We adore Halloween for a variety of reasons, including the elaborate costumes (who doesn’t love an opportunity to dress up?) With an abundance of sweets to the festive décor and autumn-themed (sorry, we couldn’t resist!) activities like apple harvesting. But what is the true Halloween treat? Horrible tales. We compiled a list of 20 horror novels, thrillers, and fantasies filled with ghosts, goblins, witches, and otherworldly beings for the perfect Halloween reading list. Though some are special to October 31st, these books will keep you awake and engaged all year.
Interview With a Vampire
Interview With a Vampire is one of Anne Rice’s most widely read and famous novels. It’s a little bit sensual, a little bit spine-chilling, and tremendously amusing. The book, as the title suggests, is about a 20th-century vampire in Louisiana, yet it reads like half historical piece, part philosophical epic. The novel was made into a film starring Brad Pitt, which you should certainly see after reading it.
White Is For Witching
It’s not unexpected that Helen Oyeyemi’s latest novel is a tour de force—and it’s about an anthropomorphic house with a nasty disposition toward outsiders and newbies.
The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson’s landmark novel The Haunting of Hill House is a must-read for any Halloween reading list. It is widely regarded as the best literary ghost story ever written, and it follows four strangers—an occult scholar, his assistant, a troubled woman with a history of unexplained occurrences, and the house’s soon-to-be heir—as they gather in the renowned Hill House. You’ll find all of the creepy haunted house tropes you’re looking for around Halloween, but with a literary twist.
Pick up Aura if you enjoy Magical Realism in all its supernatural-meets-hyperrealist magnificence but don’t have the attention span or time to read a bible-sized novel right now. Although Carlos Fuentes’ novella is little in size, it is a force to be reckoned with. If taken allegorically, it addresses Mexico’s brutal colonial past and how it haunts the modern communal consciousness. On the surface, it’s also a lighthearted ghost mystery.
Norman Partridge’s Dark Harvest, winner of a Bram Stoker Award, is a modern tale that delves into the underbelly of American mythology, town gossip, communal mentality, and more. It’s set in a bland midwestern village where everyone is infatuated with the terrifying figure of a little boy with a weapon who appears in the cornfields every Halloween night. Discover what happens when our protagonist attempts to finally vanquish him.
Make this the year you read the origin tale of everyone’s favorite Halloween costume. Mary Shelley’s magnificent novel is about the constraints and boundaries of science, as well as humanity’s pursuit of control and supremacy over nature, with all the peril that entails.
Chuck Palahniuk’s collection of twenty-three short stories is ideal for anyone seeking a good scare without sacrificing superb writing. They’re also fantastic fun to read in snatches, which is ideal if you don’t have time to devote to a complete novel this Halloween. Each short story is satirical, humorous, grotesque, thought-provoking, and, like its title, haunting.
Toni Morrison’s Beloved, though not exactly a Halloween book, is without a doubt one of the most compelling and transforming ghost stories ever written. But it’s much more than a ghost story, illustrating the country’s lingering legacy of slavery during Reconstruction and into the present. In many ways, it reads like a love story, examining the power of romantic, parental, platonic, and self-love. Whether it’s Halloween or not, this is a must-read.
Complete Short Stories of Edgar Allen Poe
Who knew a poem could be so terrifying? And we’re not even talking about the possible memories to high school English class. If you haven’t already read Edgar Allen Poe’s dark stories and poetry, this comprehensive anthology is a must-read.
Her Body and Other Parties
If you haven’t read Carmen Maria Machado’s short collection, you’re in for a real treat. Machado’s writing is enthralling and incisive, both entertaining and immensely thought-provoking. Each of the stories is a strange mix of scary, erotic, and ludicrous, and they will stick with you long after the final syllable has been read. One narrative is a series of plot synopses, each of which is a fan fiction retelling of a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode. Another, “The Husband Stitch,” is a modern spin (complete with poignant social commentary) on the traditional children’s folklore narrative, “The Girl With the Green Ribbon.” Each one is a feminist triumph that combines science fiction, fantasy, horror, humor, and other elements.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
What could be more bizarre than hedonism, vanity, and narcissism? In this terrible gothic philosophical narrative (Oscar Wilde’s first published novel), our protagonist is drawn into the darkest corners of upper 18th-century British society, becoming progressively obsessed with aesthetic beauty, youth, and pleasure above all else. Skeptics, how is this related to Halloween? For starters, the novel’s central theme is a frightening portrait with a life of its own.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
So you enjoy Halloween and want to get into the spirit, but you don’t want to sleep with a light on for the foreseeable future…? In that scenario, go with a classic like Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Slightly unsettling and lots of disturbing imagery, but hardly a haunt-you-until-your-last-living-breath type of book.
Little Sister Death
In William Gay’s Little Sister Death, a young author struggles with writer’s block until he finds inspiration in an old ghost story set in the American South. The novel explores a brutal past, deeply troubled individuals, and plenty of Southern gothic dread and gloom.
Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler is not your typical vampire story. Yes, it’s tough to put down, and you could easily read it in one sitting, but it also deals with contentious subjects such as race, sexuality, and identity. The protagonists, language, topics, and plot are all captivating.
The Turn of the Screw
When it comes to telling horrific stories, Henry James is one of the great masters. As the title suggests, the horror in this narrative is heightened by the slow build and mounting suspense. The Turn of the Screw, like most of the scariest stories ever written, is set on a secluded, gloomy, and enormous estate populated by a governess and the two children she looks after. As the tension and tragedy rise, so do the hauntings, whether real or imagined.
Dead Girls and Other Stories
Emily Geminder’s debut collection Dead Girls and Other Stories introduces us to a cast of nasty or destined women, all of whom meet a horrible end. Each short story is written in a poetic, meditative style that will move, scare you out, and, at times, enrage you.
Don’t worry if you rolled your eyes when I stated Frankenstein’s monster was everyone’s favorite Halloween costume and monster; I didn’t forget about Dracula. Go out with a boom with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the forefather of all vampire fantasy franchises that have followed. If you enjoy gothic novels in all their dark and brooding beauty, this is the book for you.