Whether you want to bring some book-lovin’ to your Halloween or some Halloween to your book-lovin’, you’ve come to the right spot! I’ve compiled a list of the spookiest books I’ve read lately, be they legitimately scary or merely thematically appropriate. Check out these titles if you want to set the tone for this year’s spooky season:
1. The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater — This fourth installment of The Raven Cycle contains a lot of horror elements for a series that started out like a paranormal romance. From nightmares coming to life, to a creepy inhuman orphan girl, to deadly swarms of bees crawling all over someone’s face, this is horror movie fodder right here. But it also has plot and love and adventure and heroism and all the things that make a book unforgettable. Check out our full review here.
2. Ashwood by C.J. Malarsky — A girl visits an abandoned asylum with her cousin and his friends. After they play a mean trick on her, reality and insanity start to blend. Hollow-eyed creatures inspired by Russian mythology begin to haunt Willow’s dreams and then even her waking hours, as she keeps finding herself trapped back in the asylum. This book will give you nightmares. Read our full review and author interview here.
3. Need by Joelle Charbonneau — Do you like your horror a little more realistic? Do you fear not creepy shadows and nightmares but rather actual human greed and the insidious influence of the internet? Need tells the story of a malicious social media experiment at a high school that goes too far. Check out our full review here.
4. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson — This book is a little more spooky and kooky than actually scary. Actually, the premise is rather blood-chilling as it details the lives of two potentially-mad sisters living alone in an old house with their bedridden uncle, shunned by society after one of them is suspected of murdering the rest of the family. They lead an increasingly bizarre life, though narrated so matter-of-factly as to simultaneously create empathy and contrast for their behavior.
5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman — This one is hardly scary at all, but it takes place in a cemetery full of ghosts. A baby boy is orphaned when his parents are murdered, but he crawls away to the cemetery before the murderer can finish his job. There, he is taken in and raised by the graveyard’s deceased inhabitants, including his new guardian Silas whose vampiric identity is never explicitly stated though made clear nonetheless. It is amazing both in prose and graphic novel form. Check out our review of the graphic novel version here.
6. Doll Bones by Holly Black — Creepy dolls, ghosts, the pain of growing up–what could be scarier? In a last-ditch effort to relive their days of pretend, a small band of friends find themselves on an adventure to put an unquiet spirit to rest, all the while doubting each other, their friendship, and the seriousness of the quest. Like The Graveyard Book, this is good for middle-grade audiences and up (by which I mean that while young kids can understand it, you will totally still enjoy it even if you are a full-grown adult! I sure did).
7. Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu — A classic in the vampire genre from before even Dracula. You can read about it in my Vampire Literary Canon post. Best of all–it’s short. It’s only a novella so if you want your spooky fix but don’t have a lot of time, this is the book for you.
8. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly — A gothic steampunk murder mystery, complete with grave digging, These Shallow Graves follows wannabe-reporter Jo Montfort as she seeks answers to her father’s untimely demise while also struggling against her high-society family’s expectations of her. Read our full review here.
9. Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski — Being left behind in any circumstance is scary. Being left behind in a world slowly turning darker and colder, with mysterious creatures awakening in the forest and knowing no one will come back for you for 14 years–that is truly frightening. To hear more, read my sister’s review of it at The Gothic Library.
10. She Walks in Shadows edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles — This is an anthology of Lovecraft-inspired short stories ranging from the horrific to the merely bizarre. Its unique take is that it features only female authors with a female focus. Most of the stories weren’t quite my cup of tea, but if your idea of spooky leans towards Cthulu-esque creatures of the deep and surreal Lovecraftian mythos, I would recommend this to you.
What do you plan to read this Halloween season? Got any special spooky picks? Let us know in the comments below!