I always love getting new recommendations for October. What are your favorite spooky reads for this frightful month? From classics to new stuff, fiction or non-fiction, let me know!
‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ by Ray Bradbury. Great atmospheric writing. When I first read it in my 20s I was really focused on the plot details and the younger characters, but re-reading in my fifties I noticed the longings of the older characters, too.
I tend to find a good mystery can be more haunting than anything. “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie leaves me not only thinking about whodunit, but also who is around the next dark corner or on the isolated rock I’m on.
Spooky Season is my favorite season, so I have too many recommendations! But here are a few that I love and re-read:
'Haunted Voices' is a collection of Gothic stories from Scotland. They were written specifically to be performed aloud, and the book is available in audio and print. The stories range from spine-tingly to humorous and all of the have fantastic atmosphere. Available only from the publisher; info to buy here —https://strongsenseofplace.com/books/haunted_voices_wojturska/
Another one set in Scotland: 'Pine' by Francine Toon. This is a slow-burn ghost story set in the Highlands, and the story begins on Halloween night.
If you like eerie, but not gory or too scary, try 'The Governesses' by Anne Serre, Mark Hutchinson (translator). This is a sexy fairy tale that kind of keeps you off balance. The story revolves around three mysterious governesses at an isolated manor house. It's short, weird, and very atmospheric.
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth is an immersive Gothic confection — fantastic in print and on audio. Here’s the pitch: A sapphic Gothic haunted house novel featuring a story within a story within a story, black-and-white illustrations done in Gilded Age-style, and portentous yellowjackets that emerge as recurring characters in the story. It weaves multiple storylines, skewers Hollywood, includes footnotes (!), and revels in its awesome setting at an old girls' school on the windswept coast of Rhode Island.
'The Thirteenth Tale' by Diane Setterfield is rich with creeping dread — it's spine-tingling ghost story about broken people who are haunted by their memories. But it's not grim. It's fun! Where 'fun' is family secrets, shocking revelations, lots of book talk, an imposing mansion, and creepy twins.
Finally, two books by Michelle Paver: 'Wakenhyrst' (lush Gothic manor house story set on the edge of the fens in England) and 'Dark Matter' (ghost story set in the Arctic). 'Wakenhyrst' is the quintessential haunted house story — 'Dark Matter' would make a good pairing with Henry James' 'The Turn of the Screw' because both question whether the protagonist is literally haunted by the supernatural or if they're losing their connection to reality.
Happy Spooky Season, everyone!
The classics aside (e.g. Dracula, Haunting of Hill House, et al), I thought The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters was a really good read.
I don't read many spooky books, so I'll have to go with the classic of Dracula. Honestly I think that's maybe the only spooky read I've ever done!
I love Edith Wharton's collection of ghost stories, titled Ghosts, published by NYRB. I also recently discovered Joan Aiken's collection, People in the Castle, published by Small Beer Press, which are absolutely delightful (spooky, but not too spooky). Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor is haunting in the most intense, violent, brutal way. Tananarive Due's new collection of stories, The Wishing Pool, is really great. And, one of my favorites of all time is Kingdoms of Elfin by Sylvia Townsend Warner, short stories that are almost like anthropological studies of the faerie peoples of Europe, published by Handheld Press.
By far the most terrifying novel I have ever read is My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. It is a riveting tale about an abusive, maniacal father and his power over his innocent, vulnerable daughter. Its horror exists in the authentic reality it describes. I could not close this book and the aura of fear lingered for me long after its final chapter.
If you're looking for zombie thrills then try The Reapers are the Angelsl by Alden Bell and Zone One by Colson Whitehead. They are both incredibly well written - I would say literary for both and rather artistically for the first. For classic tales of horror, then At the Mountains of Madness is one of Lovecraft's best.
Mine are here:
I love pretty much anything about vampires. Dracula of course. One of my absolute favorites though is Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
My writeup on the Startup Scaries, featuring five lessons founders can learn from legendary horror producer Jason Blum
The Man In The Picture by Susan Hill. A quick read and perfect for a cold and spooky October night.
Life Ceremony and Earthlings from Sayaka Murata were pretty scary to me 😅
But I’m into zombies and here’s my recommendation:
- Zone One by Colson Whitehead
- As the World Dies series by Rhiannon Frater
- Death Squad series by Charlie Dalton
This admittedly carries some recency bias, and I didn't love the ending, but The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle definitely had its share of spookiness.
I am new to horror reads. But in my mind you can never go wrong with Stephen King, but I’d recommend Different Seasons by Stephen King. It has the two stories that each inspired “Stand by Me” and “Shawshank Redemption.” They feel like fall, tense and fantastic.
I enjoyed Steven King novels when I was a child mostly because they were my mother's favorite novels and since I only saw her a few weeks a year it was one of the few ways to connect with her. I remember being quite scared by a few but found the young adult fear street novels even scarier. I enjoyed the first Anne Rice Mayfair witch novel until it got uncomfortably weird. This year I'm trying to read Dracula.
This time each year I pull out “The October Game” by Ray Bradbury.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman , and a favorite re read for me is October Country by Ray Bradbury
One other book comes to mind: The Prestige by Christopher Priest. I loved the movie but the book is very different and a great read! I think the last twenty pages is probably the most terrifying pages I’ve ever read!
I’ve been on the hunt for a good “spooky” novel in recent years, so I read the classics: Dracula, Frankenstein, Carmilla, The Turn of the Screw, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, etc. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
If you like 4-D ergodic literature unlike anything you’ve read before, check out ‘House of Leaves’ by Mark Z. Danielewski. For a more traditional read, I’d recommend Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘House of Seven Gables’ - great haunted house story with heavy themes like family guilt, old curses, and classism.
My favorite reads during this season haven’t actually been novels or novellas; they’ve been short stories by Richard Matheson, Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, and W.W. Jacobs. One of the best compilations I’ve come across is ‘Halloween’ edited by Paula Guran (ISBN 978-1-60701-283-2).
I'm glad Dani and Colleen mentioned Steven King. I was going to add him to the list.
His novel "It" scared the bejeebies out of me!
I will always stump for Alvin Schwartz’s three book series, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Such a classic collection of folk tales! But you must read the original editions with Stephen Gammell’s artwork, which is so wild and dramatically enhances the impact of the stories. Some of those images have haunted my memory since I was a kid.
Right now, I'm reading "Behind the Horror," a nonfiction book about the real-life inspirations for movies like The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Psycho.
The Picture of Dorian Gray... it just, absolutely, stands the test of time.
I just read a great new horror novel, The September House, but Carissa Orlando.
One of my favorite reading experiences was reading The Historian in October- I was fully spooked when my electricity went out while I was reading!
I also enjoy reading an Agatha Christie novel in October - Crooked House sticks out in my mind as being quite chilling.
Let's not forget Edgar Allan Poe's delightfully frightful short stories - I love to listen to Vincent Price's readings of them.
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (an old favourite)
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (quite short but atmospherically perfect for October)
- Edgar Allen Poe's short stories (deeply weird and great if you only have a few minutes)
The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean!
1. The Classics do hold up over time. Poe, James, Stoker, Shelley, Wilde etc.
2. Stephen King is hit or miss but Shawshank Redemption is definitely one of his rereads for me.
3. The comics such as The Crow and Dark Knight
Christine and Doctor Sleep are two good books by Stephen King.
The collection 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill surprised me with how inventive, suspenseful and haunting its stories were. Definitely recommend.