A Frighteningly Good Time: The 20 Best Horror Comedy Books

Horror and comedy seem like dichotomies, opposing sides of the spectrum with one causing uproarious laughter while the other causes screams and fear. The truth is that they’re two sides of the same coin though, existing in close harmony with a blurred line between them barely visible.

A Frighteningly Good Time: The 20 Best Horror Comedy Books

It’s hard to balance, and even more difficult to pull it off in a way that makes audiences feel the full effect of fear and humor that you want. With horror being subjective as is, it’s no small feat to add something even more subjective like comedy into the mix and still hit it out of the park.

That’s what these twenty books will do though, going straight to bat and knocking home runs out of the park, though possibly through a car windshield. It’s all about the journey though, right?

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstor: A Novel

There’s a lot to love about Horrorstor but the fact that Grady Hendrix went to such lengths as to design the book around the joke is just the cherry on top. Designed as a knockoff Ikea catalog, the story is just as wild as the format.

Workers at a massive furniture store end up staying the night and fighting spirits trying to break through to our world. That’s a basic overview but the book uses the setting to every advantage possible, twisting a haunted house chase through the winding path that it’s not hard to get lost in.

Buy it on Amazon

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

So you’ve accidentally kickstarted the biblical apocalypse. Rookie mistake, but it happens. Good Omens follows an angel and demon who made said mistake on their journey to correct things and find some way to prevent all of the earth from being destroyed.

Gaiman and Pratchett were both whimsical writers on their own, but together they bounce off each other with fun while using the horrors of the end times as a backdrop.

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Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies: A Novel (Warm Bodies Series, The)

Warm Bodies has a little of everything from touching romance to disgusting body horror. Yet it manages to go through the whole book with this nihilistic comedy about the end of the world as told from a zombie’s perspective.

A zombie falls in love with a human girl long after the apocalypse, and the two eventually discover their love could change the fate of humanity. So long as he can control his cravings for flesh and her father stops trying to kill him, that is.

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Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall

Night of the Living Trekkies (Quirk Fiction)

A good zombie book will take the decades-old premise and shift it to a new setting. An amazing zombie book will choose a setting so ridiculous they can’t help but play it for laughs. As is the case when patient zero of a zombie plague attends a Trek convention.

There’s a ton of campy fun with the main protagonist being a jaded military veteran that manages the hotel used for the convention. The story becomes an amazing homage to the beloved series while also serving up some hilarious frights.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Exactly what it sounds like. Grahame-Smith took the main premise and characters of Jane Austen’s classic but set it during a zombie plague ravaging England. The entirety of the characters courting and trying to find love amongst familial disputes is still there, it’s just accompanied by a lot more undead blood and gore.

It shouldn’t work at all but Grahame-Smith is fantastic at weaving everything together with his signature humor. 

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Devolution by Max Brooks

Devolution: From the bestselling author of World War Z

An affluent luxury neighborhood in Washington is cut off from the rest of the world by a volcanic eruption. Sounds like enough of a horror setting already before even mentioning the invasion by sasquatch that follow.

Brooks takes the same approach as World War Z, mostly told through the diary of a still missing resident of the neighborhood. The book is harrowing, and the humor is darker than volcanic ash, but it’s a thrilling ride from start to finish. Plus, how many sasquatch horror books do you come across? Not enough!

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Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel

I remember discovering Night Vale when it was on episode 16 way back when and being taken in by the podcast’s dark humor and normalization of the weird. There’s no logic at play in Night Vale, everything plays by loose dream rules where anything imaginable could be possible in this strange desert town.

It’s hilarious and dark, with the horror being more in the vein of The Twilight Zone with an overwhelming sense of weirdness as the original book follows the town’s local pawn shop owner on the trail of a mystery. It’s silly and bizarre, but the characters are so charming you can’t help but fall in love with the little town.


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The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

The Last Final Girl

Stephen Graham Jones is a staple of the modern horror scene and brings his love of horror cinema to this story of one final girl of a Michael Jackson-themed slasher.

Thing is, the killer is still out there and she’s determined to catch him, gathering various other surviving final girls in a grand plan to catch him.

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John Dies at the End by Jason Pargin

John Dies at the End

Formerly published under Pargin’s pen name David Wong, John Dies at the End is wall-to-wall chaos in the best way. Following John, who may or may not die at the end, as he finds a new drug that opens the user’s mind to other dimensions and terrors.

Pargin, who was an editor for Cracked, brings his surreal and silly humor to everything with a sense of slapstick fervor. It’s hilarious, completely unpredictable, and cosmically terrifying.

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Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story

Moore takes the trope of some unwitting everyday person being unwittingly turned into a vampire and twists it into a ridiculous story of finding your place in the world. The vampire story is played up for maximum laughs between the gore.

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Tales From the Gas Station by Jack Townsend

Tales from the Gas Station

Stories from the Nosleep community on Reddit have a soft spot in my heart since it was my starting point as a writer, and Tales from the Gas Station is one of the best examples of the gold that can come from the forum.

With the various accounts of an overnight gas station worker in the middle of nowhere, Jack deals with some of the most bizarre and terrifying customers you’ll ever meet. The stories are wildly inventive and engaging, with a cast that can’t help but be loved.

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Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Plain Bad Heroines: A Novel

This book has more layers than an ogre, with the story kicking off in 1902 at an all-girls boarding school with an LGBT love triangle that ends in tragedy before moving to the present day when three young stars enter the school to film a story about the events.

It’s both horror, satire, and a queer romance that shines in both timelines. Not everything is as it seems in the story as people involved in the film are picked off mysteriously and the characters have to race to save their newfound friends.

