WSIRN Ep 176: Books in the freezer, & other horror stories

On WSIRN I’ve helped a lot of readers get out of their comfort zones, but today’s guest Mallory O’Meara is taking me out of mine. Her wheelhouse is everything bizarre, paranormal, and downright scary. As you’ll hear… it took several tries to find three books I had experience with that she hadn’t already read. So yep, you’re going to hear about a ton of books that have never, ever been talked about on the show!

But when we dig past the surface differences, Mallory and I have a lot in common, especially our desire to understand how an author DID that. How did they pull off the magic trick that turned regular words on a page into an extraordinary reading experience? We had a great time chatting about the magic of rereading a favorite book, arguing with critics, how comfort-reading looks way different for different readers, and her pro tips for dealing with the post-scary-book jitters.

Let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #176: Books in the freezer, & other horror stories with Mallory O'Meara

Connect with Mallory O’Meara on Twitter and Instagram, listen to her podcast Reading Glasses, and check out her new book, The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick.

Click here to read the full episode transcription (opens in a new tab).

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here. If you’d like to support your local indie, check out And by all means, go grab one of these from your local library!

The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, by Mallory O’Meara
• Author Mary Roach (try Gulp)
How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t, by Lane Moore
Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link
A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay
Priestdaddy, by Patricia Lockwood
Outlander, by Diana Gaboldon
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, by Susan Meissner
The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
The Hike, by Drew Magary
In the Woods, by Tana French
• Author Megan Abbott (try The Fever)
Experimental Film, by Gemma Files
The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert
The Terror, by Dan Simmons

Do you love or loathe scary books? Either way, comment your recommendations for Mallory in the comments below!


Leave A Comment
  1. Jessica says:

    I did not expect to like this episode very much because horror is not at all my thing. How wrong was I? This was my favourite WSIRN episode in a long time! Such a fun and charming conversation and I am intrigued by more than one of the books you discussed. Thank you!
    Mallory, one of my favourites you might enjoy is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

    • Lindsey Schroeder says:

      I felt the exact same way! I’ve never even given the horror genre a thought! But wow I definitely want to read quite a few of these! I also can’t wait to get my hands on O’Mearas book too! This was such a fantastic episode and conversation, I laughed so many times!

  2. Georgia says:

    I loved Get in Trouble too (and it’s not my usual jam). I’d like to recommend Dervla McTiernan’s The Ruin. It’s got a Tana French-ness to it, is a mystery, and is also set in Ireland but is less wordy.

  3. Kim says:

    Have you listened to the podcast Books in the Freezer? If not, you should try it. You’ll get some good recommendations there!

  4. Amy says:

    I’d like to recommend Michael Koryta. I think he falls more in the thriller category. Several of his books have a supernatural spin to them (So Cold the River, The Ridge and the Mark Novak series). I’ve read most of his books and love them all.

  5. Hannah Forsythe says:

    Mallory, I just have to suggest both The Oath and Monster by Frank Peretti. They explore the same idea you mentioned when talking about A Head Full of Ghosts where the author really makes you wonder, “Is this something that’s really happening (in a physical sense) or is this something supernatural?”. They’re deliciously creepy and so well written! My personal favorite is The Oath, due to the nature of the monster (you’ll have to read it to find out!) but they are both great and I think you would enjoy both of them! Big thanks to you and Anne for a great episode today!

  6. Veronica says:

    I love scary stories too! One of my favorites recently was “Things We Lost in The Fire” by Mariana Enriquez. I think this would be right in Mallory’s wheelhouse.

  7. Melisa says:

    good episode. I’m not a horror reader but all recommendations, including Mallory’s favorites are ones that I want to pick up!

  8. Sarah J Askins says:

    While I don’t do Stephen King horror, I do love a good ghost story or at least something a little weird. I have been reading Simone St. James’s novels which are all paranormal or at least haunted. Her latest is Broken Girls, which I really enjoyed, and of course, I have been buying her other books and reading them too. Also, I loved Dan Chaon’s Stay Awake which is a collection of short stories that are definitely edgier than literary fiction and creepy in the best way.

    • Lisa says:

      I second Broken Girls! I was just coming on here to recommend that. Very creepy and hard to tell what is real and what isn’t.

