, exciting and wonderfully disgusting. Preacher is just so damn fun to read, and reread, and rereread… I recommend you join the fun.
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Get in Trouble is another fantastical short story collection by Kelly Link. In this collection, she creates magnificent worlds filled with ghost boyfriends, demon lovers, pocket universes and microchipped teenagers. While every story is a standout, my favorite is “I Can See Right Through You,” a story filled with Ouija boards, movie stars and murder. Exhilarating and spooky, Get in Trouble is unforgettable.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Machado shows just how incredible of a writer she is in her 2017 debut. Her Body and Other Parties is the winner of both the Shirley Jackson Award and National Book Award. The collection consists of eight stories, each encapsulating elements of body horror, magical realism, apocalypses and science fiction. In haunting prose, Machado illuminates the outlandish, yet very authentic, realities that strike women’s lives and their bodies.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Shining Girls is the story of a time traveling serial killer named Harper Curtis. When Curtis finds a House in 1930’s Chicago, he travels through centuries to destroy the lives of shining girls. With limitless ability to escape the scenes of his crimes, he’s never been caught. But when one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, escapes, it’s now Harper’s turn to fear for his life.
Beukes has a knack for writing serial killers. Shining Girls is a genre bending exploration of fantastic histories and a condemnation of violence against women.
What are you reading this summer?
Tell us in the comments, we want to know! And while you’re at it, make sure to check out more of what we’re reading here at Haunted MTL.
*Cover photo and final photo taken by CourtCourt, May 2019.
*Book photos screenshot from Goodreads