Top Ten Books of 2015

On last night’s episode of my podcast, The Horror Show with Brian Keene, I revealed my annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, with the promise that I would also post them here, with deeper, expanded commentary on each title.

However, my temperature is currently sitting at a solid 101, and my system is rejecting everything (you haven’t vomited until you’ve vomited NyQuil), and I just don’t have it in me to write up commentary. So, if you want to know my thoughts on each title, and why I liked them, and why I picked them, listen to the podcast.


I read 109 books in 2015. You can view the entire list here.

Every year, someone asks “What would number eleven have been? What about number twelve?” So I’ve included five Honorable Mentions below.

A note regarding nepotism. I’ve been writing professionally for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve met everyone. Nepotism does not play a part in these picks. For a more detailed explanation, see here.


15. BRUISED by Justin Holley – Purchase
14. STOLEN AWAY by Kristin Dearborn – Purchase
13. THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS by Stephen King – Purchase
12. I DO TERRIBLE THINGS by John Goodrich – Purchase
11. ELEKTROGRAD: RUSTED BLOOD by Warren Ellis – Purchase


(Click the covers to purchase)

10. JAGGER by Kristopher Rufty
Paperback – Kindle

Other than the trailer park left to her by her deceased daddy, Amy’s favorite treasure is Jagger, her 180-pound bullmastiff. One day while she is away, Clayton, her best friend’s scumbag boyfriend sneaks into her yard and takes the dog. His prize fighting pit bull was killed during its last match, costing a lot of bad people a lot of money. To make up for his dog’s losses, and to save his own life, Clayton enlists the help of a medical student dropout to turn Jagger into a killing machine by pumping him full of experimental drugs and muscle enhancers. Now Jagger is a monster, a beast that can’t feel pain, with an unquenchable thirst for blood. He quickly breaks out of his pen and starts making his way home, tearing apart anyone in his path on his way to the one he feels has betrayed him the most — Amy.

9. THE NIGHTMARE GIRL by Jonathan Janz
Samhain Publishing
Paperback – Kindle

Playing with fire has never been more dangerous.

When family man Joe Crawford confronts a young mother abusing her toddler, he has no idea of the chain reaction he’s setting in motion. How could he suspect the young mother is part of an ancient fire cult, a sinister group of killers that will destroy anyone who threatens one of its members? When the little boy is placed in a foster home, the fanatics begin their mission of terror.

Soon the cult leaders will summon their deadliest hunters—and a ferocious supernatural evil—to make Joe pay for what he’s done. They want Joe’s blood and the blood of his family. And they want their child back.

8. THE HATCH by Kelli Owen
Gypsy Press
Paperback – Kindle

Nick Kontis and his remaining family members have survived winter–have outlived the threat of deadly infected flies–and are heading toward presumed safety. They quickly find all exit points blocked, the perimeter burned, and learn the flies were only the beginning, as Mother Nature has stepped in to correct mankind’s mistakes.

Her weapon of choice: spiders.

With thick webs covering the spring landscape, and lack of any communication leaving them on their own to guess whether or not the spiders are as lethal as the flies they’re eating, they make a new plan. Fleeing in a new direction they run into another party of survivors. And what was once a breakdown of society becomes an exercise in rebuilding.

They’ll need to find common ground and bond with the others, before winter arrives again. Before the spiders declare victory…

7. PARADISE SKY by Joe R. Lansdale
Mulholland Books
Hardcover – Kindle – Audiobook

Young Willie is on the run, having fled his small Texas farm when an infamous local landowner murdered his father. A man named Loving takes him in and trains him in the fine arts of shooting, riding, reading, and gardening. When Loving dies, Willie re-christens himself Nat Love in tribute to his mentor, and heads west.

In Deadwood, South Dakota Territory, Nat becomes a Buffalo Soldier and is befriended by Wild Bill Hickok. After winning a famous shooting match, Nat’s peerless marksmanship and charm earn him the nickname Deadwood Dick, as well as a beautiful woman. But the hellhounds are still on his trail, and they brutally attack Nat Love’s love. Pursuing the men who have driven his wife mad, Nat heads south for a final, deadly showdown against those who would strip him of his home, his love, his freedom, and his life.

