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The Best Horror Books by Women

Look at most lists of heavyweight horror authors and you’re bound to notice a trend – they’re mostly men. King, Straub, Campbell, Barker, Ketchum, Hill – all masters of the genre, to be sure. But women authors are writing some of the most innovative and terrifying horror fiction out there, and we’ve decided to highlight a handful of our favorites.

  1. 1
    The Hunger Book Cover Picture
    The Hunger Book Cover Picture

    The Hunger

    by Alma Katsu

    Alma Katsu’s standalone historical horror novel is a treasure. Drawing on werewolf tales, Wendigo folklore, and more, Katsu manages to create a sense of strangling claustrophobia in the doomed wagon train, even as it crosses expansive prairies. The interpersonal dynamics within the wagon party are key here too — power struggles among the travelers, suspicion cast on beautiful, quiet Tamsen Donner, and personal secrets that were meant to be left back east. Add in monstrously hungry creatures lurking just beyond the firelight, and you’ve got an absolutely gripping tale.
    The Hunger Book Cover Picture
    The Hunger Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  2. 2
    The Haunting of Hill House Book Cover Picture
    The Haunting of Hill House Book Cover Picture

    The Haunting of Hill House

    by Shirley Jackson

    Classics are classics for a reason, and nobody writes quite like Shirley Jackson. The Haunting of Hill House is a masterclass in how to walk the knife’s edge, narratively speaking, between a protagonist’s fractured psyche and actual supernatural happenings. Jackson keeps you just a little bit off-balance on every page, and by the end of the book you won’t know up from down.
    The Haunting of Hill House Book Cover Picture
    The Haunting of Hill House Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $18.00

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  3. 3
    The Silent Companions Book Cover Picture
    The Silent Companions Book Cover Picture

    The Silent Companions

    by Laura Purcell

    Laura Purcell’s novel is an atmospheric slice of Victorian Gothic goodness: Elsie, pregnant and widowed only a few weeks into her marriage, moves to her late husband’s crumbling family estate. But there’s no comfort for her there – just hostile townsfolk, recalcitrant servants, and a painted wooden figure that looks exactly like Elsie, and whose eyes have an unnerving tendency to follow her around the room.
    The Silent Companions Book Cover Picture
    The Silent Companions Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  4. 4
    Beloved Book Cover Picture
    Beloved Book Cover Picture

    Beloved

    by Toni Morrison

    Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. Beloved is also a horror novel. The hallmarks of a ghost story or gothic tale are all there — mysterious hauntings, family trauma, buried secrets, tragic deaths, and discomfiting truths about the human condition. Morrison’s prose is obviously superlative, and she confronts readers with the utter agony endured by survivors of American slavery. It’s an eerie, disorienting, heartbreaking, beautiful book.
    Beloved Book Cover Picture
    Beloved Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $28.00

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  5. 5
    The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings Book Cover Picture
    The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings Book Cover Picture

    The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings

    by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

    “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a proto-feminist landmark and an utterly terrifying story of insanity. The protagonist, confined to her room as part of a “rest cure” for depression, descends into psychosis spurred by the patterns and color of the wallpaper — she believes the pattern is mutating, moving, leaving smudges of yellow on her skin and clothes. As the weeks pass, she becomes convinced that there’s another woman behind the pattern in the wallpaper, crawling on all fours, and sets out to tear down the wallpaper, freeing her. It’s a little bit “The Ring” before “The Ring” existed, and hasn’t lost any of its power to scare since it was published in 1892.
    The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings Book Cover Picture
    The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings Book Cover Picture

    Mass Market Paperback
    $6.95

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  6. 6
    Silk Book Cover Picture
    Silk Book Cover Picture

    Silk

    by Caitlin R. Kiernan

    Caitlín R. Kiernan’s 1998 novel is a skin-crawling examination of trauma populated by a web of messy misfits and outcasts, set against the goth underground of Birmingham, Alabama. The book is full of characters grappling with their own personal darkness, but at the center we have Spyder, whose inner demons decided they were done with the “inner” part. Kiernan writes with a strong, independent voice, and a rare sense of place. By the way, this one’s not for arachnophobes.
    Silk Book Cover Picture
    Silk Book Cover Picture

    Mass Market Paperback
    $8.99

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  7. 7
    The Bloody Chamber Book Cover Picture
    The Bloody Chamber Book Cover Picture

    The Bloody Chamber

    by Angela Carter

    Angela Carter’s seminal collection is so much more than a group of fairytale retellings. These tales tell the story of female rage, sexuality, violence, and body horror, and they do it by inverting every trope you expect from folklore. The title story is a standout, a reimagining of Bluebeard where the young wife is saved from her husband’s murderous tendencies by her own mother.
    The Bloody Chamber Book Cover Picture
    The Bloody Chamber Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  8. 8
    The Woman in Black Book Cover Picture
    The Woman in Black Book Cover Picture

    The Woman in Black

    by Susan Hill

    A pitch-perfect Victorian ghost story of a wraithlike apparition who haunts a rural English town. All the traditional markers are here: creepy kids, unexplained screams, family secrets, and a horrifying late-in-the-game shock. One of those books that proves that the classic moves still work wonders.
    The Woman in Black Book Cover Picture
    The Woman in Black Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $15.00

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