Who’s ready to get into the Halloween spirit? Along with carving the jack o’ lanterns, putting up the spooky décor, and pouring a cup of pumpkin spice deliciousness, we're all about curling up with a good scary story! Following is a roundup of the top 10 Halloween books to get you in the macabre mood. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
The horror classics of the 19th century continue to greatly inspire the genre today and one is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Her work is considered by many to be the progenitor of science fiction. In it, mad scientist Victor Frankenstein attempts to play God by creating human life; what he gets is the Creature. This man-made being is described as hideous and immediately shunned by Victor. The truly terrifying aspect of the tale is the dismal existence that plagues both the Creature and his creator.
The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (?-1849)
Why select one work by Edgar Allan Poe when you can get all of his fiction in one epic tome? A master of Gothic literature and dark romanticism, Poe’s stories and poetry are known for their morbid subject matter, including insanity, murder, and the supernatural. A particular favorite of mine is The Black Cat. And of course, we mustn’t forget the lauded The Raven. You’ll find these and more in this complete edition.
H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction (1917-1937)
Here’s another author whose whole repertoire of work is perfect for Halloween reading. H.P. Lovecraft’s stories fuse the worlds of horror and science fiction, introducing readers to mysterious realms. Among his most well-known pieces is The Call of Cthulhu, which tells of ancient creatures from beyond this world. Lovecraft’s use of religious and esoteric symbolism in his fiction has even influenced occult publications such as Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Rituals and the mysterious Simon Necronomicon.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)
Ghosts, a haunted house, and psychological terrors—this story has it all! It follows Dr. John Montague who has rented Hill House for the summer to discover paranormal activity. He invites a few people to stay at the mansion in the hopes that they encounter supernatural forces. Strange things begin to occur, and it becomes unclear if one guest named Eleanor is mentally losing touch with reality or is becoming possessed by the house.
It by Stephen King (1986)
Although there are a number of Stephen King’s books that will satisfy your horror cravings, It is one of his best-known. Yes, the story has been adapted to film, but nothing beats reading the original narrative. Just imagine a small town where kids are hunted by a killer clown. The chills are sure to run down your spine.
This is another horror anthology written for children but entertaining for grown-ups too. Stephen Gammell’s illustrations that accompany the short stories definitely amp up the creep factor. The collection spans across three books with tales inspired by folklore and urban legends. The series has been criticized for dealing with topics that are too disturbing for kids. Who remembers what happens in “Harold” from Scary Stories 3? Despite being surrounded by some controversy, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has become a Halloween classic.
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez (1991)
Who doesn’t enjoy a good vampire story during the Halloween season? The Gilda Stories follows the heroine’s journey over a 200-year span. Opening in 1850, she escapes slavery in Louisiana, then meets the vampire Gilda, who eventually turns her into an immortal creature. After her transformation, the main character assumes the name of Gilda too, and goes off on adventures across the States. Gomez’s work has been compared to Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, as well as Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla for its exploration of feminist and lesbian themes.
Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine (1992-1997)
Although R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series was written for kids, these books are fun reads for adults as well, making them perfect for family storytime. With titles like Don’t Go to Sleep, The Headless Ghost and It Came from Beneath the Sink, you’re sure to get spooked. Also worth checking out is Stine’s Fear Street series created for teens.
How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison (2011)
This is one book filled with many creepy short stories and poetry written by the first African American to receive the HWA Bram Stoker award. Linda Addison takes readers on a journey within the realms of horror and science fiction, exposing the demonic in people and places. The book cover alone, which features a pair of hands rising from the ground holding a blood-stained crystal ball, is enough to draw you in.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2020)
Blending elements of horror, Gothic, and fantasy, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest novel takes readers to the Mexican countryside where an ominous mansion sits high in the mountains. Noemi has been sent by her father to check on her recently wedded cousin, Catalina, who’s been acting strangely. As soon as Noemi arrives at High Place, she senses that negative energy resides within the home and among her cousin’s in-laws. As the plot progresses, it becomes clear that the Doyles, the English family Catalina married into, are hiding a disturbing secret.
Special thanks to Jennifer Vasquez for contributing to our Halloween @ Home celebration! You can find her at:
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