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Cat Diary: Yon and Mu by Junji Ito

Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & Mu

“This list is horror comedy he surely can’t put Junji Ito on it…” 

WRONG! There’s Junji Ito for everything! Cat Diary is coincidentally the author’s most wholesome work, depicting his real-life cats as scheming monsters trying to disrupt his work. While it’s cute in intention and the cats are charming little characters, Ito’s art is what brings the horror.

The cats during their schemings are portrayed as Ito-ized versions of themselves, with massive fangs and twisted physiques, but when things inevitably settle down as they get the results they desire, they suddenly turn into the cute gremlins they really are.

It’s incredibly wholesome and heartwarming, with very few real scares and anecdotes by Ito littered throughout. He loves his cats and it’s such a pure joy he takes in talking about them that makes it excellent.

Buy it on Amazon

iZombie by Chris Roberson and Mike Alfred

iZombie Vol. 1: Dead to the World

If you’ve seen the show that aired on The CW, throw out almost all the knowledge you have and go into this ready for a whole new adventure. Don’t actually throw out all knowledge of the show though because it’s well done and the Rose McIver/Rahul Kohli duo is so fun to watch.

The original comic that started it all still revolves around Gwen, a zombie living among humans and procuring brains through her job as a gravedigger. Oh, and eating brains lets her live that person’s memories. The cast of characters is totally different here, with ghosts and a were-terrier just being the start.

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The Postmortal by Drew Magary

The Postmortal

Woohoo! Humans discovered a way to stop aging and achieve semi-immortality. Bad news: things just get a whole lot worse. The government conspiracies begin flying, people begin dying in mysterious “accidents” and all kinds of other symptoms stem from the newly found immortality.

Quite simply, The Postmortal is bizarre and bleak, but it’s a humorous satire to serve as a warning of what could be even now, not just the near future.

Buy it on Amazon

Man, F*ck This House by Brian Asman

Man, Fuck This House

Who wouldn’t say that in this kind of situation? Well, the family currently living in the house, unfortunately. As mother Sabrina begins to suspect her new home is haunted she just gets shrugged off by her husband and even more distanced from her children.

It’s a wild take on the haunted house trope and a quick read for a rainy afternoon. The pacing starts with a brick on the gas peddle and doesn’t let up until the tank is empty.

Buy it on Amazon

Mieruko-Chan by Tomoki Izumi

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It’s presented as a typical slice-of-life manga about a teenage girl who lives a normal life, except we find out she can see ghosts. Not the cool kind of ghosts from Casper or Bleach either, these are terrifying sketches that give Ito a run for his money and they will tear anyone apart if noticed.

So it’s up to Mieruko to act completely normal any time she sees one, which is way more than it should be. The slice-of-life comedy is amazing, and the increasingly difficult situations Mieruko finds herself in while trying to avoid acknowledging the ghosts are hilarious and horrifyingly tense at the same time.

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Afterlife With Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale: Escape from Riverdale

If you love the chaotic, seemingly mad-libbed script of Riverdale for the last few seasons, you’re going to love Afterlife With Archie. Coincidentally, the show and this run of Archie comics have the same writer in charge, which also explains a lot.

Jughead’s dog is hit and killed by a car, leading him to ask Sabrina the Teenage Witch to pull a Pet Semetary and bring him back. Except this brings him back as a full-on plague-bearing zombie and things go straight to figurative hell from there. Afterlife has consistent mini-arcs spanning a few issues with an ongoing over-arcing plot that is some of the best Archie Comics has done in years.

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Soul Plumber by Ben Kissel, Henry Zabrowski, and Marcus Parks

Soul Plumber

The comedy is gross-out, grim, and hilarious as the Last Podcast on the Left team gets their own horror series from DC comics. The humor may take a little adjusting to as it takes splatter and comedy hand in hand, but the story is a fun ride.

A disgraced seminary dropout ends up stealing plans from a group of not-quite-exorcists, scraping together the machine and accidentally tearing an interdimensional hole for a terrifying alien to travel through.

That’s just the start. Like, first-issue stuff. This story doesn’t just jump the shark, it jumps ALL the sharks by launching into the atmosphere.

Buy it on Amazon

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

Invisible Monsters: A Novel

While it may be a psychological horror/thriller at heart, Palahniuk’s signature humor and sardonic wit are on full display. The story of a former model left unrecognizable after an accident before going on the run with two mysterious strangers. The book explores an identity crisis and queer characters in a road trip turned fever dream where nothing you read can be trusted.

Plus it’s the inspiration for Panic! At the Disco’s debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out so the perfect soundtrack is right there waiting.

Buy it on Amazon

So, will you run out of breath by screaming or laughing first? These twenty should have be tickling your funny bone, assuming you’re still holding onto it yourself, but if the books don’t horrify you at least my jokes have.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can horror comedy exist? People don’t think being scared is funny!

Well, it’s subjective. Think about something like a typical haunt that pops up around Halloween. Sure, we get scared and see other people get scared, but isn’t it usually followed by laughter? Horror comedy is about getting that thrill that brings a laugh, whether it be disgusted, wholesome, or a laugh of “What the hell?”.

Are there any good examples of horror comedy?

Of course! Dating far back in cinema you can see it with the Abbott and Costello films where they meet the Universal Monsters, but even more recently the films of Jordan Peele and Zack Creggars are notable. 

When it comes to horror comedy in literature, it’s a little bit harder to pull off (I’ll say literature is probably one of the hardest to do so) but some writers excel in it while others pepper humor throughout an otherwise dark story.

Which authors should I start with?

Grady Hendrix is an accessible starting point for anyone just starting with the genre. He plays with a lot of tropes in the horror genre but puts his own comedic twist whether it be through settings or events. Max Brooks is also a fantastic place to start.

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Ross Tyson