2019 – My Favorite Reads

I spent about 6 months of this year steeped in the independent horror community, so I figured I can definitely winnow all the stuff I read to a top ten. Yeah, no such luck. This year I went from a top 10 to a top 20 to screw it, here’s a lot of books I enjoyed. If you read them, I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. If you haven’t read them yet, I hope you’ll check them out.

I have not listed them in any particular order, and I’ve broken them up into the categories of 2019 Novels, 2019 Novellas, 2019 Collections, and Pre-2019 Books. So without further ado, screw it, here are some books I loved this year.

2019 Novels

  • The Fearing by John F.D. Taff – Technically this was released as four serialized novels throughout 2019, but the final result is an original concept apocalyptic novel that deserves a place on the shelf next to the greats. (Full Review)
  • Cricket Hunters by Jeremy Hepler – This book is part coming-of-age, part supernatural mystery, and all engrossing. I enjoyed every minute spent in the world Hepler created. (Full Review)
  • The Cult Called Freedom House by Stephanie Evelyn – Affectionately known on twitter as Sterp, Stephanie Evelyn’s debut wonderfully sets the stage for the Sophia Rey series in a novel that is brutal, horrific, and surprising. (Full Review)
  • Remains by Andrew Cull – Grief Horror is definitely a thing this year, and Andrew Cull’s debut novel mixes it well with haunted house tropes. This was a tough read, but well worth every invested second. (Full Review)
  • Wanderers by Chuck Wendig – Another apocalyptic doorstop novel, but so incredibly different. Characterization is top notch, the 800 pages never lag for an instant. (Full Review)
  • Grind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day – If I were to choose a winner for most unique book of the year, this would be it. Bones is violent, unrelenting, and says what it has to say in a way that you won’t find anywhere else. (Full Review)
  • A Voice So Soft by Patrick Lacey – Combining music, witchcraft, and mayhem, this book was just so much fun. It’s a prime example of the quality stuff Grindhouse Press is putting out, and it forced me to expand my Patrick Lacey collection. (Full Review)
  • Whispers in the Dark by Laurel Hightower – Okay, so this is a December 2018 release, but….but, but, but it didn’t pick up steam until 2019, and this is a book that belongs on end of the year lists. Hightower’s book hits all the right notes, and is easily one of the most complete debuts I’ve read. (Full Review )
  • The Reddening by Adam L.G. Nevill – My last read of 2019. This one will give you nightmares. There are parts where you’ll want to look away, but Nevill won’t let you. (Full Review)

2019 Novellas

  • The Pale White by Chad Lutzke – Lutzke gifts us a punch-you-right-in-the-feels coming-of-age story about three girls who’ve had a very different upbringing than most of the people reading the story. This book shines in making us afraid without showing the monster. (Full Review)
  • Walk the Darkness Down by John Boden – This book is (best?) describes as a weird, horror, cosmic, buddy western. The villain is genuinely terrifying and I both anticipated and dreaded the chapters told from his point-of-view. (Full Review)
  • In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland – Another in the coming-of-age horror sub genre, Steensland and Newman unequivocally nail the dynamic between the two brothers at the center of the story. I can’t think of any type of reader I wouldn’t highly recommend this to. (Full Review)
  • Dear Laura by Gemma Amor – Dear Laura is such a relentless journey. The reader clings on to find out where Laura’s story is headed and how it’s all going to turn out. My first look into the wondrous writing of Gemma Amor. (Full Review)
  • True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik – This is out 01.15.20 but it would’ve been, well, a crime to leave it off this list. The character study in this book is second-to-none and the pacing is breakneck. I dare you to read this book and be unaffected. (Full review coming soon to Dead Head Reviews)
  • Jimmy the Freak by Mark Steensland Charles Colyott – Steensland strikes again! A bit of a buddy road trip story with some unique twists and a supernatural bent. Read this one for yourself. (Full Review)
  • Isolation by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason – The Sisters of Slaughter deliver a haunted house story set on a cursed spit of land surrounded by ocean. Tense and dreadful atmosphere mix with gruesome imagery for a creepy novella. (Full Review)
  • The Possession of Natalie Glasgow by Hailey Piper – Piper gives us a spin on possession tropes that we haven’t seen before and are not expecting. This book reads like watching a movie and, in my opinion, is best devoured in one sitting. (Full Review)

2019 Collections

  • Served Cold by Alan Baxter – My introduction to Baxter, and what an intro it is. The stories in here range from cosmic to violent-gritty to Barker-esque gore to character-driven and downright emotional. Baxter pulled out all the stops with this one. (Full Review)
  • Till the Score is Paid by Gemma Amor – Another entry on my list from Amor, who is quickly becoming an insta-buy author for me. This collection is unrelenting and there are stories that can be hard to get through. They tend to display the occasional bit of supernatural, but are rooted in human behavior. Justine was one of the best stories I read this year. (Full Review coming soon to Dead Head Reviews)
  • Little Paranoias by Sonora Taylor – Little Paranoias is a different experience than your typical collection of short stories. We get a mix of poetry, flash fiction, and more traditional length stories. They all delight in setting you up to move one way and then pulling the rug out from under your feet. (Full Review)
  • We Live Inside Your Eyes by Kealan Patrick Burke – Burke does short fiction well. Period. I imagine that if I had gotten to another of his collections this year, it would be listed here as well. The stories are bleak, but contain beauty, and the novella, The House on Abigail Lane, is worth the price of admission. (Full Review)

Pre-2019 Books

  • A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay – This book has become one of my top recommends. I want everyone to read it, then I want to have a conversation. I loved everything about it. (Full Review)
  • Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones – I wouldn’t brag about my extensive knowledge of werewolf literature, but I know just enough to label this book as unique, special, and a touch outside the box. Wildly successful as a coming-of-age story even without werewolf lore. (Full Review)
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman – I put this one off because I thought the movie was just okay. What a mistake! There are enough differences in plot to entertain even if you thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and the tension Malerman writes with is masterful. (Full Review)
  • Cold in July by Joe Lansdale – My first foray in Joe R. Lansdale. This book feels like a friend telling a story and the way Lansdale writes dialogue is incredible. (Full Review)
  • The Siren and the Specter by Jonathan Janz – I’ve waded through some Janz, and I hope to get to a lot more next year. This was a haunted house novel that gave me absolutely everything I wanted in a haunted house novel. (Full Review)
  • A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman – The magic in this one is palpable. Without a doubt, this is one of the best books I read this year, and I still lay in bed thinking about it some nights. It’s very different than other Malerman offerings, but don’t miss this one. (Full Review)