The days of late December is a time often spent looking back at the year coming to a close. As I reflect on the books I read, it becomes clear 2017 was a remarkable year with some absolute stellar finds. 2017 also marks my second year delving into the horror genre after a long break. I’ve been trying to catch up on classics I missed and new releases of the moment, so you’ll see a lot of them on this top ten list I’ve scrabbled together. These represent the books I enjoyed the most this past year and it wasn’t easy keeping it to ten picks (don’t believe me, check out my Goodreads list and all the 5-star reviews). Ranking them proved to be a challenging a task, so the numbering only reflects the order in which I read them.
Without further prologue, here are my favorite reads of 2017. Perhaps they will help inspire your reads for the new year.
1. The Romeo Catchers by Alys Arden (2017)
This is a bit of a cheat since I actually read an ARC for this book in 2016, but since it was released this year I’m including it. The second part of Arden’s YA series about the battle of witches and vampires in New Orleans is a fierce follow up with an ending so tense and tormenting, I’ve been screaming for book 3 ever since I finished.
2. The Gilded Cage by Vic James (2017)
The first of a trilogy, The Gilded Cage takes readers into an alternate reality where the British aristocracy are evil sorcerers. Told mainly from the point of view of a family who become indentured servants to the regime, the novel delivers plenty of adventure, intrigue, and social commentary. The second book came out in the UK last September, and I’ve been on tenterhooks waiting for the North American release this coming February (why does it take six months to remove a bunch of “u”s? Why?).
3 The Fisherman by John Langan (2016)
This incredible novel may be my favourite of the year. It is certainly the first book in ages that on completion made me want to turn back to page one and start it over again without pause. Langan weaves a Russian doll of stories in stories all focusing with laser precision on the theme of grief. The result demonstrates what horror is capable of when it’s at its best.
4. Little Heaven by Nick Cutter (2017)
When the heroes of a story are a trio of neo-western killers, you know the book is going to go into some dark territory and Cutter doesn’t disappoint. He serves up some unforgettable villains in the form of a whacked out religious cult and an ancient god-like monstrosity. The novel abounds with violence and gore, but what elevated it up to my top ten was Cutter’s mind-blowing gift for description.
5. Spider’s Gamble by Jesse Sprague (2017)
The conclusion to Sprague’s Spider series marks the first Wattpad book on the list. The author combines epic sci-fi with horror elements to great effect in this saga about a human-spider hybrid species which threatens to wipe out humanity. This concluding volume brought back much-loved characters and much-hated villains and resolved all the various plot threads in an immensely satisfying way.
6. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (2016)
An ingenious retelling of Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook. LaValle takes one of the most notoriously racist stories in horror canon and confronts it head-on. This is no simple flipping of roles or perspective. The author dives into a murky, grey world and gives readers a complex meditation on society and how oppression and pain can create evil. Set in the Jazz age, it’s wonderfully atmospheric and the world it builds is I could have occupied for much longer than the novella allowed.
7. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (1967)
There is no hyperbole in calling this novel an absolute classic. I have long been an admirer of the film version but had no idea what I was missing with the book. The writing has a precision to it that is worthy of study. Levin masterfully draws readers into intimately relating to Rosemary and pulls them through the mundane into a seething world of paranoia. Even knowing what was going to happen, I was on the edge of my seat.
8. Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman (2017)
It’s hard for me to describe how I fell head-over-heels in love with this book. It managed to hit all the right points and to be the perfect novel for me when I picked it up. It tells the story of Philip, a Korean War vet and musician in the 1950s, who gets recruited by the army to investigate a possible weaponized sound in the desert. It’s filled with mystery, terrors, and a love story. Malerman impressed my with Bird Box but Black Mad Wheel secured him as one of my favourite authors.
9. The Ritual by Adam Nevill (2011)
Perhaps the most immersive and creepy book on the list. It’s about four old college friends who reunite for a hiking trip in Sweden. Each of them is struggling with the stresses of adulthood and the arduous hike cracks open divisions and awakens jealousies. But things go from bad to worse when a shortcut takes them into an ancient forest where dark things lie in wait. A real white knuckle page-turner.
10. Hedoschism by Lindsey Clark (?)
The second Wattpad book and the second cheat, since this book is still in the process of serialization. But even though I’ve read a small part of this book, it is one of the most enjoyable of 2017. A dark story of a party girl, who gets in way overhead, Hedoschism feels a little like what would happen if Neil Gaiman had written Trainspotting, except the epic war between supernatural creatures (which has only been hinted at, so far) is pure Lindsay Clarke. A worthy follow up to her Whitechapel Chronicles, I’m anxious to read more in the coming year.