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  • Writer's pictureBP Gregory

BP Gregory's Top Reads of 2023

Decorative graphic shows a pile of books and clutching hand with the text "BP Gregory's Top 5 Halloween Reads"

We're staggering toward the home stretch of 2023, and to get you in the holiday reading mood I'm pleased to share my favourite reads from this year

Cover design for Adam Hulse's short story collection Not A Good Fit At This Time shows a stylized impact point in the page with a skull poking through

Most fun horror: Not A Good Fit At This Time, Adam Hulse

"The room as I knew it was gone. In fact, the very dimensions seemed to have changed as I felt the now familiar tilt pulling me one way and then another. Inexplicably the room was now flooded with grey looking water while ruin was all around. A gentle wave broke over my uncle and I before splashing up the damp walls of the hallway. I turned to look up at the face of my guardian for reassurance to steel me against the terror which bubbled within me. The sight of my uncle silently weeping made my legs buckle with fright."

This has been an EXCELLENT year for short story collections, and Hulse has treated us to a fascinating array of pieces that for one reason or another were bounced from competitions or anthologies.

The formats range from conventional to delightfully experimental, and my standout favourite has to be Let Me Tell You About Your Father, a gothic family drama set in one tumultuous night about a boy whose father has been mysteriously lost at sea.

For the extra enjoyment of readers who are also writers, Hulse provides notes around how these stories came about and what they were submitted to. This collection is a heartening reminder that rejection often isn't about the merit of the piece - but that it literally isn't a good fit at this time.

Cover design for Sean Adams' novella The Thing In The Snow shows a stylized tall building sitting in a snowy landscape

Most soothing horror: The Thing In The Snow, Sean Adams

“Each week, Kay sends a formal description of our assignment and paperwork that must be filled out to authenticate its completion. These tasks feel crucial, because all involved - Kay and her team, me and my team - treat them as such. But Gilroy is not a part of that system, and his continued presence recasts everything. They're just chairs, and we're just sitting in them. That is my job this week: I sit, professionally.”

A small team left to supervise an isolated mothballed research facility, buried to its concrete knees in snow, spend their days labouring over hilariously detailed busywork. Until outside the window they spot a thing in the snow ...

None of us can deny that this has been A YEAR, in fact the last four years have been A YEAR, and if your reading has been feeling a bit burned out then I suggest you pick up this book. Following our gaggle of intrepid caretakers through their interminable tasks week after week, while the legacy of mystery and the creeping terror of the unidentified thing in the snow lurk around them, was unaccountably soothing.

This book is a masterclass of the unbearable smallness of humanity; both in its character studies, and in the recursive language that enfolds your brain like a warm blanket against the bitter snow outside.

Cover design for Cooper S Beckett's novel Osgood As She Gets shows an upside down woman's head in profile with scenery behind it

Grooviest horror: Osgood As She Gets, Cooper S Beckett

“But neither the door nor the stairs concerned her. It was what peeked out from behind the stairs. Out far enough that she'd seen its eye and nose. Trying to hide but also seeming indifferent. How was she just now remembering it? This pale wraith no more than twenty feet away. Something told her to rush back into the tunnels and look for it, but her body rejected that command, staying firmly in place. Because though she hadn't seen more, she knew it was more than eyes and a nose. Pale print-less fingers, long and flattened, pulled it around the stone steps like a perverse game of peek-a-boo. Leaning out its pale visage to show her its milky eyes and a purple-lined slit of a mouth. To see that it was smiling.”

Prudence Osgood, the bad habit you didn't know you needed, is back! But the bodies piling up all over town aren't Osgood's lovers this time, they're dead teens; and while the newspapers blame a killer, Os and her team suspect something much darker has come out to play.

Look, I've never been cool, we all know that. But if like me you enjoy imagining how it would be, then Beckett's Spectral Inspector series is definitely for you. Beckett's anti-hero is made entirely of disasters and sass, plunging her and her paranormal investigation team into another of the deadly urban legends we love so much.

Beckett also has a sensitive hand at depicting trauma, bringing deadly weight and realism to the horrors his characters face. Death has consequences, curses have consequence, who's in your heart and who's in your bed especially are going to come back to bite you. Balancing fun and stark reality Osgood As She Gets is another tremendous entry into this series.

Most mournful horror: The Inconsolables, Michael Wehunt, illustrated by Trevor Henderson

“Gwen senses something above her. She drops to the floor and twists around so that she can look up. White hands, caught in the pale light that clicks on outside, are pressing flat against the air at the midpoint of the room. Something - someone - is drooping down toward her. She crawls into the hallway just as she hears the beep of the basement door opening, then Lorne's feet storming up the stairs.
She continues toward their bedroom, worming herself under the attic stairs, light blooming behind her and Lorne shouting her name. Then, as she rises and opens the bedroom door, a silence spreads out.
As though it has called to her, she lowers herself back onto her hands and knees and crawls under the bed. Lorne yells her name again, his feet thudding down the hall, but she doesn't answer. She squeezes her eyes closed, a ringing in her ears, an itch all along her sides.”

By this stage I can't imagine anyone in the horror community who's not already a fan of Wehunt or Henderson, but I'm going to include this collection anyway because it's my list and I do what I want. If you're somehow NOT a fan, then you've got the most awesome experience coming your way.

You are definitely going to want a print copy of The Inconsolables to take everywhere you go as you step reverently through the delicately lyrical stories, and also to appreciate the utter horror of Henderson's illustrations as they peep, claw, and paw their way toward you from the page.

This is the sort of collection that makes you question who you are as a person, as though your insides were made of fragile crystal and reading has set them ringing ever so faintly at the edge of hearing.

Cover design for Julia Armfield's novel Our Wives Under The Sea shows a woman appearing to melt behind a sheet of running water

Most beautiful horror: Our Wives Under The Sea, Julia Armfield

“I have read the majority of the book on anatomy by the time I hear the bath begin to drain, the door open, and Leah padding out and back into the bedroom - wet feet on carpet, door click and then quiet. I get up, the way I always do, and move across the corridor to scrub at the bath with the sponge I keep beneath the sink. I have found that since returning Leah is prone to ring the bath with a scrim of some curiously viscous material, oddly gritty when rolled between finger and thumb and pinkish in the white bathroom light. When I look at it, I think of tide pools filled with spiny creatures, scrub at it hard before running the taps again to clear the debris, little rockpool remains of something that might be shell or might be skin or might be something else entirely.”

Miri's wife has returned from her undersea mission wrong, distant, and subtly changing in ways that can't quite be grasped.

A tender story about love as much as loss, I read Our Wives Under The Sea in January and immediately knew it was going to be my best read of the year. The loved one who Comes Back Wrong is one of my favourite genres and I've been recommending this literary fiction to everyone who'll listen, even if they're not into horror.

Those are my top reads for this year! I hope I've managed to stock up your to-read list for the holiday season

Halloween decorations in a yard

BP Gregory is the author of five novels including Flora & Jim, about an earth frozen over and a father who will do anything to keep his daughter alive.

Cover image of BP Gregory's Novel Flora & Jim shows a bee sitting on the snow, with the byline "The world is frozen, the animals ascendant, and Jim will do anything to keep his daughter alive


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