When you reflect on the past year of your life, what stands out to you most? Was it a promotion at work, or the beginning of a new relationship? Perhaps it is memories from that long-awaited vacation you finally took?
Well, for me it is nothing so spectacular. The past year of my life has been rather challenging, actually. And 2023 has started out similarly. But no matter if life is going well or threatening to knock me off my feet, I read before bed. Not only do I find comfort in the routine, I genuinely enjoy ending my day by escaping within the pages of a book. (The dog snoring at my feet is an added bonus.)
When I look back at the last year of my life, I think of all the places these stories have taken me. Below, I compiled the top five books I read in 2022.
Nothing but Blackened Teeth– Cassandra Khaw
Khaw’s title is a classic haunted house story, but elevated by the infusion of Japanese folklore. Set in a Heian-era mansion, the tale follows a group of friends, recently reunited for a wedding, as they attempt to survive what terrors rest at the foundation of the house. Will everyone get out alive? The prose is poetic and evocative, so be warned: you may want to consume this all in one sitting!
The Twisted Ones– T. Kingfisher
This story follows Mouse, a freelancing single woman with a goofy dog named Bongo. Mouse receives a call from her Dad, asking her to clean out her late grandmother’s house. And come to find out, her grandmother was a hoarder. In the process, Mouse comes across her late step-grandfather’s journal, which describes some rather horrific and otherworldly phenomena. And it isn’t so easy to dismiss once Mouse and Bongo encounter some of these terrors in real time, looking into their windows and lurking in the woods outside.
Mexican Gothic– Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This story is so gripping that my heart dropped into my stomach when I finished it. Because I hated that it was over. The tale follows Noemi, an educated and beautiful Mexican woman who agrees to go check on her recently married cousin in exchange to be permitted by her father to pursue graduate study. Set in the Mexican countryside, it is a period piece with a fascinating twist on classic gothic horror.
Queen of Teeth– Hailey Piper
Have you ever read a book that, afterwards, rattled around in your head for days? This one will. This is the first I read of Hailey Piper, and I doubt it is the last. The story follows Yolanda (Yaya), a chimera-lesbian woman who awakes from a one-night stand to find that she started her period in her casual-lover’s bed. When she attempts to freshen herself in the restroom and insert a tampon, she realizes she has something growing inside of her. Vaginal dentata? Yaya soon finds that the growth has a mind of its own, and an appetite, too. This sci-fi/horror story grapples with bodily autonomy and literally left me speechless.
A Head Full of Ghosts– Paul Tremblay
Okay, so this piece is discussed in a previous article. And I try my best to read minority/female authors as much as possible. But Tremblay does good work, and he isn’t taking up space that he shouldn’t be by putting his stories out into the world. A Head Full of Ghosts follows a family of four in what one may assume to be a modern re-telling of an exorcism. Except it isn’t, and it never was, and this story will take even the most clever of readers by surprise with its devastating twists.
And what’s on my nightstand so far for 2023?
What Moves the Dead– T. Kingfisher
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock– Paul Tremblay
Out of Aztlan– V. Castro
The Final Girl Support Group– Grady Hendrix
Don’t Fear the Reaper– Stephen Graham Jones (The minute it is released!)
It is a great time to be a fan of sci-fi and horror literature. I didn’t know reading modern horror would be my thing, and maybe the same will be true for you. Check out your library, borrow from friends and family, and support indie book stores. And happy reading dumplings.
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