by Joseph Andre Thomas (@bunttriple)
2020, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. During a year in which we spent more time at home than ever thought possible, of course all of us looked for an escape: some turned to exercise, others to Netflix, to booze, to self-help books, to morning yoga sessions on Zoom, to finally learning how to cook. Others, however, found stability within the pages of some of the goriest, grimiest, most depraved fiction they could get their hands on.
HOWLS—the Horror-Obsessed Writing and Literature Society—was formed early on in the pandemic, when a group of r/horrorlit travelled onto a Discord channel. The initial idea was to start a book club, but it quickly ballooned into a place where anyone and everyone interested in horror could come to discuss both reading and writing (and shriek at ghosts while playing Phasmophobia).
In 2020, out of the 226 nominated titles (and innumerable suggestions), HOWLS read 40 books as a community. Here are the favorites.
This category asked HOWLers to name the book they initially weren’t interested in but later ended up loving.
Winner: Negative Space by B.R. Yeager (by a landslide: 42.3% of the vote)
Runner-up: The Visitor by Sergio Gomez (15.4%)
THEY’RE NEW TO YOU
Here we have the most “discovered” author through a selected HOWLS read.
Winner: The Cipher by Kathe Koja (18.5%)
Runners-up (tie): A Night in Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny & Uzumaki by Junji Ito (14.8% each)
MOST MEME-ABLE BOOK
Winners (tie): The Visitor by Sergio Gomez & Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon (46.7% each)
BEST NON-HOWLS HORROR READ
Winner: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (32.1%)
Runner-up: Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies by John Langan (10.7%)
THE “VEGEMITE” AWARD
As many consider the Australian sandwich spread a love-it-or-hate-it kind of topping (or condiment?), this category celebrates the most polarizing books.
Winner: A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli (another landslide: 52% of the vote)
Runner-up: The Cipher by Kathe Koja (20%)
THE TOP 10 OF THE YEAR
10. Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson (20)
8. (tie) Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates (21)
8. (tie) Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones (21)
7. Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due (23)
6. Revenge by Yoko Ogawa (24)
5. The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown (26)
4. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (27)
3. Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities, and Other Horrors edited by Doug Murano & Michael Bailey (28)
2. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (29)
And the first-ever HOWLS Read of the Year is . . .
1. Negative Space by B.R. Yeager (43)
With a remarkable share of the votes, almost entirely coming from first- and second-place votes, Negative Space—not to mention the wonderful discussion it inspired—is the clear 2020 HOWLS standout. A huge congratulations to B.R. Yeager (and an equally huge Thank You! to B.R. for dropping by the Discord to chat). May many more readers learn your name in 2021!