January 3, 2011

The Best Books of 2010 (Part 1): Horror

If I get to include novellas and graphic novels, I read over a hundred books in 2010. Excluding the comic books and the short novels, my number is closer to fifty. How many were horror novels? Surprisingly not as many as I'd have thought. Still, there are five books I would heartily recommend to anyone looking for some quality horror fiction.

Two Re-Released Novels: The Gentling Box by Lisa Mannetti [my review]

Originally published in 2008, Lisa's debut novel wound up winning a Bram Stoker Award. Now, Shadowfall Publications has released a new edition of the novel with illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne, Lisa's co-conspirator in the humor book, 51 Fiendish Ways to Leave Your Lover. If you have not read The Gentling Box, I can't recommend it highly enough. A tragic piece of historical fiction about a father desperately trying to save his wife and daughter from a villainous witch of a mother-in-law.

Ouroboros by Michael Kelly & Carol Weekes [my review]

My favorite novel of 2009 got a second trade-paperback release through Dark Regions Press this past summer. It's a short novel, clocking around 250 pages, but it packs a serious punch. And it's a rare instance where most of the characters are elderly. That's especially unheard of in the horror literature that I read. Peter Straub's Ghost Story and Stephen King's Insomnia are the only two other examples I can think of. But, again, I may be biased because the story is set in Nova Scotia.

An Anthology: The Best Horror of the Year Volume 2, edited by Ellen Datlow [my review]

Early in the year, Night Shade Books released this anthology which compiles some of the best short stories from 2009 that Ellen Datlow could find. There's a diverse mix in styles and tone, and if you're a fan of short fiction then this is definitely a book worth checking out.

Free Fiction: The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman [my review]

Over the summer, there was a bit of buzz swirling around the blogosphere about this novella from renowned author and editor, Brian James Freeman. Published by Cemetery Dance, a free electronic version was made available as a way to promote the book. Since free is in my price range, I downloaded a copy and was wowed just a little bit. I think it's still available for download, but if you want something more tangible, you can find the hardcover edition here.

Guilty Pleasure of the Year: Draculas by Jack Kilborn, Black Crouch, Jeff Strand, & F. Paul Wilson [my review]

If Planet Terror was about vampires, chances are it would resemble the story in this book's pages. The four authors collaborated for the first half of the year, coming up with the premise and characters for this story, then went about trying to one-up each other in the gore and mayhem departments. It was a relentless bloodbath of a book, so much so I felt like I needed a shower when I finished--but I liked it. Does that make me a bad person?

Favorite Novel of the Year ... so far: Sparrow Rock by Nate Kenyon [my review]

Horror movies starring teen characters are invariably terrible nowadays. If there's been a genuinely great horror film in the last ten years with a teenage or twenty-something ensemble cast, by all means tell me its title, because I'd like to watch it. So, leave it to books to provide me with what a good horror story would look like with teens as the main characters. There's a strong element of B-movie horror, but it's tackled in such a way that gives the characters depth and had me rooting for them the whole way. As opposed to the movies, when I can't wait for the little bastards to die so the credits can roll and seethe at Hollywood.

So, there you have it. Five books. Three novels, a novella, and an anthology from the horror genre that deserve honorable mention. I've got more books I plan on discussing in the weeks to come, horror and otherwise, but for now I will leave things off with this question:

What was your favorite horror book of 2010?


  1. Thanks so much for this list. I will definitely be adding them to my TBR pile.

    My favorite horror novel of 2010, if have to pick just one, is Jonathan Maberry's YA ROT & RUIN. What made it stand out for me was how the story dealt not only with physically surviving the initial zombie rising, but the emotional issues of grief, loss, compassion and closure that the humans face down the road.

  2. You're quite welcome, Jan. I've got Rot & Ruin on my wish list, though I probably won't get around to it until I've finished the final book in his original trilogy, Bad Moon Rising.

    I've got a review of the second book in that trilogy, Dead Man's Song, scheduled to appear soon on this blog.

  3. I read all different genres of books and always make room for some horror fiction in the pile: My favorite Horror books of 2010? Vol 1 of American Fantastic Tales, ed. by Peter Straub; "Thieving Fear" by Ramsey Campbell; and Straub's "A Dark Matter". I review all three of these on my Blogger page, "A Curious Man."


    Thomas Burchfield

  4. Nice picks, Thomas. I've got all three of those books on my wish list. That Peter Straub sure knows how to spin a yarn.

  5. These are awesome picks, some of which will definitely be read in the new year. I got a copy of Pink Noise by Leonid Korogodski and it was a last minute addition to my favorites of 2010.