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6 Must-Read Award-Winning Horror Books

With impressive seals of approval, these books are sure to frighten you until the very end.

By Jessica Ferri October 10, 2016
6 Must-Read Award-Winning Horror Books

For most horror fans, there’s nothing like finding out about a great read from a friend you trust. But some of us want even more proof that the books we read are winners. Luckily, that’s where the awards system comes in. Between the Bram Stoker Awards, the Shirley Jackson Awards, the Locus Awards and more, professional horror writers who know what scares you judge these well-established prizes for horror books. And they’re not letting anything less than spectacular get through.

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1. Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand

haunted house books

Winner of the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novella, Elizabeth Hand’s Wylding Hall tells the story of the acid-rock band who made the mistake of recording an album in a haunted manse. Shortly after completing the album, the band’s lead singer wandered off, never to be seen again. Now, years later, the remaining members of the band and their partners have returned, armed with a psychic and a photographer, and are determined to discover what happened to their friend all those years ago. But maybe they should’ve let sleeping secrets lie—because what happens at Wylding Hall stays at Wylding Hall.

2. The Resurrection Man’s Legacy: And Other Stories, by Dale Bailey

award winning horror resurrection man legacy

If you thought this election season was the stuff of nightmares, you obviously haven’t read the work of Dale Bailey. In his first collection of dark, fantastical stories, the dead come back to vote in the Presidential election, a census taker stumbles upon a town in the bayou frozen in a particularly horrifying time in American history, and a father anxiously ruminates over the fate of his unborn child. Given the sheer terror exhibited in these stories, it’s no surprise The Resurrection Man’s Legacy was nominated for a Locus Award for Best Collection, and his short “Death and Suffrage”—which is featured in the collection—won the 2002 International Horror Guild Award for Intermediate Form. If what you read here terrifies you, you’re in luck. Bailey is also the author of four novels and numerous short stories, including “The End of Everything”—which won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novelette in 2014.

3. Our Lady of Darkness, by Fritz Leiber

award winning horror our lady of darkness

From the grand master of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, Fritz Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness was based largely on his own autobiography. Like Leiber, the protagonist of Our Lady of Darkness, Franz Westen, is also recovering from the death of his wife—sliding into alcoholism and depression. Also like Lieber, Westen is an amateur astronomer. While gazing out his window at the stars, he’s astonished to see a figure waving at him from a hilltop miles away. When he hikes out to the top of the hill and looks back his apartment, the same person (or thing) waves back at him. Chills! This dark, twisted fantasy book won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1977, and Leiber was honored with many awards during his lifetime, including the Lifetime Achievement Lovecraft Award and the Grand Master Nebula Award.

4. Boy’s Life, by Robert R. McCammon

award winning horror boys life

Call it a sixth sense or what you will, but, as only children can, Cory Jay Mackenson has picked up on some strange things in his hometown of Zephyr. But the day he and his father watch a car drive off the road into the lake holds the one sight Cory can’t forget. When his father jumps in to save the driver, he instead finds a murder victim—a naked corpse handcuffed to the steering wheel. Robert McCammon is the bestselling author of 19 novels, and his work has been compared to the likes of Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. If that’s not enough of a selling point, Boy’s Life won both the World Fantasy Award and the Bram Stoker Award when it was published in 1991.

5. Zombie, by Joyce Carol Oates

award winning horror zombie

Though most know Joyce Carol Oates as the prolific, bestselling author of sagas like We Were the Mulvaneys and The Falls, in the late 1980s Oates ventured into genre territory—influenced and inspired by Gothic Literature. Her 1995 novel, Zombie, explores the mind of a terrifying serial killer, based on the life of Jeffrey Dahmer. Quentin P. hopes to create an army of sex slave zombies by altering his young male victims’ brains. As his brutal mission for control escalates, Oates explores the devastating and horrific mind of one of the most notorious serial killers of all time. The book won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel in 1995.

6. A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay

award winning horror head full of ghosts

Horror writer Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts blends Rosemary's Baby with House of Leaves and Big Brother—an astonishing and terrifying mix that won him the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel in 2015. When a family’s two young daughters begin exhibiting strange behavior outside the normal teenage rebellion, their father determines the elder daughter has been possessed by a demon and calls in a priest for an exorcism. The two men then make the strange decision to film the entire ordeal as part of a reality television show, only further complicating the family’s situation and the truth of their daughter’s illness.

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