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What to Read: Women in Horror

With spooky season right around the corner I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some horror books for you all! The one genre that is the nearest and dearest to my heart has always been horror, and in a genre that is often highlighted as being misogynistic, some of the greatest horror stories of our time were written by women. While I could talk for hours about some of the famous greats like Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of my favorite recent reads by the women that are writing for today’s readers.

Near the Bone by Christina Henry

Near the Bone has been one of my most recent reads and it cements Christina Henry’s place as an author to watch out for. Most known for her horror and YA dark fantasy retellings of classic fairy tales, Henry has recently been moving steadily more into the horror genre with the releases of Near the Bone and The Ghost Tree. Both books shine a light on the true horrors of being female under the absolute power of men, she doesn’t shy away from shocking violence and grotesque scenes. While I can comfortably recommend both, Near the Bone truly stands out by focusing on two kinds of monsters that lurk in the woods: a supernatural beast and a violent and controlling man. I wasn’t able to put the book down and I feel that it has been one of the scariest books I’ve read in a long while.

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez

Mariana Enríquez has quickly become one of my absolute favorite horror short fiction writers after I fell in love with Things We Lost in the Fire when it was released in English a few years ago. Since then I have been chomping at the bit for more of her work to finally be translated to the English language, I can’t even begin to describe the sheer joy I felt when I got my hands on The Dangers of Smoking in Bed before release. Enríquez is an Argentinian author and her stories address the socio-political issues of the country with a strong supernatural twist. This book is filled to the brim with dangerous women, from frenzied fan girls to teen witches. I was absolutely shaken by the new collection, I wish I could scream its praises at the top of my lungs.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Perhaps one of the buzziest names on this list, Silvia Morena-Garcia has become literature’s new sweetheart after the breakout success of Mexican Gothic last year. The great thing about the increased visibility of an established writer is the large catalog of previous works, as is the case of Certain Dark Things. Originally published in 2016, the book quickly went out of print after the collapse of her previous publisher. This book has recently been republished by Tor Nightfire and I am honestly so happy that this book has been given a second chance because it is simply outstanding. Shaking up traditional vampire folklore with Aztec vampires and others that came from different backgrounds, a dash of noir, and some truly fun characters, this book has shot up to one of my favorite vampire books of all time. I hope that the wave of attention will lift this book up to its rightful place as a classic in the genre.

Lady Bits by Kate Jonez

I am always so happy when I can find a lesser-known author that manages to blow me away. Kate Jonez has been nominated a handful of times for prestigious horror awards yet her work goes under the radar from the greater reading public. Lady Bits is a fantastic short story collection, the very first story starts the book off with a bang and the pace never lets up. I greatly enjoyed almost every story in the collection and found myself delighting in the grisly kills of the dangerous women that lead each story. My favorite stories dive into the southern gothic, from runaway street tramps to the quiet horror of motherhood, Lady Bits is an utter pleasure to read.

Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Returning again to outstanding Argentinian writers, my hands down favorite book of 2020 was Tender is the Flesh, a nightmare dystopia about state-sanctioned cannibalism. This book is a stark reminder of the difference between fear and all-out gut-wrenching horror. While the main character of the novel is a grieving father, the female horror in this book is undeniable as the main character is saddled with a prized heffer, a young woman fit for slaughter. This book’s pacing is unrelenting as the reader is given a guided tour of the menagerie of atrocities inflicted on our fellow man in the name of keeping the meat industry alive after a natural disaster makes animal meat inedible. Political, provocative, punchy, Tender is the Flesh will challenge the reader’s morality as well as their stomachs.

Additional Reading

To close out, I wanted to include a few links to some wonderful articles that I enjoyed about women in horror.