20 Compulsive Novels To Read This Summer
You probably read that title and immediately thought these are Summer-based books, right?
Well, not so fast.
Summer is just around the corner and with many places re-opening and lessening restrictions to various degrees around the world, you’ll still find most of us book worms saying ‘no’ to a gathering and ‘yes’ to a sunny afternoon of reading in the back yard.
Summer can be the perfect time to tackle some of that massive (and near tipping) TBR, especially when you carve out some designated “book” time and tell your family to shut up and leave you alone! Ha!
Over the last few years, I’ve read a ton of books (not literally, they’ve been on my Kindle so total weight is like 10grams or something) and I find there are a batch of books that I just can’t stop thinking about. You know those books – the ones that made you put down the other eight books you’re reading to focus solely on that one and single story.
Well, I’m here to share with you that list of novels that will force you to push aside any and all real-world responsibilities, slather on the sunscreen, get out the massive hat, pour yourself a nice adult beverage (or six) and set up the hammock. Because once you crack open one of these books, your ass will be glued to whatever it is sitting on until you read ‘THE END’ and realize that yes, in fact, you’ve just sat and read an absolutely compulsive book in one sitting.
Thank me later.
Night Train – David Quantick (Titan Books, September 29, 2020)
A woman wakes up on a train not remembering who she is or how she got onboard. Outside the world is different and as she makes her way through the different cars, Quantick slowly unravels more of the mystery. This was amazing. This came onto my radar via Tony Jones at GNOH and I can’t thank him enough for recommending this one.
The Forgotten Island – David Sodergren (Independently Published, October 1st, 2018)
A vacation sounds good, right? A little trip to Thailand to enjoy paradise and some alcohol-fuelled hijinks? What if you get trapped on an island that has some weird things and secrets that’ll peel you apart in the middle of the night? Sodergren’s debut novel is a perfect piece of fiction to make you remember why we hate creepy crawlies. This one is filled with tons of gore, violence and sexy times. Absolute blast.
Bird Box – Josh Malerman (Ecco, March 27, 2014)
You look at these mysterious creatures and you go mad. A simple, straightforward concept that Malerman propels along at a gallop as we see a woman work tirelessly to keep her and her family safe. This may have come on your radar because of the Netflix movie, which I’ve not seen, but safe to say if you’ve not read this one, give it a go and prepare to have anxiety.
A God in the Shed – J.F. Dubeau (Inkshares, June 13, 2017)
You see that title? That is literally what this book is about. A mysterious thing is unleashed and takes up residence in the shed at the back of a house. From there the ripples of its arrival undulate across the small town and Dubeau doesn’t once let the sun shine through. This one was fantastic.
Remains – Andrew Cull (IFWG Publishing Australia, August 1st, 2019)
You like your horror leaving you crying your eyes out and tucked into a ball in the corner? Well, friends, have you read ‘Remains’ from Cull? A story of a woman struggling to deal with the brutal death of her child, Cull brings us a novel of emotional depth and emotional pain. Gripping from start to finish.
Netherkind – Greg Chapman (Omnium Gatherum, May 6th, 2019)
This wasn’t the first nor the last of Chapman’s outstanding work that I’ve read, but I’d suggest it is his best so far. What starts as a story of a man struggling with an affliction, morphs into a subterranean based novel of strange species and fantastic world-building. Great stuff here.
FOE – Iain Reid (Gallery/Scout Press, August 7, 2018)
Now, granted I did read this before ‘I’m Thinking About Ending Things,’ but I found this was the more tension-filled of the two and truly the more unsettling. ‘Foe’ tells us the story of government agents arriving at a farmhouse and confronting the residents. Things begin to unravel from there and we sprint along until a thrilling and ultimately devastating conclusion.
Weeping Season – Seán O’Connor (Matador, September 13, 2019)
O’Connor has released some really great, brutal reads, but with ‘Weeping Season,’ he showed the greatness that he is capable of. In a story that mashes The Hunger Games with reality show Survivor, we arrive to find a group of strangers transported to a weird location and having to complete tasks to stay alive. This one had me from page one and never let go.
Big Bad – Christian Galacar (Rude Human Press, September 25, 2019)
Galacar blew me away with ‘Gilchrist’ but it was reading ‘Big Bad’ that I knew he was a fantastically special author. ‘Big Bad’ is more of a straightforward thriller where a woman disappears in a blizzard and her FBI sister comes to find her in a small, isolated town, but don’t let that detour you from checking this one out. Stunning setting, amazing characters and tension and dread on every page.
The Boulevard Monster – Jeremy Hepler (Bloodshot Books, April 7th, 2017)
Curiosity gets the better of one man in Hepler’s outstanding novel. When he takes a look in the back of his buddies new truck and gets sucked into a world where he’s forced to cater to a strange reptilian man. This one was told with such a great narrative style and Hepler kept the pace at a break-neck speed from the beginning to the ending. Just an amazing, amazing book.
