13 Books to Get You in the Mood for Halloween

13 Books to Get You in the Mood for Halloween



It’s finally October and that means that Halloween is right around the corner, and with that comes ghoulish decorations, costume planning, horror films, and of course scary books.


Some people love horror movies; I do not.  I can’t watch anything horror related without taking multiple bathroom breaks and nervously eating my weight in popcorn. And yet, I’m a sucker for thrillers, mysteries, and other assorted scary books.  My imagination conjures things more terrifying than what I see in a movie. There’s something about reading a scary book and letting your imagination run wild with you. You know that feeling when you’re read a spooky book and it just lingers in your mind?  That feeling when you go to turn off your bedside table lamp and you think, “Actually, maybe not,”.  I love that feeling.


With that in mind, I’ve curated a list of of books to get you in the mood for Halloween.  I realize that not everyone likes to be too afraid to close their eyes, so there’s a book in here for just about every type of reader.


1. IT by Stephen King

Take another trip to Derry, Maine, where seven “losers” band together to face a terrifying evil that emerges every 27 years to prey on the town’s young.

I’m sure by now you’ve seen that one of Stephen King’s iconic works has a new movie out (released in the USA on September 8, 2017 ) It has rave reviews, even by SK himself.  In case you haven’t read IT, you’re too afraid of the movie, or can’t wait the two years until Part II comes out, this is the perfect time to dust off a copy of his beloved 1986 novel.

If your biggest hangup is that the public library currently has a waiting list about a mile long for IT (I was informed that the next available copy would be ready around the year 2034), I’d recommend buying. Besides, who doesn’t want to tote around this King-sized novel and be the envy of all your friends?


When should you read it?  Alone, in bed, at night. You might as well make a pot of coffee because you aren’t going to be sleeping.


2. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King

What if women were to go to sleep and never wake up again? What would the world look like in an increasingly all-male society? Sleeping Beauties transports its readers to a small town in West Virginia where a large ensemble of characters tell the story of what can happen to everyday people when their world is turned upside down.

Just in case you’re all caught up on your Stephen King novels, the King of Horror is back with his latest, Sleeping Beauties, written in collaboration with his youngest son, Owen. It was recently released on Sept 26th, so head on out and grab a copy!


When should you read it? If you’re willing to wait until Halloween, this book is the perfect excuse to not going to that party. Then again, why wouldn’t eschew going out on the town in order to read such a provocative tale?



3. An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel 

If you’re tired of all the pretty-boy vampires getting the attention, you might be interested in Yulric Bile, who is as ugly as his name suggests. Yulric wakes up after a few centuries to discover that the public view of vampires has horrifyingly changed from revulsion and fear to an almost celebrity-like status.

Maybe you’re more ‘Halloweentown’ than ‘Halloween’, or just prefer a dark comedy to psychological thrillers. Jim McDoniel’s debut urban fantasy novel straddles the lines of modern fantasy, tongue-in-cheek pop culture, and “old school” vampires. While this isn’t exactly a satire on Twilight, it cleverly pokes fun at some of the modern ideas of what makes a monster.


When should you read it? During your commute or lunch break. An Unattractive Vampire makes an excellent audiobook or lunch time reading.



4. Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Laura is unbearably lonely. She lives alone with her father until another young women, Carmilla, is welcomed to stay with them after a coach crash just outside their castle.

Forget Dracula, this is the book that inspired Bram Stoker’s famous novel. Carmilla is a iconic gothic novella, with it’s lurid story and florid language. It deserves its place next to other great classic horror novels, such as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Picture of Dorian Gray. While it might lack the action that modern books have, it’s an important book in literary history. Published in 1872, not only was Carmilla one of the first vampire stories written, it was also one of the first published novels openly portraying lesbian love.


When should you read it? At home on a stormy evening. I’d pair it with a rich, red wine.



5. Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad) by Tana French  

The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl have been some of the biggest names in psychological thrillers recently, but Tana French is supreme.< Each of her “Dublin Murder Squad” series reads like a stand-alone novel, so they don’t have to be read in order. However, the benefit to doing so is that French introduces the protagonist of each book in the previous novel, giving the reader a glimpse into their life before diving right in. The series begins with In the Woods, but if you want to forge ahead, I’d recommend reading Broken Harbour. Of the books in this series, it is the one most like a classic thriller.

  While many authors are masters at using clues or incorporating creepy elements, Ms. French has perfected the balance of what makes a truly all-consuming story: the people.  Instead of highlighting the mind of a twisted killer, she delves into the psyche of a detective. Ms. French delivers psychological intrigue combined with a police procedural, and then leaves you with just the right amount of melancholy.  She may not always adhere to the “rules” of the mystery genre, but that is why precisely she is consistently tops out my “must-read” lists.


When should you read it? Right now. Go brew a pot of tea and put on your pajamas. You’re not going anywhere until you’ve reached the end.


6. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

In case you aren’t familiar with Christie’s sensational classic, ten strangers are invited by an eccentric millionaire to spend the weekend on a private island. The only thing that each of the strangers shares is a guilty secret. One by one, the guests are eliminated. Who is the killer? And will anyone survive?

You probably won’t lose sleep reading Christie’s novel as it’s not spooky or horror-filled, but it is an engaging read. And Then There Were None is a simple, clever book that will keep you guessing until the end.


When should you read it? Preferably in your mansion on your private island, but since those are a bit sparse, I’d say to read it in public. It’s a great book to show off that not only do you enjoy good literature, but you also like to have fun. Pair it with a cup of coffee and some autumnal landscape and you’ll have a sensational Instagram photo.




7. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury 

Something is coming to Green Town, Illinois. Something strange and mysterious. A little after midnight, on a dark October evening, a sinister carnival rolls into town. Two adolescent boys are hypnotized by Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show and will soon discovers some of its deepest secrets.

Ray Bradbury’s exceptional novel embraces the dichotomy between good and evil, right and wrong, that is within all of us. Despite having been written over fifty years ago, Something Wicked This Way Comes still delivers a zing.


When should you read it? When you’re camping or by firelight. The sweetness and warmth of hot apple cider will lull you into a false sense of security and keep you from freaking out over every snapping twig.



8. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Three individuals agree to stay in a purportedly haunted house to aid a scientific experiment. Eleanor, a shy and quiet woman, stays with Theodora and Luke, to test Dr. Montague’s theory that reason can explain the unexplainable.

The Haunting of Hill House is a combination of haunted house genre fiction and a psychological study. Shirley Jackson is a master story-teller who expertly draws in her readers with detail, complicated characters, and suspense. Her unreliable narrator, combined with tension, intrigue, and a gripping plot will leave you in suspense and terror. Sometimes horror isn’t about monsters, but about finding out who you are.


When should you read it? In the waiting room of your therapist’s office.



9. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 

What could be better than a lovely, weird family bedtime story, especially if it is written by Neil Gaiman? Bod is orphaned at a young age and adopted by the residents of a local graveyard. As he grows up, he learns to inhabit two worlds: one of the living and one of the dead.

Every time I step into Neil Gaiman’s imaginative worlds, I’m incredibly impressed with the level of detail he gives his stories. He has a cunning way with words and manages to balance humor, heartache, and just the right amount of haunting to keep The Graveyard Book near the top of the stack, no matter the time of year.


When should you read it? Before bed, with your kids, nieces/nephews, or your childhood stuffed bear.



10. Ghost Story by Peter Straub

In a small upstate New York town, a group of old men gather together to swap frightening ghost stories, but the scariest story is the one they’re not telling.

This atmospheric and multi-faceted novel by Peter Straub is an ambitious story that creeps along until the reader is caught in its chilly snare. Ghost Story might be a slow read, but don’t let that fool you. The small town and its inhabitants need that time to unbury their secrets.


When you should read it? After you’ve poured a stiff drink and sat down in your most comfortable armchair. I’d recommend a flannel bathrobe and slippers to complete your ensemble.



11. Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo

Okay, so maybe traditional horror isn’t for you. Maybe science fiction is more your genre and so you would prefer something akin to space horror. If so, here you go.

The Argonos, a starship drifting through space for generations, is filled with people who are unsure of where they’ve come from and where they are going. The story slowly builds as the Argonos lands upon an unknown planet and a ghost ship that may not be what it seems. Ship of Fools isn’t really a space opera; it is a slow, psychological examination of what humans will do when faced with unknowns and terrible situations.


When you should read it? If you have the good fortune to travel during October, this is a great airplane read. If not, cram yourself into your most uncomfortable chair, wedge it behind your second most uncomfortable chair, and go to town reading.



12. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Okay, not all readers want to read about ghost stories or thrillers, and many have no desire to read fiction. Maybe you’re too smart for that, or maybe you just have a curious streak that needs to be catered to. Either way, Mary Roach’s seminal novel just might satisfy you.

Usually one doesn’t refer to humor and corpses in the same sentence, but Mary Roach is not your usual science writer. Stiff is a compelling read that introduces readers to the many productive ways cadavers have been, and can be, used after death in a simultaneously respectful and hilarious manner. They say that “dead men tell no tales”, but in this book, they do.


When you should read it? Whenever you don’t mind being looked after an accidental burst of laughter over some discussion of a corpse. It’ll happen. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.



13. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry  

What’s scarier than real life? Honestly, not much, which is why true-crime has become such a huge literary genre. Helter Skelter is the top selling true crime novel for a reason.

Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial and writes a straight-forward and detailed accounting of the murders done by Charles Manson and his “family” at the end of the 1960’s. Despite the title, the precise narrative and orderly story-telling of one of the most brutal mass-murders will leave you aghast at the monsters that haunt real life.


When you should read it? Probably not when you’re surrounded by other people.


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