Today I thought I would try something different and give a list of recommendations for the perfect books to read at Halloween. I’m going to try and do these more often, so I might do seasonal ones and holiday ones too.
1. The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell
This is without a doubt one of the scariest books I have ever read. The story follows Elsie, a young widow who has moved into her later husband’s stately manor home in the country. Without only her husband’s cousin for company she explore the house and finds a painted wooden figure – a silent companion. She feels the eyes of the painting constantly following her and with the help of an ancestral journal she finds out that the companion is a lot more than it seems. This book was dark, Gothic and terrifying, it’s definitely the perfect choice for Halloween reading.
Also Try: The Corset – Laura Purcell: Laura’s newest creepy Victorian tale.
2. The Wicked Deep – Shea Earnshaw
This story follows the cursed town of Sparrow, in which 200 years ago three sisters were drowned because the town believed they were witches. Now each year the sisters return to possess bodies of the local teenage girls, using them to lure boys into the water and drown them. This story has so much atmosphere and a really vivid setting. It’s creepy and has lots of twists and turn. I raced through it and it’s a really well told tale.
Also Try: The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert: A dark tale about a young girl who enters a land of fairy tales created by her reclusive grandmother.
3. Small Spaces – Katherine Arden
This is a middle grade novel that is spooky, unsettling and a fun adventure tale. Ollie is going home from school when she finds a young woman trying to destroy a book in the river. Rescuing the book, she takes it home and begins to read the tale of a family and the horrors that have happened to them. The next day she goes on a school trip to a local farm where she learns that the story might not be entirely fictional… This story is so enjoyable and spine-tingling. It’s an excellent adventure story and perfect for Halloween.
Also Try: The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden: This is an adult fantasy, but incredibly atmospheric and set in a frozen Russian landscape, making it perfect to dive into on a chilly Halloween night!
4. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White
This year marks 200 years since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. If you’ve read the book or are looking for something a bit more accessible to start off, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is the perfect choice. Told from the point of view of one of the few female characters in the story, the book is fast paced, dark and disturbing. It’s a truly excellent retelling and a brilliant Halloween book.
Also Try: And I Darken – Kiersten White: This is the author’s series of Vlad the Imapaler (Dracula) retellings, but reimagined as a woman.
5. City of Ghosts – V. E. Schwab
V. E. Schwab’s first middle grade book is the perfect addition to your Halloween reading. The story follows Cassidy, a young girl who can see ghosts. When her parents are asked to create a TV series about ghosts they travel to Edinburgh to begin filming. Here Cassidy meets all kinds of ghosts and not all of them are friendly. This story has such a stunning setting in Edinburgh and is all kinds of dark and creepy.
Also Try: Vicious – V. E. Schwab: A dark and gritty story of two best friends turned enemies who try to make themselves superhuman and the death and destruction that follows.
6. We Have Always Lived In The Castle – Shirley Jackson
No creepy book list would be complete without a mention of a Shirley Jackson book. Merricat and her sister Constance live with their Uncle Julian in a grand estate home. Several years ago four of the Blackwood family were poisoned with arsenic and died. While acquitted for the murders, the family are still the talk of the villagers. When a distant relative comes to visit, the future becomes fraught with danger. What will happen to the sisters, and will the truth of the murders come out? Shirley Jackson has a way of making stories so dark and intense and this is a perfect unsettling tale.
Also Try: The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson: This story follows four people who come to stay at Hill House looking for spooky phenomenon and the horror that awaits them inside. It is not also a super scary Netflix series too!
7. Dark Matter – Michelle Paver
This story is so spine tingling and eerie! I’ve read it a few times and it’s still as creepy as it was the first time I read it. The story is told in a series of journal entries from a young man who is part of an expedition to the icy baren wilderness of the Arctic. As things start to go wrong and his companions are forced to leave, our narrator Jack is left along in this freezing land, but is he really alone, or something watching him? I couldn’t put this down and it’s definitely one my favourite books of all time.
Also Try: Thin Air – Michelle Paver: A story in the similar vein about an expedition up a mountain in which things start to go wrong. It’s not as good as Dark Matter but it’s still an excellent creepy tale.
8. Wytches – Scott Snyder
This is the first volume in a series of graphic novels by Scott Snyder. This story is haunting with some really stunning artwork. I read it for the first time earlier this year and really wish I’d kept it for closer to October. This story follows witches (obviously) but not the kind that you think you know. Hiding in the woods, these witches are ancient, and they’re hungry.
Also Try: The Woods – James Tynion: The story of a school with 500+ students and staff that mysteriously disappear. Where could they have gone? And what’s waiting for them when they get there?
9. See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt
This book isn’t so much scary as it is atmospheric and disturbing. A fictionalised account of Lizzie Borden, a young woman accused of murdering her mother and father with an axe. The story is told in a very visceral way and it is a really impressive debut novel. “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”
Also Try: The Witch Finder’s Sister – Beth Underdown: A historical fictional novel about a young man who accused women of witchcraft.
10. The Willows – Algernon Blackwood
During my English degree we did a class on the fantastic and elements of a story that make you feel unsettled even if there’s nothing these. Tasked to find a book and write an essay on this, I found and read The Willows. This book really frightened me, partly because you never really see or find out what’s going on. In the vein of H.P. Lovecraft the story follows two friends camping by the Danube river when they are forced to pause their trip. During their stay something in the environment starts stalking their every move and the two companions aren’t sure they will make it out alive. This short tale is one of my absolute favourites and if you like haunting creepy books that you can absolutely fly though, definitely try this.
Also Try: Anything by H. P. Lovecraft: His stories are dark, eerie and definitely unsettling.
So that’s my top list of Halloween recommendations. If you’ve read any of these let me know what you thought and if you have any good recommendations for me then definitely comment below!