2020 Staff Picks: Horror

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

Our expert staff members look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • Ring Shout

    2020 by Clark, P. Djèlí

    I've read this book and liked it, but after listening to its audiobook version, I'm amazed by it. It's about Klan members who are really demons from hell. It's easily one of the top books of the year for me. Horrifying, entertaining, original, and emotional, but also a darkly funny Lovecraftian horror story. Amazing! Recommended by Megan.

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  • The Bright Lands

    2020 by Fram, John

    Having escaped from his small Texas town to New York City, Joel reluctantly returns when his younger brother goes missing. Having faced prejudice and bullying when he was outed as a teen, Joel is not prepared for the new level of horror (some supernatural, some more personal) that awaits him. While I had quibbles with the ending, I really liked this debut book that is best described as Stephen King meets Friday Night Lights. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires

    2020 by Hendrix, Grady

    I do not generally read horror, but I enjoyed this title. Parts of it are pretty gruesome, but I was able to read through them without skipping ahead and there is a fair amount of humor to balance out the gross. There is also a lot of discussion about racism, sexism, and the potential monotony of the suburbs, in addition to discussion of both vampires and vampire tropes. Recommended by Becca.

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  • The Only Good Indians: A Novel

    2020 by Jones, Stephen Graham

    Lyrical, super-scary, and just plain terrific, this was the horror novel to read this year. The kind of horror that leaves a mark is the kind whose emotional stakes equal the gore. Dread kept mounting as characters who deserved better fell to an unstoppable supernatural vengeance on Montana's Blackfeet Reservation, seemingly regardless of what choices they made. Recommended by Lynnanne and Andrew.

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  • Mexican Gothic

    2020 by Moreno-Garcia, Silvia

    Full disclosure: my deep affection for this book is inseparable from how much I know my wife would have loved it. She would have loved the atmosphere, the clothes, the suspense, the dialogue, the self-rescuing female characters, the spot-the-references-to-a-couple-centuries-of-Gothic-fiction game, the discussion-prompting skewering of colonialism and patriarchy. She would have loved all of it. Recommended by Andrew.

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  • The House of Whispers

    2020 by Purcell, Laura

    Gothic books might be making a comeback this year. This creepy, clever gothic horror tale left me wondering what was real and what was imagined by the characters. I love a book that keeps me guessing and I love an unreliable narrator, so it is no surprise that I loved this book. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • The Sun Down Motel

    2020 by St. James, Simone

    I'd been wanting to read St. James for a while, and boy was she worth the wait. Engaging from start to finish, this darkly intense tale has elements of Hitchcock's Psycho, with the Bates Motel, as well as the 2018 movie Bad Times at the El Royale. Recommended by Cecilia.

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  • Tiny Nightmares: Very Short Tales of Horror


    I love short stories and, as a newcomer to the horror genre, I loved this collection, as it gave me a chance to discover horror authors and read some truly scary tales! While some of the stories deal with supernatural horror, my favorite story, Jac Jemc’s “Lone,” was about a woman camping alone and the all-too-human horror that stalks her. Perfect for when you want a good scare and only have a little time. For both horror fans and newbies. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • The Hollow Ones

    2020 by Toro, Guillermo del

    Dark and very creepy, I see this as a horror mystery, where dark forces work with humans to cause and solve crimes. The reason I like mysteries is that they are intense, but not too intense. Well, this one takes intensity to the next level. Definitely a novel to read during the day with the lights on! Recommended by Cecilia.

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