“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”― Stephen King
I have always considered myself to be a huge fan of horror, though I mostly consume it through books and graphic novels. I honestly have very low tolerance with horror movies and I only watch those that are produced by creators I trust and those that are highly recommended to me by my husband since he knows what kind of stories I want to see. Even then, I always look away or close my eyes when I feel something scary is coming. Yes, I am weird like that.
Given that it’s Halloween season, I couldn’t miss out on all the fun of celebrating all the spooky things. So as promised, today I will be sharing some of my personal favorites for your Halloween reading. I decided to categorize them depending on the level of scare you might be in the mood for: ATMOSPHERIC, CREEPY, SPOOKY and HORROR.
The horror and gore is minimal or none at all, but the somber and mysterious mood of these books will keep you reading all through the night.
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier – as I have mentioned on a previous blog post, this novel is absolutely stunning. It is the perfect mix of romantic gothic mystery. A tragic but beautiful tribute to the female charm and power.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware – a mysterious inheritance, a dysfunctional family and flawed characters make this a slow but gripping read.
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson – I know that the more popularly mentioned books of Shirley Jackson during Halloween season are The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle–former still unread, the latter was cool but a bit forgettable. I began to really love this author when I read this short story collection. It’s just the perfect spine-chilling treat in bite-sized installments. I talked more about this book here.
You know that cold feeling at the back of your neck when you are absolutely sure something not entirely human is looking over your shoulder? That’s how these books felt like to me.
The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – I think I have seen this in every other Halloween reading list there is. There’s a reason why this is considered a classic and a must-read for the genre. It’s really a very short read so I won’t say anything else.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid – one of the things that makes stories scary for me is its unpredictability. Though the main plot twist for this one was something I guessed correctly, the journey towards the reveal is definitely one of the most creepy (wtf-is-happening-here levels) I’ve ever experienced in a book recently. I talked about this book in length (and its Netflix adaptation) here.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters – I think this is one of the most underrated books out there. Perhaps it’s one of those love it or hate it kind of read. Personally, this is one of my favorite haunted house stories. Sarah Waters is known for her historical fiction with mystery and romance elements, and this is the best I’ve read from her so far. I talked about this book in length here.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin – another classic, Rosemary’s Baby is all about paranoia. Nothing is more scary than not being able to trust your friends and neighbors and everyone else around you, not even your husband and the child growing in your womb.
These are the more sinister ones. Expect a certain level of gore and taboo content. I wouldn’t recommend reading these at night with the lights off.
Ring trilogy by Koji Suzuki – I don’t think everyone is aware that the popular Sadako films started as a series of novels. I wouldn’t say that the movie adaptations were bad, but the novels are so much more complex. The series finale is really unpredictable and goes beyond the horror genre.
The Vampire Chronicles series by Anne Rice – this epic series started with Interview with the Vampire, and though the first book is really popular and celebrated, for me it’s actually the most boring of them all, and you absolutely have to continue with the next installments for more exciting things. This series became my favorite after reading The Vampire Lestat, and The Queen of the Damned is still the most epic vampire novel I’ve ever read. I think Anne Rice is the first to introduce me to likable monsters, and started me on the path to questioning all we know about good and evil.
Lives of the Mayfair Witches series by Anne Rice – a Halloween reading list won’t be complete without witches, and apologies if I am once again recommending Anne Rice. The Mayfair Witches is still the best for me in terms of storytelling and worldbuilding. This is an epic family saga with the supernatural at its core.
How do I define horror? For this category and for the purpose of this list it’s all about being traditional and unapologetic– here we have all the ghosts, evil spirits, gore, monsters, haunted places and possessed individuals.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill – it’s so hard to pick just one from Joe Hill, but I really think this is one of the most unapologetic, honest-to-goodness ghost stories I’ve read in a while. A man receives a suit of a dead man haunted by a vengeance-obsessed spirit. What follows is an intense road trip to hell or something like it.
Gyo by Junji Ito – anything Junji Ito is horror, but since this is one of the first I’ve read from him, I can say that it’s the perfect introduction to his style and brand. This horrific story begins with a rotten stench, and ends with the blurring of monsters and humans.
Stephen King – it may not be very obvious because I rarely talk about him here but I’m a huge fan of Stephen King. He is one of my ultimate favorite authors and I think I became the reader that I am because of his books. He makes speculative fiction more real because of his worldbuilding and characterization. It’s like he knows the devil himself. I try to be updated and read his recent works, but to be honest vintage SK is still the best, so those are the ones featured here.
As hard as it is to pick recommendations, here’s what I have for you:
IT – because you need to meet Pennywise and the Losers Club
The Shining – for that classic haunted house (or hotel) story
Misery – no supernatural monsters here, just an obsessed human doing unspeakable things (which just might be worse)
Needful Things – because small town horror stories are the best
The Stand – because you need to meet Randall Flagg. Plus it’s a post-apocalyptic story where the world ends because of a deadly virus. You’ll feel right at home.
I really enjoyed putting this list together for you, and thank you so much if you’re still here reading till the end. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but more of what’s off the top of my head so I might just post a part 2 or 3 in the future. As I’m writing this I also realized that I have quite a number of Filipino horror books that I want to share, so please look forward to it on my next post!
If you have any recommendations for me– be it atmospheric, creepy, spooky or horror– I want to know about them! Please share them in the comments below 🎃