I don’t know a lot of things. I’m not an expert on much. But I feel safe in saying this: the year 2020 is one of the most overwrought, disastrously plotted horror novels ever conceived. (Murder hornets? Really?)
In dealing with this reality, my reading habits have zigged and zagged all over the place. In some moments, I want a book that makes me feel good, a friendly distraction. Ten seconds later, I need something gory, grisly, or otherwise cognizant of our mounting nonfictional horrors.
Enter the comic horror novel. No, not a horror comic. A horror comedy. A book that revels in its spookiness while tickling your funny bone. What could be more true to this moment than a book that recognizes the absurdity of awfulness?
If you need a read that satisfies every facet of your current mood, here are five picks for books as funny as they are horrifying.
Meddling Kids, Edgar Cantero
“What if Scooby-Doo, but the monsters are real?” That’s the jumping-off point for Cantero’s wacky, worrisome romp. The Blyton Summer Detective Club solved their last case in the summer of 1977. Or so they thought. Looking back on that case more than a decade later, some things still don’t add up. In fact, that case has dogged the members of the club ever since, wreaking havoc on their lives. (One’s dead, another has visions, a third is institutionalized.) Now the gang’s getting back together to unmask a lake monster they never fully understood.
Bunny, Mona Awad
Okay, this book is dark. But it’s also darkly funny. Viciously so. Samantha is a self-styled outsider in her small but competitive MFA program. She’s repulsed and simultaneously fascinated by the insufferably precious clique of well-to-do girls (they call themselves Bunnies) who make up the rest of her cohort. Her scorn recedes when she’s invited to one of the Bunnies’ “Smut Salon” workshops. As Samantha gets drawn further into their feverish world, events turn weirder, gorier, and more terrifying.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Grady Hendrix
Any of Hendrix’s wildly inventive takes on horror would work here, but it’s hard to top this ode to the 1980s. High-schoolers Gretchen and Abby have been best friends for years. They know each other intimately, in only the way childhood friends do. But after a seemingly failed acid trip with friends one night, Gretchen starts acting strangely. She’s plagued by hallucinations, her behavior is erratic, and bizarre events follow in her wake. Abby knows this isn’t just a case of teen angst. But can she beat the devil at his own game?
How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend, Linda Addison
If you’re having trouble concentrating on long stories these days, consider picking up Addison’s peculiar and playful collection of horror short stories and poetry. (Yes, poetry.) The snippets of stories here invite you to look for demons when and where you least expect them, lessons conveyed in a variety of styles and forms. The throughline is Addison’s deft ability to make you scream both with laughter and fright.
One Bloody Thing After Another, Joey Comeau
In another story of supernaturally complicated best friends, we have Jackie and Ann. There is a deceptive amount going on in this slim book, but at its bizarro heart, this story is about two girls coping with the unfortunate hands life has dealt them. For Ann, at least, that unfortunate hand has been flamboyantly dealt: her mother’s a flesh-eating zombie who’s chained up in the basement and requires food of the living variety. You know, the usual family tensions.