  9. Serena says:

    Absolutely loved this episode! My recommendations are The Changeling: A Novel by Victor LaValle. I actually screamed, “No way!” so loud it woke my daughter. The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones. Pure fun with hideous bugs! My number one favorite book right now is Archaeopteryx by Dan Darling. A giant, mixed animal species and the most unusual but fascinating storyline I have come across in a long time. Yes, I am gushing about it!!! Thanks again for the great episode!

  10. Anna Rowe says:

    Mallory may like Night Film by Marisha Pessl. It might be a touch longer than it needs to be but I think it ticks off lots of her boxes. Also, when she was talking about loving Kelly Link the first book that popped into my head was What it Means When a Man falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah. It is an imaginative and immersive collection of short stories that I loved.

  11. Pam says:

    One of my favourite authors whose books are often classified as horror is Dean Koontz. Real page-turners, with generally likeable protagonists who find themselves in strange and dangerous circumstances. I don’t find then overly creepy, but I’m not an HSP!

  12. Yvonne says:

    I was thinking Mallory might like The Bear and the Nightingale – it isn’t horror but an eerie fairy tale style book – by Katherine Arden. Plenty of fairytale creatures.

  13. Rachel says:

    Have you read “The Book of Illusions” by Paul Auster? More thriller than horror, but you’ve got a silent film star turned recluse, experimental film-making, the drive to disappear from history, and Stephen King levels of creepy weird. Totally out my own wheelhouse, but I’m still thinking of it years later. Loved hearing you two chat! I’m really looking forward to Mallory’s book!

  14. thegirlintheafternoon says:

    I loved this episode! You might enjoy “The Little Strangers” by Sarah Waters – literary fiction that plays with that line of what’s real and what isn’t.

  15. Mallory–PROMISE PROMISE PROMISE ME you will read Sarah Perry’s new novel, Melmoth. Also the new one by Diane Setterfield, Once Upon a River. So, so good, both of them. Loved the episode and like so many commenters, I am not typically a horror reader!

  16. Ashley says:

    Sarah Monette ticks a lot of your boxes. I read The Bone Key, which is a short story collection all starring the same character. It’s so good and so creepy. She has several short story collections and I think a few novels. I highly recommend it!

  17. Kathleen says:

    I read Ghost Story by Peter Straub about 30 years ago – scared me so much I haven’t read a horror story sinc.

  18. Mallory and Anne,
    What a great episode! I’m a movie nerd too. Internet Movie Database is the most used app on my phone. I like reading the books the movies and TV shows I like are based upon. Did you know that there was a limited series of *The Terror* that aired last fall? It has some great actors in it, though I’m with you Anne, in general I don’t like horror, so I didn’t watch it. You can rent it on Amazon. It’s probably available other places as well.

    With that same thought in mind, I recommend *A Discovery of Witches* series by Deborah Harkness. It has witches, vampires, daemons, and though there are some internal conflicts, there are plenty of monsters, mysterious events, and other external conflicts to break up the relationship stuff. It is also a series and will air on AMC beginning April 7, though it’s also available on Shudder and Sundance streaming services.

    I’ll be buying your book, Mallory. I love the movie *The Creature from the Black Lagoon* and the story about a woman behind the scenes sounds fantastic.

  19. Renee Torres says:

    Great episode!

    Mallory and other readers looking for a creepy gothic story might enjoy THE SILENT COMPANIONS by Laura Purcell. The premise is that pregnant & widowed Elsie moves to her late husbands estate where their is a room that’s off limits (classic!). Behind the door lies a curious wooden figure that resembles Elsie and a book written by a woman centuries earlier. The household staff is terrified of the figure but Elsie is intrigued wants to unravel the mystery. The suspense and creepiness builds throughout! Seemingly has elements of REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier and THE YELLOW WALLPAPER by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and other Gothic tales.

  20. Alex says:

    Loved the different angle this episode took! I’m a big horror fan, and I’d like to recommend ‘Kill Creek’ by Scott Thomas to Mallory! It’s the ultimate book for horror fans!

