Which Book Should You Read This Halloween?

Looking for haunted houses? Dark fairytales? Ghost stories? We've got your next read covered!

Photo by Taylor Rooney via Unsplash

This spooky season, we’ve curated a reading list for every type of reader. Craving the adrenaline rush of a horror novel full of jump scares? Looking to be spooked on a journey through the dark, haunted woods? What about a twisted retelling of classic Russian fairytales? Here are the books you should immerse yourself in this Halloween:

I’m interested in haunted houses:

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

In a rundown mansion in the English countryside, Frances Jellico discovers she can spy on her downstairs neighbors—Cara and Peter—through a peephole in her bathroom. Lonely and unmoored, Frances soon becomes enmeshed in the lives of the glamorous and mysterious couple, attending decadent dinner parties and drinking her cares away. But as sinister, unexplained happenings start to unfurl, she soon finds that she doesn’t really know her new friends quite as well as she thinks.

I’m interested in witchcraft:

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay 

Set in the 1880s Manhattan, witches Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair own a tea shop selling potions and palm readings, offering a refuge for their female customers who are seeking control over their lives. But the arrival of 17-year-old Beatrice Dunn who has the ability to commune with the dead brings grave danger.

I’m interested in dark fairytales:

There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, translated by Keith Gessen and Anna Summers

A jealous roommate sets up deadly traps for her former friend’s baby in their communal apartment. A hitchhiker on a cold night meets a mysterious woman who offers her life-changing matches for warmth. News of a deadly pandemic knocks on a family’s door. In these dark and strange fairytales, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya paints a bleak portrait of life in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia.

I’m interested in very short ghost stories:

The Ghost Variations by Kevin Brockmeier

The Ghost Variations by Kevin Brockmeier

What happens after you die? These 100 miniature short stories, at turns humorous and haunting, imagine the multitudes of the afterlife. More hell than heaven, each uncanny microfiction is two pages long and can be read within two minutes.

I’m interested in folklore:

Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho

Spirits Abroad is a short story collection that infuses Malaysian folklore with the pressures and anxieties of modern-day life. Set in Malaysia, England, and “elsewhere,” the stories feature mythological creatures from Malaysian lore: in “The House of Aunts,” a teenage vampire falls in love with a human boy, much to the chagrin of her deceased aunts; in “First National Forum of the Position of Minorities in Malaysia,” an invisible creature from the Borneon jungle demands his right to affirmative action; in “One-Day Travelcard for Fairyland,” Malaysian students newly arrived at a British boarding school must battle English faeries.

I’m interested in traveling to another dimension:

Image result for finna nino cipri

Finna by Nino Cipri

Finna is a darkly humorous satire of working a dead-end job for minimum wage at a giant corporation, a must-read for its biting critique of late capitalism. When a grandma falls into a wormhole while shopping at a superstore specializing in low-cost particleboard furniture, it’s up to two minimum-wage employees to save the day. And no, they are not paid enough to traverse across a different dimension while fuzzy chairs are trying their darn hardest to eat them; but sadly the in-house multiverse rescue team was laid off due to cost-cutting. Can the two former lovers hurting over their recent breakup remain cordial for long enough to survive showrooms full of blood-drinking Hive Mothers? Well…

I’m interested in sociopolitical horror:

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell 

Known as a “South American Shirley Jackson,” Mariana Enriquez’s macabre collection looks at Argentina’s sociopolitical issues through a supernatural twist inspired by Indigenous folklore, the occult, and urban legends. Spanning modern-day Bueno Aires, Barcelona, and Belgium, the stories all feature women—whether it’s teenage girls conducting an Ouija board seance or groupies robbing the grave of their rock star idol—struggling with inequality, gendered violence, and powerlessness.

I’m interested in emotional ghosts:

Those Fantastic Lives by Bradley Sides

Stalking the pages of Those Fantastic Lives are teenage werewolves communicating via a lengthy email chain, polygamous merfolk dealing with the turmoil of a new addition to their already-crowded marriage, and children who mysteriously sprout wings and fly away as their parents try to cling on. Bradley Sides uses magical realism to imbue everyday moments in his stories with a sense of eeriness and dread, but the true hauntings aren’t the ghostly apparitions with sharp bared fangs, but the emotional ghosts that we’re trying to outrun.

I’m interested in slasher flicks:

My Heart Is a Chainsaw

My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

Jade Daniels is a half-Native teenage girl full of angst, loneliness, and rage. Her life-sustaining anchor is an obsession with horrors movies; slasher flicks provide her with much-needed solace and companionship as she navigates high school as an outcast in small-town Idaho. When dead bodies start piling up (in sandwich bags), Jade feels primed to be the one who uncovers the masked killer. A love letter to classic horror films, Stephen Graham Jones’s novel is a whip-smart commentary soaked in blood and gore about institutionalized violence against Native Americans, gentrification, and displacement.

I’m interested in monsters both literal and symbolic:

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill

Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill

Cosmology of Monsters is a Texan horror novel about the secrets and the resentments we harbor as a family. Patriarch Harry Turner’s magnum opus is an elaborately hand-built haunted house in his backyard called the Wandering Dark. Monsters lurk in the shadows of the Turner household, tormenting them with orange eyes leering in the dark and the sound of scratching on windows at nighttime. With shades of H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, the book slowly unravels back and forth in time as loneliness, illness, and financial precarity slowly tear apart a family.

I’m interested in haunted woods:

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt 

A nameless woman leaves the Old World behind for a new beginning with her husband and son, only to lose herself in the haunted woods of Puritan New England. Straying from the path while berry picking, she meets three witches and discovers a game in which she must embody the role of each character in a dark fairytale:

“Their favorite had been the game of the wolf eating the little girl. They had gnawed on each other’s ribs and gobbled each other’s entrails and torn out each other’s hearts.”

To get out of the woods alive, she must master the game and embrace the darkness.

I’m interested in Greek mythology:

Women and Other Monsters by Jess Zimmerman

Women and Other Monsters by Jess Zimmerman

In her book, former Electric Lit editor-in-chief Jess Zimmerman argues that it’s time for women to reclaim their monstrosity. She explores eleven female monsters from Greek mythology to show how their monstrosity subverts patriarchal constraints of femininity that seek to diminish and erase women who dare to be loud, ambitious, hungry, and too much.

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