Fall has always felt like the perfect time to break out my classics, curl up by a fire, and read (even if the fire is slightly imaginary because I live in South Carolina, and it’s quite hot enough, thank you). Right around October, I pull all my spooky books out of closets, cabinets, and all the other away places I hid them after they terrified me last year. These are the books you hide from in the dark – until October and the witching hour. SO, if you’re looking for books to read surrounded by pumpkins, black cats, whistling winds, hot tea, and a graveyard (surprise), I hope some of these books scratch your spooky, ghostly itch. And if you’re anything like me, you’re also not ready for this spooky, bat season to be over. SO, hopefully this list will carry some of those feelings right into November, crisp apples, and rustling leaves.
For the Classic Lover:
Dracula : This book contains the vampire OG, terrifying hundreds in Transylvania, Romania, and England before vampiric lore was even cool. This book is written uniquely in the form of letters, journal entries, newspaper clippings, and psychological research, all following the adventures and horrors of the original prince of darkness. Bram Stoker’s writing style is intriguing, engaging, and nearly impossible to put down.
The Haunting of Hill House : I just finished this one myself, and it left me screaming. Shirley Jackson is a QUEEN. I believe this book can be best described as Crimson Peak meets The Yellow Wallpaper. THoHH follows the adventures of one Dr. Montague, his assistant Theodora, the house’s heir Luke, and an apparent outside, Eleanor. Dr. Montague enters Hill House hoping for psychic manifestations of the supernatural kind that he can research, record, and document. Each of his guests enter the house with secrets of their own, and it won’t be long until the house claims one of them for good. This book is beautifully written, horrifically entertaining, and carries its own weird, sudden twist. I particularly appreciated it because you never directly encounter anything ghostly or monstrous – it hides and grows in your own imagination. Five thousand stars from me, and EVERYONE should read it.
Wuthering Heights : If you’re looking for less horror, and more atmospheric spook, Wuthering Heights is for you. This book takes place out on the moors, covered in fog, rain, chilling temperatures, and drafty mansions. In short, the perfect atmosphere if you’re looking to feel chilled, but not terrified. In this book, the monsters are human and the horrors are relational. But this book is one of my favorites, and if you read it, I beg you to chat with me about it. Even if it’s just to rant about how much you hate all the characters.
Frankenstein : This list would be incomplete without Mary Shelley’s masterpiece. This horrifying tale stays with you and cautions the reader about the perils of fully realizing the height of your potential. If you’re looking for a bonus spook, read this book alongside The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This two pieces were written in response one to the other: one about how man becomes monster, the other about a monster becoming a man.
For the Eerily Interested:
If you’re looking for books that will leave you with a shiver but won’t follow you around stalking you for the rest of your life, I present the following for your consideration!
Coraline : This book is equal parts eerie and heart-warming. Coraline has just moved with her parents and discovers another world just like hers through the wall. Everything is the same: her mother, her father, her cat, and her home – except her Other Mother wants to sew buttons onto her eyes. Coraline’s story is about a little girl in a yellow raincoat who walks towards her fear and saves her life, and may the life of a little ghostly child. Sidekicked with her favorite black cat, which of course makes the story THAT much more wonderful.
The Child Thief : This one is a little heftier, but still worth the read. This Peter Pan retelling follows the story of Peter, a red headed fairy child who sneaks into our world and steals children that others have forgotten, bringing them back to his world so they can fight in his child army against the pirates, the grown-ups, and the horrors of the forest. Unlike the classic child’s tale, this story is full of violence, betrayal, intrigue, and multiple children who become soldiers, horror wielders, and murderers in the name of Peter, their leader. Brom’s The Child Thief is Neverland reimagined, without any of the boundaries that keep us safe at night. And, it is also BRILLIANTLY illustrated.
The Bird Box : Another one that keeps the monsters invisible and your imagination horrifying. Bird Box tells the story of an apocalyptic world invaded by creatures that no one can look at – to look at a creature means certain, gruesome, self-inflicted death. The book follows the story of a mother and her children, and has a very “The Quiet Place” vibe (if you’ve seen that movie). Thoroughly enjoyable, edge of your seat, and absolutely impossible to put down.
For the Ones with the Limited Attention Span:
These are for the short story lovers, who want to be intrigued but can’t be bothered to commit to long-term scares. We see you, we appreciate you, we envy you because we all bit off way more than we could chew and now we’re terrified, and these authors are for you.
Edgar Allan Poe : Infamous for his spooky short stories, this gothic horror genius is still appreciated years after his time. An author of both short stories and poetry, he is most notable for his works A Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, and Annabel Lee.
H.P. Lovecraft : I honestly believe Lovecraft may be the one true love of my life *shrug*. Don’t worry, boyfriend knows. He’s fine with it. Lovecraft rides the line between science fiction and sublime horror. He is known both for his Necromicon (it’s not real guys, but I thought it was for much too long) and his Dream Sequence. If you would like some direction, an excellent place to start is with The Call of Cthulu, The Dunwich Horror, The Rats in the Walls, and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
Flannery O’Connor : Though not commonly considered gothic horror, Flannery captures the sublime beautifully. These stories will leave you full of “muchness”, some that reaches beyond the ability to put into words. She’s another one we need to talk about. Some good stories to start are A Good Man is Hard to Find, Everything That Rises Must Converge, and The River.
Honorable Mentions: STEPHEN KING – because some authors are just too good to put into a category. If Stephen King wrote it, there’s a good chance it’s excellent food for this spooky, supernatural, superstitious season.
What did I miss? What NEEDS to be here? Let me know in the comments!