I love Halloween. (At least here in the Northern hemisphere) The days are getting shorter and things get darker earlier, colder. With the leaves turning and the wind howling, it's the perfect time to curl up with a blanket and read a really scary book. Here are some spooky suggestions for what to read around Halloween. For me, books about Halloween says ghosts. and monsters. and zombies. There is obviously a big resurgence of paranormal books on the market at the moment involving vampires and werewolves etc, but for the most part I've tried to keep my list more in line with the classics. It's just how I roll.

First up, we have ghost-y books.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I mention this one first as it is October's Blurbing Book Club selection! Please read it, discuss it and blurb it! It's about a boy who's entire family is murdered by a very sinister looking man in black, so the boy seeks refuge in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts. It's the perfect book to read for Halloween AND it's written by Neil Gaiman. Please don't overlook it - join us. Please.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - Less than 100 pages, this is one that will get to you with it's spookiness. It doesn't use big, obvious ways in which to scare you, but lets you infer things yourself, lets your imagination run away with itself. Set in an old estate house, with two small children and only a young governess to look after them, strange things are going on...

If you're interested in subtle ghost stories told through literary fiction, then possibly try Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger about two American twins whose inheritance is a flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery in London or The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters which explores Britain after World War II.

Also, have you ever looked into your own city/state/region for ghost stories? I think it's makes it extra-special-ghoulish when the ghost stories are that local. It's worth checking out!

And if you are looking for something a bit .. more, here are some vampire/monster offerings:

Dracula by Bram Stoker - Vampires are the new black it seems, but here's the original vampire story. I found it a bit dull, but lots of people rave about it. It's a far, far cry from the transformation of vampires in modern literature. Thus, the appeal, I'd suppose.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - This is an update to Dracula which has seen some very mixed reviews. I've heard it can drag in some parts, but I've also heard that it's filled with lots of historical detail and atmosphere. At over 700 pages though, it isn't for the faint of heart, but I hear it's a vampire story very intelligently written without romanticising vampirism.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - I've only seen the movie starring Will Smith, but I hear the book is a lot better in many ways. More psychological and chilling. What would it be like to be the last man alive, surrounded by vampires? I hear the vampire aspect of it eventually become more of a side-story as the main characters works through his own issues. Still sounds like it could give sufficient chills when reading this Halloween.. Come out Neville!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - The ultimate horror book. I had this as an assigned book in one of my university courses and I still haven't read it :( Everyone knows the story, right? Mad scientist creates monster then is rejected by its creator and monster goes on a rampage. The film adaptation seem to be a very different creation to the book, so be sure to check it out.

Also, be sure to look out for The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde for a better glimpse at psychological thrillers investigating the monster within.

And for zombie enthusiasts:

The Enemy/The Dead by Charlie Higson - I absolutely adore this new series by the author of the Young Bond books (amongst others!). The characters, all children aged 14 and under must fight to survive with all the adults gone zombie. They've hidden out in the local Waitrose but decide to go on the move to find more food and allies. Very interestingly written, a new series not to miss!

World War Z by Max Brooks - I haven't actually read this one, but zombies and Max Brooks seems to go hand-in-hand. It seems to be the ultimate book about the zombie apocalypse. Brooks writes about a not-too-distant future in which we are invaded by zombies. He looks at the ways in which different countries and corporations have responded and dealt with this as well as provided witness testimonies.

And for more zombie goodness, there's always The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan and the sequel, Dead-Tossed Waves.

Deliciously creepy:

Edgar Allan Poe - Nothing says Halloween better than Edgar Allan Poe. A fan amongst a lot of nerdfighters that I've spoken to, his stuff is a mixture of horror, mystery and suspense. While I've been writing this blog post I have re-read the poem The Raven and have found it still as creepy fantastic as I remembered. Any favourite Poe poetry/short stories?

We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson - I think this has to be one of the spookiest covers ever. Gives me goosebumps just looking at it. It's a slim story of two sisters whose family have all died of arsenic poisoning. They live in a crumbling old castle and from the very first page there is a general feeling of uneasiness about the story...

