Columns > Published on December 18th, 2019

The 20 Most Anticipated Horror Books of 2020

Every December I make a long list gushing over the horror we have to look forward to in the new year, so guess what? That’s exactly what I’ll be doing in this article, as well. Nothing has changed. The title you clicked on is an accurate description of what you can expect to find here. Okay, let’s do this!

20. “The Boatman’s Daughter” by Andy Davidson (February 11)

Andy Davidson’s debut novel, In the Valley of the Sun, dropped back in 2017, yet it feels like an entire decade has passed since the world was blessed with new fiction from this author. While his last book featured vampires thrown into a western environment, his sophomoric effort sounds like a completely different kind of bag of awesomeness. Paul Tremblay provided an early endorsement by describing it as a novel that “mixed Southern Gothic à la Flannery O’Connor, backwoods noir, and the mythic imagination of Clive Barker”, which...come on, that sounds like something every human being on this planet needs injected into them as soon as possible. The Boatman’s Daughter sounds like a witchcraft-fueled nightmare set deep in the bayou, and I couldn’t be more ready for it. Check out my interview with Andy back in 2017.

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19. “The Sun Down Motel” by Simone St. James (February 18)

The title was the first thing to spark my interest on this book. I’ve had a long, stupid history with hotels and motels, which makes me extra attracted to any media containing them. Turns out this one looks pretty good! The Sun Down Motel sounds like it will interweave between the years 1982 and 2017 as it attempts to solve a mysterious disappearance that occurred at the titular establishment. I get the sneaking suspicion we might be dealing with some cool spooky ghosts.

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18. “Miscreations” edited by Michael Bailey and Doug Murano (February 18)

First, let me admit my bias here: my short story “You Are My Neighbor” will be published in this anthology. However, I’ve already been paid for the publication and do not stand to profit any further, so from a financial standpoint I don’t really care if it sells any copies. Now, with that said, I do believe this will very much be a book worth reading, from the introduction by Alma Katsu (more about her in a second), to the new fiction from folks like Victor LaValle, Josh Malerman, Nadia Bulkin, and so on. I can’t wait to see this book in the flesh.

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17. “The Deep” by Alma Katsu (March 10)

Hey, speaking of Alma Katsu, remember her last book, The Hunger? Everybody ate that one up, and for good reason: it ruled. Now she has a new historical horror book coming out next year about “the sinking of the Titanic and the ill-fated sail of its sister ship, the Britannic.” If you like stories about spooky boats being haunted, you’d be a fool to pass this one up.

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16. “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” by Grady Hendrix (April 7)

I love that we live in a world where we seem to be gifted with a new Grady Hendrix book every year. He’s one of the most entertaining writers working today and I look forward to every one of his releases. I also realize that last sentence sounds very gross, but I refuse to go back and revise it. His novel, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, is described as “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula.” Do you really need to know anything more than that? I don’t think so.

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15. “The Ancestor” by Danielle Trussoni (April 7)

In a horror novel, it’s never good news to receive a mysterious inheritance. Wealth comes with a price, and that price is usually horrific misery. Danielle Trussoni’s The Ancestor sounds like it’ll be rich with dark family secrets and creepy gothic horror. Sign me up.

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14. “Velocities” by Kathe Koja (April 21)

Anyone who has kept track of my previous articles on this website will not be surprised to hear I am a big Kathe Koja fan. I consider The Cipher to be the best horror novel ever written. So, to hear she has a new collection of short stories coming out soon, one could say I am somewhat excited. If you aren’t reading Koja’s work, you’re messing up big time.

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13. “Death in Her Hands” by Ottessa Moshfegh (April 21)

Ottessa Moshfegh is one of the most interesting writers I’ve ever experienced. Everything she puts out is worth reading—but slowly, I’d say, taking your time to let every sentence properly digest. Her upcoming novel, Death in Her Hands, promises an extremely intriguing premise by opening with its narrator discovering a strange note while walking her dog. The note reads: Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body. What the fuck, right? Need to read this book ASAP.