  21. Teri Hyrkas says:

    What a lively podcast!Thank you! May I suggest the author Rumer Godden as a source of books for those who like weird stories with exotic settings and highly charged atmospheres? Godden is probably best known for her book Black Narcissus, which was made into a film and which has a cult following of its own. Godden’s own life story is full of strange experiences and mystery, and wow, can she write!

  22. Jen C. says:

    I had so much fun listening this week! Mallory sounds like she’d be a blast to hang out with and I’m excited to pick up her book. As for horror in general – I’m a bit skittish about some of it. I am still traumatized from the hoof prints in the powder scene from Paranormal Activity yet Silence of the Lambs is one of my favourite books (and movies). I’m curious to check out all three of Mallory’s faves especially A Head Full of Ghosts. Has Mallory ever read Night Film by Marisha Pessl? It’s more a thriller than a horror and involves a cult-horror-film director which I thought might appeal. Thanks for another great episode, Anne!

  23. Marie says:

    Hi, I don’t have a book recommendation but in hearing about the story of Millicent Patrick, it made me think of the “You Must Remember This” podcast, featuring true tales of old Hollywood. I think that Millicent Patrick’s story deserves an episode! Loved this ep of WSIRN too!

  24. Deb says:

    I loved this episode – we have similar taste and you added to my TBR list. Some suggestions: Forsaken by JD Barker – a take off on Needful Things by Stephen King – the story of a customer.
    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
    The Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire – start with first one.
    And maybe –
    Dark Matters by Blake Couch and
    The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

  25. Rachel says:

    I think Mallory might enjoy The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. It’s not scary exactly, but is definitely strange.I love all his books.

  26. Anita says:

    A book that I loved as a fun, vacation read is Vampyres of Hollywood by Adrienne Barbeau and Michael Scott. It drops you into old time Hollywood with Orson Welles and Douglas Fairbanks, while explaining why they all look so good. It may be just the niche for Mallory.

  27. Pam says:

    I recommend Weaveworld by Clive Barker! I read it back in my Stephen King days (‘90s) and thought it was so much better than anything King had written.

  28. Lori Sassali says:

    I was so glad to read that there was someone else out there who did not enjoy Outlander! I feel better knowing that I am not the only one!

  29. Laura Salles Schwartz says:

    Mallory, I imagine you have read Elizabeth Koztova’s The Historian? If not, you definitely should!!

    Loved the episode and am adding a few to my TBR! You got me intrigued! I read “It” when I was 11 and I didn’t have to put it in the freezer but it definitely stuck with me!

  30. Jeff Culverhouse says:

    It’s been a long time since I read this, but I’d be interested to hear her opinion of “Rise” by Gareth Wood. It might not be exactly her kind of book, but I was really impressed.

  31. Michele says:

    Just read and was disappointed by Paul Tremblays A Head Full of Ghosts. Was underwhelmed. Some well written parts and liked the Merry character and the way the ‘reveal’ if you could call it that was written (the actual reveal itself was v predictable). But rest of writing and characters fell flat. Good premise. Could have been done so much better I felt.

  32. Bonnie says:

    In the early 80″s (does that give away my age?) I read Steven King’s Pet Cemetery. I have never, EVER, been able to get that book out of my head.
    I was a big fan of his writing, but have not been able to pick up another Steven King since then. I had a two young children, so that could be the reason. But if you like a good scare, he is always a good read!

    • Libby says:

      Bonnie, I had the same King experience but with The Long Walk about teenagers who have to walk across America, and if they stop they got shot…freaked me out for weeks! I was also the tender age of 8, and had borrowed it from a friend and was well aware about 10 pages in that my parents wouldn’t have let me read it but finished it anyway, so I never told them I was totally scared. Haven’t been able to pick up one of his since then!

  33. Libby says:

    I think Mallory would really enjoy the Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle! It’s more of a mystery/ thriller than horror but has some definite supernatural and twisty elements to it. I don’t want to give too much away, but each chapter makes you realize that not quite anything is what you thought at the beginning, and the ending was a satisfying “ah, so that’s why X happened!” but still made you think about the book afterwards.

  34. Kelly Face says:

    This may be off base, but I thoroughly enjoyed Six of Crows and The Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo.

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