16 of the Scariest Horror Novels for Feminists

Posted on March 3, 2023

by Jules H

In celebration of Women’s History Month, let’s take a look at the horror fiction that scared some diversity into an otherwise male-dominated genre. Each book on this list is written by a self-identified woman, and each one will challenge the reader in some way. Some common themes among these books are male privilege, gender norms, race, sexuality, and reproductive rights. And they are horror books, so be aware that there are numerous dark elements which mean these recommendations aren’t for everyone, so please remember to read responsibly: if you are concerned about disturbing or triggering content, check Does the Dog Die, The StoryGraph, NoveList, or consult with a librarian first.

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

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This book isn’t strictly horror, though it has many horror elements; namely, vampires. Parts of this book can be tough to read (you’ll understand why) but its take on the well-worn myth of vampires is wholly unique.

Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories by Angela Carter

Dark retellings of fairy tales and folklore is pretty overdone at this point. However, Angela Carter did it first; her collection of short stories titled The Bloody Chamber was published in the UK in 1979; most of those twisted tales can be found in the American-published anthology here.

Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung

eBook | eAudiobook

I don’t know what to say about this collection of short stories besides, it is strange. Kelly Link has good things to say about this author, which might tell you something.

Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin

eBook | eAudiobook

Manhunt is the most cartoonishly violent book on this list – and one of the most fun. Imagine crazed male zombies, armies of angry trans-exclusionary radical feminists, and the super cool hardcore trans ladies fighting to survive in the middle of it all.

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

eBook | eAudiobook

This is the author’s debut novel – and it’s a pretty strong debut. A young woman struggling both herself and an ailing mother agrees to take part in a medical study for some extra cash. Long story short, it doesn’t end well.

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

One of Gilman’s most famous short stories, The Yellow Wallpaper was published in 1892. Since then it has influenced countless writers and activists and its impact on first-time readers hasn’t dulled one bit.

The Vegetarian by Kang Han

eBook | eAudiobook

This is a strange little story about a young wife who decides to give up eating meat after being tormented by violent dreams. The real horror of this book isn’t the nightmare imagery, but the paranoia and isolation that’s symptomatic in those who go against cultural norms.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Like Butler’s Fledgling, this book isn’t strictly horror (it’s more sci-fi, honestly) but there are elements of horror sprinkled throughout. This story has a strong female protagonist in a punky post-apocalypse with demons and ghosts. What’s not to like?

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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I could have added any number of Jackson’s books to this list – but The Haunting of Hill House just happens to be my favorite. Netflix made an adaptation of the book too. It was okay.

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

eBook | eAudiobook

For lovers of gothic horror and a bit of supernatural grossness, this book is a more modern retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher.

Velocities: Stories by Kathe Koja

Kathe Koja often writes from the perspective of the “young punk,” highlighting people that live on the fringe of society. She also has a knack for writing beautiful, poetic prose combined with disturbing imagery. I don’t know how she does it, but I do know that I’m always happy to read more.

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

A friend and fellow book lover suggested that I read Kelly Link and I am forever grateful to her. The author’s voice is clear and playful, lending itself perfectly to stories that defy genre, blurring the line between fantasy, sci-fi and horror. This one is good for young adult readers too.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

eBook | eAudiobook

This book was a game-changer for me. The short stories in this collection are some of the most disturbing I’ve read. Machado’s work is horrifying, angry, and unapologetic. Please read this one at your own risk.

Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body by Megan Milks

Out of all the books listed here, I might call this one the weirdest. It’s Scooby-Doo meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

eBook | eAudiobook

Of course, this book is one of the paramount works of Gothic horror.

Sundial by Catriona Ward


It should be noted that this book shares its title with a book by Shirley Jackson, which is not a coincidence. The story centers on the relationship between a mother with a traumatic past and her disturbed young daughter.

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