6. THE DEATH HOUSE by Sarah Pinborough
Titan Books
Hardcover – Paperback – Kindle

Toby’s life was perfectly normal… until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts.

5. INKSTAINS: JULY by John Urbancik

InkStains is a random collection of stories – fiction and nonfiction of any genre – handwritten daily over the course of a year. When John Urbancik started this project, he aimed to write a story every day for a year. By hand. He found an inexpensive yet fancy fountain pen, started with a Moleskine notepad, and on 1 January 2013 set to writing. He took one mandatory day off monthly. Stories did not have to be fiction. Nonfiction, essays, reviews, memoirs – all genres – everything was open, so long as they were complete. These are the results.

4. SKULLCRACK CITY by Jeremy Robert Johnson
Lazy Fascist Press
Paperback – Kindle

Life as a corporate drone was killing S.P. Doyle, so he decided to bring down the whole corrupt system from the inside. But after discovering something monstrous in the bank’s files, he was framed for murder and trapped inside a conspiracy beyond reason.

Now Doyle’s doing his best to survive against a nightmare cabal of crooked conglomerates, DNA-doped mutants, drug-addled freak show celebs, experimental surgeons, depraved doomsday cults, and the ultra-bad mojo of a full-blown Hexadrine habit. Joined by his pet turtle Deckard, and Dara, a beautiful missionary with a murderous past, Doyle must find a way to save humankind and fight the terrible truth at the heart of…SKULLCRACK CITY.

3. LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ALICE by Mehitobel Wilson
Bedlam Press
Paperback – Kindle

Mollie Chandler is on the verge of joining a shadowy Order whose magical operatives, the Glymjacks, manipulate events of the past. As the only candidate for the role of Psychopomp, she must pass one final test before the job is hers. The crumbling Blue Alice has been gathering ghosts for over a hundred years. Once a grand mansion, it was converted to a rooming house in the 1920s. Tenants throughout the century since have suffered violent poltergeist attacks by a vengeful spirit, complained of a spectral woman in black who looms and leers at their every move, reported hearing music when there should be none playing, and appealed to exorcists when tormented by a judgmental demon. Mollie must use magic, ingenuity, and intuition to travel back in time to the source of each haunting, avert their circumstances, and change history. If she succeeds, she will have to give up everything she’s ever known to become a Glymjack. If she fails, Mollie will not survive – if she’s lucky. The alternatives to death are far worse. Mollie has but one night to change the histories of the dead and plot the course for her own future. She is running out of time, and into the haunted heart of the Blue Alice.

2. SLOWLY WE ROT by Bryan Smith
Paperback – Kindle

Long after the zombie apocalypse wiped out most of the human race, a young man named Noah resides in a remote mountain cabin. Several years have passed since he last saw another human being. The long period of isolation and loneliness has fostered a deep despair in Noah, who also struggles with suicidal impulses. But Noah is a man who was struggling even before the end of the world, a seemingly helpless slave to his addictions. When the vindictive sister he has long believed dead unexpectedly returns, events transpire that prompt him to leave his mountain refuge and embark on a cross-country trek to find the lost love of his life. It doesn’t matter that she’s probably long dead. He just needs a purpose again and this is it. Along the way, he experiences moments of hope and profound tragedy. Soon Noah’s sanity begins to fray and his ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality starts to disintegrate. Through it all, he keeps trying to reach the one he lost long ago. And he’ll continue no matter what, even if it costs him his life, because it’s a big, empty world and this is all he has.

1. A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay
William Morrow
Hardcover – Paperback – Kindle – Audiobook

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

5 thoughts on “Top Ten Books of 2015

  1. Thank you Brian for the list of lists. Pickings were getting slim & it felt like I was running low on reading material. I will give these books a go & let ya know how much I enjoyed them. Also, loved your post about Clickers yesterday. I had finished the 4th book about 6 months ago (it was great hearing from Ob again!) & when I heard ideas for the next 2 books I was sad because it looked like they would never see the light of day (or dark of night) but now it looks like it might happen! Wishing J.F. was here to see you carrying on his legacy. Quick question before I go… Any news on the conqueror worms next book? Those stories were some of my favorites!
    P.s. also loved the post you did on cell phones & how people suck ass now a days!

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