by Joseph Andre Thomas (@bunttriple)
HOWLS exploded in 2021. Like literally exploded. There’s blood everywhere. A bit of liver on the ceiling, half-a-heart sliding down the wall.
This past year, HOWLS Discord channel grew to 1500+ users, with around 200 active at any given moment. HOWLS released Howls From Hell, its first anthology, to very positive reviews (with a second anthology, Howls From the Dark Ages, on the way in 2022). The website continued to grow, adding many more reviews and editorial content. Nineteen authors, translators, and editors dropped by for Q&A sessions, including bonafide genre giants such as Tananarive Due, Grady Hendrix, Victor LaValle, and Ramsey Campbell.
This year, HOWLS read 53 books over 52 weeks. Now, users give you their favorites.
[Note: Unlike most “Best Of” lists, the selections here aren’t all 2021 releases. These awards only consider books and discussions that took place on the HOWLS Discord server over the past year. So, for example, classics like We Have Always Lived in the Castle are on equal footing with contemporary releases like The Final Girl Support Group.]
Biggest WTF Moment in a HOWLS read
Runner-up: Confessions (Kanae Minato)—AIDS Milk (23.5% of the vote)
WINNER: Pin (Andrew Neiderman)—Puppeteer Incest (29.4%)
This category asked HOWLers to name the book they initially weren’t interested in, but ended up loving.
Runner-up: The Icarus Girl—Helen Oyeyemi (19.4%)
WINNER: Bunny—Mona Awad (22.6%)
Most Meme-able HOWLS Read
These are the books that sent us right to Microsoft Paint.
Runner-up: FantasticLand—Mike Bockoven (28.6%)
WINNER: Bunny—Mona Awad (31.4%)
The Vegemite Award
This award is for the most polarizing read between HOWLS users—some loved it, others…not so much. Named in honor of the simultaneously delightful and disgusting Australian spread.
Runner-up: The Grip of It—Jac Jemc (17.2%)
WINNER: Teatro Grottesco—Thomas Ligotti (34.5%)
Best Book Discussion
This category asked HOWLers to name their favorite book discussion, regardless if it was their favorite read.
Runner-up: The Icarus Girl—Helen Oyeyemi (17.6%)
WINNER: Subcutanean—Aaron A. Reed (26.5%)
Nineteen writers, editors, and translators dropped by for quick, weekend Q&A sessions, each one enjoyable and insightful! The following were standouts.
Runner-up: Victor LaValle (13.9%)
WINNER: Grady Hendrix (27.8%)
[Note: There were LOTS of votes spread across nearly every Q&A participant in this category. HOWLS Q&A guests are well loved!]
Top 10 HOWLS Reads of 2021
Honorable mentions (each very close to cracking the Top 10): The Elementals—Michael McDowell; NOS4A2—Joe Hill; and Perfume—Patrick Süskind
10. The Final Girl Support Group—Grady Hendrix
9. The Changeling—Victor LaValle
8. Pin—Andrew Neiderman
7. Subcutanean—Aaron A. Reed
6. The Icarus Girl—Helen Oyeyemi
5. We Have Always Lived in the Castle—Shirley Jackson
4. The Ruins—Scott Smith
3. The Fisherman—John Langan
2. The Good House—Tananarive Due
1. Bunny—Mona Awad
HOWLS favorite read of 2021 is Bunny (winning over The Good House by a bunny’s chin hair). Mona Awad has written a memorable, funny, and remarkably bizarre examination of one of the scariest situations one could ever find themselves in: an MFA program. Congratulations on the well-deserved win, Bunny.