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12. “Creatures of Charm and Hunger” by Molly Tanzer (April 21)

Every sentence in this novel’s description makes me excited. We have a WWII setting, we have witches, we have a secluded castle, we have “dangerous diabolic practices”! Molly Tanzer is a badass writer. You need to be reading her fiction.

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11. “The Wise Friend” by Ramsey Campbell (April 23)

Continuing 2020’s trend of occult horror, Ramsey Campbell has a brand-new book for us through Flame Tree Press. Like many of the other titles on this list, The Wise Friend seems to deal with buried family secrets, bizarre hauntings, and magic sites. I’m totally onboard with this direction and can’t wait to check out Campbell’s novel.

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10. “The Bank” by Bentley Little (April 28)

Bentley Little’s fiction is weird as shit. There’s no other way to describe it. All of his books are extremely fun and extremely weird and I love them to death. There are so many I still haven’t had the chance to read, but I look forward to one day getting through them all. His upcoming novel through Cemetery Dance, The Bank, looks exactly like the kind of thing Bentley Little would write, which makes sense, considering his name’s on the front cover. In this new book, a mysterious bank opens up in a small town and starts making everybody’s life hell. I pre-ordered this the second it became available.

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09. “If It Bleeds” by Stephen King (May 5)

I know, I know. Big surprise, Max, including Stephen King on a list of anticipated horror. Surely he really needs the promotional help. But, with that said, the reason I’m so excited about If It Bleeds is Stephen King’s at his absolute best when he’s working with the novella form, and this just so happens to be a collection of novellas, much like 2010’s Full Dark, No Stars.

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08. “Devolution” by Max Brooks (May 12)

Remember World War Z? People sure loved that one, didn’t they? Well, Max Brooks is back with something similar, only this time he’s providing a “firsthand account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre”. I guess this is the section of the article where I admit my own car has a Bigfoot window decal that says “I BELIEVE” on it. Anyway. I want to read a Sasquatch Massacre book very much, so thank you, Max Brooks, even if people have often mixed up our names in social gatherings.

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07. “The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones (May 19)

Stephen Graham Jones is no stranger to LitReactor. Most of my fellow columnists here have been gushing about him for years, including myself. Recently I obtained an ARC of his 2020 release, The Only Good Indians, and here is what I’ll tell you: holy fucking shit, you are gonna want to pre-order this book immediately. It’s a slasher about four dudes haunted by a mistake made during an elk hunt from their younger years. Things get...really fucking crazy. I don’t want to spoil anything else. But I will recommend you check out my interview with SGJ on my podcast, Ghoulish. We spent nearly a half hour talking about slashers. When SGJ talks, you shut up and listen. That’s just a rule of life right there.

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06. “Out of Body” by Jeffrey Ford (May 26)

I’ve long been fascinated by the concept of sleep paralysis, something I’ve been fortunate enough to have never encountered myself, but I’ve certainly witnessed it displayed in countless books and movies. Jeffrey Ford’s upcoming book, Out of Body, takes sleep paralysis and somehow evolves it into something more sinister. The plot description (a librarian witnesses murder!) has me very excited for this one.

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05. “Wonderland” by Zoja Stage (June 16)

The description is mostly vague, thankfully, but here’s what we know about Wonderland: there’s a family living in a secluded area of town, and in the surrounding woods something is calling to them. Something...spooky. From the author of Baby Teeth.

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04. “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (June 30)

I’m a big fan of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s work. Her vampire novel, Certain Dark Things, hit me in just the right way back in 2016. This new book, Mexican Gothic, is being advertised as “a reimagining of the classic gothic suspense novel, a story about an isolated mansion in 1950s Mexico.” The front cover is also very attention-grabbing. This is going to be a special one, I can feel it.