Behemoth – H.P. Newquist (Bloodshot Books, October 24, 2019)
A town that tries to keep visitors away. A monster that comes out each night. Newquist’s book has so many layers, but I think the beauty of it is that nothing is hidden. We get to see all of the moving pieces from page one and because of that the reader is hooked and dragged along as new doors are opened and new players get involved. Really fantastic.
Eden – Tim Lebbon (Titan Books, March 20th, 2020)
Set in the future, ‘Eden’ follows a group of Eco-Runners as they try and set a new record running across one of the last nature preserves left in the world. But something awaits them within. Lebbon has a way of making even the simplest of scenes feel like it’s about to explode with carnage. I loved how we got to see so many interwoven storylines in a new and unique take on post-apocalyptic storytelling.
Gods of the Black Gate – Joseph Sale (Independently Published, November 5th, 2018)
The first in a stunning trilogy, this sci-fi/horror mashup introduced me to Sale and made me a massive fan. It also introduced us to one of the best baddies out there with the character of Smiley. Sale doesn’t hold back and we get a penitentiary on Mars and other worlds all wrapped up into a cops versus bad guy type story. This one is a must-read and once done you’ll immediately order the sequel.
The Killing Circle – Andrew Pyper (Minotaur Books, January 1st, 2008)
My favorite book of all time, it was also the very last of Pyper’s books I had to read. When I jumped in, I wasn’t too sure if it would be one I’d love and instead found a literary gem and one I didn’t breathe while reading. We follow a father who is trying to juggle being a single dad to his son after his wife has passed away, while also finding meaning in his work as a beat writer. When he joins a writing group to try and kick start that drive to write his first novel, sinister things begin to happen, all tied into the writer’s circle. Pyper may be my favorite author but this is him on a whole other level of excellence.
The Ritual – Adam Nevill (Pan Publishing, May 6th, 2011)
A rare thing for me, but I actually saw the movie of this book, long before reading it. Did that diminish it? Not in the least. A group of friends are hiking in the woods when weird and strange things begin to happen. I found this read to be pulse-pounding and claustrophobic and nicely heightened by continued fear of the woods.
The Cabin at the End of the World – Paul Tremblay (William Morrow, June 26th, 2018)
A book people either seem to love or hate, I went into this one with trepidation. After only a few chapters I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. A child and her two dads are at a summer cabin when strangers show up and tell them that one of them needs to die in order for the world to survive. From there we get a chaotic, psychological thriller where things remain vague enough to have the reader question everything that they think they know and that has happened. Outstanding.
Gulf – Shelly Campbell (Silver Shamrock Publishing, April 27, 2021)
I took this one on a whim to review knowing Silver Shamrock put out great work, and the cover really intrigued me. Boy am I glad I did. This is one of my all-time favs and Campbell delivered such a strong and stellar story. A family goes to a cabin they’ve stayed at previously, only to find out that an addition has been put onto the place but no key can be found and no one knows what’s on the other side. This is a coming-of-age story that really throws you for a loop and has tons of creeps and emotional depth.
Suffer the Children – Craig DiLouie (Gallery Books, May 20th, 2014)
One day all the children in the world die. Then they all come back to life, but they’re slightly different. DiLouie created and unleashed one of the saddest, darkest, most horrific stories I’ve ever read and did so while keeping me frantically turning each page and struggling to guess just what was going to happen. I often say some stories will stay with me, but a story like this, this one will never leave.
The Ash – Dan Soule (Independently Published, August 2nd, 2020)
While the world of post-apocalyptic fiction can often feel overloaded and lacking originality, Soule’s novel ‘The Ash’ flips the script on what to expect and gives us a fantastic tale of survival and a dad doing whatever he can to get back to his family. The story beginning is simple. A cop starts to chase a speeding car when ash begins to float down from the sky. Shortly the world is covered and not long after creatures from somewhere else make themselves known. This was a stellar and full-throttle read.
The Cold – Rich Hawkins (Horrific Tales Publishing, July 22nd, 2019)
Another post-apocalyptic story, Hawkins ‘The Cold’ walks a similar path to the previously mentioned ‘The Ash,’ only this time instead of ash falling, it’s snow. In the middle of July. Riding on a train, the blizzard hits as massive tentacled monsters appear in the sky and begin to destroy everything in their paths. This was such an engaging read and with Hawkins cinematic flare, we get a book that speeds along until an earth-shattering conclusion.
There you go! 20 compulsive novels that’ll have you staying up well past your bedtime.
Watch for my 15 compulsive novella feature coming soon as well for those folk who enjoy a shorter page count!
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
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