The best books using horror to explore loss

Who am I?

I’ve been a fan of horror stories since I was a child. It was never about the shock or the gore, but the sense of dread and unease such stories could build, and how they challenged society’s norms in a variety of ways. The driving force in a lot of horror is often the threat—or even the result—of some sort of loss, and that’s what I tend to explore in my own work. Whether it’s the loss of life, of love or loved ones, the loss of sanity, of reality, horror allows us to discover and/or face our fears while providing a means by which to manage them.


I wrote...

All That's Lost

By Ray Cluley,

Book cover of All That's Lost

What is my book about?

All That’s Lost is the second collection from award-winning writer Ray Cluley, bringing together 17 stories exploring the haunted, the strange, and the uncanny. You’ll encounter ghosts, and monsters, and final girls (amongst other things) but be warned: you might lose yourself in the darkness here…

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Look Where You Are Going Not Where You Have Been

By Steven J. Dines,

Book cover of Look Where You Are Going Not Where You Have Been

Why this book?

This is one of the best collections I’ve ever read, and I’ve read it a few times now. These are emotionally intimate stories, bleak but beautiful. Dines really knows how to write convincing, troubled characters, people you will care about and suffer with as they struggle with the losses life forces upon them, and while each of the stories stands alone, there are connections between many of them which serves to build on your relationship with these characters. This is a debut collection, but every story has clearly been written by someone who has mastered their craft. Dines knows exactly what he’s doing, and what he’s doing is making you care, making you feel, and making you realise you are not alone. I love this book.

Look Where You Are Going Not Where You Have Been

By Steven J. Dines,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Look Where You Are Going Not Where You Have Been as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The past is never far behind. If we do not leave it, if we insist on carrying it with us to the end...that end is a monster.

This stunning debut collection of dark, literary fiction drowns the reader in its themes of grief, regret, love, and hope.

A family is torn apart by tragedy and misadventure, their future creaking under the weight of judgment. Old men play at being ghosts while a young boy sees real ones wherever he turns. A wandering immortal desperately seeks an end to his pain.

Intimate, unflinching, and poignant, these eleven tales of the broken…


Our Wives Under the Sea

By Julia Armfield,

Book cover of Our Wives Under the Sea

Why this book?

This is a brilliant novel in which we experience the lives of two women and the challenge that a mysterious absence forces upon their marriage. Armfield creates two very distinct characters and presents an utterly convincing relationship between them, in part by alternating between first-person accounts from both perspectives, showing us how both characters deal with being apart and then, after an unsettling encounter experienced deep in the ocean, how they deal with being back together. It’s when they’re reunited that we see how loss can be a long, ongoing process. Our Wives Under the Sea is wonderfully weird, and heartbreaking. I chose to read this because I enjoy strange stories set in or near the ocean, but I loved it because of the characters. Beautiful work. 

Our Wives Under the Sea

By Julia Armfield,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Wives Under the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named as book to look out for in 2022 by Guardian, i-D, Autostraddle, Bustle, Good Housekeeping, Stylist and DAZED.

Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah may have come back wrong. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home.

To have the woman she loves back should mean a return…


A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (illustrator)

Book cover of A Monster Calls

Why this book?

This dark fantasy book had me sobbing more than once, thanks to some great writing and the personal resonance it had for me at the time of reading. It’s marketed as YA fiction, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s only for young adults—it’s for everyone, especially if they’re struggling with grief. Siobhan Dowd came up with the story while fighting cancer and sadly died before it could be written, but Patrick Ness has created something beautiful, melancholy, and strangely uplifting from her original idea, in which the young Connor befriends a monster who tells him three stories before forcing Connor to tell one of his own. It explores the complexities of grief with honesty and sensitivity. It’s also beautifully illustrated by Jim Kay.

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked A Monster Calls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling novel and major film about love, loss and hope from the twice Carnegie Medal-winning Patrick Ness.

Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It's ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking…


The Leftovers

By Tom Perrotta,

Book cover of The Leftovers

Why this book?

I came to this one after watching and loving the television version and found the book even more fulfilling (although very different). It focuses on what happens when millions of people suddenly disappear from the world’s population and it looks not only at how people deal with this massive loss but also how they deal with the mystery of it, the not knowing why. People don’t only lose loved ones in this book but also their own sense of how the world should work, leaving them with a lot to deal with. I loved the characters, the tight focus on one community (and mostly one family within that community), and I loved how Perrotta made such a wild possibility seem entirely plausible.

The Leftovers

By Tom Perrotta,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With heart, intelligence and a rare ability to illuminate the struggles inherent in ordinary lives, Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers—now adapted into an HBO series—is a startling, thought-provoking novel about love, connection and loss.

What if—whoosh, right now, with no explanation—a number of us simply vanished? Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down?

That's what the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, who lost many of their neighbors, friends and lovers in the event known as the Sudden Departure, have to figure out.…


Sing Your Sadness Deep

By Laura Mauro,

Book cover of Sing Your Sadness Deep

Why this book?

There’s so much to love about this book. Every story here is brilliant, and while sadness is the thread running through all of them, I’d say they also deal with issues of loss or the pain of losing, and the things we do to cope. I’ve loved Mauro’s writing from day one, and this collection gathers her best into a powerful volume that does indeed sing. It filled and then broke my heart. The book is worth buying for the award-winning story "Looking for Laika" alone, but there really isn’t a single story here that isn’t a masterclass in writing, and not a single one that doesn’t move the reader to feel the sadness and feel it deeply. I can’t wait for whatever Laura Mauro does next.

Sing Your Sadness Deep

By Laura Mauro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sing Your Sadness Deep as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

British Fantasy Award-winning author, and Shirley Jackson Award finalist Laura Mauro, a leading voice in contemporary dark fiction, delivers a remarkable debut collection of startling short fiction. Human and humane tales of beauty, strangeness, and transformation told in prose as precise and sparing as a surgeon’s knife. A major new talent!

Featuring "Looking for Laika," winner of the British Fantasy Award, and "Sun Dogs," a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award.

Sun Dogs

Obsidian

Red Rabbit

Letters from Elodie

The Grey Men

Ptichka

When Charlie Sleeps

In the City of Bones

The Looking Glass Girl

In the Marrow

Looking for…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in cults, religion, and school?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about cults, religion, and school.

Cults Explore 36 books about cults
Religion Explore 217 books about religion
School Explore 186 books about school

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Before I Fall, Eleanor & Park, and The Arrival if you like this list.