There’s just something about autumn that has me wanting to curl up under blankets with a good read. Preferably with hot chocolate in hand and a fire on in the background, because I’m nothing if not a stereotypical blogger. Sadly though, we don’t have a roaring log fire; we have an electric one that just pumps out heat like a normal heater.
As Halloween approaches, the book I have in hand in this vision has changed into something different: I want spooky, creepy, scary and gothic thrillers. The ones that keep you up at night; the ones that have monsters, whether in the traditional sense of the word or not; the ones set in old houses rattling with ghosts.
So here are 10 of my favourite spooky books for Halloween – what would you recommend?
Sophie Seacatcher is a storyteller who has been banished to live in a decaying mansion that is slowly being taken over by the sea and the monsters within it. She longs to escape and return to her family, but believes she can only do so by finding the Monster Box and uncovering the secrets within.
This is a fun-filled journey of monsters, storytelling and adventure aimed at middle grade (8 to 12), but I wouldn’t let that limit your reading of it – it’s a great read for all ages! Read my full review of The Bone Snatcher here.
Set between two time periods, the childhood of writer Vida Winter’s obscure past and the present in which she tells her story to bookshop owner and little known biographer, Margaret Lea, this is a book that spans time periods, hints of ghosts unseen and comes to a chilling conclusion. The setting of the old house and new are both gothic and unnerving. Perfect to keep you on the edge of your seat in suspense at what’s around the corner.
Imagine the place you feel most isolated and alone, then times that by a thousand as that place becomes the deepest reach of the depths of the ocean, 2 miles deeper than Mariana’s Trench. The rest of the world is subject to a disease that’s slowly killing off humanity and Luke has been dispatched to the station miles below the ocean’s surface to research and hopefully cure it. The few scientists already there have stopped reporting on their mental stability and something dark and unknown lurks around every corner.
This is one that mixes psychological horror, not knowing whether it’s your own mind turning on yourself, with true horror – what’s trying to get to them? It’s not only creepy, it’s terrifying. Read my full review of The Deep here.
Rebecca is the famed gothic novel of the classics. Set in the iconic and chilling Manderley, the unnamed narrator has married the man of her dreams, Maxim de Winter, and returned to what is to be their home together. However both their relationship and the house are haunted by the echoes of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, who our narrator becomes aware she can never live up to, particularly in the eyes of judgemental and terrifying housekeeper, Mrs Danvers.
I haven’t actually reviewed this one yet, so here’s my review!
Eleanor has moved to a Victorian townhouse that stretches their budget in East London with her young family: her husband and two children. To cover some of the costs, they rent a room to Zoe, a self-conscious 27 year old who has not yet found her purpose in life, stumbling from one job to another.
Soon problems become apparent. The house needs a lot of work, but not only that, Eleanor begins to feel ill almost constantly, her only reprieve being when she leaves the house. Her daughter Rosie turns from golden girl to problem child when she begins biting her mother and awaking screaming from nightmares. Zoe too suffers nightmares, of a girl watching her while she sleeps. And then there’s the Upstairs Room – the one covered in the scrawls of child named Emily, and the tales of the family who lived there before from the neighbours.
This book is pleasantly haunting and creepy. You’ll feel a constant sense of uncertainty and find yourself looking over your shoulder feeling that someone’s watching you as you read. The storyline is brilliant, coming to a frightening climax and conclusion.
Though I like time alone, for me, books set in isolated landscapes where the characters and narrators are left alone with their minds and imaginations are often the most terrifying. Set on Kangchenjunga, a mountain that has famously claimed the lives of explorers before, a team tries to scale the ghastly peaks. This book mixes the exhilaration of treacherous climbs alongside chilling scenes where you can’t quite tell whether they’re being haunted by ghosts or their own minds.
The Widow’s House is written by my all-time favourite author, Carol Goodman. Another as yet unreviewed book, so here we go!
Our protagonist, Clare, is a copy editor, married to famed author, Jess Martin. His first book was a success but he’s struggling to complete a second and their finances are taking the brunt. As a result, they move back to the Hudson River area where Clare grew up, taking up the position of caretakers at Riven House, an estate falling into dereliction owned by their old college writing professor.
The scene is set immediately by the haunting tales that surround Riven House; the strange things that Clare starts to notice or glimpse out the corner of her eye add to this. As with all good Carol Goodman novels, the mystery of what’s going on becomes entwined with their lives as Clare tries to find out what the ghost story that’s haunting the estate has to do with her own identity and the apple orchards that surround it.
The ever building suspense in this book alongside paranormal and ghostly experiences that are truly believable make this book the perfect spooky read.
Rosemary and her new husband Gus move into the apartment of their dreams in the Bramford, despite warning from their friend that the building is haunted and no good will come from living there. Desperate for a baby, Rosemary is delighted when she falls pregnant the night of a strange party she and her husband attend in the building, but the tables turn when Rosemary becomes convinced that there’s something wrong with the baby and how it was conceived.
This is the definition of haunting and scary – it’s eerie, terrifying and in parts horrifying, all wrapped up into one.
Another book that spans two time periods and is set in a gothic, isolated country estate, make sure not to read this one when you’re alone. Alice arrives at the mansion in the 1930s in disgrace, an unmarried woman who is pregnant. She tries to find ways to while away the time, but she’s surrounded by traces of the previous occupants from the 1890s and their story. The haunting aspects of the novel ramp up as she begins to uncover the past.
This is an old favourite of mine that I’ve never actually reviewed!
Set at a girl’s boarding school, our unnamed narrator (always a creepy aspect to a story) writes her experiences in her diary. Of her friendship, and part obsession, with her best friend Lucy; and of the strange new girl, Ernessa, who is creepy and doesn’t seem to fit in. As a friendship develops between Lucy and Ernessa, our narrator begins to feel more and more left out but more and more suspicious. Not only is Ernessa weird, but she seems to feed off Lucy’s liveliness. Lucy declines as Ernessa thrives. She becomes obsessed with the idea that Ernessa is a vampire.
Whether or not this is true, the book follows the narrator’s torment through her intimate writings in her diaries until a nightmarish climax. The old boarding school setting, the dark nights and chilling experiences make this an ideal Halloween read.
This is now also a film, but I’d definitely recommend the book over that – it’s a very different, dark experience all together.
What books would you recommend for Halloween?