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - I just read a review of this book that called it a mixture of Gothic horror and psychological realism. Ooh. That sounds good to me! There's the general feeling that quite a lot is going on in The Woman in White: Collins writes of mental patients escaped from the asylum, differences in class, marriage and other long-standing institutions and a mystery with very sinister characters. I shall definitely be looking out for this one.

For more recent YA choices, I'd suggest either White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick or Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, both of which are recently published (here in the UK).

For nostalgia purposes: Goosebumps or Fear Street by RL Stine. Am I showing my age here? I absolutely adore RL Stine and when I was much younger, I always got very excited every time I saw a new book by him in the library.

And so that's it for me. As always, if you have and questions or comments or if you have any suggestions for what you'd like to see in my weekly posts please comment below or send me a message. Please do let me know if you're involved in a nerdfighter-bookish project especially.

What are YOUR favourite spooky books to read at Halloween? What is the scariest book you've ever read?

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Tags: books, clover, halloween, spooky


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Comment by angel garnham on October 21, 2010 at 3:26pm
My brother got me WWZ because I already had 'The Zombie Survival Guide', and then he got me the audiobook -.-
Suffice to say, I haven't listened to it yet.
Comment by Lizzy Who on October 20, 2010 at 9:25am
I love my lit class. We read Frankenstein and Jekyll & Hyde last month, we're currently reading Dracula, and we have The Picture of Dorian Gray scheduled for next month. We're also reading Hyperion, which is supposed to be good.
I've been dying to find a copy of World War Z somewhere, because I've heard great things about it.
Comment by Kenny (TOK) on October 19, 2010 at 11:17pm
My favorite Poe story is probably The Cask of Amontillado. Our math teacher read it to us in high school, which may be a part of my fondness. It is so hilariously and disturbingly overwrought... and catchy.
Comment by Jennie Rae Urban on October 19, 2010 at 2:39pm
The best book I've ever read is definitely Dracula. I'd recommend it to any literary fanatic. The Graveyard Book is a good October read, I'm terrified of all men named Jack, now. Also, Coraline. I have a mild fear of buttons, too, now. Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, and the sequel, The Last Days are also good October reads. I'd recommend them, too.
Comment by Robert on October 19, 2010 at 2:08pm
Well, Robert is definitely going to the library today. :3
Comment by angel garnham on October 19, 2010 at 1:29pm
I've read a few of your selections above, and while they are all enjoyable, none of them have managed to hold me in suspense for very long, or scare me at all. The only book that's actually managed to do that for me was 'Phantoms' by Dean Koontz. It managed to keep me on the edge of mt seat, and I'm still afraid of the noises in the basement (amongst other things)
Comment by Clive-φ-Davidson Ex-NM on October 19, 2010 at 9:05am
I am not a big fan of Halloween, although I have read several of the above titles, although not The Graveyard Book, yet. I may have to pop down to the library and hope that they are open for once. }8¬D
Comment by Jared M. Boze on October 19, 2010 at 7:28am
Dracula is one of my favorite books, mostly thanks to its brutality and slow progression. Calling it dull is easily justified, but I see it as a story with perfectly slow pacing - were it a 200 mph thrill ride it wouldn´t have the sense of sickening dread that makes it a classic.

Speaking of sickening dread, there are a few H.P. Lovecraft stories that stand out above the others - I mean the ones that he obviously spent a lot of time with. His longer, more complex stories such as "The Dunwich Horror," "Herbert West: Reanimator", and "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," are pretty mentally and emotionally disorienting and the last sentence of Dunwich is creepy as all get-out.

Of his short works I especially love Lovecraft´s prose poem "Nyarlathotep."

I find that his stories, or at least his good ones, have an odd effect on the mind: although I wasn´t frightened while reading "At the Mountains of Madness," Lovecraft´s seminal work, it gave me horrible nightmares anyway.

I recommend that you find paper versions of these, but if you can´t find any, here are some resources:

For those commenters who haven´t done so, you can read all of Dracula online:

And here´s a link to Lovecraft´s work:

Comment by Andrea Joy on October 19, 2010 at 7:07am
I'm reading The Woman in White now and I'm really enjoying it. I'd definitely recommend it :)
Comment by Ani on October 19, 2010 at 6:24am
I really like the sound of The Graveyard Book. Something tells me that this book will make me cry though :-'(

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