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03. “Survivor Song” by Paul Tremblay (July 7)

Anyone who’s a fan of modern horror literature should recognize Paul Tremblay’s name at this point. His last three novels—A Head Full of Ghosts, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, and Cabin at the End of the World—felt like a three-punch combo to the gut. Painful, yes, but so very much worth it. Same goes for his recent story collection, Growing Things. His next novel, Survivor Song, feels like it might be straddling a zombie-outbreak narrative, but in a way only Tremblay can pull off. The product description on the actual purchase page goes into deeper detail, but I don’t want to spoil anything here. The fact that it’s Paul Tremblay and the book’s about a rabies-like virus making everybody crazy is plenty enough for me. Honestly not sure how I’m going to wait until July for this one.

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02. “Malorie” by Josh Malerman (July 21)

So, that Bird Box adaptation kind of blew up on Netflix, didn’t it? I doubt I need to rehash any specific details. Basically, social media became absolutely nuts for a couple days because of this movie. And now Josh Malerman has written a sequel to his debut novel, this one titled Malorie. Nothing else has been publicly revealed about the book, but needless to say, we’re all very intrigued…

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01. “Clown in a Cornfield” by Adam Cesare (August 25)

There’s a lot to love about Adam Cesare’s new novel, Clown in a Cornfield. First, the title. Holy crap. Then the front cover. Double holy crap. Also consider it’s already received blurbs from people like Clive Barker, Stephen Graham Jones, and Paul Tremblay? Triple holy crap. People are going to be talking about this novel all year. Get ready for it.

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So there you have it. 20 upcoming horror books I’m very excited to read. Are those the only horror books worthy of our attention in 2020? Absolutely not. For one thing, I have a new novel coming out next year through Cemetery Dance, a violent mashup of Stranger Things and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre titled Touch the Night, which you can pre-order here. Plus, through my own small press, Perpetual Motion Machine, we’ll be releasing several kickass titles I couldn’t exactly include in the above listicle due to an obvious bias, but from PMMP you can look forward to the debut book by Michael David Wilson (The Girl in the Video), the second volume of George Daniel Lea’s Born in Blood (read volume one here), Michael Allen Rose’s Jurassichrist, and Jessica Leonard’s debut novel, Antioch. Not to mention four new issues of our quarterly horror magazine, Dark Moon Digest.

Of course, there were other titles I couldn’t include in the listicle besides ones I stand to profit from. Most small presses aren’t going to have every title prepared for pre-order at this point. Take Word Horde, for example; a very fine horror press planning to release a science-fiction-horror novel by Scott Jones titled Stonefish and a new viking collection from Christine Morgan titled The Wolf’s Feast. Plus, word on the street is CLASH will be releasing Joshua Chaplinsky’s novel, The Paradox Twins, sometime in 2020. Also, one should be reminded that not every 2020 title has even been announced yet. It might be a wise idea to do a sequel article in the summer of 2020, after more books have fallen across our radar.

Oh, and before I leave you, I do have one more upcoming book to share that I am incredibly excited to read. Jeremy Robert Johnson is one of the coolest goddamn horror writers I’ve ever discovered. His last collection, Entropy in Bloom, ruled, and I’ve been hungry for his next release ever since. So, before writing this article, I reached out for an update on his next book. He informed me it would be titled The Loop and readers can expect it sometime in the second half of 2020.

But that’s not all he told me, folks. Below, unofficially, is a quick pitch from Jeremy Robert Johnson himself:

Unofficially it's a mutant merger of 80's King/Crichton/Cronenberg with a hint of Junji Ito. Or Dazed and Confused meets Shivers. It's a weird one.

Ummm yeah, JRJ, I’m gonna need The Loop much sooner than “the second half of 2020”, thank you very much.

What are you looking forward to the most in 2020? Sound off in the comments.

About the author

Max Booth III is the CEO of Ghoulish Books, the host of the GHOULISH and Dog Ears podcasts, the co-founder of the Ghoulish Book Festival, and the author of several spooky books, including Abnormal Statistics, Maggots Screaming!, Touch the Night, and others. He wrote both the novella and film versions of We Need to Do Something, which was released by IFC Midnight in 2021 and can currently be streamed on Hulu. He was raised in Northwest Indiana and now lives in San Antonio.

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