It’s that time of the year. Monster movie marathons are on TV, costume shops are filled to capacity, and tempting fun-sized goodies are materializing out of thin air. This can only mean that Halloween's just around the corner. What better way to celebrate than curling up with a terrifying novel or two? To get you through All Hallows’ Eve, here's our list of 10 lesser-known, but undeniably blood-curdling books.
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
Danielewski’s unconventional debut novel—complete with nested footnotes, superimposed text and a terrifying section of secret code (note to readers: make sure you piece together the Whalestoe Letters by yourself, lest anyone see what you are writing)—is a cult classic. House of Leaves is ergodic lit at its finest, and one of the most frightening, immersive reading experiences I’ve ever had.
Read Book Smugglers on gender issues in Christopher L. Bennett's 'Only Superhuman.'
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
Though this novel may be hard to find in the USA, it’s worth the international shipping fees and waiting period. This epistolary book is a gem of a ghost story, guaranteed to change the way you think of the North Pole, the cold and the things that lurk in the dark.
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
I always try to sell people on Simmons’ Summer of Night with a simple comparison: It’s very much like Stephen King’s It, but shorter, more efficient and so much more heartbreaking.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Nothing against Daniel Radcliffe’s portrayal of the unfortunate Arthur Kipps, but the book is infinitely more effective and terrifying than the recent film. Isolated and brooding on a silty land where sea is indistinguishable from sky, Eel Marsh House is a haunted manor on par with the likes of the Poe’s House of Usher and Jackson’s Hill House. An utterly traditional ghost story that employs the oldest tropes, The Woman in Black is the paramount example of old school horror done right.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
You may remember reading these books as a child, and you may think that you have outgrown them. I beg to differ. Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are as horrific today as they were when I was a third grader, and I hope they’ll continue to be printed for many generations to come.
Goth by Otsuichi
Read the manga or the novelization, but I prefer the novelization (masterfully translated from the original Japanese in an eerie, clipped style). Featuring a pair of teenage sociopaths, Goth is a collection of shorter stories, connected by a single narrative arc. It’s kind of like a teenage Dexter, reminiscent of Dan Wells’ John Wayne Cleaver series, with a dash of Takashi Miike’s Audition thrown in for good measure.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick
Think The Wicker Man (original, not Nicholas Cage in a Bear Suit Wicker Man), mixed with a timeless story of doomed love destined to end in heartbreak, generation after generation. Marcus Sedgewick is a phenomenal storyteller, and Midwinterblood is a very different kind of horror novel that resonates, lingering long after you’ve finished reading.
Slights by Kaaron Warren
Slights is a quiet novel, about the space between life and death, grief and lies. Surreal, psychological and disturbing, Warren’s Slights is not for the faint of heart. (I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoilers.)
Whisper of Death by Christopher Pike
One of my personal favorite books of all time (and easily my favorite of Pike’s impressive roster of titles), Whisper of Death isolates a handful of characters in a dead world, where they are at the whim of a strange girl named Betty Sue. A novel about choice and consequence, this is a deeply unsettling book. A beautiful one, too.
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
You knew there would be ONE King novel on here, right? For Halloween, my favorite re-read (and subsequent film rewatch) is one of Stephen King’s earliest, shortest books, the story of vampires in the small town of Jerusalem’s Lot. Many have tried to repeat King’s formula (I’m looking at you, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan), but I don’t think anyone has quite pulled it off.
There you have it, a personal favorite roster of 10 Halloween reads! We’re always eager for suggestions; what books are you reading this Halloween?