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2020 Book Concierge: Books For Horror Junkies

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

NPR's Book Concierge has hundreds of recommendations from NPR staff and critics. And there are so many good choices that it can be hard to know where to start. So today, here are four suggestions from our colleagues for those of you out there who, when it gets dark and cold outside, like to sit by the fire with a creepy, scary horror novel.

GISELE GRAYSON, BYLINE: This is Gisele Grayson. I'm an editor on the Science Desk. And I read "The Searcher" by Tana French. Cal Hooper is a disillusioned retired Chicago cop. He moves to rural Ireland for a simpler life, but then he gets dragged into searching for a missing local teenager. The boy has possibly been murdered, though, possibly, he's just fled for the city. Of course, Cal jumps in despite his yearning for solitude. French beautifully and slowly unspools the story, all the while carrying tension in every sentence and scene. Cal and the reader take the journey together, exploring both the opportunity and the danger that a city has to offer and the peace and complications of a village that is increasingly depleted of its young people.

JC HOWARD, BYLINE: My name is J.C. Howard. I'm a producer for TED Radio Hour and How I Built This. The book is called "The City We Became." It's by N.K. Jemisin. It's a fantasy novel set in a version of our world that is not quite our world. If your hometown was a person, what would she look like? What kind of shoes would they wear? How would he smell? What would you do if you came face to literal face with New York City? This is the world that N.K. Jemisin imagines in her fantasy novel, "The City We Became." This year, we need all the fantasy we can get. And Jemisin offers a multi-dimensional version of the world that's just outside your front door. New York City's five boroughs each become human avatars and walk through a world that is recognizable as our own yet wholly different as these avatars and New York itself are under attack from a supernatural and betentacled enemy.

SARAH HANDEL, BYLINE: Hey. This is Sarah Handel. I'm the midday editor for All Things Considered. "Sisters" by Daisy Johnson is the book I couldn't stop thinking about for weeks after I read it this summer. It's a story about two sisters born 10 months apart. Their names are July and September. And they are completely enmeshed with one another - so much so that, as a reader, I sometimes couldn't tell who was who. When we meet them, they're moving into this decrepit, moldering house on the English coast. Neither sister seems that thrilled about it. And in time, you learn that they've left Oxford after a bullying incident that you don't really know much about. But page by page, you start to learn more about exactly what it was that forced them out of Oxford. And while the twist is too good for me to give away, just know that this is a truly creepy story, from the dank and bug-infested home where the family lives to the shocking event at its center.

LEAH DONNELLA, BYLINE: My name is Leah Donnella. I'm an editor with NPR's Code Switch team. The book I'm recommending is "The Only Good Indians" by Stephen Graham Jones. It's a horror story. The title is a play on that old racist saw, the only good Indian is a dead Indian. And the story centers around four men. They're Blackfeet. They are - or were - best friends. And one year, just before Thanksgiving, they do something that they are not supposed to do. And that something winds up spending the next 10 years basically hunting them down and trying to get revenge. For people who love Agatha Christie-style horror mysteries, this book will definitely satisfy. But my favorite thing about it is that it's largely about four people trying to reckon with their identity, culture and relationships. It's really funny in a very dark way, but it's also sweet. And there's some really satisfying drama that takes place on the basketball court. And the ending is just everything you want it to be.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There you have it for scary books to read this winter. That was Leah Donnella recommending "The Only Good Indians," Sarah Handel, who recommends "Sisters," J.C. Howard, who recommended "The City We Became" and Gisele Grayson recommending "The Searcher." And you can find the full list of NPR Book Concierge recommendations at npr.org/bestbooks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.