Book Club Nominees

6 Books That Might Be All In Your Head

by @TaylorK, curator of HOWLS book club nominees for June’s “It’s All In Your Head” category 

Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror and psychological fiction with a particular focus on mental, emotional, and psychological states to frighten, disturb, or unsettle its audience. We know in our rational minds that vampires and ghosts can’t get us, but we can’t always control our minds, which can cause some of the greatest horror. I chose a selection of books to explore that fear that can be found within the mind.

Cover of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. Cover shows a young girl standing in the woods. Nothing is around except trees.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland strays from the path while she and her recently divorced mother and brother take a hike along a branch of the Appalachian Trail. Lost for days, wandering farther and farther astray, Trisha has only her portable radio for comfort. A huge fan of Tom Gordon, a Boston Red Sox relief pitcher, she listens to baseball games and fantasizes that her hero will save her. Nature isn’t her only adversary, though – something dangerous may be tracking Trisha through the dark woods.

Stephen King got me into horror as a genre. I actually started creating this category with Misery in mind because that’s been on my TBR for a long time, but as I developed the category and searched more for stories taking place in a character’s head, this book became a much better fit for It’s All in Your Head.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Cover shows an old, very large house.

 We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise, I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cap mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead…

A GoodReads review says “Bizarre, strange, haunting, sinister, disturbing, twisted, foreboding, suffocatingly claustrophobic, leaving you with the ever-growing sense of unease. What else can I say about this book to give it justice?” That’s enough of a sell for me.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Maddening by Andrew Neiderman. Cover shows a car driving down a wet country road at night. There are no cars or people around.

The Maddening by Andrew Neiderman

Stacey Oberman made the worst mistake of her life when she followed the garage mechanic’s advice and turned off the main highway. When her car breaks down in a rainstorm, she and her five-year-old daughter seek refuge in a nearby farmhouse—only to become “playmates” in a violent whirlpool of unrelenting terror.

Reviews include “I have never felt such a sense of dread in a book.” When your car breaks down, can you trust the people you need to help you?

Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven. Cover shows a ferris wheel at dusk.

FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven 

Since the 1970s, FantasticLand has been the theme park where “Fun is Guaranteed!” But when a hurricane ravages the Florida coast and isolates the park, the employees find it anything but fun. Five weeks later, the authorities who rescue the survivors encounter a scene of horror. Photos soon emerge online of heads on spikes outside of rides and viscera and human bones littering the gift shops, breaking records for hits, views, likes, clicks, and shares. How could a group of survivors, mostly teenagers, commit such terrible acts?

Goodreads says “FantasticLand is a modern take on Lord of the Flies meets Battle Royale that probes the consequences of a social civilization built online.” Battle Royale was such a fun novel to read, so here’s about another book about teens killing each other.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin. Cover shows a series of black circles superimposed on an image of a horse. The horse's head is poking out from between the circles, like someone glued construction paper circles over the horse.

 Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin 

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.

This book is a conversation between a boy and a dying woman. It tells like a dream, or a nightmare, and leaves the reader wondering what’s real and what’s part of her fever dream.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Houdini Heart  by Ki Longfellow. Cover shows a negative or inverted image of a house - the sky is dark and the house is nearly white.

Houdini Heart by Ki Longfellow

HOUDINI HEART harkens back to the masters of suspenseful supernatural horror: Poe, Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, but speaks with a wholly fresh voice. Once caught in its pages, there’s no escaping Longfellow’s terrible tale. Weeks ago, she was one of Hollywood’s biggest writers, wed to one of its greatest stars. The doting mother of their golden child. But now? She’s alone, tortured by a horrifying secret no woman could bear. Pursued by those she can’t outrun, anguished by a guilt she can’t endure, and driven close to madness, she flees to the one place she’s ever called home: a small town in Vermont where River House still stands. To a child, the splendid hotel was mysterious and magical and all its glamorous guests knew delicious secrets. Cocooned in its walls, she will write one last book. Her atonement? Or her suicide note? But life is never as you dream it, and River House isn’t what she’d always imagined it was. Intense, literary, and harrowing, Houdini Heart is a tale of bone-chilling horror, emotional torment, and psychological terror. Gripped by River House, trapped in an aging hotel of mirrors only Houdini could escape, how much can haunt a mind before it too is only a thing once imagined?

I’ve enjoyed the works of Poe, Lovecraft, and Shirley Jackson, so seeing those names referenced in relation to this novel were a plus. It has a lot of reviews talking about its psychological elements and great writing style.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven. Join HOWL Society on Monday, May 31, 2021 to begin discussion!

*The HOWLS affiliate storefront pays a 10% commission to HOWL Society and gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores

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