Scary Books That Will Change What You Know About Horror

These thrillers look at American politics, family, and myth in a new light.

Fall is the best reading season: It’s cold enough to justify staying indoors with a good book, but still warm in case you want to take the reading outside. Moreover, fall has October, which means it’s the perfect time to get into the Halloween spirit with some scary tales. SF Weekly has compiled a list of five scary books that will challenge what you know about America, family, and the horror genre. Happy reading!

Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Just a half hour before the clock strikes 12, Vico wakes up covered in sweat, with the suspicious feeling that something sinister is around. Before the night is over, Vico is dead, becoming one of several victims in a series of horrifying murders taking place in Puerto Rico. Javier Utierre and Lupe Dávila soon become embroiled in the terror as they try to piece together its (potentially) supernatural causes. Ann Dávila Cardinal combines the El Cuco myth with a contemporary setting in a novel that’ll have you reading well past midnight.

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister the Serial Killer isn’t horror like its premise might suggest: Korede’s younger sister, Ayoola, is sweet, beautiful, and beloved by all. But, Ayoola has a particularly disturbing habit of killing the boys she dates. It’s frustrating for Korede, who goes through great pains to hide Ayoola’s secret with bleach, body dumps and careful lies. But it also comes to a near breaking point for the elder sister, when Ayoola sets her sights on Korede’s coworker — a doctor who Korede is in love with. Oyinkan Braithwaite takes on the classic whodunnit murder story by giving you the answer in the very first page, and finding suspense not just through the terrifying stakes, but through the family drama entangled within them. My Sister the Serial Killer is both a terrifying and poignant story about womanhood, agency, and the lengths people will go to for the ones they love.


Halloween Guide 2019
Where to Go — These spots will set you up for a pumpkin-tastic holiday.
What to Watch — Have some friends over? Here are some spooky streaming selections.
What to Wear — Advice from local pros on how to approach your costume this year.


A People’s Future of the United States

Horror can be read for more than just a good scare. A People’s Future of the United States is a testament to that. A collection of 25 short stories from the speculative fiction genre, this book asks us what America can look like by bending reality through horror and science fiction, and what that means, especially for LGBTQ communities and people of color. There’s a plethora of incredible writers in this collection: Lesley Nneka Arimah, Charles Yu, Alice Sola Kim… the list goes on.

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

The general consensus on Baby Teeth is that it is, without a doubt, truly terrifying. Author Zoje Stage spins a tale in which mother and daughter are at odds — but for horrifying reasons. Hanna is seven years old, deadly sweet, and eager to get rid of her mother, Suzette, in order to be the center of her father’s attention, no matter what the cost. Suzette is just starting to catch onto her daughter’s less-than-innocent intentions. Named one of the best horror books from Forbes in 2018-19, Baby Teeth will make your heart pound.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature, The Memory Police is the book of our times. Yoko Ogawa’s novel asks us what would happen if ordinary, common things — birds, stamps, perfume — disappeared, and if anyone would care if they couldn’t remember them? It’s a harrowing concept that Ogawa turns into a touching commentary on the value of memory. The Memory Police takes place in a surveillance state that echoes anxieties of our own world, making it a must-read dystopian thriller for 2019.

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