The best contemporary horror novels written by women

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a near-lifelong fan of horror in all its forms. I read the works of Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Shirley Jackson as a child, and for most of my writing career, I’ve been trying to recreate the feelings those early works gave me the first time I read them. My short fiction has appeared in several publications, and my debut horror novel Tidepool came out in 2021. Even though one of the best-known horror novels of all time, Frankenstein, was written by Mary Shelley, the horror world still sometimes treats female authors like afterthoughts. I hope my list will help readers discover more imaginative books written by women. 


I wrote...

Tidepool

By Nicole Willson,

Book cover of Tidepool

What is my book about?

In 1913, Henry Hamilton disappears while on a business trip. His sister, Sorrow, travels to Tidepool, the last place Henry is known to have visited. Tidepool’s a small, run-down ocean town with unhelpful locals. After corpses wash up on Tidepool’s beach looking like they’ve been torn apart by something not quite human, Sorrow’s ready to return to Baltimore and let her father send in the professional detectives.

But then she meets Mrs. Ada Oliver, a widow whose expensive black silk dresses and elegant manners set her apart from other town residents. A terrifying visit to Mrs. Oliver’s home leads to Sorrow’s discovery of Tidepool’s dark secret. And some denizens of Tidepool—human and otherwise—are hell-bent on making sure Sorrow never returns home. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Mexican Gothic

Nicole Willson Why did I love this book?

Decrepit old mansions, terrifying secrets, ailing young women, and mysterious men are staples of the horror genre. But this was the first Gothic horror novel I read with a Mexican woman as the protagonist. Noemí Taboada’s recently-married cousin Catalina sends an ominous letter claiming she’s being poisoned and begging for help. After some persuasion from her father, Noemí travels to High Place, the decaying mansion Catalina now calls home, to find out what’s happening to her cousin. Noemí is a wonderful main character, smart, lively, and never passive. The novel reminds me of the Hammer horror films I loved to watch, but addresses issues like racism and eugenics that those old movies seldom touched. It’s a compelling and spooky read. 

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Mexican Gothic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The award-winning author of Gods of Jade and Shadow (one of the 100 best fantasy novels of all time, TIME magazine) returns with a mesmerising feminist Gothic fantasy, in which a glamorous young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemi. You have to save me.

When glamorous socialite Noemi Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it's clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but…


Book cover of The Rust Maidens

Nicole Willson Why did I love this book?

It’s 1980. Cleveland, Ohio is falling into decay, and some of the young women living in Phoebe Shaw’s neighborhood become known as the Rust Maidens as their bodies slowly degrade into rusted metal and jagged glass. I’ve read body horror before, but never like this. Kiste has a beautiful and lyrical prose style, and I particularly love her compassion toward her characters. While she doesn’t shy away from the more horrific aspects of her story, she never forgets the humanity of the Rust Maidens as they transform. She also captures the pain of the friends and family the Maidens leave behind. This is Kiste’s first novel, and though I’ve enjoyed all her work, I think it’s still one of her best. 

By Gwendolyn Kiste,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Rust Maidens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Something’s happening to the girls on Denton Street.

It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies…


Book cover of The Good House

Nicole Willson Why did I love this book?

I’m a sucker for an addictive, epic horror novel, and Tananarive Due delivers with this book. Angela Toussaint inherits her late grandmother Marie’s old house (the “good house” of the title) and returns to her hometown of Sacajawea, WA. At first, she seems content there even if a few of the townspeople have a way of reminding her she’s the only Black woman in town. But after a tragedy shatters Angela’s life and horrific deaths become a regular occurrence in the town, it becomes clear her Gramma Marie passed down far more than the house. Due’s prose is so vivid that at times I felt like I was inside Angela’s head, or walking around the Good House myself. This is the perfect scary book to lose yourself in on a rainy fall day. 

By Tananarive Due,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Good House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Good House is the critically acclaimed story of supernatural suspense, as a woman searches for the inherited power that can save her hometown from evil forces.

The home that belonged to Angela Toussaint's late grandmother is so beloved that the townspeople in Sacajawea, Washington call it the Good House. But that all changes one summer when an unexpected tragedy takes place behind its closed doors, and the Toussaint's family history-and future-is dramatically transformed.

Angela has not returned to the Good House since her son, Corey, died there two years ago. But now, Angela is finally ready to return to…


Book cover of The Hunger

Nicole Willson Why did I love this book?

Alma Katsu is a brilliant writer of historical horror, and in The Hunger, she focuses on the tragedy that befell the group of pioneers known as the Donner Party in the mid-1800s. History is a bit of a spoiler here because if you’re familiar with the real-life story, you already know things aren’t going to end well for the majority of the characters. But Katsu’s imaginative take on what happened to them is still gripping and chilling. She balances multiple points of view extremely well and manages to make a familiar tale so compelling that I missed subway stops while playing the “Just one more page” game. 

By Alma Katsu,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Hunger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down, not recommended reading after dark." - Stephen King

After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented - the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner's decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the…


Book cover of The Family Plot

Nicole Willson Why did I love this book?

Cherie Priest is a very versatile writer, and this horror novel is one of her best. I’ve lent copies of Family Plot to people and never gotten them back. Dahlia, whose father owns a salvage company, takes a team of coworkers to an old mansion to strip all the valuable stuff they can find before it’s torn down. But there are far more things in—and around—the house than they know, and those things have a way of making themselves known during the nights the crew spends at the mansion. Dahlia is a wonderful, tough, no-nonsense main character, and parts of the novel gave me the “Alone in the house late at night” creeps. 

By Cherie Priest,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Family Plot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chuck Dutton built Music City Salvage with patience and expertise, stripping historic properties and reselling their bones. Inventory is running low, so he's thrilled when Augusta Withrow appears in his office offering salvage rights to her entire property. This could be a gold mine, so he assigns his daughter Dahlia to personally oversee the project. The crew finds a handful of surprises right away. Firstly, the place is in unexpectedly good shape. And then there's the cemetery, about thirty fallen and overgrown graves dating to the early 1900s, Augusta insists that the cemetery isjust a fake, a Halloween prank, so…


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Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

What is my book about?

Stopping Russian Aggression with milk, coal, and candy bars….

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians will starve unless they receive food, medicine, and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour, and children’s shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in the West. Until General Winter deploys on the side of Russia...

Based on historical events, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader delivers an insightful, exciting and moving tale about how former enemies became friends in the face of Russian aggression — and how close the Berlin Airlift came to failing under the assault of “General Winter.”

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

What is this book about?

Fighting a war with milk, coal and candy bars....

In the second book of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series, the story continues where "Cold Peace" left off.

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians in Hitler's former capital will starve unless they receive food, medicine and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour and children's shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in…


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